Morosi is disappointed in U.S. stars for dissing the WBC. Here’s why he’s wrong.

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The U.S. team for the World Baseball Classic was announced this morning and, no, not all of the big U.S. stars are on the roster. Not present are Buster Posey, Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Justin Verlander,Clayton Kershaw, David Price and many, many more.

Some may view this as a matter of professionals putting their professional obligations first. Jon Paul Morosi, however, finds it to be evidence of a bad attitude on the part of the big stars:

We should want to reassert our supremacy in the sport, particularly when considering our all-time WBC record suggests precisely such a statement is needed. Instead, it seems several American stars see the WBC as a matter of convenience rather than an obligation to country and sport. They don’t want to play entering their walk year. They don’t want to play if they just changed teams, signed a big contract or went to the postseason. They will do it, only if the timing is exactly right.

For just about every other participating nation, the opposite is true …

Morosi slams the non-participating players like Trout for making “lame excuses” and being “idle heroes.”**

All of which is pretty weak sauce to me.  Morosi says that worries about injury risk some non-participants have aren’t reasonable, but his argument that playing in the WBC somehow better prepares players for the season aren’t very convincing themselves (note: perhaps the reason more non-WBC players were on the disabled list the April after the last WBC was because they were also less than 100% at WBC time). And at no point does he acknowledge how important a normal routine is to baseball players. These guys are the ultimate creatures of habit, and to think that radically messing with their habits is no big deal is to fail to understand what makes ballplayers tick.

But his larger point is that there is some unique obligation on the part of the U.S. to go full-bore into the WBC:

The US remains the structural center of the baseball universe, producing more than 70 percent of current major-league players and serving as the base for 29 of its 30 teams. The game is richer, greater and more diverse than it’s ever been. Those are manifestly positive developments. Yet, because of how the history of our nation is intertwined with the history of the sport, the US bears a unique responsibility to grow the WBC as the sport’s premier international tournament.

A large part of that obligation is showing up. And it would be nice to win once in a while, too.

Actually, I see those facts as reasons why U.S. players don’t have to show up for the WBC. Unlike some other countries, the U.S. has nothing to prove in baseball. No one will argue that Major League Baseball isn’t the pinnacle of the sport, and that it is here, in the MLB, where a player’s mettle is truly tested.  And yes, it is true that the game is more diverse than it has ever been. Indeed, MLB has become a wonderful melting pot of nationalities and its diversity is ever-increasing.  Which makes country-against-country tournaments like the WBC seem like some sort of anachronism, really. A nationalist contest that is really beside the point in this increasingly international sport.

The WBC is kinda cool. Not gonna doubt that.  But to suggest that it is somehow more important than the MLB regular season, and that players who prioritize that regular season over the WBC are making poor choices, is frankly laughable.

 

**An earlier version of this post characterized Jon Paul Morosi’s criticism of players who do not participate in the WBC as one based on the players’ lack of patriotism. My reason for saying so was that it was my view, based on the entirety of his column, that he was, in fact, questioning players’ patriotism even if he did not intend to.  

In the past few hours Morosi and I have had an offline discussion in which he explained what he was getting at with yesterday’s column. Rather than lack of patriotism, he explained, he was criticizing the attitude of players who have an “insufficient perspective and awareness” of their obligations and the importance of the WBC.  While Morosi and I still likely disagree about all of this, I appreciate that questioning the patriotism of others is a serious charge and that, whatever my takeaway from Morosi’s column was, it was not his intention to do such a thing.

Major League Baseball limits mound visits, puts off pitch clock until 2019

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Major League Baseball just announced its much awaited pace-of-play initiative for 2018. The big news: no pitch clock, with Rob Manfred deciding, in the words of the league’s press release “to defer the implementation of a pitch timer and a between-batter timer in 2018 in order to provide players with an opportunity to speed up the game without the use of those timers.”

But that doesn’t mean there won’t be changes. In rules changes which were reached with the cooperation of the Players’ Union, teams will now be limited to six non-pitching change mound visits per team per game, and one extra visit if the game goes into extra innings. Also, a new rule is being introduced that is designed to reduce the time required for inning breaks and pitching changes.

The mound visit rule is NOT limited to coach or manager mound visits. It also includes position players, including catchers, visiting the mound to confer about signals and the like. It will not count the normal conversations which take place between plays, such as when a pitcher says something to a fielder as they throw the ball around the horn. It likewise does not include things like a first baseman coming to the mound to clean his spikes off with the pitcher’s gear on the back of the mound. Mound visits to check on injuries will not count either.

While six visits may seem like a lot, it really isn’t once you realize that a pitching coach may go out two or three times in a close game and that a catcher, especially in close games, may come out to talk about signs and things seemingly countless times. Heck, they could re-name this the Jorge Posada or Gary Sanchez rule.

There will be one big exception to the rule, which relates to catchers and pitchers truly being crossed up on signals after they have exhausted mound visits. It reads thusly:

3) Cross-Up in Signs. In the event a team has exhausted its allotment of mound visits in a game (or extra inning) and the home plate umpire determines that the catcher and pitcher did not have a shared understanding of the location or type of pitch that had been signaled by the catcher (otherwise referred to as a “cross-up”), the home plate umpire may, upon request of the catcher, allow the catcher to make a brief mound visit. Any mound visit resulting from a cross-up prior to a team exhausting its allotted number of visits shall count against a team’s total number of allotted mound visits.

This makes sense as a matter of safety, if nothing else, as you don’t want a catcher truly not knowing where a pitch is going. It’s also notable as one of the few rules changes in recent years that actually adds in an umpire’s judgment rather than takes a judgment call away from an umpire. It’ll be worth watching, however, to see how easy a touch umpires are about this. Again: if we have a tense September game between Boston and New York and everyone has used up their mound visits, I wonder if the umps will truly enforce the rule.

The big problem here is that there is nothing in the new rule which talks about the penalty for trying to make a seventh mound visit. To that end:

This is gonna lead, at some point, to a pretty big argument. Should be amazing.

As for innings breaks, There will be a timer that counts down from 2:05 for breaks in locally televised regular season games, from 2:25 for breaks in nationally televised regular season games, and from 2:55 for postseason games. The timer shall start on the last out of an inning for an inning break. 

There are set things the players must be doing at certain points on the clock. To wit:

  • When there are 25 seconds left, the umpire will signal to the pitcher to complete his last warm-up pitch;
  • When there are 20 seconds left, the batter will be announced and must leave on-deck circle, his walk-up music shall begin, and the pitcher shall complete last warm-up pitch;
  • When the clock gets to zero, the pitcher must begin his motion for his first pitch of the inning.

There will be “special circumstance” exceptions, such as when other random things are happening on the field that prevents this, such as in-between inning events going too long or something, and an umpire can determine that a pitcher or batter needs more time for safety purposes.

Enforcement of the clock will be handled by umpires directing players to comply. Players who consistently or flagrantly violate the time limits will be subject to progressive discipline by the league. Put differently, no one is issuing automatic balls or strikes here. It’ll be handled by fines.