Craig Calcaterra

Houston Astros pitcher Luke Gregerson comes in for starter Collin McHugh to close a baseball game against the Oakland Athletics in the ninth inning Sunday, September 20, 2015, in Houston. (AP Photo/Richard Carson)

Luke Gregerson named Astros closer

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When the Astros traded a nice package to the Phillies for Ken Giles it was expected that he would be the closer. Nope. At last not now. Manager A.J. Hinch announced this morning that Luke Gregerson would start the season handling ninth inning duties.

Gregerson was the closer last year, of course, and saved 31 games. Between that level of comfort Hinch has with him and with Giles’ struggles this spring — he allowed seven runs in nine games — the Astros manager had a decent basis for his decision. He also, however, works for an organization which does not place as much value on highly-defined roles to begin with, so the notion that Hinch could switch to Giles or use some other, matchup-based system for closing duties is not out of the question.

At the moment, though, I wonder if gut more than anything entered into this choice. The smart kids talk about bullpen roles and spring training stats and high-leverage situations and the oddity of the saves stat driving pitcher usage, but baseball still lends itself to instinct and comfort and the role of the closer is no different. This is not a criticism, by the way. If anything, it shows that any absolutes anyone wants to put on these sorts of decisions overstate things. Hinch is human. His pitchers are too.

In 1857, baseball’s leaders told the English where they could stick it

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Baseball’s historian, John Thorn, unearthed something astoundingly wonderful today. It’s an account of a convention held in 1857 during which several of the New York area baseball clubs — chief among them the famous Knickerbockers — met to improve the game and make it more uniform.

Baseball had been played for a while, of course, but the rules were sort of all over the map. There are tons of details of just how the game was played here, and the rule changes which helped turn it into something much more like the game we know and love today, even if there was still a lot of evolution to go.

But maybe even more than the specific rules changes — things like balls caught on one bounce no longer being an out — is the underlying rationale and arguments for these rules contained in the report. The one-bounce rule had been because guys didn’t wear gloves. Those opposed to the change were concerned that being forced to catch a ball on the fly would hurt their hands. The leaders of the convention, however, would not hear of these pansy complaints:

The objection of some of the young members of the convention to catching the ball “on the fly,” ought not to have had much weight simply for the reason, that it is the way the ball is caught in the English game of cricket or, if Englishmen choose to hurt their hands by catching the ball before It touches the ground, why should Americans do so?

Let it be known that cricket was played in America before base ball; that within a year of this present time, more Americans played cricket than base ball; and that many of our best base ball players are Englishmen, who have joined it for a quick, lively game. And above all, let not Americans reject a manly point in the game merely because it is English, and hurts the hands (which it does not, if played in a scientific manner); for, surely, what an Englishman can do, an American is as capable of improving upon.

Take that, Limeys!

More seriously, I love how this thing reads overall. It’s so clearly a new game then with so many different ideas floating around and a clear desire by its players to make it something more formal. To make it a more serious pursuit. In this it reminds me of conversations I’ve had with friends who got involved with new games or sports in the 80s or 90s or even now. That moment when a thing some people did just for fun was looking for some wider acceptance. It’s heady stuff.

And it’s a good reason for us, today, to not dismiss something new simply because it is not as venerable as baseball or some other game or hobby that is well-established. They were all their once. They just needed time to breathe and to grow.

Thieves steal Hunter Pence’s once-stolen scooter from the Make-A-Wish Foundation

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Almost two years ago, some jackwagon stole Hunter Pence’s motorized scooter. He used to to, um, scoot to games and bop around downtown San Francisco, and some jerkwad up and stole it from outside a restaurant. Thankfully, in the wake of a bunch of publicity over the theft, it was returned.

A happy ending, yes? Even happier when Pence donated the scooter to the Make-A-Wish Foundation for fundraising purposes. But then the jackwagons — different jackwagons, I’m sure — struck again. From NBC Bay Area:

A pair of thieves struck a Make-A-Wish Foundation office in San Francisco Saturday night and made off with a motorized scooter donated by San Francisco Giants outfielder Hunter Pence.

According to Patricia Wilson, the foundation’s executive director, the burglars were caught on surveillance cameras as they also escaped with laptops, iPads and other items.

What kind of evil-hearted person robs the Make-A-Wish Foundation? For what it’s worth, Hunter Pence himself is not pleased:

The way these things often turn out is that, in the long run, good things happen. Someone like Pence or other good-hearted people step up to give more than they might have or otherwise highlight the bad thing which befell a charitable effort in such a way that things turn out OK. That doesn’t make it OK, obviously. It doesn’t make the people who stole from a charity which LITERALLY GRANTS WISHES TO CHILDREN WITH TERMINAL ILLNESSES any less pieces of trash.

C’mon, humanity. Do better.