Mark Reynolds Getty

Mark Reynolds blasts umpires following ejection

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Mark Reynolds and Orioles manager Buck Showalter were both ejected from last night’s game against the Tigers following a controversial play at first base in the bottom of the fifth inning.

Jhonny Peralta was initially ruled out after hitting a grounder to third base. However, Tigers manager Jim Leyland came out to argue and the call was eventually overturned by home plate umpire Tim Timmons, who ruled that Manny Machado’s wide throw pulled Reynolds off the first base bag. The Tigers didn’t end up scoring in the inning, but eventually pulled out a 5-3 win.

Here’s the video of the play in question:

It’s a lot closer than watching in real time and it appears first base umpire Jeff Kellogg may have had the call right. Timmons was apparently coming up the first base line on the play, but it’s hard to believe he had a better view.

Reynolds didn’t pull many punches after the game, expressing his frustration for the reversed call and for being ejected for throwing his glove into the dirt, which he felt should have only resulted in a fine for an equipment violation. Here’s a sampling of his comments, via Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com:

“Definitely. I’ve never in my life seen someone reverse a call. The guy in Colorado, the guy was off the bag by three feet. And my foot was on the bag and they reversed it. And it’s a shame they don’t have accountability. They don’t have any, if they make a bad call it’s like, ‘Ho-hum, next day is coming.’ If we have a bad couple of games we get benched or we get sent down. They have nobody breathing down their throats. They have nobody, they are just secure in their jobs. And they are probably over there right now laughing about it because they don’t worry about it.  This game is way too important right now, where we are in the season, for these kind of calls to happen. And it’s very frustrating.”

“That’s terrible. Vic [Carapazza] has no authority to throw me out right there. all I did was an equipment violation, it’s a fine. You are supposed to point at it and the league offices decide what to do there. He just threw me out right there. I didn’t do anything wrong. If I go up to him and say something to him, that I shouldn’t say. That’s fine, throw me out there for that. But you can’t throw me out for throwing my glove. What’s the difference between a guy throwing his helmet after a bad call? It’s just part of it and everybody goes on their way. He had no right to throw me out there. There’s just so many words I can’t say on this camera right now.”

“It’s almost like screw the Orioles by the umpires. I mean Jonsie was obviously safe at first base the other day, cost us a run against Boston. There’s got to be some kind of replay for this. It’s to the point where all these calls that get missed, cost people runs, cost people outs. Cost [starter Tommy Hunter] extra pitches.  I can’t say how I really feel but it’s pretty obvious.”

Hoo-boy. Reynolds certainly has a strong case here, but he will likely be getting a call from MLB and a fine for speaking his mind.

Joe Blanton signs with the Nationals

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 07:  Joe Blanton #55 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches in the sixth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium on June 7, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
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Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post reports that the Nationals have signed Joe Blanton to a one-year contract.

Surprised it took this long given that Blanton was excellent out of the pen for the Dodgers last year, posting a 2.48 ERA and 80/26 K/BB ratio over 80 innings. But even if it’s a late signing, it’s not a terrible one: Blanton will receive a $4 million salary and will have the chance to make an additional $1 million in performance bonuses. UPDATE: The salary structure is kind of odd. Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post reports that Blanton will get only $1 million in 2017, plus some incentives, and will have $1 million deferred to 2018 and $2 million deferred to 2019.

And he got two weeks off work. Bonus!

Baseball doesn’t need gimmicks to draw in young fans. It just needs to be baseball.

MESA, AZ - MARCH 6: Chicago Cubs ball and bat bags are seen prior to the game between the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds on March 6, 2015 at Sloan Park in Mesa, Arizona. The Reds defeated the Cubs 5-2. (Photo by Rich Pilling/Getty Images)
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MESA, AZ — I didn’t set out to ask Robin Mitchell about pace of play, rules changes, how to best execute an intentional walk or how to turn kids into baseball fans. I was interviewing her about other stuff. She brought those topics up on her own.

“I heard them saying that they were not going to throw four pitches for intentional walks anymore,” Mitchell said. “I’d prefer that they throw the pitches because anything can happen. There can be wild pitches. And that’s the exciting part of baseball. That you don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t think we need to speed the game along.”

For most baseball fans such sentiments are tied up with a devotion to baseball purism, tradition or their distaste for change. But such is not the case for Mitchell. While the lifelong Chicago resident went to Cubs games as a child, baseball has not been a lifelong obsession. Rather, it’s something she has become reacquainted with via her two baseball-obsessed boys, Jake, 11, and Bennett, 9.

Mitchell and her boys live on the north side of Chicago and, over the past two years, her sons have developed a huge affinity for the Cubs, almost by osmosis. It was certainly a good time for it, as the Cubs have become winners, and Mitchell allows that since Jake and Bennett didn’t “have to suffer through some of the more challenging times,” their attraction to the game became easier. It’s clear to her, however, that they are not going to be fair weather fans.

“They love baseball,” she said, implying that it’s not just homerism for the current World Series champions at work. They love the sport itself and began to play it too. It’s not easy for Mitchell to say whether their playing led to their fandom or vice-versa. It all sort of happened at once, with each reinforcing the other.

I asked her what about baseball, specifically, appeals to them. What, at a time when Rob Manfred and everyone connected to the game is worried about the sport’s seeming inability to attract and hold on to young fans, keeps Mitchell’s sons engaged.

For them, it seems to be all about accessibility and engagement. Being in Chicago and living close to a park is important, as is having all of the games available on TV. Also important to them: appealing young stars.

“It helps that the Cubs have some really nice players who seem like really nice guys,” Mitchell said. “Sometimes we see them in the neighborhood even. Ben Zobrist. Anthony Rizzo. David Ross. Whenever we’ve seen them out or at an event they’re always kind and polite and give the boys encouraging words.”

But isn’t baseball . . . boring? And slow? Don’t kids like video games and kinetic action? Doesn’t a 19th century pastime with a sometimes turgid pace turn off 21st century kids?

“No, are you kidding?!” Mitchell said. “We don’t leave the game before it’s over. That’s what we do. It doesn’t matter what the score is. We love the pace of baseball. In the world of electronics, with everything moving really fast and being gimmicky, there’s something I think that my boys and I find appealing about baseball. I can share it with them and we all just slow down.”

As we talked, Jake and Bennett ran around a field just outside the Cubs clubhouse, playing catch and practicing rundowns with a couple of other boys they just met. Mitchell and I spoke for nearly a half hour. They played the whole time and looked like they wouldn’t stop unless or until their mother dragged them away.

We have spent a lot of time lately talking about how to fix baseball. I don’t know that anyone has made a compelling case that, despite the challenges the game faces, it is actually broken. Robin Mitchell doesn’t think it is. Neither do Jake and Bennett. While Rob Manfred and Joe Torre propose increasingly unorthodox methods for speeding things up, some pretty basic and longstanding factors are continuing to attract young fans:

  • The availability of games almost every day;
  • An exciting and successful local team;
  • The charisma of baseball’s biggest stars;
  • The ability for kids to play the game themselves and to emulate those stars on a little league field; and
  • The chance for parents to share their love of baseball with their children.

These are the factors which have always made up baseball’s appeal. Perhaps Major League Baseball should concentrate on ensuring that those factors, which are proven to draw in fans, persist and flourish. Perhaps they should concentrate less on chasing hypothetical fans via gimmicks aimed at fixing problems which are far-from-established.