Home plate

It’s time to shrink home plate, apparently

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I don’t think so, but what do I know? Someone no less well-known and respected than Frank Deford feels differently, however:

It’s time to make home plate smaller. I know: That’s heresy; that’s sacrilegious. But there are simply too many strikeouts in baseball now, and that hurts the game, because if the ball isn’t in play, it’s boring . . .That’s too broad for the pitchers today, especially when so many strikes are on the corners, or even “on the black,” the small fringe that frames the plate. If you cut, say, an inch and a half off each side, pitchers would have a 14-inch target. Batters would have a more reasonable chance to try to connect. They’d swing more, put more balls in play. It’d be more fun, a better game both to play and to watch.

He explains it more in the audio version, to which you can listen at the link. Somehow he doesn’t acknowledge that making the plate smaller would lead to more walks which also don’t have the ball in play, but never mind that.

Never mind it because Deford knows better and this is not to be taken seriously. Evidence that he knows better is contained in his own essay, as he notes that, in the past, offense and pitching have fluctuated historically. That baseball has, in the past, made rules changes such as lowering the mound or — though they don’t admit it — juicing the ball in order to juice offense. There are ways to deal with this if baseball wanted to that fall short of shrinking the plate, and if baseball chose to do something they’d do any number of them before shrinking the plate. And, really, they’ll probably do nothing because this is just cyclical stuff the sort of which has always happened in baseball.

But Deford is getting my attention with this and now yours, so it’s not worthless. And he has given me a blueprint for my next essay about how we should legalize steroids in order to cut down on the strikeouts. Maybe that’s controversial, but it’s far less of a radical change than shrinking the plate. I mean, heck, we had such an environment a mere decade or two ago and baseball survived. Even thrived!

Honestly. It’s the more conservative approach to the problem.

Report: Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on Sonny Gray

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 06: Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at the Oakland Coliseum on August 6, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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The Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on starting pitcher Sonny Gray, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The Astros have added Charlie Morton this offseason, but the club has been trying to add a big-name starting pitcher to put at the top of the rotation behind Dallas Keuchel.

Gray, 27, was limited to 22 starts in the 2016 season due to a forearm issue. His stats left a lot to be desired, as he finished with a 5-11 record, a 5.69 ERA, and a 94/42 K/BB ratio over 117 innings. Considering how Gray pitched in the previous three years, he’s a good bet to bounce back.

Gray is under team control through 2019, which is a big draw for the Astros. Needless to say, the Athletics would want a haul in terms of prospects. Gray will earn $3.575 million in 2017, having avoided arbitration in his first year of eligibility.

President Obama Welcomes the Cubs to the White House

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As we noted last week, The Chicago Cubs took the unusual step of not waiting until the summer after winning the World Series to make their customary White House visit to meet the president. They did it today, seeing President Obama a few short days before he leaves office.

Despite the fact that Obama is a White Sox fan, he met the Cubs with diplomacy and grace. It’s almost as if he’s been in that business for the past eight years. In return, he was given some gifts by the Cubs: Theo Epstein presented Obama with a No. 44 Cubs jersey, a tile from the center field scoreboard at Wrigley Field, and a lifetime pass to Wrigley as well.

Obama is staying in D.C. after he leaves office this week, hanging around so his daughter can finish high school in the same place she started. Even so, he’s likely going to be back to Chicago a good bit over the rest of his life, so he’ll likely be able to put the free pass to work. Assuming it comes with, like, six companion passes for his Secret Service detail.