Author: Craig Calcaterra


Major League Baseball moving toward a “Chase Utley Rule” for slides into second


Ken Davidoff of the New York Post reports from the Owners’ Meetings in Dallas that “momentum continues to build toward” a rule change that he correctly notes will likely be referred to as “The Chase Utley Rule.”

Specifically, a change in the rules which would be aimed at eliminating the sorts of hard slides into second base, the likes of which Chase Utley demonstrated in the playoffs, breaking Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada‘s leg. Davidoff does not have any details on what, exactly, such a rule would entail but does allude to the so-called “Buster Posey Rule” which went into effect a couple of years ago in order to protect catchers from home plate collisions.

Of course, like the Buster Posey Rule, a Chase Utley Rule would be completely unnecessary if Major League Baseball would simply require its umpires to enforce and its players to abide by rules already on the books. In this case it’s Rule 6.05(m), which already  says a baserunner is out when:

(m)A preceding runner shall, in the umpire’s judgment, intentionally interfere with a fielder who is attempting to catch a thrown ball or to throw a ball in an attempt to complete any play:

Rule 6.05(m) Comment: The objective of this rule is to penalize the offensive team for deliberate, unwarranted, unsportsmanlike action by the runner in leaving the baseline for the obvious purpose of crashing the pivot man on a double play, rather than trying to reach the base. Obviously this is an umpire’s judgment play.

That rule totally and completely covers the Utley-Tejada situation. It does involve a judgment on the part of umpires, however, and baseball has run screaming from umpire judgment in recent years, preferring overly-complicated bright line rules which make for more, not less, confusion. Indeed, in this case I’d be shocked if whatever spins out of the Commissioner’s office doesn’t involve “zones” governing the precise geography of acceptable slides and finite measurements between a baserunner and the bag. This despite the fact that it’s pretty damn obvious when a runner is trying harder to take out an infielder than he is to simply reach a bag safely.

But hey, new rules are always better, right?

Jose Fernandez and the Marlins reportedly hate each other

New York Mets v Miami Marlins

The other day there were reports that the Marlins might trade Jose Fernandez this offseason. They were quickly walked back by team officials. This story, however — which appears to fill out some of the factual details which led to those initial rumors — paints a picture of a toxic and chaotic relationship between Fernandez and the Marlins.

The story, pieced together from multiple reports from Andy Slater of 940-AM WINZ in Miami, says that Fernandez made multiple trade demands to team brass this past season. Moreover:

In a separate report, team sources told Slater that Fernandez has a tendency to be “selfish” at times and “talks to management like they are children.”

“There were times this season where, not all, but some players and coaches hoped Jose would go out on the mound and get shelled,” a player source reportedly told Slater. “We thought it would get him to be more humble.”

Earlier today we learned that the Marlins apparently want to move Marcel Ozuna because he’s a pain in the butt. While their official line at the moment is that Jose Fernandez is not on the block, one wonders if the club wants to be rid of more than just Ozuna.


Alex Rodriguez is no longer a legal fees deadbeat

Alex Rodriguez

Back in 2014, as Alex Rodriguez was entering his year-long exile, reports surfaced that he was in a dispute with the legal team which led his ill-advised offensive against Major League Baseball and the MLBPA the previous year. He had not paid, it was reported, and threats were made of imminent collection lawsuits.

At the time I observed that it’s not terribly uncommon for there to be legal fees disputes, non-payment and, sometimes, even lawsuits in big, high-profile representations which end unsuccessfully. Indeed, it’s pretty darn common actually. Such disputes tend not to go very far, however. At least not as far as discovery. Why? Because even when clients don’t want to pay their bill, they really don’t like to be sued by their lawyers because it usually breaks the attorney-client privilege. For their part, lawyers don’t like to sue their clients because (a) it opens them up to malpractice counterclaims; and (b) suing your clients is a REALLY bad way of advertising for future clients. These things usually settle before the first deposition is scheduled.

And this one has too. From SNY:

A lawyer says his firm has settled its lawsuit accusing New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez of failing to pay legal bills stemming from the Biogenesis scandal.

Peter Siachos of Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani said Thursday the suit was settled “amicably” this month. He declined to disclose the terms.

Usually the terms are “we’ll cut the bill because we know you hated the outcome and you’ll pay us now because you owe us our dang fees.”

A-Rod just had a good season. He is no longer hated. He is no longer at war with his team. He is no longer a legal fees deadbeat. Heck, he’s one new rug and an apology to Cousin Yuri away from having settled all of his old sordid business. What a difference a year or two makes.

Say goodbye to the grass at old Tiger Stadium

Navin Field

I’ve written about Navin Field — or, as it’s probably more properly called, Tiger Stadium — here a number of times. It’s the land on which old Tiger Stadium sat in Detroit. Since 2010, a group of volunteers known as the Navin Field Grounds Crew has lovingly cleaned up and restored the baseball playing surface there. It’s turned into a park of sorts. Even a tourist attraction. It’s a very special place for a lot of people. In July I told its story and the story of the Navin Field Grounds Crew.

