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.

Jonny Venters is still pitching

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Lefty reliever Jonny Venters was among a handful of players the Rays signed to minor league contracts, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Venters, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 and has logged just 27 2/3 innings in the minors in the meantime due to a continuous battle with his elbow. According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Venters has undergone four — four! — Tommy John surgeries.

When he was healthy, Venters was a fearsome late-game option for the Braves. He posted a 1.95 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 83 innings in 2010, and a 1.84 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 88 innings in 2011. His first-half performance in 2011 earned him a spot on the National League All-Star roster.

Venters has spent the last two years in the Rays’ system and he’ll try to make it a third.