MLBPA issues statement about the Arizona immigration law and All-Star Game boycotts

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We touched on Sheriff Joe a few minutes ago. In other All-Star Game/illegal immigration news, there was a lot of talk last year about potential player boycotts and the like as a result of Arizona’s tough immigration law, S.B. 1070. That has largely subsided, partially because parts of the bill are currently in legal limbo, but also because, let’s face it, most modern baseball players aren’t really willing to create a giant poopstorm over a political issue.

Personally I would respect the living hell out of a ballplayer who took a principled stand like that, but I can’t say that I blame them for not doing it. We as a society don’t reward celebrities and athletes when they stray from their areas of core competency, and if Adrian Gonzalez or someone did loudly boycott the All-Star Game, they’d quickly find themselves in a dreadful fight that no healthy and sane person would want to be the focus of.

Acknowledging that, Mike Weiner of the player’s union released a statement today which will in all likelihood be the last word on the matter. As is usually the case with Weiner, it’s reasonable and temperate:

“On April 30, 2010, the MLBPA expressed publicly its opposition to SB 1070, and that position remains unchanged.  We stated then that, if SB 1070 as written went into effect, we would consider additional measures to protect the interests of our members.  SB 1070 is not in effect and key portions of the law have been judged unlawful by the federal courts.  Under all the circumstances, we have not asked players to refrain from participating in any All-Star activities.

“The All-Star Game is an opportunity to celebrate the best that Major League Baseball has to offer.  Without question, the best players are here.  Each All-Star squad, as with each of the 30 Major League teams, is populated by the best players from baseball-playing countries around the globe.

“But the All Star Game is a chance to celebrate even more than that.  It is a chance to celebrate Major League Baseball’s unprejudiced commitment to excellence – a commitment, undiminished for decades, to judge solely on the basis of individual ability and achievement.  It is a chance to celebrate how much the game has been enriched by the contributions of players of different races, ethnicities and nationalities.  It’s a chance to celebrate — to marvel, actually — at the example set every time a Major League team takes the field: that of a true team, composed of players of widely different backgrounds, working together towards a common goal.

“Our nation continues to wrestle with serious issues regarding immigration, prejudice and the protection of individual liberties.  Those matters will not be resolved at Chase Field, nor on any baseball diamond; instead they will be addressed in Congress and in statehouses and in courts by those charged to find the right balance among the competing and sincerely held positions brought to the debate.  Meanwhile, at the All Star Game, Major League Baseball makes good on its promise to field the best in the world in the only way it can — by allowing the world to play.  That truly is an occasion to celebrate and, perhaps, from which we all can learn.”

Yoenis Cespedes should be ready for Tuesday’s game

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The Mets are off today, and that day off may be just enough to get outfielder Yoenis Cespedes ready to start their next game, on Tuesday, against the Braves. At least that’s what he’s telling Mets manager Terry Collins.

Cespedes did not play in the weekend series against the Nationals, but was available as a pinch hitter yesterday. He was even on the on-deck circle at the end of last night’s game.

Cespedes, who tweaked his hammy running to second base on Thursday, is hitting .255/.364/.636 with six homers and 10 RBI in 15 games on the young season.

Marcus Stroman was called for an illegal quick pitch for some reason

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A “quick pitch” is an illegal action in which the pitcher pitches the ball before the batter is prepared. What makes a quick pitch a quick pitch? According to Rule 6.02(a)(5), it’s this:

 . . . Umpires will judge a quick pitch as one delivered before the batter is reasonably set in the batter’s box. With runners on base the penalty is a balk; with no runners on base, it is a ball. The quick pitch is dangerous and should not be permitted.

There are a couple of reasons why you don’t want quick pitches in baseball. In one respect, it’s about safety, as mentioned specifically in the rule. You don’t want a pitcher throwing a 90 m.p.h. fastball in the batter’s general direction if he’s not ready for it, because if it goes off course the batter will have no ability to defend himself and bail. But there’s also a spirit-of-the-game reason for it. The essence of baseball is the face-off between batter and pitcher. While everyone wants the game to move along promptly, the game isn’t really the game if the batter isn’t ready.

There is more art than science to all of this, of course, as all batters and pitchers have different pre-pitch routines, but when you watch a game, there’s a rhythm to all of that. You know the batter is gonna take a couple of practice swings and settle in. The pitcher tends to respect that. The quick pitch rule is rarely invoked for this reason.

It was used in yesterday’s Angels-Blue Jays game, however. And used badly in my view. Watch Marcus Stroman pitch to Kole Calhoun. The ump is Ramon DeJesus. The count was 3-1, so the automatic ball resulted in Calhoun being awarded first base:

Calhoun was obviously upset about something, calling time after Stroman is into his motion (which is not allowed) throwing his hands up and stuff after the pitch. But tell me, in what way was he not “reasonably ready” for that pitch, to use the language of the rule? He’s facing Stroman, looking at him. He’s done with his warmup swings, his bat is up and cocked and he’s standing in hitting position. I understand that it’s a judgment call by the umpire, but it seems to me like the umpire just called time too late because Calhoun didn’t feel ideally comfortable or something.

Either way, it set off Stroman and manager John Gibbons. Gibbons was ejected arguing the call. Stroman, who was otherwise excellent yesterday, was rattled for a bit, giving up a couple of hits and a run afterward. It was Calhoun who scored, natch.

It didn’t affect the outcome, but it certainly seemed like a bad call. And possibly a bad precedent, as batters may now try to lobby harder for quick pitch calls, given its success yesterday. Or, if umpires tend to think that was a bad call too, maybe they’ll overcompensate for it and be less likely to call quick pitches? You never know how this stuff will play out.

Whatever happens, I’ve been against Major League Baseball’s habit of increasingly taking judgment calls away from umpires, trying to make the subjective objective and making a flawed instant replay system the Supreme Court of Baseball Calls. But jeez, it’s hard to argue for allowing umps to hold on to judgment calls when they blow ’em like this.