The Mets should not be able to keep their first round pick if they sign Michael Bourn

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We mentioned yesterday that the Mets are asking Major League Baseball to allow them to keep their first round pick this year — the 11th pick — in the event they signed Michael Bourn. This despite the fact that the new CBA says that only top-10 picks are protected if a team signs a player who has been given a qualifying offer.

Ken Rosenthal lays all of the reasoning out in his column today. The thinking: the Mets would have been the tenth pick had the Pirates not been awarded their own compensation pick for failing to sign Mark Appel, their first round pick from 2012. The Mets were the 10th worst team, the thinking goes, so they should be able to keep their pick even if it’s now technically the 11th. Rosenthal notes that the Mets and the union would support this deviation but that Major League Baseball would likely fight it.

For once I’m on Major League Baseball’s side here. The reason? The new CBA’s failure to address compensation picks kicking someone out of the top 10 in such a situation is not some mere oversight that inadvertently subverts the spirit of the rule and the intent to help out bad teams like the Mets. Rather, it was a very specific and conscious omission.

Indeed, the last CBA specifically protected top 15 picks from compensation and specifically exempted draft compensation picks — like the one the Pirates got for not signing Appel — from counting.  The new CBA changes that to the top 10 picks and makes no mention of draft compensation picks. This is not merely a matter of “rules are rules.” It’s about the fact that MLB and the union actively removed protection for the Appel-pick situation. They saw it there in the last version, had someone highlight the text and hit “delete.” They knew exactly what they were doing.

To suggest, then, that the current setup goes against the spirit of the rules is simply wrong. The union and the league changed the spirit from what it was before. Why should Michael Bourn and his agent and the Mets now benefit because that rule is now in force?

If this becomes a grievance, it’s going to go to an arbitrator. I would hope that an arbitrator holds the league and the union to the bargain they actively hammered out.  A bargain that, if they don’t like now, they should be forced to changed rather than simply set aside because it’s inconvenient for them.

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.