The City of Detroit owns the land, of course, and it has worked on potential development plans. They are not necessarily in opposition to the Navin Field Grounds Crew on this, however. The former has respected that the land is best suited for baseball and has, after some initial hesitance, allowed the Crew to do its work and the public to use the land for those purposes. The latter, for its part, is not opposed to development because, jeez, this is Detroit and anything that can be done to revitalize the city is a good thing. At the moment the plan is for the Detroit Police Athletic League to use the property for youth sports and recreation and the like. Which no one opposes.

There has been one issue in all of this however: the playing surface. The Grounds Crew, out of baseball tradition, preference for natural surfaces and, no doubt, pride in its own work, has passionately advocated for the city to keep Tiger Stadium’s surface as grass. The Police Athletic League, however, has said it would prefer artificial turf because it’s cheaper and easier to maintain. As of last night, it appears that the Police Athletic League is getting its way. It informed City Council that it plans to tear up the grass install artificial turf.

I doubt there’s much that can be done to stop it at this point. The Navin Field Grounds Crew has waged a PR campaign against such an outcome for several months now to no avail. And, of course, it’s not their land to begin with, so their right to influence any of this is limited in the extreme.

But it’s sad. Sad that anyone is going to play baseball on fake grass in the middle of an open air field. Sad that, after over 100 years, there will be no grass on a playing surface at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull. Sad that, in the middle of a city filled with far too much steel, glass and crumbling concrete, a ten acre patch of natural wonderfulness will now be removed in favor of a petrochemical monstrosity, all in the name of saving a few bucks on lawn mowing and fertilizer.


Bryce Harper, Jonny Gomes, Kevin Kiermaier and post-Awards silliness

Kevin Kiermaier

The aftermath of the MVP voting was really weird, you guys. Among the stuff that happened:

Bryce Harper, on Scott Van Pelt’s late night SportsCenter, was reluctant to answer a playful hypothetical question because he was worried that his answer would become a “may may.” By which he meant “meme.” I offer no criticism of him on this because it’s not like anyone but degenerate Internet addicts like me think all that much about memes let alone says the word out loud. Unfortunately and ironically, however, Harper’s pronunciation of the word will now likely turn him into the very thing he most feared: a may may.

Second, AL MVP Josh Donaldson credited Jonny Gomes for helping him change his approach at the plate when they both played in Oakland. This is not weird, actually, it’s quite understandable. I’ll just observe that this is just the latest example of creeping Jonny Gomesism in Major League Baseball. It used to just be that we’d get an unreasonable number of stories about how critically important he was to a team that (a) he was not really a key part of; and (b) wasn’t very good in the first place. Now he’s the MVP whisperer. And, in some places, a gosh darn prophet:

If we manage to defeat ISIS and usher in peace in the Middle East, I have no doubt that our top generals and diplomats will give Jonny Gomes a shoutout. HE’S THE GLUE, MAN.

Finally, on a personal note, I made some Twitter observations last night about how Rays Gold Glove center fielder Kevin Kiermaier — who received a handful of MVP votes himself — was not particularly well known among casual baseball fans or sports fans in general. This was not a judgment of any kind. I’m a sucker for center field defense and I think he’s a slick player with a bright future. It was just a statement of fact with which I feel it is difficult to disagree. If I was poking fun at anyone with respect to Kiermaier’s relative obscurity it was talk radio hosts general sports media figures like Skip Bayless who don’t follow baseball all that closely, not Kiermaier himself.

Kiermaier, who must have found those tweets by searching for his own name, then decided to search MY Twitter feed, found a silly pic I posted of me with my cats and mocked me, saying that no one listens to a person who looks like me. While this may be undeniably true — I am quite a ridiculous and non-influential person — the funny aspect was that part of the mocking related to the number of Twitter followers I have. Which is weird because I have more followers than he does, I’m not even some allegedly super famous well-known baseball player, and do these facts not make my original point for me?

Anyway, when I and others told him that he misinterpreted me and that I meant him no ill-will, he blocked me. Note: I wasn’t following him anyway.

I have no idea what Major League Baseball teams look at when they determine a player’s “makeup,” but I have the sense that “vanity-searching one’s self on Twitter, getting hyper defensive about being mentioned, misinterpreting observation as offense and then cowering from some silly, old, harmless, bald and crazy cat lady on the Internet” is a bad marker for such things. Anyway: still love your game, Kiermaier. Sorry about your cat hangup. Cats are amazing.

And now, with Awards Season over, we head into the darkness of the offseason in earnest. If you do not expect or appreciate silliness in these lean times, I have no idea how you make it through the winter.