No big rules changes in 2017; Rob Manfred blames the union’s “lack of cooperation”

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There have been a number of possible rules changes discussed this offseason, most of which would be aimed at speeding up the pace of play. Automatic intentional walks and pitch clocks have been mentioned. Limiting trips to the mound. Some more radical experiments have been suggested as well.

All of the ideas about potential rules changes have started with the league and ownership. They were then informally vetted through columns from well-connected columnists, all of which portrayed them as feasible and not insane, even though some of them are a bit out there. Of course, any substantive rules changes have to be agreed to by the union, so the mere fact of the league’s mentioning a change and pushing it on to their sources in the media does not mean they are a done deal or even close to a done deal.

Rob Manfred would prefer you not be reminded of that, however. He’d prefer that you think of these changes as all-but-implemented before the evil Players Union swooped in to ruin things. I mean, how else is one to take this:

The “lack of cooperation” spin is subtle, but significant. He wants to portray the MLBPA as intransigent — as kids stomping their feet — not as an equal partner in the process of rule making. He wants to make every single complaint about a long game or a slowly-played game an indictment of the players, not a product of many decisions and priorities, most of which are league and club priorities, not player priorities. Things like start times for games and commercial break length and in-game entertainment and advertisements and what have you. Nope, it’s all the players.

Maybe — and hear me out — the rules changes proposed by the league were dumb? Maybe players have every right to say so and to weigh in on the terms of their employment? Maybe they don’t like being dictated to like the league has appeared to be doing and they don’t like to have to answer questions from reporters based on an agenda set on Park Avenue as opposed to in their own clubhouse. Could Manfred not know this?

Hahaha, of course knows all of this. He is an expert when it comes to collective bargaining and labor relations so he knows perfectly well that the players have a say on these things. But he also knows full well that it’s in MLB’s best interest to have fans think that the players are spoiled babies who whine about not getting their way. And his comments here are calculated to create that impression among baseball fans.

 

Giants remove pitching coach Dave Righetti

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After 18 years, 12 winning seasons, seven postseason runs and three World Championships, Dave Righetti is no longer a pitching coach for the Giants. He was removed from his post on Saturday, when the team announced a few reassignments as they shake up their coaching staff. Heading into the 2018 season, Righetti will serve as special assistant to general manager Bobby Evans, former bullpen coach Mark Gardner will step into a similar special assistant role to “assist in pitching evaluations,” and former assistant hitting coach Steve Decker will take a special assistant role in baseball operations.

According to MLB.com’s Chris Haft, Righetti was the longest-tenured pitching coach in the big leagues. He helped shape the careers of notable Giants’ aces like Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain — all Cy Young contenders (and, in Lincecum’s case, a two-time winner) at various points in their careers. He was there to assist Ryan Vogelsong during his stunning mid-career comeback in San Francisco. He helped newcomers like Chris Stratton and Ty Blach flourish even as the team stumbled to the bottom of the division. He was there to take the credit when a sterling rotation clinched the Giants’ 56-year, drought-snapping championship title in 2010 — and, when things went so horribly south in 2017, he took the blame as well.

Hardly anything went right for the Giants’ pitching staff in 2017. Madison Bumgarner was shelved after sustaining a serious shoulder injury in a dirt bike accident, Johnny Cueto couldn’t shake a cluster of blisters on his right hand and Mark Melancon found it difficult to justify a $62 million paycheck after pitching through an arm injury to four blown losses/saves and a 4.50 ERA. It would be a lot for any pitching coach to stay on top of, and given the team’s rapid descent from 2016 postseason contenders to last-place finishers in 2017, it’s not surprising that Evans felt the need to switch things up.

Successors have yet to be named for Righetti, Gardner or Decker, though Murray hears that the Giants could have interest in former major league pitching coach Jim Hickey. NBC Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic adds that Evans is searching for someone to “put a new voice” on the pitching staff and will likely target someone who, like Righetti, brings considerable experience to the role.