I just got back from the All-Star Game press conference in which Jim Leyland and Bruce Bochy announced their starting pitchers and lineups. As Aaron noted, we get Scherzer vs. Harvey and a couple of lineups with which you could quibble, I suppose, if you wanted to, but what’s the point, really? Go outside and play. Do something productive.
Things of random interest to me during the press conference:
Brian Kenny of MLB Network emceed it. When we learned it would be Max Scherzer starting, I was hoping Kenny — who has built a cottage industry of dismissing the pitcher win as a useful statistic — would go to great lengths to avoid mentioning that the most talked-about thing with Scherzer this year has been his wins. Kenny didn’t mention it.
Jim Leyland did, though. A couple of times. And not just Scherzer’s wins, but when he was asked about why Hiroki Kuroda wasn’t named to the team despite his great ERA, Leyland said it’s be impossible for him to have left Chris Tillman off given that he’s won 11 games. I think Kenny had to sit down for that.
Phillies Chairman Bill Giles is the honorary NL President. Jackie Autry is the honorary AL President. Each of them — along with Bruce Bochy and Jim Leyland — gave considerable lip service to the notion of the All-Star Game determining home field advantage in the World Series. They all love it. I had to sit down for that.
Bochy had the line of the presser. When asked if Matt Harvey’s blister is going to be a problem for the All-Star Game, Bochy said he spoke with Terry Collins about it and assured him that Harvey is “gonna be limited to 100-120 pitches tomorrow night.”
Someone asked both managers about the “cloud” the Biogenesis scandal has cast over the All-Star Game. Know what? I’ve been here two days. Basically no one is talking about Biogenesis. There’s enough going on. I sorta wish Bochy or Leyland had said “well, son, it wasn’t casting any cloud until your question,” but they were more diplomatic than I am.
So that was the presser. On to some player interviews. Gonna ask some guys what kind of tree they’d be, were they a tree. Hoping someone says “shagbark.”
Report: MLB, union making progress on new slide rule at second base
After Ruben Tejada suffered a fractured right fibula on a takeout slide from Chase Utley during the playoffs, there was momentum for a new rule about slides at second base. We haven’t heard much about it since the Owners’ Meetings in November, but ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that talks between MLB and the players’ union are making progress and a change is expected for the 2016 season.
The exact wording of the new rule is still unclear, but Olney hears that there’s a focus toward “ensuring that sliding runners either touch the base or make an effort to touch the base.” Below are some more details:
Sources said that in the union’s internal discussions, players made it clear they had been taught since they first began playing baseball to go into second base with the intent of breaking up double-play attempts. Although the union wants to improve safety for middle infielders, it does not want to eliminate players’ aggressiveness on slides or the ability to break up a double play.
However, there is a desire on both sides to eliminate slides on which a baserunner goes beyond the effort to reach second to make contact with middle infielders.
There’s already a rule in place for a situation like we saw with Utley, but it’s rarely, if ever, enforced. It’s unfortunate that Tejada’s fractured fibula had to be the catalyst for change or clarification with the rules, but hopefully this will result in fewer injuries in the future. Similar to the “Buster Posey Rule” for plays at home plate, get ready for life with the “Chase Utley Rule.”
Here’s the video of the Tejada/Utley play:
And here’s the video of another high-profile play from 2015 which resulted in a torn lateral meniscus and a fractured tibia for Pirates infielder Jung Ho Kang:
UPDATE: Jason Beck of MLB.com confirms that it’s a two-year, $18.5 million deal.
8:00 p.m. ET: Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish reports that the Tigers have avoided arbitration with outfielder J.D. Martinez by agreeing to a two-year contract. No word yet on the terms involved, but Robert Murray of Baseball Essential reported earlier today that he was hearing rumblings about a two-year, $18.5 million deal.
Martinez filed for $8 million and was offered $6 million by the Tigers when arbitration figures were exchanged last month. There has been some talk about a long-term extension, but we heard last week that the two sides were discussing both one- and two-year deals. This new deal will buy out Martinez’s final two years of arbitration, so as of now, he’s still on track to go into free agency after 2017.
After a breakout 2014, Martinez batted .282 with 38 home runs and an .879 OPS over 158 games last season.
Veteran reliever Eric O'Flaherty is coming off the worst season of his career, but there’s still plenty of interest in a bounceback, as ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that he’s deciding between four teams and “should sign a deal by the weekend.”
You really can’t sugarcoat O’Flaherty’s 2015. The 31-year-old was flat-out bad, posting an 8.41 ERA and 21/18 K/BB ratio over 30 innings of work between the Athletics and Mets. Opposing batters hit .343/.427/.482 against him. I keep going back to check if that’s a misprint, but nope, it’s real. He also missed some time with shoulder inflammation. On the bright side, Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports reported last month that O’Flaherty feels healthy and believes that he has fixed his mechanics.
O’Flaherty’s career has veered off track since Tommy John surgery in 2013, but he has enjoyed plenty of success in the past and throws from the left side. He’s the kind of guy who will continue to get chances.
Veteran outfielder Roger Bernadina has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Mets that includes an invitation to spring training.
Bernadina was a semi-regular for the Nationals from 2010-2012, but never developed as much as hoped offensively and didn’t play in the majors at all last season.
At age 32 he’s a career .236 hitter with a .661 OPS in 548 games as a big leaguer and given the Mets’ outfield depth–they already have Alejandro De Aza and Juan Lagares in bench/part-time roles–Bernadina seems likely to begin the season in the minors.