Manny Machado

A’s take exception to Manny Machado’s antics

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The A’s had strong words for Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado after he threw his bat during an eighth-inning incident Sunday that cleared the benches at Camden Yards.

Machado sent his bat flying down the third-base line — seemingly intentionally –- after the second of two very inside pitches from A’s reliever Fernando Abad. The pitches surely were in response to the Orioles throwing inside and hitting Josh Donaldson on Friday, after Machado took exception to a tag from Donaldson.

John Jaso was the first A’s player to reach Machado after the benches cleared and got right in Machado’s face before Orioles first base coach Wayne Kirby separated the two. It added some late spice to a blowout the A’s won 11-1.

[RELATED: A’s explode past Orioles, win 11-1]

“There’s times in baseball where a guy with that kind of talent (acts) like he’s got 10-plus years in the big leagues,” Jaso told CSN California’s Glen Kuiper and Ray Fosse after the game. “That doesn’t really fly well with me and I don’t think it flies well with a lot of players. Sometimes those guys need to be brought down a little bit so they play the game right.

“Obviously there’s a few examples from this series where he isn’t playing the game right, and it’s kind of a disrespect to the game. I know there’s veteran presences over there with the Orioles, and I think it’s up to them to kind of take control of the situation.”

The A’s also were ticked about a sixth-inning incident Sunday, when Machado’s bat twice hit A’s catcher Derek Norris unintentionally during his backswing. Norris was struck in the head with one of them and was so shaken up he had to leave the game. In the whole time Norris was being attended to at home plate, Machado never glanced in Norris’ direction or made any effort to apologize or ask if Norris was OK.

Norris told reporters he thinks he actually caught Machado smiling after one of the backswings, and labeled Machado’s behavior “a disgrace to baseball. Things like that stain your career.”

Norris said he passed his concussion tests, and manager Bob Melvin expects Norris to be available for Monday’s series opener against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim.

Machado and Abad both were ejected from the game over the eighth-inning incident. Afterward, Machado claimed that the bat slipped out of his hands.

The A’s weren’t buying it.

“That was the worst temper tantrum I’ve probably ever seen on a baseball field,” A’s starting pitcher Scott Kazmir said. “He tried to say that he lost the bat. That clearly wasn’t the case.”

Don Mattingly thinks pace of play can be improved by changing views on strikeouts

Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly sits in the dugout prior to a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Los Angeles, Monday, April 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)
AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo
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Marlins manager Don Mattingly has one potential solution to the pace of play issue: change the way people value strikeouts, the Associated Press reports.

Strikeouts have been rising steadily since 2005. Then, a typical game averaged 6.30 strikeouts. In 2016, there were 8.03 strikeouts per game. There are many explanations for this phenomenon. For one, teams are searching specifically for young pitchers who can throw hard — like triple-digits hard. They figure they can teach them the other pertinent skills in the minors. Second, Sabermetrics has shown that a strikeout is only marginally worse than an out made on a ball put in play. Sometimes, the strikeout is preferable, especially if there’s a runner on first base with less than two outs and a weak hitter at the plate. Sabermetrics has also shown home runs to be the best and most efficient way to contribute on offense. Furthermore, younger players tend to focus more on power in order to get noticed by scouts. Unless it’s paired with other elite skills, a scout isn’t going to remember a player who hit the ball into the hole on the right side, but he will remember the kid who blasted a 450-foot homer.

Here’s what Mattingly had to say:

Analytically, a few years back nobody cared about the strikeout, so it’s OK to strike out 150, 160, 170 times, and that guy’s still valued in a big way. Well, as soon as we start causing that to be a bad value — the strikeouts — guys will put the ball in play more. So once we say strikeouts are bad and it’s going to cost you money the more you strike out, then the strikeouts will go away. Guys will start making adjustments and putting the ball in play more.

[…]

If our game values [say that] strikeouts don’t matter, they are going to keep striking out, hitting homers, trying to hit home runs and striking out.

Simply believing strikeouts are bad won’t magically change its value. However, creating social pressure regarding striking out can change it. Theoretically, anyway. Creating that social pressure is easier said than done.

There is a dichotomy here as well. Home runs are exciting. Strikeouts and walks are not. Often, though, the three go hand-in-hand-in-hand. A player actively trying to cut down on his strikeouts by putting the ball in play will also likely cut down on his strikeout and walk rates. There doesn’t seem to be an elegant solution here. Wishing for fewer strikeouts, walks, and homers doesn’t really seem to give way to a more exciting game.

Sean Doolittle: “Refugees aren’t stealing a slice of the pie from Americans.”

ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 25:  Sean Doolittle #62 of the Oakland Athletics pitches during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on June 25, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
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In the past, we’ve commented on Athletics reliever Sean Doolittle and his girlfriend Eireann Dolan’s community service. In 2015, the pair hosted Syrian refugee families for Thanksgiving and their other charitable efforts have included LGBTQ outreach and help for veterans.

Athletes and their significant others have typically avoided stepping into political waters, but Doolittle and Dolan have shown that it’s clearly no concern to them. In the time since, the Syrian refugee issue has become even more of a hot-button issue and Doolittle recently discussed it with Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.

I think America is the best country in the world because we’ve been able to attract the best and brightest people from all over the world. We have the smartest doctors and scientists, the most creative and innovative thinkers. A travel ban like this puts that in serious jeopardy.

I’ve always thought that all boats rise with the tide. Refugees aren’t stealing a slice of the pie from Americans. But if we include them, we can make the pie that much bigger, thus ensuring more opportunities for everyone.

Doolittle, of course, is referring to Executive Order 13769 signed by President Trump which sought to limit incoming travel to the United States from seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. A temporary restraining order on the executive order was placed on February 3, a result of State of Washington v. Trump.

Doolittle spoke more about the plight refugees face:

These are people fleeing civil wars, violence and oppression that we can’t even begin to relate to. I think people think refugees just kind of decide to come over. They might not realize it takes 18-24 months while they wait in a refugee camp. They go through more than 20 background checks and meetings with immigration officers. They are being vetted.

They come here, and they want to contribute to society. They’re so grateful to be out of a war zone or whatever they were running from in their country that they get jobs, their kids go to our schools, they’re paying taxes, and in a lot of cases, they join our military.

Around this time last year, Craig wrote about Doolittle and Dolan not sticking to baseball. They’re still not, nor should they be. Hopefully, the duo’s outspokenness inspires other players and their loved ones to speak up for what’s right.

[Hat tip: Deadspin’s Hannah Keyser]