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UPDATE: mixed reports on Josh Hamilton to the Mariners


UPDATE: Hold the phone: Bob Nightengale of USA Today spoke with Chuck Armstrong, president of the Mariners, and he said that the Mariners are not close to signing Hamilton.

Odd, then, that Baker would be as specific as he was with his report. One wonders if Armstrong is running some misdirection here.

8:40 AM: You laughed when you first heard that the Mariners were talking to Josh Hamilton. Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times is reporting, however, that the last laugh may belong to Seattle:

I’m now told the talks between the two sides have been a lot more serious than anyone has let on and that they are actually “very close” to getting a deal done.

The holdup: Zack Greinke. Why? Because, according to Baker, the Rangers have been given a chance to match any offer for Hamilton the Mariners make. They cannot match it if the Rangers sign Greinke, because they can’t spend that much. If Greinke goes elsewhere, however, the Rangers will match the Seattle offer on Hamilton. Seattle is poised to strike fast, Baker says.

This is pretty shocking, no? Did anyone really think the M’s would be anything other than a stalking horse? Could anyone — before they moved the fences in anyway — have imagined them landing a big free agent bat, let alone the biggest?

But, pending Zack Greinke’s ultimate destination, that could very well happen.

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.