St Louis Cardinals Photo Day

Mike Matheny wants to improve catcher safety

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Throughout his playing career spanning 1994-2006, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was known as one of the toughest players in the game, hearkening back to the older days of baseball. He suffered somewhere in the neighborhood of 25-30 concussions, according to Anthony Castrovince. If anyone would be against changing MLB’s rules to favor a “softer” game, it would be Matheny.

Surprisingly, Matheny does want MLB’s rules regarding home plate collisions changed.

“I understand old-school, and I consider myself an old-school player, as far as the way I go out and the way I was taught the game,” Matheny said. “[But] I just don’t see the sense in it.”

The growing sentiment for change comes as a result of an ugly injury Giants catcher Buster Posey suffered in May 2011 when Marlins outfielder Scott Cousins collided with him at home plate. Posey suffered a fractured leg and torn ligaments, ending his season. Others, including Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, have been hit hard since.

Major League Baseball, as much a business as it is a game, suffers when star players like Posey are unable to play. Thus, it would seem to be in its best interest to establish rules that would eliminate superfluous, risky plays like home plate collisions. If change is to be made, however, the “tough guy” culture must be perforated.

Joe Torre, MLB’s executive vice president of baseball operations and also a former catcher, has opposed such change. Indians manager Terry Francona is also a proponent of the status quo, and more are likely to come out as the debate rages on. The players, who often suffer through injuries and use terms such as “man up”, are just as likely to fight against change, especially if it means having to work to change playing habits.

Jason Kipnis could join Team Israel for 2017 World Baseball Classic

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians throws during batting practice prior to Game Seven of the 2016 World Series against the Chicago Cubs at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.

For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.

Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.

Rangers to sign James Loney to minor league deal

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: James Loney #28 of the New York Mets tosses to first base against the San Francisco Giants during the second inning at AT&T Park on August 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-0. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.

Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.

The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.