Gregg a waste of money for Jays

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Sometimes a team just wants a proven closer. It doesn’t matter if he’s any good or not; it’s just the safe play. If the proven closer fails, then it’s his fault. If the unproven closer fails, it’s management’s fault.
The 2010 Blue Jays, a team destined to finish in fourth or fifth place, now have their proven closer in Kevin Gregg. The $2.75 million guarantee is hardly so excessive as to make it one of the worst deals of the winter. In fact, it’s a little less than I thought he’d get. Still, it’s hard to see how he’s worth it when Guillermo Mota was forced to settle for a minor league deal the very same week.
Gregg, too, likely would have had to settle for a minor league contract this winter if not for the stroke of good fortune that landed him in Florida in 2007. After three years of pitching in obscurity in Anaheim, he quickly took over as the Marlins’ closer and saved 32 games in 36 chances. He was solid again in the first half of 2008, but knee problems took a toll and he ended up blowing nine saves in 38 chances before losing his closing job at the end of the year. Traded to the Cubs, he was handed the closer’s role over Carlos Marmol last spring, but he turned in a dreadful season. He blew seven saves in 30 chances, gave up 13 homers and finished with a 4.72 ERA in 68 2/3 innings.
In all, Gregg has a 4.03 ERA in 335 career relief appearances, about half of which came in the NL. The man he’s expected to supplant as Toronto’s closer, Jason Frasor, has a 3.78 ERA in 342 appearances, all of them coming as a Blue Jay. Going strictly by ERA, he’s had two seasons better than Gregg’s best and none as poor as Gregg’s worst.
Frasor, though, isn’t a favorite of Jays manager Cito Gaston’s. So, he’s set to return to a setup role, barring a trade.
It’s my opinion that Scott Downs, Frasor, Jeremy Accardo and Josh Roenicke are all better bets than Gregg for 2010. Casey Janssen might be as well, but he’ll have to show he’s healthy. The Jays also have Brian Tallet, Jesse Carlson and Shawn Camp coming back, though Tallet may begin the year in the rotation. There won’t be room for all of them, so either Downs or Frasor could be traded and Roenicke might return to Triple-A.
Perhaps that will work out if Downs or Frasor could bring back a talented young outfielder capable of stepping in right away. Still, the Jays could have gone that route with or without Gregg. Their $2.75 million was better utilized elsewhere.

Don Mattingly thinks pace of play can be improved by changing views on strikeouts

Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly sits in the dugout prior to a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Los Angeles, Monday, April 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)
AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo
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Marlins manager Don Mattingly has one potential solution to the pace of play issue: change the way people value strikeouts, the Associated Press reports.

Strikeouts have been rising steadily since 2005. Then, a typical game averaged 6.30 strikeouts. In 2016, there were 8.03 strikeouts per game. There are many explanations for this phenomenon. For one, teams are searching specifically for young pitchers who can throw hard — like triple-digits hard. They figure they can teach them the other pertinent skills in the minors. Second, Sabermetrics has shown that a strikeout is only marginally worse than an out made on a ball put in play. Sometimes, the strikeout is preferable, especially if there’s a runner on first base with less than two outs and a weak hitter at the plate. Sabermetrics has also shown home runs to be the best and most efficient way to contribute on offense. Furthermore, younger players tend to focus more on power in order to get noticed by scouts. Unless it’s paired with other elite skills, a scout isn’t going to remember a player who hit the ball into the hole on the right side, but he will remember the kid who blasted a 450-foot homer.

Here’s what Mattingly had to say:

Analytically, a few years back nobody cared about the strikeout, so it’s OK to strike out 150, 160, 170 times, and that guy’s still valued in a big way. Well, as soon as we start causing that to be a bad value — the strikeouts — guys will put the ball in play more. So once we say strikeouts are bad and it’s going to cost you money the more you strike out, then the strikeouts will go away. Guys will start making adjustments and putting the ball in play more.

[…]

If our game values [say that] strikeouts don’t matter, they are going to keep striking out, hitting homers, trying to hit home runs and striking out.

Simply believing strikeouts are bad won’t magically change its value. However, creating social pressure regarding striking out can change it. Theoretically, anyway. Creating that social pressure is easier said than done.

There is a dichotomy here as well. Home runs are exciting. Strikeouts and walks are not. Often, though, the three go hand-in-hand-in-hand. A player actively trying to cut down on his strikeouts by putting the ball in play will also likely cut down on his strikeout and walk rates. There doesn’t seem to be an elegant solution here. Wishing for fewer strikeouts, walks, and homers doesn’t really seem to give way to a more exciting game.

Sean Doolittle: “Refugees aren’t stealing a slice of the pie from Americans.”

ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 25:  Sean Doolittle #62 of the Oakland Athletics pitches during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on June 25, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
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In the past, we’ve commented on Athletics reliever Sean Doolittle and his girlfriend Eireann Dolan’s community service. In 2015, the pair hosted Syrian refugee families for Thanksgiving and their other charitable efforts have included LGBTQ outreach and help for veterans.

Athletes and their significant others have typically avoided stepping into political waters, but Doolittle and Dolan have shown that it’s clearly no concern to them. In the time since, the Syrian refugee issue has become even more of a hot-button issue and Doolittle recently discussed it with Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.

I think America is the best country in the world because we’ve been able to attract the best and brightest people from all over the world. We have the smartest doctors and scientists, the most creative and innovative thinkers. A travel ban like this puts that in serious jeopardy.

I’ve always thought that all boats rise with the tide. Refugees aren’t stealing a slice of the pie from Americans. But if we include them, we can make the pie that much bigger, thus ensuring more opportunities for everyone.

Doolittle, of course, is referring to Executive Order 13769 signed by President Trump which sought to limit incoming travel to the United States from seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. A temporary restraining order on the executive order was placed on February 3, a result of State of Washington v. Trump.

Doolittle spoke more about the plight refugees face:

These are people fleeing civil wars, violence and oppression that we can’t even begin to relate to. I think people think refugees just kind of decide to come over. They might not realize it takes 18-24 months while they wait in a refugee camp. They go through more than 20 background checks and meetings with immigration officers. They are being vetted.

They come here, and they want to contribute to society. They’re so grateful to be out of a war zone or whatever they were running from in their country that they get jobs, their kids go to our schools, they’re paying taxes, and in a lot of cases, they join our military.

Around this time last year, Craig wrote about Doolittle and Dolan not sticking to baseball. They’re still not, nor should they be. Hopefully, the duo’s outspokenness inspires other players and their loved ones to speak up for what’s right.

[Hat tip: Deadspin’s Hannah Keyser]