Ryan Howard

The Phillies are accused of secrecy regarding Ryan Howard; Ruben Amaro plays defense


There were two interesting articles in yesterday’s Philadelphia Inquirer:

  • Bob Brookover reported how he was removed from Bright House Field in Clearwater last week while trying to cover Ryan Howard’s rehab; and
  • Frank Fitzpatrick questioned the Phillies’ giving Howard a cortisone shot in September and quotes medical experts who suggest that the shot could have contributed to Howard’s Achilles injury in the playoffs.

Obviously both of those were shots over the Phillies’ bow, with the first one accusing the team of secrecy. The second one was notable for the fact that the Phillies declined comment.

In response, GM Ruben Amaro had a hastily-assembled press conference yesterday in which he defended the team.  Jim Salisbury of CSN Philadelphia has the report. The upshot: Amaro says the team is conservative with cortisone shots and that they’re not concerned. As for keeping the media out of Howard’s rehab — both the Inquirer and CSNPhilly have been barred from covering his workouts — well, the rationale is somewhat less clear:

“We just feel uncomfortable with it,” Amaro said. “We’d rather be able to report those things. I just don’t feel comfortable putting the player in that position right now … We’re not trying to hide things,” Amaro continued. “That’s not our job. Our job is to have the best interest of the player in mind and we want to make sure he gets ready at his own pace. When you have people getting involved in a rehab such as this it can, in fact, affect the player.”

Given that most other teams allow the press to watch workouts down at spring training facilities, this explanation isn’t exactly satisfying.  We don’t want to let the press in because … we don’t want to let the press in.” Hurm.

This is not the first time the Phillies have been cagey with injuries and rehab. Chase Utley’s situation has had its own lack of transparency too, though many chalk that up to Utley’s wishes, not the team’s.  It’s unclear whether Howard’s situation is the same or if, rather, it’s indicative of the Phillies consciously staking out a different approach to such matters than the other teams.

I will observe one thing, however: if the intention of such an approach is to limit media scrutiny, Amaro is in for a rude awakening.  The one thing that makes reporters work harder to get a story is telling them that they can’t get the story.

MLB games were six minutes shorter this year

Pitch Clock
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According to STATS, INC., the average game in 2015 was 2 hours, 56 minutes. That’s six minutes faster than games in 2014.

The gains came in the first half, when games averaged 2:53. Second half games averaged three hours even. One can probably thank the expanded rosters in September for that, as games then see many more pitching changes. Of course, it’s likely that second half games were faster in 2015 than 2014 as well given the rules changes.

Those changes: agreement to enforce the rule requiring a hitter to keep at least one foot in the batter’s box and the installation of clocks timing pitching changes and between-inning breaks in ever ballpark.

It remains to be seen if MLB stays satisfied with that modest improvement or if chooses to go the way Triple-A and Double-A leagues did. They installed 20-second pitch clocks and started penalizing violators with balls and strikes. Triple-A’s two leagues, the International and Pacific Leagues, saw game-time decreases by 13 and 16 minutes, respectively.

Billy Beane promoted to VP, David Forst named A’s general manager

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I’m so old I remember when general managers used to run baseball operations departments. Now they’re basically assistants.

The latest example: the Oakland Athletics have promoted Billy Beane to vice president of baseball operations and have named David Forst general manager. Forst has been with the A’s for 16 years and has been Beane’s assistant for 12 years, so it’s not exactly a situation in which Forst will be making the final calls. The official move came today, though the move has been in the works for some time, it seems.

Someone with a lot of good front office access is going to write a good story this winter about the title inflation going on in Major League Baseball over the past year. And it’s gonna be great when one of his or her sources breaks the pattern of saying “well, baseball transactions are so much more complex these days . . . ” and admits “hey, if Theo gets a fancy title and La Russa gets a fancy title I WANT A FANCY TITLE TOO.”

Not that it’s much of a secret as it is.