Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Rob Manfred: “We don’t really expect that we’re ever going to [start extra innings with a runner on second base] at the major league level.”

28 Comments

Last week, we learned that Major League Baseball planned to test in the lowest levels of the minor league a new rule for extra innings: starting each inning with a runner on second base. Chief baseball officer Joe Torre seemed to be enthusiastic about the idea.

However, when the idea was publicized last week, it was roundly mocked. Anecdotally, I didn’t see anyone in full-fledged support of the idea. Those that were open to it were doing so in a more “crane your neck to look at the car wreck” kind of way.

Having absorbed a week’s worth of criticism over the idea, Rob Manfred spoke today and backtracked a bit on the idea, suggesting that he doesn’t expect the rule to ever be implemented in the majors. Via Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald:

There’s special purpose rules. Like pitch counts in the WBC or starting the 10th inning with a runner on base. What do I mean by “special purpose rule”? These rules or rule changes are designed to serve a purpose in some narrow settings and we don’t really expect that we’re ever going to apply them at the major league level, at least in the short term. In rookie ball where crowds are small, games are really developmental, starting the 10th inning with a runner on base makes sense because there’s really no developmental reason to play 18 innings and end with a shortstop pitching. And who knows, if we remain open-minded, we may learn something from this experiment that’s helpful moving forward.

In the end, though, baseball’s efforts to speed the game up miss the biggest offender: pitching changes. Finding a way to limit the down time between them, or limiting the amount of them that a manager can make would go a long way towards improving the pace of play.

Evan Longoria: “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”

Joe Scarnici/Getty Images
5 Comments

The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.