Craig Calcaterra

Rob Manfred
Associated Press

What, if any, rule change would make you quit baseball?

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Rob Manfred is clearly embarking on a rule change campaign of late. Or, at the very least, he is laying the rhetorical groundwork for some pretty major rule changes in the future.

Yesterday he spoke of regulating defensive shifts and a pitch clock. Both of those were extensions of conversations started in the media, so you can probably assume that he’s treating those conversations as an ice breaker and will expand the conversation to other proposed rules eventually. Or, if you’re a conspiracy theorist, you might claim that he planted those theoretical rules changes with the media in the first place as a means of making them sound less radical when he, in fact, proposes them. After all, he wrote a guest column about all of this in the very same space where that stuff was first floated a few weeks back. Synergy!

We always have and always will argue about changes in baseball, but that change is almost always incremental and pretty minor. A little change here and there. Manfred’s recent comments and the changes made in the couple of years he’s been on the job seem somewhat radical, but that’s only by comparison. Bud Selig’s regime and the regimes which came before messed around with a lot of baseball context, but outside of the DH and a once-every-decade-or-so strike zone tweak, they left the on-the-field game largely alone. Manfred’s regime obviously thinks the field is not off-limits, so it’s naturally going to seem like crazy change at first, even if no single move is a terribly big deal.

Or maybe one will be a terribly big deal. That Buster Olney piece I linked above talks about seven inning games and limits on the number of pitchers a team could use. Those would be pretty dang major. Many — myself included — have proposed a universal DH for years now. That shouldn’t be a major thing given we’ve had a DH for 43 years, but the topic is basically like religion to some people so it would throw many into a tizzy. Some have talked about reducing the length of the season. There are always some kooky ideas floating around and, being a politician by temperament, Manfred has never and likely will never rule any one of them out unequivocally.

So I ask: what rule or context change could baseball make that would cause you to just give up on it? To stop watching or caring about baseball. To say “that’s it, this is no longer the sport I love” and to spend your summer evenings reading books or something similarly ill-advised?

Given what I do for a living I’ll never stop watching baseball and, that aside, I’m in the bag for baseball enough and comfortable enough with crazy crap that I’d probably never actually quit it, but I have to say that a seven inning game would seriously test me. Relief pitcher limits or other things which take the game out of the hands of managers and players more so than has already occurred would likewise cause me pain and might make me consider if what I’m watching is something I love or, rather, merely a function of inertia. Maybe I don’t give it up, but there is likely some thing that might make me ask myself if I truly care like I once did.

I want to hear yours. Honestly: what change could baseball make, be it to the rules or the general context of the game, that would make you say “I’m out!” Tell me in the comments. If Rob Manfred can float trial balloons over at ESPN, we can fire trial rocks from our trial slingshot over here at the Blue Network.

 

Must Read: The story of Carlos Paula, the first black player for the Washington Senators

Carlos Paula
Baseball Hall of Fame
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Everyone knows about Jackie Robinson, the man who broke baseball’s color line. Most folks at least know the name Pumpsie Green, the last man to be the first black player for a major league team. In between them there were 14 other men who became the first black player for their respective clubs. You may know the person who integrated your favorite team if it was around back then but many if not most people would have a really, really hard time naming more than a few from all of the others.

That’s why this article about Carlos Paula at the Baseball Hall of Fame’s website, by author Larry Brunt, is fantastic.

Paula, a fast, muscular slugger from Cuba, integrated the Washington Senators. He was not a fantastic player. After making his debut in 1954 he played in only 157 games across three seasons for Washington and never appeared in the big leagues after 1957. The long accepted story of Paula’s short career is that he was a defensive liability — which is true; he had a great arm but a poor glove — but it’s not the whole story. Not at all.

As Brunt explains, Paula’s career got a late start because, even though everyone who saw him thought he was a star in the making, the Senators kept him down on the farm for a puzzlingly long time. Then, once he did arrive, there seemed to be an almost pathological fixation on what Paula didn’t do well as opposed to what he did do well. In 1955 he went on a 22-game stretch when he hit .450, with 10 doubles, 3 triples and a homer among his 36 hits and struck out only 4 times. It was barely covered by the press. A lot of play, however, was given to his mistakes and an alleged “hitch” in his swing about which his manager complained but no one else really seemed to see. He’d go 3-for-5 and an article would appear that only mentioned his base running mistake. Stuff like that.

More troubling was the way in which he was profiled by the press on a personal basis. His heavily accented English was phonetically reproduced in the paper, with the clear purpose of making him out to sound uneducated. There were stories of his life in Cuba — some obvious fabrications — which made him out to be a rube. Over time he literally became a punchline. And not just during his playing career. Paula’s name was invoked for decades after he was out of baseball, used exclusively for a dumb or mistake-prone player. One high-profile Boston scribe continuing to use Paula’s name as a go-to joke into the 1980s.

Brunt’s research and the detail he puts into this article is fantastic. It tells both the story of a baseball player and the story of a baseball establishment that did everything it could to marginalize and debase him. Some of the examples are, to be sure, quite extreme by modern standards, but you can still see the same general pattern of treatment of Latino players today. The fixation on their weaknesses rather than strengths. The tendency to fill in gaps of knowledge about the man with stereotypes and assumptions. In this the story serves as both history and general critique of how Latino players fare in the eyes of a primarily white press and baseball establishment.

This is must read stuff, folks.

Cubs place John Lackey on the disabled list

Chicago Cubs starting pitcher John Lackey throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday, April 18, 2016, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Associated Press
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It’s good to have a 13 game lead in your division in August. That lets you do stuff like what the Cubs are doing: placing starting pitcher John Lackey on the disabled list.

Lackey left his last start with shoulder tightness. It’s not thought to be particularly serious, but he’s being placed on the DL as a precautionary measure. He may not have been shelved if the Cubs were in a tight race. What’s more, assuming there isn’t anything seriously wrong with him, the time off will serve to give him a dog days breather and may allow him to be a bit sharper and fresher come playoff time.