Tombstone

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

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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.

Marlins still searching for starting pitching depth

Aaron Harang
AP Photo/Matt Slocum
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The Marlins would like to add “another pitcher or two” before pitchers and catchers report to Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro writes. Among starting pitchers available, Kyle Lohse, Aaron Harang, and Alfredo Simon are candidates for the Marlins, but they may hold out for the possibility of inking a major league contract. Tim Lincecum and Cliff Lee are other potential candidates, per Frisaro.

This offseason, the Marlins signed Wei-Yin Chen to a five-year, $80 million deal and Edwin Jackson for the major league minimum. The back of the rotation, though, is still a question mark as Jarred Cosart, Adam Conley, and Justin Nicolino will compete with Jackson for two spots. David Phelps is dealing with an elbow injury and may or not be ready by Opening Day, but he could function in a swingman capacity as well.

Shocker: Bruce Bochy tabs Madison Bumgarner to start Opening Day

Madison Bumgarner
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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You might want to sit down for this news. Giants manager Bruce Bochy has tabbed ace Madison Bumgarner to start on Opening Day in Milwaukee against the Brewers, CSN Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic reports. Shocking, I know.

The Giants had a busy offseason, adding Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija to the starting rotation, but neither had a shot at getting the Opening Day nod considering what Bumgarner has done for the Giants over the last five seasons.

Since the start of the 2011 season, the 26-year-old lefty compiled a 3.05 ERA with 1,034 strikeouts and 239 walks across 1,050 innings. Among starters who logged at least 800 innings in that span of time, only Clayton Kershaw, Cueto, Zack Greinke, David Price, and Felix Hernandez have posted lower ERAs.  And Bumgarner is the only one among them with a championship ring. In fact, he has three.

Tony Clark is not happy so many players remain unsigned

ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, JAN. 18-19 - This Jan. 15, 2014 photo showing new baseball union head Tony Clark during an interview at the organization's headquarters, in New York. Clark has big shoes to fill _ and not just as Michael Weiner's replacement as head of the baseball players' union. Moving from Arizona to New Jersey, the former big league All-Star also needed to find size 15 snowshoes.  (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
AP Photo/Richard Drew
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We’re almost halfway through February. Pitchers and catchers report to spring training soon. And yet, there are more than a handful of solid free agents that remain unsigned. Among them: Yovani Gallardo, Ian Desmond, and Dexter Fowler. All three have draft pick compensation tied to them, as each rejected a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from his respective former team. That, undoubtedly, is a reason why they haven’t inked a contract yet.

MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark is unhappy about this reality and expects to discuss potential changes when the next collective bargaining agreement is negotiated. The current CBA expires after the 2016 season. Per the Associated Press, Clark said last week, “I think it’s disappointing when there are as many talented players still without a home. I don’t think it’s in anyone’s best interest to be in a world where very talented players are at home for whatever reason they are there. It will likely be a part of the conversation in bargaining.”

Clark also mentioned, among other things, the possibility of a draft lottery, which would take away the incentive for teams to “tank”, or lose on purpose. The Astros and Phillies have notably done this in recent years, finishing with baseball’s worst record and thus netting the #1 overall draft pick.

These are, however, simply two items of many that will be discussed during the upcoming offseason. It will be interesting to see what solutions are eventually put in place.

Michael Pineda hopes to reach 200-inning mark for first time

New York Yankees' Michael Pineda delivers a pitch during the third inning of a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
AP Photo/Adam Hunger
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It was reported on Friday that Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka isn’t sure if he’ll be ready for Opening Day as he makes his way back from arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone spur from his right elbow. His health will be crucial to the Yankees’ chances this season, but the same goes for rotation-mate Michael Pineda, who hopes that this is the year he’ll be able to take on the workload of a frontline starter.

Pineda was on pace for a career-high in innings last season, but he landed on the disabled list in late July with a right flexor forearm muscle strain and missed a month. He struggled upon his return and ended up with 160 2/3 innings, so he fell short of his career-high of 171 innings as a rookie with the Mariners way back in 2011. Now going into his age-27 season, Pineda told Bryan Hoch of MLB.com that his goal for 2016 is to reach 200 innings for the first time in his career.

“For me, this year, I’m coming here early to be strong and working hard to pitch 200 innings this year,” Pineda said at the club’s Minor League complex. “I want to throw 200 innings this year. This is my goal, and help my team.”

Pineda had a mediocre 4.37 ERA (90 ERA+) last season despite impressive peripherals with 8.7 K/9 and 1.2 BB/9. Among pitchers with at least 160 innings pitched, only Bartolo Colon of the Mets had a lower walk percentage. Pineda managed to increase his ground ball rate to 48.2 percent and also saw an uptick in velocity from 2014, so there’s reason to believe in improvement if he can stay healthy.