As I’ve written before, international baseball competitions like the WBC don’t really hold my interest. But I may have a professional interest in this: the International Olympic Committee announced that baseball, among a few other sports, is being put under evaluation for a return to the Olympics effective for the 2020 games.
This could be significant in that, as you may have read, NBC recently won the rights to broadcast the Olympics through 2020. And since, by 2020, I will either have (a) been fired by NBC in an ugly scandal; or (b) managed to convince a couple of people around here that I actually understand baseball a bit and am responsible enough to leave the house, there’s a non-trivial chance that they could send me to the Olympics to cover it! Which means, seriously IOC, you had better pick a kick-butt city for the 2020 Olympics. If this thing goes down in Bratislava, Slovakia* or some place like that, I’m not gonna be pleased.
Less personally, I’m not sure how I feel about baseball in the Olympics. Depending on the timing, it’s likely to have even less elite-level participation than the WBC does. And, as I’ve said before, the whole national pride + baseball thing tends not work as well with baseball as it does with other sports. It has its moments, but it’s not like the game lends itself to a couple hours straight of insane, patriotic screaming. And yes, I realize that many of you think I’m totally wrong about that.
*Note: one of my former law firms had an office in Bratislava for some reason. When I worked there, a couple of my colleagues from Columbus had to travel to that office to handle some sort of arbitration. Their report back to me on Bratislava: “it’s like Youngstown, Ohio with a castle.” So, no, it’s not on my bucket list.
(link via BTF)
On Tuesday, it was announced that Major League Baseball instituted a new rule allowing for a dugout signal in order to issue an intentional walk rather than having the pitcher throw four pitches wide of the strike zone. It’s commissioner Rob Manfred’s attempt to help improve the game’s pace of play.
As Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi reports, Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin is certainly not a fan of the change.
My thing is, if they really want to speed up the game, then when a guy hits a home run, to speed up the game should a guy, just like in softball, when he hits it, should he just walk to the dugout? It’d be quicker. I’m just wondering, at what point do we just keep the game, the game? Or, how about this calculation: take all the intentional walks that were made in the last couple years and calculate – or maybe just ask to see if they have that information, to see if they really did their homework. Is it really that important to speed up the game (with this rule)? Because how many games did we play last year where we didn’t have one intentional walk? That’s something I’d like to know.
Martin also expressed concern that eliminating the four-pitch intentional walk will hurt teams’ ability to buy time for their relievers to warm up.
It’s called getting your bullpen ready so the guy doesn’t blow out his arm on the mound. Speed up the game, speed up the game.’ How about we just give guys – the human being – time to warm up on the mound after maybe something’s happened in the game? I’m not a manager, but I’m just trying to put myself in the position of a manager. OK, we’re up by one run or two runs and our bullpen’s been taxed and we’re trying to save their arms, and then the other team walks, ball gets away, guy gets to second base. When the coach visits the mound to talk to his player, it’s not like the player necessarily needs somebody to talk to him.
It’s because the guy (in the bullpen) needs time to warm up, man. It’s the same thing when you throw over to first base, like, eight times in a row. It’s not like we’re trying to keep the guy close. The guy maybe has two stolen bases in 18 years. It’s because the guy needs time to warm up. At what point does that become a problem with guys warming up in the bullpen? Sometimes it’s just strategy to give guys a little bit of time to warm up.
The Jays’ backstop then said he’d prefer if Manfred were honest about the intent behind this rule change and others which have been proposed. Martin said, “Save it. I’m tired of hearing that same lame excuse all the time. Just be honest. If they’re honest about it, we’ll get over it. But don’t hide behind the fans.”
We should be hearing from a handful of players about the new intentional walk rule in the coming days. I can’t imagine the rule is very popular among the players.
Leonys Martin, outfielder for the Seattle Mariners, testified yesterday that he feared for his life after he was smuggled from Cuba by a group of men prosecutors say worked for a sports agent and a baseball trainer currently on trial for human trafficking in Miami.
Martin took the stand at the trial of Bartolo Hernandez and Julio Estrada, who face felony charges. He said that, after getting to Mexico from Cuba, men threatened to take him away. There was a kidnapping attempt against one of the men who had taken him from Cuba as well. Martin said that, eventually, he crossed the U.S.-Mexico border into Texas without any valid papers because his life was in danger and his safety was at risk.
Players like Martin who fled Cuba often hole up in Mexico while waiting to be declared free agents by Major League Baseball. There is pitched competition to sign agreements with the players in question, seeking to obtain promises of a cut of future baseball earnings for their services. Those promises can come under the threat of violence. Eventually, Martin promised to pay Hernandez and Estrada, but ceased paying them later, fomenting a lawsuit from them. In the wake of the suit, the allegations of threats and smuggling arose, leading to this trial.
Martin has been late to Mariners camp as a result of having to testify. He’ll likely report in the next day or so. The trial continues.