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It’s time to manufacture pace-of-play content once again

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There’s a neat pattern that plays out a couple of times a year. It goes like this:

  • MLB meets and, included among the many topics of discussion, is pace-of-play;
  • MLB makes some non-committal noises about some minor rules changes which may improve pace-of-play;
  • The media — almost always ESPN and their multiple personalities on multiple platforms needing to feed the maw of a 24/7 sports news monster — goes far beyond the minor rules changes being discussed and talks about things like seven inning games;
  • Since ESPN occupies such a prominent position in the sports media landscape, this maw-feeding leads to the rest of the media weighing in on the agenda ESPN set.

It happened last July. It’s happening again, kicked off by Rob Manfred’s comments the other day. If you’re curious about the latest iteration of it, seek out Jayson Stark and Karl Ravech’s Twitter feeds this morning. Or, if you’re into such things, go check out the Mike and Mike show, which is doing that thing where they pretend to care about baseball 2-3 times a year.

It’s no accident that this stuff becomes a big topic of conversation when it does. It happens during the dog days, after the All-Star Game and before the trade deadline or the time when pennant races get into gear. It happens now, before spring training and after the Super Bowl, when sports news is at its annual nadir (note: it’s the same week the SI Swimsuit Issue comes out too, which was itself designed to fill pages when sports news could not). I would bet my children that somewhere an ESPN editor or producer decided that, as a company, that’s what would be on the agenda this week, all hooked on the tiniest bit of news about baseball considering, maybe, implementing an automatic intentional walk.

Yes, pace-of-play and game length is an issue MLB is concerned with and yes it’s a topic worth discussing. But don’t get sucked into the ESPN-led debates about this. Keep an eye on who is setting the terms of the discussion and whether those terms bear any relationship with what is actually being considered by Major League Baseball. When you see an article or hear a teaser for a radio segment which goes “should baseball games be seven innings long?!” know that the idea was invented by pundits to fill air time and give it your attention accordingly.

 

Must-Click Link: Remembering Eddie Grant the first major leaguer to die in combat

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As you get ready for Memorial Day weekend and whatever it entails for you and yours, take some time to read an excellent article from Mike Bates over at The Hardball Times.

The article is about Eddie Grant. You probably never heard of him. He was a journeyman infielder — often a backup — from 1905 through 1915. If you have heard of him, it was likely not for his baseball exploits, however: it was because he was the first active baseball player to die in combat, killed in the Battle of the Argonne Forest in October 1915.

Michael tells us about more than Grant’s death, however. He provides a great overview of his life and career. And notes that Grant didn’t even have to go to war if he didn’t want to. He was 34, had the chance to coach or manage and had a law degree and the potential to make a lot of money following his baseball career. He volunteered, however, for both patriotic and personal reasons. And it cost him his life.

Must-read stuff indeed. Especially this weekend.

The Indians are unveiling a Frank Robinson statue on Sunday

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The Cleveland Indians will unveil a Frank Robinson statue at Progressive Field on Saturday.

Robinson’s tenure in Cleveland was not long, but it was historic. On April 8, 1975, he became the first African-American manager in Major League history. He was a player-manager. One of the last ones, in fact. He spent two years in that role and then a third year — a partial year anyway — as a manager only. Robinson would go on to manage the Giants, Orioles and the Expos/Nationals, compiling a career record of 1065-1176 in 16 seasons. He is now a top MLB executive.

Robinson was, of course, a Hall of Fame player as well, lodging 21 seasons for the Reds, Orioles, Dodgers, Angels and Indians. He won two MVP awards and hit for the Triple Crown in 1966. Overall he hit 586 home runs – 10th all time – and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. For an inner-circle Hall of Famer with that kind of resume he is still, strangely enough, underrated. I guess that happens when your contemporaries are Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle.

Anyway, congrats to Frank Robinson for yet another well-deserved honor in a career full of them.