Welcome to HBT 2.0

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No, we’re not changing the name again. It’s still HardballTalk. The only thing different is the look. About that:

People don’t like change. I get that. People especially don’t like change when it comes to the websites they frequent. I totally get that. Indeed, I’m fairly certain that every redesign in the history of the Internet has been met with “this sucks, you suck, I hate you and I want to die — no wait, I want you to die” or words to that effect.  We expect that. But we also expect that once you get over the shock, you’ll come to like what we’ve done.

The first thing you noticed, obviously, is that you need to click through to read each post.  Believe me, I understand that people don’t like this. Clicking is hard! OK, and it can be legitimately annoying. But we didn’t take this step lightly. We talked about it and thought hard about it, but ultimately a couple of considerations ruled:

1.  Browsability. A lot of people like my long navel-gazing or legal posts. Some of you hate them. Some of you read “And That Happened.” Some of you don’t. By compacting things like this and by adding the “Top Posts” thing at the top, it will be easier to find what you want to read and skip what you don’t want. No, people don’t like clicking-through to posts, but they also don’t like scrolling down five miles either, and ultimately we want people reading more of our stuff, not less.  Which leads us to the obvious:

2. Page views:  We are men of action. Lies do not become us. In light of that, I’m not going to lie to you: we make our bones on page clicks, and the redesign will give us more.

I realize your first reaction to that will be to scoff or grouse, but we’ve been writing this blog for fourteen months now, and many if not most of you have been reading stuff from me, Aaron and the rest of us at other places for years.  We’d like to think we’ve earned your trust in that time. Trust that we’re not going to barrage you with gimmicks, bait-and-switches, slide shows and other things simply to drive page views. When you click through on an article at HBT, we think you’re being rewarded with some pretty decent news and analysis, and we hope that makes it worth your while.  Raising page views is no trick, if all you want to do is raise page views. We don’t think such a strategy makes sense, and think that this one change in that direction is worth the moderate initial annoyance you’re experiencing this morning.

And let’s not make any mistake: this is not a non-profit enterprise. People paying for your clicks allowed us to get this operation off the ground. They allowed me to quit the shyster business and write this blog. They allowed NBC to send me to the Winter Meetings and Spring Training and keep me, Aaron, Matthew, D.J., Drew and Bob in groceries, shelter and MLB.tv subscriptions. Sometimes you do what you gotta do with this stuff.

But I am confident that, in a very short period of time, you’ll get over this as you realize that there are more posts available at your fingertips with the redesign, as well as easier navigation to the other NBC Sports blogs, which you should really be reading anyway.  There will be other new things integrated into the mix going forward, albeit less radical things.  The redesign gives us the flexibility to do that.

But at the end of the day, I realize this is probably a bit jarring.  Apologies.  We’ll deal with it the only way we know how:  pound out about eleventy-seven posts about baseball today and hope you like the results.

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]