Iron Eagle

HBT Weekend Wrapup

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Doug Masters: What’s the hold-up?

Tower: We are having trouble finding a jeep suitable for your, um, purposes.

Doug Masters: Bullsh**, you’ve got a whole country full of them!  You just lost a refinery!  Looks like they’ll be importing oil this year, Chappy!

At least that’s what I made of the news from Libya this weekend.  I had the sound down, though. Really, though, would that have made any less sense than what’s really happening?

  • Grady Sizemore has been ruled out for Opening Day. Really, though, the day after the trade deadline is his Opening Day this year, ain’t it?
  • Quote of the weekend from D.J. Short: “I, for one, look forward to reading Jon Heyman’s reaction when Castillo signs a contract before David Eckstein.”  Well, Castillo signed before Eckstein. And Heyman hates it. Seems that Castillo “exudes mopey-ness.” That kind of trenchant analysis is why SI pays him the big bucks.
  • I was 14 years-old the last time a baseball season began without Tim Wakefield on someone’s roster, be it in the minors or the majors. I presume that the streak will continue, but not for too much longer.
  • I like slam dunks that take me to the hoop, my favorite play is the alley oop. I like the pick-and-roll, I like the give-and-go, but when they said “ball Zack?” he should have just said no!
  • Mookie Wilson reclaims the number 1 jersey for the Mets. Mookie Calcaterra did not appreciate me pointing out that her nicknamesake was in the news again.
  • Brian Wilson strained his oblique. Brian Wilson is oblique. I sense irony.
  • Curt Schilling referred to his 2004 Red Sox teammate Manny Ramirez as a “cheater.” Which, while not particularly polite, is true.  There are a lot of things that one could call Schilling that aren’t polite but which are true too.
  • Am I the only one who wasn’t aware that the White Sox’ closer’s job was actually up for grabs? I assumed it was Matt Thornton’s job the day Bobby Jenks split. The things you learn reading HardballTalk!
  • With the release of Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez all but gone, that leaves Carlos Beltran as the last guy for Mets fans to kick around. Except the kicking of Beltran never made any kind of sense whatsoever. Anyway, he’s playing again.
  • Pat Neshek was waived by the Twins and picked up by the Padres. Hard to think of a better place for a pitcher to have a fresh start than in Petco Park.
  • Ryan Zimmerman resumes baseball activities.  I too resumed baseball activities yesterday, having bought my son and daughter their first baseball gloves, a ball, bat and tee. We left the tee and bat aside for the time being and just focused on trying to play catch. The first 15 minutes were spent with both of them trying to explain to me how silly it was for right-handed people to wear the glove on their left hand. The next ten minutes were spent with the ball bouncing off the heels of their gloves and into their chins, faces and shoulders.  Then it was decided that it was great fun for daddy to simply throw the ball up in the air as high as he could and catch it, which was met with a round of applause each time.  Then they walked over near the bushes and started digging up worms, holding them on the ends of sticks and chasing the other one with them. Baseball activities may have been resumed a bit too early.

And on we go into the last full week with no baseball that counts until November.

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]