Blogger at NBC Sport.com's HardballTalk. Recovering litigator. Rake. Scoundrel. Notorious Man-About-Town.
In 2015 Major League Baseball implemented measures to speed up the game, both in terms of pace and in terms of overall length. A between innings clock, warnings to pitchers and batters and threats to call balls and/or strikes if they dilly-dallied too much were imposed. It worked too: game length was reduced for the first time in a long time and there was little if any blowback from the players.
Jayson Stark of ESPN reports that this year, however, game length is back up again. Seven minutes up, which more than erases the six minute reduction in games realized last year. Stark speaks to Rob Manfred about it, who voices his displeasure and says that MLB will make better efforts to speed things up. Primarily getting on players’ cases.
As Stark notes, the biggest culprit appears to be pitches per game. Which tracks the increase in strikeouts per game. All of which adds to the time and takes away from moments when the ball is in play, which makes things a lot more . . . static. Not sure what Manfred can do about that with memos. That’s about the strike zone and guys who throw 97 all the dang time. And, of course, about how all of those max effort pitches take longer to gear up for, especially from relievers.
Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan reports that the Pirates have signed catcher Francisco Cervelli to a three-year, $31 million contract extension. The deal will pay him $9 million in 2017, $10.5 million in 2018 and $11.5 million in 2019.
Cervelli, 30, was set to be a free agent after the season. He has been excellent since coming over from the Yankees before to the 2015 season, putting up a .291/.373/.384 batting line over 163 games while also providing excellent defense behind the plate particularly with pitch framing. Cervelli has had numerous injury issues in the past and was one the players caught up in the Biogenesis scandal a few years ago. But he has made himself a fixture on the Pirates and played in 130 games last season.
It was only a matter of time. And now his time is up. David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the Braves have fired Fredi Gonzalez as their manager. Brian Snitker, the club’s Triple-A manager, will step in as the interim skipper.
This was Gonzalez’ sixth season as the Braves manager. In that time he had compiled a 434-413 record. Last year, however, the Braves lost 95 games. This year they’re 9-28 and look to be one of the worst major league clubs in recent memory. Someone was bound to pay for that.
Not that the current state of affairs is of Gonzalez’ doing. The club, despite finishing in first place with 96 wins and possessing a contractually-controlled core of good young players in 2013, embarked on a wholesale rebuild last season, decimating the big league roster and punting winning on the major league level for the foreseeable future. Between that, Gonzalez not being under contract beyond this season, and the club’s clear plan of starting fresh in its new ballpark in 2017, Gonzalez’ fate was sealed before the first pitch of the season was thrown.
All of that said, Gonzalez has been a source of criticism for years, both by virtue of his following a Hall of Fame manager in Bobby Cox and suffering by comparison and because of his many tactical mistakes and multiple late season collapses from teams which were too talented to collapse, particularly in 2011.
This change will not do much to alter the Braves’ fortunes in 2016. That extraordinarily unpalatable cake has already been baked. But it will change the conversation for a time.