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.

 

Jorge Soler diagnosed with strained oblique, Opening Day in doubt

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Royals outfielder Jorge Soler has been diagnosed with a strained oblique, making it likely that he begins the regular season on the disabled list, Rustin Dodd of The Kansas City Star reports.

The Royals acquired Soler from the Cubs in December in exchange for reliever Wade Davis. Over parts of three seasons with the Cubs, Soler hit .258/.328/.434 with 27 home runs and 98 RBI in 765 plate appearances.

When he’s healthy, Soler is expected to find himself in the Royals’ lineup as a right fielder and occasionally as a designated hitter.

Report: Cardinals, Yadier Molina making “major progress” on contract extension

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Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the Cardinals and catcher Yadier Molina are making “major progress” on a contract extension. Molina told the team he won’t discuss an extension during the season, hence the rapid progress.

Molina is entering the last guaranteed year of a five-year, $75 million contract signed in March 2012. He and the Cardinals hold a mutual option worth $15 million with a $2 million buyout for the 2018 season. The new extension would presumably cover at least the 2018-19 seasons and likely ’20 as well.

Molina is 34 years old but is still among the most productive catchers in baseball. Last season, he hit .307/.360/.427 with 38 doubles, 58 RBI, and 56 runs scored in 581 plate appearances. Though he has lost a step or two with age, Molina is still well-regarded for his defense. The Cardinals also value his ability to handle the pitching staff.