Posnanski: baseball is trapped by its own history

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Joe Posnanski argues for Yasiel Puig in the All-Star Game. You may agree with that or you may disagree, but it’s hard to disagree with Joe’s diagnosis of a problem baseball has which leads to “arguments” like Puig or no Puig:

. . . this is the history that still traps baseball. Should the season really be 162 games long? Probably not. But it’s tradition. Should we still be judging starting pitchers by “wins” when they average – AVERAGE – fewer than six innings per start? Probably not. But it’s tradition. Heck, even the smallest and most obvious changes – like finally outlawing the ridiculous fake to third throw to first play – rattles the cages of the game.

And so the All-Star Game – which used to matter when America was a different place – clings to the traditions of another time.

Baseball’s small-c conservatism is often an asset. The game is skeptical of change and slow to adopt it.  This is good inasmuch as it keeps baseball, most of the time anyway, from lurching from one fad to the next, changing or losing that which draws so many people to it in the first place.

But there’s a difference between skepticism of change and a reflexive, reactionary abhorrence of the new. I feel like a lot of the people who don’t want to see a guy like Yasiel Puig in the All-Star Game are operating like that. Not necessarily because they don’t like Puig — indeed, I’ve not heard anyone couch their opposition to Puig as some “I don’t like him” thing. Rather, it’s a reaction to the All-Star Game truly being an exhibition and spectacle. It has long been this, yes, but people have always treated it like it mattered more and this Puig resistance is a hangover of that.

Once you let go of the idea that the game truly matters — something which would be aided by Major League Baseball getting rid of the home field advantage in the World Series aspect of it — then there is no real basis for resisting Puig. Or Bryce Harper last year. Or any other player who makes a splash in the future.

Must-Click Link: “Skunk in the Outfield”

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Sam Miller of ESPN has an amazingly fantastic story today. It’s about a high school tournament baseball game in Rhode Island in 2006. It’s not your typical game story or oral history or look-to-the-past-to-see-the-future kind of thing. The only nod to such conventionality is mention of the fact that former Red Sox prospect Ryan Westmoreland played in the game. That’s mostly a footnote.

No, the article is about a trick play — “skunk in the outfield” — concocted by one of the coaches. About how it played out and what went into it before, during and after it happened. Along the way Miller talks about the nature of trick plays and offers a good three dozen amazing insights into the psychology of young baseball players and the strategy of baseball as it unfolds in real time.

Each of these observations could anchor its own story but here they form a grand mosaic. And that’s only mild hyperbole, if in fact it’s hyperbole at all. Indeed, most treatments of such a play would be some video clip with a “wow, look what happened here!” sort of couching. Miller gives a more than ten-year-old trick play an epic treatment that is every bit as enlightening as it is entertaining.

Set some time aside to read this today.

Rubby De La Rosa to undergo a second Tommy John Surgery

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This is unfortunate: Diamondbacks reliever Rubby De La Rosa will undergo Tommy John surgery. This will be the second Tommy John procedure of his career, the first coming back in 2011.

De La Rosa has had elbow  issues for his entire career. Last year his UCL was barking again and he underwent stem cell therapy to try to avoid a second surgery, but it obviously hasn’t worked out. He’s pitched in only nine games this year, allowing four earned runs in seven and two-thirds innings, striking out 12.

I first saw De La Rosa in spring training in 2011. I thought his stuff was pretty phenomenal and figured he’d be a good one. Great stuff is often a function of heavy strain on an elbow, however, and pitchers breaking is, unfortunately, the rule in baseball far more than the exception.

He’ll miss a year at least. We likely won’t see him until spring of 2019, most likely on a minor league deal.