No, seven inning games are not a solution to baseball’s problems


Dan Bickley of AZCENTRAL Sports has a column touting Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall as the next baseball commissioner. Why? Because baseball is dying, you guys:

The sport no longer needs tradition, once the primary selling point. It needs reinvention and imagination. The proof can be seen at the All-Star Game, where the average viewer in 2013 was 53 years old . . .

Demographics are a legit concern, actually. It’s better to have a lot of butts in the seats than fewer butts in the seats, but the age of the butts is important for the future. It may be overstated a bit in baseball’s case in that baseball is quite famously a game people abandon in their teens and 20s only to come back to when they’re older, but MLB can’t always count on that. So, no, when someone goes after the demographic I’m not necessarily going to break out the BaseballIsDying-o-Copter to combat it.

Of course, there is some less relevant hand-wringing here:

Meanwhile, the Home Run Derby has become laborious and irrelevant, with players taking pitch after pitch after pitch. It’s the same type of inactivity that defines and dooms the sport. It also shows just how out of touch baseball can be, such as when an excoriated drug cheat (Nelson Cruz) makes the All-Star Game by popular vote.

How can baseball be out of touch — the implication being that it’s out of touch with its fans — when it is the fans who voted Cruz in? Indeed, preventing Cruz from playing despite the fans wanting him in the game would, by definition, make baseball out of touch. But don’t worry. He has a solution:

But then MLB has to get aggressive. It needs to think about seven-inning games and lowering the pitcher’s mound. It has to find a way to increase the action, hacking away at the fatty blocks of inactivity clogging most every game.

Thus is the nature of most baseball-is-dyingism: overstating problems and leaping to radical solutions which evince an ignorance of baseball and the context in which it is played. Anyone who thinks that, say, lopping off innings and thus fundamentally altering the game is a way to deal with slogging game times before, say suggesting that rules regarding times between pitches be enforced or more minor rule tweaks like rules against stepping out of the box or even changes to the way pitching changes are made probably doesn’t know about or care about such rules. They’re assessing baseball from the outside with the eye of a hired gun consultant who doesn’t care about what happened before or what happens after. All they want is to be able to say “problem solved” and move on to something else.

You never see people who know or care about the game say stuff like this. It’s just the tourists.

Erik Johnson likely to open 2016 in the White Sox rotation

DENVER, CO - APRIL 09:  Starting pitcher Erik Johnson #45 of the Chicago White Sox delivers against the Colorado Rockies during Interleague play at Coors Field on April 9, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockies defeated the White Sox 10-4.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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With the White Sox losing Jeff Samardzija to free agency, Erik Johnson will likely get a shot to contribute out of the rotation to open up the 2016 season, GM Rick Hahn said in a conference call on Wednesday, per a report from’s Scott Merkin.

“As we sit here today, I think it will be an opportunity for Erik Johnson to convert on sort of the return to form he showed back in 2015 when he was International League pitcher of the year for [Triple-A] Charlotte,” Hahn said. “Obviously, he got some starts in September and continued to show the progress in Chicago he had shown in the Minor Leagues over the course of the last season.

“So if Opening Day were today, then I think Johnson is penciled in to that spot in the rotation right now. In all probability, once we get closer to spring, there will be some competition for him to earn that spot. But if we were strictly looking at today, then I would think Johnson has the inside track on filling Samardzija’s innings.”

Johnson was called up from Triple-A Charlotte in September and made six starts, allowing 14 runs (13 earned) on 32 hits and 17 walks with 30 strikeouts in 35 innings. That followed up an impressive five months in the minors where he compiled a 2.37 ERA and a 136/41 K/BB ratio across 132 2/3 innings.

Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, and each included Johnson on their top-100 prospect lists, ranking him 63rd, 67th, and 70th, respectively. The right-hander was selected by the White Sox in the second round of the 2011 draft.

Major League Baseball will investigate Yasiel Puig for his role in Miami nightclub brawl

Yasiel Puig
AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi

It was reported on Friday afternoon that Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig was involved in a brawl at a Miami nightclub. Details were scant at the time, but he reportedly left with a bruise on his face.

Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports that Major League Baseball plans to investigate Puig under the league’s new domestic violence policy for his role in the brawl. Citing a report from TMZ, Hernandez notes that Puig shoved his sister, “brutally sucker-punched” the manager of the bar, and instigated the brawl.

The Dodgers and Puig’s agent have thus far refused to comment on the situation.

Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes was the first player to be investigated under the league’s new domestic violence policy earlier this month, as he allegedly assaulted his wife. Reyes has pleaded not guilty after he was charged with domestic abuse in Hawaii.

As our own Craig Calcaterra pointed out, commissioner Rob Manfred does not need to wait for Puig to plead guilty or to be found guilty to levy a punishment.

Dayan Viciedo close to signing with Japan’s Chunichi Dragons

Dayan Viciedo
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Patrick Newman is reporting that the Chunichi Dragons of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and outfielder Dayan Viciedo are close to an agreement on a contract. Newman notes that the Dragons are close to signing pitcher Jordan Norberto as well.

Viciedo, 26, has struggled since making his major league debut in 2010 with the White Sox, batting an aggregate .254/.298/.424 with 66 home runs and 211 RBI in 1,798 plate appearances. He spent the 2015 season with Triple-A Charlotte (White Sox) and Nashville (Athletics), hitting a composite .287/.348/.450. While Viciedo can hit the occasional home run, he hasn’t shown the ability to do much else at the big league level. Given his age, he could prove himself in Japan and parlay that into a renewed shot in the majors in the future.

The White Sox signed Viciedo out of Cuba in December 2008, agreeing to a four-year, $10 million deal. The club re-signed him to one-year deals in 2013 and ’14 for $2.8 million each and $4.4 million ahead of the 2015 season.

Blue Jays sign J.A. Happ to a three-year, $36 million contract

J.A. Happ
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Update (8:45 PM EST): Per Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi, Happ will get $10 million in 2016 and $13 million each in 2017 and ’18.

*’s Gregor Chisholm reports that the Blue Jays have signed lefty J.A. Happ to a three-year deal worth $36 million.

Happ, 33, had a rebirth as a member of the Pirates last season after starting the season with 20 subpar starts with the Mariners. He made 11 starts for the Buccos, boasting a 1.85 ERA with a 69/13 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.

Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported this past August that Happ’s newfound success had to do with a delivery tweak suggested by Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage. The Blue Jays are certainly hoping that adjustment is the full explanation for his success.

The Jays’ signing of Happ most likely signifies they won’t be pursuing free agent lefty David Price.

This will be Happ’s second stint with the Blue Jays. The Astros dealt him to Toronto in a July 2012 trade. He posted a 4.39 ERA with a 256/113 K/BB ratio in 291 innings with the Jays, then went to the Mariners in a trade this past December that brought outfielder Michael Saunders to the Jays.