JUPITER, FL - FEBRUARY 24: Carter Capps of the Miami Marlins poses for photos on media day at Roger Dean Stadium on February 24, 2016 in Jupiter, Florida.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
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How is Carter Capps’ delivery legal?

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Given that Padres reliever Carter Capps missed the entire 2016 season due to Tommy John surgery — and given that he’s only managed to pitch more than 20 games in a season twice since debuting in 2012 — I suppose this may be a largely hypothetical question. But he’s healthy now and he’s in Padres camp throwing baseballs and stuff, so it’s bound to come up again.

The question: how is this delivery, which features him hopping forward not once but twice and then delivering the ball from what I’d estimate to be about 54 feet, even legal?

The answer, as we learned when he first unleashed this delivery in 2015, is that it is technically legal, actually. He caught flak for it in the minors, with umpires calling it illegal for “disengaging the rubber” but Major League Baseball has deemed it kosher. Why? Because the rules about where your feet are with respect to the rubber in the stretch — picking them up off of the rubber once you come set — only deal with motions toward a base runner and the intent to deceive him in an effort to pick him off. Capps was told by MLB that as long as he’s moving forward, toward the batter, and not getting too much air, he’s OK.

Which is idiotic. There’s a reason the pitching rubber is 60’6″ away from home plate. Not because someone just pulled that number out of their hind end, but because it has been deemed, over the years, to be a fair placement which neither disadvantages a pitcher nor a hitter to too great a degree. It’s a convention that could’ve been changed at any time but which has stood up, with the implicit agreement that it would be bad for hitters to let pitchers pitch from 30 feet and and bad for pitchers to make them pitch from 90, for example. Effective velocity, you know. Distance matters. We see this in practice with tall pitchers. Assuming they can get their mechanics worked out, tall ones have a tremendous advantage over shorter ones, in large part because they simply release the ball closer to a hitter than a short one does thanks to a longer stride and longer arms.

We can’t legislate how tall pitchers can be so we allow for some variation in the distance a ball has to travel, but we do have rules about how far away from the plate they have to be for a reason. Capps has figured out a way to pitch from 54 or 55 feet. On one season of doing it he pitched quite well. Maybe it was because he’s simply good, but maybe it’s because he has created for himself an unfair advantage.

I presume that injury risk — Capps hurt himself last year, though we don’t know if the delivery is why — will keep most pitchers form ever trying this. But even if no one else does, it’s unfair to let any pitcher pitch from closer to the plate than the rules allow. Letting Capps get around that with a crow hop seems to violate the spirit of the rule and I don’t think it should be legal.

 

Mike Matheny tried to have his own son picked off at first base

PHOENIX, AZ - AUGUST 26: Manager Mike Matheny #26 of the St Louis Cardinals looks on from the dugout during the first inning of a MLB game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on August 26, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Diamondbacks 3-1. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
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Cardinals manager Mike Matheny has a son, Tate, who was selected by the Red Sox in the fourth round of the 2015 draft out of Missouri State University. Tate, an outfielder, spent the 2015 season with Low-A Lowell and last year played at Single-A Greenville.

Now in spring camp with the Red Sox, Tate is trying to continue his ascent through the minor league system. On Monday afternoon in a game against his father’s Cardinals, Tate pinch-ran after Xander Bogaerts singled to center field to lead off the bottom of the fifth inning. Mike wasn’t about to let his son catch any breaks. Via Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

That’s right: Mike tried to have his own son picked off at first base. That’s just cold, man.

Tate was erased shortly thereafter when Mookie Betts grounded into a 6-4-3 double play. Tate got his first at-bat in the seventh and struck out.

Do we really need metal detectors at spring training facilities?

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Craig Calcaterra
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MESA, AZ — Over the past couple of seasons we’ve, more or less, gotten used to the sight of metal detectors at major league ballparks. And the sight of long lines outside of them, requiring us to get to the park a bit earlier or else risk missing some of the early inning action.

Like so much else over the past fifteen and a half years, we’re given assurances by people in charge that it’s for “security,” and we alter our lives and habits accordingly. This despite the fact that security experts have argued that it’s a mostly useless and empty exercise in security theater. More broadly, they’ve correctly noted that it’s a cynical and defeatist solution in search of a problem. But hey, welcome to 21st Century America.

And welcome metal detectors to spring training:

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Beginning this year, Major League Baseball is mandating that all spring training facilities use some form of metal detection, be it walkthrough detectors like the ones shown here at the Giants’ park in Scottsdale or wands like the one being used on the nice old lady above at the Cubs facility in Mesa.

I asked Major League Baseball why they are requiring them in Florida and Arizona. They said that the program was not implemented in response to any specific incident or threat at a baseball game, but are “precautionary measures.” They say that metal detection “has not posed significant inconvenience or taken away from the ballpark experience” since being required at big league parks in 2015 and believe it will work the same way at the spring training parks.They caution fans, however, that, as the program gets underway, they should allow for more time for entry.

And that certainly makes sense:

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I took this photo a few minutes after the home plate gate opened at Sloan Park yesterday afternoon. As I noted this morning, the Cubs sell out every game in their 15,000-seat park. That’s a lot of wanding and, as a result, it could lead to a lot of waiting.

But the crowds here all seemed to get through the line pretty quickly. Perhaps because the wanding is not exactly a time-consuming affair:

Not every security guard was as, well, efficient as this guy. But hardly anyone walking through the gate was given a particularly thorough go-over. I saw several hundred people go through the procedure soon after the gates opened and most of them weren’t scanned bellow the level of their hip pockets. I went back a little closer to game time when most people were already in the park and the lines were shorter. The procedure was a bit more deliberate then, though not dramatically so. This is all new for the security people too — spring training just started — and it’s fair to say that they are trying hard to balance the needs of their new precautionary measures against the need to keep the lines moving and the fans happy.

On this day at least it seemed that fan happiness was winning. I spoke with several fans after they got through the gates and none of them offered much in the way of complaint about being wanded. The clear consensus: it’s just what we do now. We have metal detectors and cameras at schools and places of work and security procedures have been ratcheted up dramatically across the board. That we now have them at ballparks is not surprising to anyone, really. It’s just not a thing anyone thinks to question.

And so they don’t.