No, Melky Cabrera’s batting title will not be the result of a “loophole”

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There are a lot of people who (a) don’t want to see Melky Cabrera win the batting title; but (b) find it unseemly for baseball to change its rules on the fly in order to thwart Cabrera.  That’s totally understandable.

The problem comes when those folks try to get around all of that like Gwen Knapp of Sports on Earth does today, arguing that Major League Baseball should close what she calls a “loophole” that allows Cabrera to win the title despite not having 502 plate appearances:

However, an MLB loophole known as Rule 10.22(a) adjusts the stats of any player who falls short, adding the missing plate appearances but no hits to his final totals. If the player’s batting average still leads a league, then he gets the crown.

Cabrera’s single missing plate appearance invites Selig to close the loophole. In fact, it begs him to make the change.

The thing about this, however, is that Rule 10.22(a) is not a “loophole.”  It’s a RULE. It does not give discretion. It says that a player who falls short of the batting title “SHALL” be given additional hitless plate appearances to his stats in order to qualify him for the batting title. It could not be more clear in this regard.

Knapp argues that the rule is newer, and that for this reason ignoring it is somehow OK.  But we don’t treat rules that way. Once they are part of baseball’s rule book they are rules until they are repealed.  Ignoring this one — calling it a “loophole” — would be effectively no different than ignoring the rule which defines a base hit and saying that 25 of Cabrera’s didn’t count because they went to right field or something.

I have no doubt that baseball will change the rules this offseason to disqualify suspended players from batting titles in some way.  But make no mistake: doing it now, on the fly, would not be “closing a loophole.” It would be tossing aside one of the established rules of baseball because we don’t like how it works in a specific case.  Baseball should simply not be in that business. If it were, it would render the record book even more meaningless and subjective than those who decry the scourge of steroids claim it is quickly becoming.

J.D. Martinez tells teams he prefers an outfield role

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Free agent outfielder/slugger J.D. Martinez is reportedly seeking an outfield gig, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. According to Silverman’s sources, Martinez’s suitors have been informed that the veteran slugger would give preference to teams that can offer a corner outfield spot, rather than a DH-only role.

That could spell trouble for the Red Sox, who appear to be Martinez’s biggest suitors so far this offseason. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are firmly established at the corners, and prior reports from club president Dave Dombrowski suggest that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is not going anywhere anytime soon (thereby eliminating the possibility of reshuffling the outfield). The DH spot is still wide open for Martinez, who doesn’t seem to be totally closed off to the idea, but any full-time or part-time role on the field is likely off the table at this point.

Of course, the Red Sox aren’t the only ones pursuing Martinez’s services this winter. The 30-year-old slugger has been linked to both the Diamondbacks and Giants in weeks past, and while they have the roster flexibility to accommodate his preferences, they’ll need to clear another massive hurdle: the seven-year, $250 million contract he’s said to be seeking. Both clubs will need to get creative to make such a deal work. The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping right-hander Zack Greinke in an attempt to free up some room on their payroll for Martinez, while the Giants appear more inclined to scour the trade market for outfield help than shell out cash for another hefty contract in free agency.