Underrated Loretta retires to join Pads front office

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After playing 15 seasons in the majors Mark Loretta retired this week and immediately joined the Padres’ front office as a special assistant to the baseball operations staff.
Loretta has lived in San Diego since having the best stretch of his career as the Padres’ starting second baseman from 2003-2005 and also knows new general manager Jed Hoyer from their season together with the Red Sox in 2006, so it was an easy decision:

When you say the word retirement, it sounds like your retiring from life. I’m looking at this as the next step. I’m interested in how teams market themselves and business development. We don’t have anything set in stone. Jed is allowing me to experience and learn a whole different side of things. I’m looking at this year as an open-ended situation. I think that it will allow me to make decision on what I want to do.

In other words Loretta will get a taste of front office life this season and then decide if he wants to stay behind the scenes or pursue another on-field career as a hitting coach or manager. As for his playing career, Loretta was often perceived as a super-utility man because of his defensive versatility, but he was more than that as a two-time All-Star and career .295 hitter who walked nearly as often (555) as he struck out (605).
In fact, since the mound was lowered in 1969 only 12 middle infielders have logged at least 5,000 career plate appearances with a higher on-base percentage than Loretta at .360. The complete list: Joe Morgan, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Chuck Knoblauch, Willie Randolph, Roberto Alomar, Barry Larkin, Bobby Grich, Luis Castillo, Craig Biggio, Lou Whitaker, and Nomar Garciaparra. Some pretty decent company for a guy most casual fans have probably never even heard of.

Report: MLB approves new rule allowing a dugout signal for an intentional walk

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 29:  MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred laughs during a ceremony naming the 2016 winners of the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award and the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award before Game Four of the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 29, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images
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ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.

MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.

Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.

Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this:

Tony Clark responds to Rob Manfred’s claim that union had a “lack of cooperation”

ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, JAN. 18-19 - This Jan. 15, 2014 photo showing new baseball union head Tony Clark during an interview at the organization's headquarters, in New York. Clark has big shoes to fill _ and not just as Michael Weiner's replacement as head of the baseball players' union. Moving from Arizona to New Jersey, the former big league All-Star also needed to find size 15 snowshoes.  (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
AP Photo/Richard Drew
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Earlier, Craig covered Rob Manfred’s comments in which he accused the Major League Baseball Players’ Association of “a lack of cooperation” concerning some proposed rule changes. The union would need to agree to any such changes, which have included automatic intentional walks, limiting mound visits, pitch clocks, and swapping batting practice times for home and visiting teams.

Manfred went on to say that MLB will impose those rule changes unilaterally next year as allowed in the latest collective bargaining agreement.

Tony Clark, the executive director of the MLBPA, responded to Manfred’s comment. Via Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports:

“Unless your definition of ‘cooperation’ is blanket approval, I don’t agree that we’ve failed to cooperate with the Commissioner’s office on these issues.”

“Two years ago we negotiated pace of play protocols that had an immediate and positive impact. Last year we took a step backward in some ways, and this off season we’ve been in regular contact with MLB and with our members to get a better handle on why that happened.”

“I would be surprised if those discussions with MLB don’t continue, notwithstanding today’s comments about implementation. As I’ve said, fundamental changes to the game are going to be an uphill battle, but the lines of communication should remain open.”

“My understanding is that MLB wants to continue with the replay changes (2min limit) and the no-pitch intentional walks and the pace of Game warning/fine adjustments.”

Clark’s response isn’t anything too shocking. Manfred’s accusation was pretty baseless, but it’s behavior to be expected of a commissioner who comes down on the side of the owners over the players almost always.