Our final installment. When this is done I’m gonna steal the pie that’s cooling in the kitchen, take it and my laptop to a locked room upstairs someplace and try to ride the rest of this holiday out with sloth and funny You Tube videos. It’s the only way to make it through, really.
What the NL West is thankful for:
San Francisco Giants: That bottles are not good conductors of electricity, thereby preventing them from being harmed by the lighting they managed to capture inside.
San Diego Padres: Low expectations. If it wasn’t for those in 2010, a lot more people would have been piling on them for that ten game losing streak that knocked them out of the playoffs. Instead, people ignored that and gave Bud Black a Manager of the Year Award. How awesome would it be if we were all graded on such a curve.
Colorado Rockies: Gonzalez, Tulowitzki and Jimenez, who showed that they can carry this team when healthy. And not tuckered out. And it should only be easier for them to do so without dead weight like Clint Barmes and Brad Hawpe hanging around.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Finding something to be thankful about here requires some long-range thinking, but really: look at what happened to a poorly-run, overly-indebted Texas Rangers team. It eventually got better. Maybe the same thing can happen here too. This McCourt drama could be like a purifying fire. OK, that’s a bit much. How about Clayton Kershaw? He’s a nice young man.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Kevin Towers. His specialty is in fixing the kinds of problems the Diamondbacks have. Bad bullpens, poor fundamentals. It’s hard to imagine a better match between poor team and new executive than Towers and the Dbacks, and he could very well right this ship sooner rather than later.
That’s all I got, people. Maybe I won’t just steal the pie and hide upstairs. Maybe I’ll take some stuffing too.
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.
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]