Craig Calcaterra

Blogger at NBC Sport.com's HardballTalk. Recovering litigator. Rake. Scoundrel. Notorious Man-About-Town.
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Rob Manfred: we must “manage change” as baseball evolves

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Commissioner Rob Manfred wrote a guest column at ESPN today. It can be seen as something of a followup to his recent comments in response to Buster Olney’s recent column about potential ways to “fix” baseball, complete with some radical rules changes, most of which were pretty dumb.

Manfred speaks broadly and contextualizes all of that, noting the difficult balance he and the rest of baseball has in making sure that one of baseball’s biggest attractions — its devotion to history and tradition — does not cause it to fail to address potential problems or fail to innovate when innovation is a good idea. I’d agree that’s the biggest and toughest job any commissioner has and likely always has been. On that score, I don’t have any disagreement with him.

Nor do I have any disagreement on the more specific matters he brings up regarding pace of play, pitcher usage and the lack of contact and action in today’s game. He’s right that it’s frustrating to see the best pitchers less, to see more strikeouts and fewer balls in play and for games to be longer now than they used to be. He’s also right that this is not the result of some “problem” with baseball as opposed to the choices front offices and managers have made which have led to this state of affairs. That the winning strategies these folks have identified don’t necessarily coincide with the most entertaining product on the field possible is a cause for concern, even if it’s understandable. Manfred says that it’s his job to “manage change” as baseball evolves. I don’t disagree.

The devil, of course, is in the details of how that change is managed. Sometimes baseball gets that right and sometimes baseball gets that wrong. The wild card, interleague play and many of baseball’s media and technological innovations have been excellent. The implementation of instant replay, on the other hand, has been clunky and ill-conceived, even if the idea of replay is a good one. Every situation is different and every decision baseball makes as it manages change could be a good one or a bad one. It’s our job as fans and the job of my counterparts in the media and myself to critique the way baseball manages change. We should be fair and we should keep an open mind as we do so, but we should not hesitate to be loud and, if need be, sharp in our criticisms when they’re warranted.

Which hasn’t always been easy when baseball has “managed change” in the past. Mostly because Major League Baseball hasn’t always been transparent or publicly accountable when changes are made. Obviously the game is a private business, not the government, and isn’t required to hold public hearings, but its method of announcing rules changes in the past has been annoying to say the least. Baseball has a habit of acting as if there is 100% consensus on any given change and acting as if addressing criticisms of the new rules is an unnecessary bother. I’m put in mind of a Joe Torre press conference when the replay challenge system was announced. There were lots of questions about why it, and not some fifth umpire scenario was chosen. Torre’s answer repeatedly asserted, erroneously, that “everyone agreed” it was the best, though he couldn’t or would’t, exactly, say why that was. We still don’t know what that was, actually. Sorry, if you’re going to “manage change” you have to do better than that. Especially when it comes to major change.

If you’re not going to do that you had, at the very least, best get used to baseball fans and a baseball media that sharply questions and sharply criticizes the change you manage. Baseball hasn’t always been great at that either, probably because baseball fans and most baseball media pull their punches and no one holds baseball’s feet to the fire. We should be better about that. Especially if the change Manfred intends to manage is significant.

Ryan Braun strained his knee and sprained his ankle

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Never play hard, kids. It can only lead to bad things.

Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun‘s suffered a left knee strain and a sprained ankle when he slid into the wall down the left field line at Wrigley Field while trying to get to a foul ball. He was able to walk off under his own power but he was limping. Figure Braun is heading to the DL.

Braun is hitting .325/.388/.566 with 22 home runs, 65 RBI, 13 stolen bases, and 61 runs scored in 98 games this season. There may have been a slight chance of someone making a waiver trade for him, but if that was even remotely possible, him hurting himself now would seem to put the ultimate kibosh on that.

And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Cubs 4, Brewers 0; Cubs 4, Brewers 1: Trevor Cahill and four relievers shut out Milwaukee in Game 1. Jason Hammel shut ’em out for seven innings in the nightcap. Aroldis Chapman saved both ends of the doubleheader. Anthony Rizzo pulled some parkour crap on a catch in foul territory.

