Let's take a short break from interleague play


Interleague_Logo.pngInterleague play begins again tonight. Feel the excitement?

Nah, me neither.  Don’t get me wrong: I was against interleague play when it was first proposed because I am a scared old man who fears change, but  after it got started I got used to it rather quickly. I even began to enjoy some aspects of it. I’m not gonna lie to you: Mets-Yankees is kinda neat, as is the Cubs-White Sox, Angels-Dodgers and other geographic rivalries.  I’ve even gotten into the Indians-Reds thing (though I wish they’d split the difference in travel time and play the games here in Columbus).

But like so many people — players included — I really wish they’d find a way to stick to those rivalry games and spare us series of the Rays-Astros variety, which outweigh those attendance-driving marquee matchups.  I’d rather see more games between teams competing for playoff spots in their own leagues, thank you very much.  The unbalanced schedule already means that some teams fighting for the postseason face a harder road than others. Interleague play exacerbates that. And leads to dumb two-game series. And makes people focus too much on league inequality and do a bunch of other things that, again, because I am old and fear change, I don’t particularly like.

But it’s not going anywhere. It has proven to be financially successful and does draw some people into the game who wouldn’t otherwise watch it (baseball isn’t dumb; they know people like me aren’t going anywhere).  We all like to pretend that baseball is a public trust or something, with its mission being to make us all warm and happy, but it’s a business just like any other business, and interleague play makes good business sense.

Still, interleague play doesn’t start until tonight, and I’m already tired of it.  So how about this one, tiny suggestion:  give it a two-year break so as to restore some of the novelty of it.  Take those two years and see whether we’re scheduling out interleague play optimally or to see how else we can improve it.  I can’t help but think that there’s a better way to do this whole thing. 

A way that doesn’t make the whole affair both unfair and yawn-inducing.

Report: Barry Bonds under consideration to be the Marlins hitting coach

Barry Bonds

This shouldn’t cause any controversy, lead to a lot of people saying dumb things or provide fodder for jokes at all. Nope, none whatsoever:

In what promises to be a bombshell move, if executed, all-time great slugger Barry Bonds is under consideration to become Marlins hitting coach.

Team higherups have quietly been discussing this possibility for weeks.

That’s Jon Heyman, who reminds us that Bonds has worked with the Giants in the spring in recent years. And who, no matter what else you can say about him, was one of the greatest hitters the game has ever seen. Also worth remembering that despite his controversial past, that greatness came not just from physical gifts, naturally or artificially bestowed. It came from his approach, preparation and strategy at the plate. No one can teach a hitter to hit like Barry Bonds, but you’d think that hitters could be taught to try to approach an at bat the way Barry Bonds would. And who better to do it than Barry Bonds?

That is, if Bonds is willing to drop his seemingly ideal retired life in San Francisco, move to Miami and work for Jeff Loria for nine months a year. Which, eh, who knows? But the possibility of it is pretty fascinating to think about.

Yadier Molina’s new backup: Cardinals sign Brayan Pena to two-year deal

Brayan Pena Reds
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Veteran catcher Brayan Pena has agreed to a two-year, $5 million contract with the Cardinals, who’re investing much more than usual in their backup for Yadier Molina.

After bouncing around for a decade without getting even 250 plate appearances in a season Pena signed with the Reds and topped 350 plate appearances in both 2014 and 2015. His production didn’t improve any, as Pena hit .263 with five homers and a .652 OPS in 223 games as a regular.

Pena’s best skill is rarely striking out, which enables him to hit for a decent batting average, but he has very little power and swings at everything. He struggled to control the running game this season at age 33, but has a decent throw-out rate for his career.

Making a multi-year commitment to Pena suggests the Cardinals are no longer counting on Molina being the same type of workhorse behind the plate, which certainly makes sense given his age and injury history. Pena will replace Tony Cruz, who’s been Molina’s understudy since 2011 while hitting just .220 with five homers and a .572 OPS in 259 games.

While we wait for free agent signings: Andrew McCutchen stars in a one-act play

Andrew McCutchen
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It’s a pretty slow offseason so far. We’ve had a couple of minor signings. I guess Jordan Zimmermann is sort of a big deal. But it’s a lot more quiet so far this year than it was this time last year. I suppose there’s no real rhyme nor reason for it. Baseball offseason is long, there is no salary cap and thus there’s no rush to do things too quickly.

So, while we wait, here’s Andrew McCutchen doing his best to kill time until spring training starts:

Red Sox sign outfielder Chris Young

Chris Young Getty

Veteran outfielder Chris Young thrived in a platoon role for the Yankees this past season and now he’s headed to the rival Red Sox to fill a similar role, signing a multi-year deal with Boston according to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com.

Young was once an everyday center fielder for the Diamondbacks, making the All-Star team in 2010 at age 26, but for the past 3-4 years he’s gotten 300-350 plate appearances in a part-time role facing mostly left-handed pitching. He hit .252 with 14 homers and a .773 OPS for the Yankees, but prior to that failed to top a .700 OPS in 2013 or 2014.

Given the Red Sox’s outfield depth–Mookie Betts, Rusney Castillo, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Brock Holt even with Hanley Ramirez back in the infield–Young is unlikely to work his way into everyday playing time at age 32, but he should get another 300 or so plate appearances while also providing a veteran fallback option. And it’s possible his arrival clears the way for a trade.