Craig Calcaterra

Tombstone

“Baseball is dying . . . LITERALLY!” — Chris Rock

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Warning: the video below contains a bit of strong language. Though not particularly strong for Chris Rock. Just an F-bomb or two. 

The latest entry in the Baseball is Dying, You Guys pantheon comes from Chris Rock, in the video below, from Bryant Gumbel’s HBO show. In it he actually says “Baseball is dying,” so it’s particularly spot-on!

The video is more of a mixed bag than you tend to see with these things. Normally baseball is dying stuff is just full of baloney. Rock’s thing contains a lot of good and accurate points in addition to some of the more well-worn, misguided ones we so often find in this genre of commentary.

On the good side, it comes from a guy who actually loves baseball and calls himself a fan. So many of these come from football writers or culture commentators who don’t feel invested in the game and seem to be more concerned with writing epitaphs than assessing the health of the sport. That aside, he also is spot-on about baseball’s waning appeal among youth, which is a problem we’ve talked about a lot around here. He also is correct — I suspect anyway and will defer to him on this — regarding its lack of cultural relevancy among people of color. At least compared to what it used to be. He also nails the no-fun-allowed, “respect the game” culture of Major League Baseball that makes it, quite frankly, a drag sometimes.

On the other hand there are some cliches here that are not made any better by virtue of their presence alongside the good points Rock happens to make. He cites World Series ratings which, as we’ve noted, aren’t a good barometer of baseball’s health. He’s a bit contradictory on the role of nostalgia in the game, opening with his love of the 1980s New York Mets but later lamenting that baseball would have people look backwards rather than forward. It’s a tricky balance, of course — one in which I wish baseball would err on the side of looking forward — but Rock himself demonstrates that positive vibes from the past are a big part of baseball’s appeal. At least to some. A part which can complicate baseball marketing efforts at times.

Anyway, I’ve spoken enough. Let’s let Chris Rock speak for himself:

 

The early leaders in MLB’s “Franchise Four” thing have been announced

Barry Bonds
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You’ll recall Major League Baseball’s “Franchise Four” thing, in which fans vote for “the most impactful players who best represent each Major League franchise” and some overall categories as well. It’s MLB.com clickbait and debate fodder, but what are we about here other than clicks and debates, so we’re all for it.

Anyway, interim results are out. The highlights include Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Sandy Koufax and Tom Seaver currently leading in the “Greatest Living Players” category. Which is sad. I mean, it must mean Barry Bonds has died in a tragic cycling and/or Google Glass accident and no one thought to tell me.

Also interesting: Nolan Ryan (Angels, Astros and Rangers) and Randy Johnson (Mariners and Dbacks) are on multiple teams’ Franchise Four. Notably, Greg Maddux — who is probably one of the best four Braves and Cubs — likely doesn’t have as good an argument to be on either of those teams’ “Franchise Four” lists given how his career was divided, but has a better argument for being on the Greatest Living Players list than Koufax does. But that’s democracy for you. He is on the Braves’ list, but I think Dale Murphy should be there, given that Maddux was a hired gun.

Anyway, here are the results thus far:

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Bernie Williams to finally sign his retirement papers

bernie-williams-yankees
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Bernie Williams turns 47 in September. He last played in 2006. He was eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2011. He is now, finally, formally retiring:

I guess it’s good that it’s formal. It’ll make his number-retiring ceremony this summer less awkward, maybe, as he’ll be less-inclined to ask if he can play a couple of games in center in order to give Jacoby Ellsbury a blow.

Williams, of course, played 16 seasons with the Yankees and was the team’s starting center fielder during their incredible run of four World Series titles in five seasons from 1996-2000. The man is owed and allowed a ceremony, I figure.

Scott Boras wants panels of experts to determine what rookies are ready to be called up

Scott Boras AP
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Scott Boras is a smart guy. But even smart guys have dumb ideas sometimes. This, my friends, is a dumb idea. From Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com, who was at the Cubs-Pirates game yesterday when baseball’s most famous agent offered this suggestion about how to avoid Kris Bryant-style callup controversies:

“For example, I would say that the union or somebody may come in and say that they’ve made a claim that this player is major-league ready,” Boras said. “And that to place him in the minor leagues would not be appropriate from a skills standpoint. And then all of a sudden, it’s subject to review by a panel of former managers or baseball experts . . .  It’s objective in the sense that they’re neutral,” Boras said. “The only way subjective turns objective is that you’ve got the best-known experts who are going to make an evaluation of what they do.”

Because, obviously, panels of experts such as former players and managers always make sound, objective decisions.

Really, though, I don’t think this goes far enough. I think a panel of experts should — objectively, mind you — decided which players should start and how often. Which ones should be called in for save situations and the like. In the name of objectivity, you see, since managers, scouts and general managers can’t be trusted to make the wise decisions about their baseball players, as Boras says.

But we could go further! We could take the subjectivity out of player contracts too! Instead of having an agent cause teams to bid against one another for free agents — a process that can get emotional! — let’s have a panel of experts decide what the player should make.

Such a system would be eminently fair. And it might make Scott Boras’ life a lot easier, no?

Hunter Pence is unlikely to make it back by May 1

hunter pence getty
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The prevailing wisdom was that Hunter Pence was likely to miss all of April due to his fractured forearm, but that he’d be back by around the first of May.

Well, nope: Bruce Bochy talked about his return schedule yesterday, and that schedule makes it appear unlikely that he’ll be back by then. He still has yet to hit off a tee and take soft-toss batting practice and stuff, and he must do that before seeing live pitching. That’s not the sort of thing you can do in a week or so.