The Commissioner’s Office just released the following statement from Bud Selig regarding Marvin Miller’s passing:
“Marvin Miller was a highly accomplished executive and a very influential figure in baseball history. He made a distinct impact on this sport, which is reflected in the state of the game today, and surely the Major League players of the last half-century have greatly benefited from his contributions. On behalf of Major League Baseball and the 30 Clubs, I extend my deepest condolences to Marvin’s family, friends and colleagues.”
That’s nice enough, but contrast it with the warm statement Selig gave about another 95 year-old who recently passed away:
“Lee MacPhail was one of the great executives in Baseball history and a Hall of Famer in every sense, both personally and professionally. I had great admiration for Lee as American League President, and he was respected and liked by everyone with whom he came in contact. His hallmarks were dignity, common sense and humility. He was not only a remarkable league executive, but was a true Baseball man as is evidenced by his brilliant leadership of the storied New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles franchises. Lee always put the interests of the sport first and through his love of the game taught all of us to cherish it in every way. Major League Baseball and all of our Clubs feel a great sense of loss today, and I send my deepest condolences to one of the first families of the national pastime.”
Obviously it’s not a competition and I in no way wish to make some rigorous comparison between Miller and MacPhail as human beings. Apart from a single phone call with Miller a couple of years ago I did not know either of them from Adam. But there’s a definitely chilly feel to the Miller statement, no? And a brevity? Moose Skowron got 55 more words from the commissioner than the guy who freakin’ transformed baseball.
To be fair, one is understandably more likely to say warm things about someone one knows better and with whom one has had more personal interaction like Selig had with MacPhail. And the fact that there is some personal reaction evident in these statements is evidence that guys like Selig put themselves into their work fully and with no small amount of emotion. Which is nothing but admirable in my view. Certainly beats a boilerplate tribute.
But even 30 years after Miller left the scene as active union chief, one gets the impression that Selig — or whoever at Major League Baseball actually wrote the Miller statement — has some hard feelings over years of battle with the MLBPA. And even if that’s understandable, it’s still fascinating all the same. If, for no other reason, than it makes you realize that even if the wars between the owners and the union feel like ancient history to some of us, it’s not so ancient history to many of the men who still rule this game.
The Mets lost again on Thursday afternoon, suffering a 7-5 defeat at the hands of the Braves. It’s their sixth consecutive loss and the club is now in last place in the NL East. Not exactly the start the Mets envisioned.
Matt Harvey got the start, but lasted only 4 1/3 innings. He gave up six runs on five hits and five walks with only one strikeout. After the game, Harvey said he was tight and that he threw yesterday expecting to start on Friday instead, per Matt Ehalt of The Record. Sounds like no one communicated to Harvey that he’d be starting this afternoon until it was too late for him to properly prepare.
Harvey started because Noah Syndergaard was scratched due to a “tired arm.” Syndergaard blew reporters off after the game, according to Mike Puma of the New York Post. Puma then added that Syndergaard ripped Mets P.R. guy Jay Horwitz for letting reporters approach him.
By the way, the Mets also lost outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to a hamstring injury. Not much else can go wrong in Queens.
If you haven’t heard, fly balls — not ground balls or line drives — are all the rage among hitters these days. Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez summed it up perfectly last month when he said, “I’m not trying to hit a [freaking] line drive or a freaking ground ball.” The goal is to maximize damage. Last year, for example, fly balls became hits about 17 percent less often than ground balls (7.4% versus 24.6%), but hitters had a slugging percentage more than twice as much as on ground balls (.539 versus .267). This refocusing has helped hitters like Martinez as well as Ryan Zimmerman reinvigorate their careers.
Reds first baseman Joey Votto, who is as much a student of new age analytics as anyone in the game, doesn’t feel that this approach is necessarily a good one, as Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto said:
Where I get concerned is the guys that make this attempt and burn out too much of their time and don’t get a chance to be their best selves, and either don’t make it to the big leagues or don’t perform their best in the big leagues because they’re always attempting this new style of hitting. I see it with a lot of guys. Everyone tells the good stories, but there’s a lot of s—ty stories of guys who are wasting their time trying things.
Votto added that while the fly ball approach is working right now, pitchers will soon adapt and the fly ball approach won’t be so good anymore. And he’s right. Baseball has always been a game of adjustments. For example, as teams have gotten comfortable with shifting their infield, hitters like the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber have both dropped bunts down the third base line for easy hits. Knowing that hitters are aiming to hit fly balls now, pitchers may stay higher in the strike zone more often as one possible solution.
Votto is just trying to stay as well-rounded as possible. He says that he wants to become “unpitchable.” Votto wants to be like Angels outfielder Mike Trout, whom he describes as a guy “who can do absolutely anything he wants” and “at all times [has] all options.”
So far, Votto is having another productive season despite a relatively pedestrian batting average and on-base percentage. He’s hitting .238/.330/.563 with seven home runs and 16 RBI in 94 plate appearances. Coincidentally, he’s been hitting way more fly balls than usual as he’s currently carrying a 42.3 percent rate compared to his 33.1 career average, according to FanGraphs. His line drives are way down to 16.9 percent compared to his 25.4 percent career average.