Red Sox 5, Orioles 3: Mookie Betts with two homers and five RBI. Hear me out here, but I’m beginning to think he might be fairly good. He’s on a 38-homer pace at age 23. He’s hitting .426 with 12 homers and 18 RBI in 11 games against the Orioles this season. Look forward to a good 10-15 years of dreading this guy, Baltimore fans.

Blue Jays 12, Yankees 6: Rebuilding ain’t all about seeing nice young players come up and do well early, Yankees fans. It’s also about blowing 6-0 leads after five innings and allowing eight-run eighths. Russell Martin homered twice. Troy Tulowitzki had four hits. My friend Jake, a Yankees fan, has never had to witness a rebuild in his adult life, but he’s already feeling how they go in his bones. Here he is tweeting right after Martin’s eighth inning homer made it 6-4 and Josh Donaldson had reached base:

Yeah, he called it. There’s a certain warmth in knowing these things.

Dodgers 15, Phillies 5: All Chase Utley did was come back to Philly, hit two homers, drive in five and get a warmer reception from the Philly crowd than any Phillies player has since, like, 2011. The Dodgers, by the way, are now in first place in the National League West.

Indians 3, White Sox 1: Corey Kluber allowed one run over six innings while striking out seven while Francisco Lindor, Mike Napoli and Jason Kipnis each drove in a run. Kluber is 5-0 with a 1.80 ERA in his last seven starts. The Indians now have a six-game lead in the Central.

Royals 6, Tigers 1: Raul Mondesi‘s first big league homer — off of Justin Verlander of all people — was one of four dingers hit by the Royals. Meanwhile Danny Duffy continued his sharp pitching of late, allowing one run on three hits and two walks in seven and two-thirds, striking out five.

Twins 4, Braves 2: The first round of the battle of the two worst teams in baseball goes to Minnesota. I was going to skip this entire series on general principle, but then Atlanta goes and calls up Dansby Swanson, so I’ll probably watch tonight. I haven’t reduced myself to such a low level since . . . the Braves played Minnesota three weeks ago. Dammit, baseball, you’re the worst. Why can’t I quit you?

Reds 6, Marlins 3: Associated Press headline:

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A “Barnhart Slam” would make a great name for (a) a small, rural semi-professional wrestling event, possibly at a county fair; or (b) a breakfast special at Barnhart’s Country Kitchen, just off Route 16, five miles south of Turkey Knob. Cecil Barnhart runs both the restaurant and the wrestling show. He’s got his fingers in a lot of pies. Made his money in mining equipment, I hear. Got a pretty daughter.

Rays 15, Padres 1: A big day for dudes hitting two homers. Brad Miller did it too, joining Utley, Martin and Betts. I think that’s all anyway. Even Longoria, Nick Franklin and Corey Dickerson also went long. Longoria had three hits and tied Carl Crawford for the most games played for the Rays, all-time. That’s somethin’.

Rangers 5, Athletics 4: Danny Valencia singled in the tying run in the ninth to force extras and the A’s added two runs in the 10th to make it 4-2. That’s a great position to be in. At least if your bullpen doesn’t then give up four walks, a two-run single and then hit a batter with the bases loaded to end the game. That’s the second walkoff HBP to happen in the past eight days. The Reds did it to the Cardinals last week. In other news, Coco Crisp got the start a day after complaining to the press that the A’s are benching him to keep his 2017 option from vesting. Squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Cardinals 8, Astros 5: Jedd Gyorko has hit three homers in his past four games. Here it was a three-run shot to give the Cards breathing room in the sixth inning. Tommy Pham went deep too, tying things up after St. Louis fell behind by two. The Cardinals maintain their one-game lead for the second Wild Card slot.

Rockies 6, Nationals 2: DJ LeMahieu had three hits and reached base for the ninth straight plate appearance, raising his average to .342, which is good enough for second in the National League. He was 3-for-3 with a walk here, went 4-for-4 on Monday and walked in his final plate appearance on Sunday. Ten pitchers were used in a game that lasted less than three hours. I guess Dusty Baker and Walt Weiss were running to the mound each time they made a call to the bullpen.

Mets 7, Diamondbacks 5: Noah Syndergaard allowed two earned runs while pitching into the sixth inning but, more impressively, hit a deep two-run homer in the fifth, his third of the year. Kelly Johnson homered too as the Mets built a six run lead by the sixth inning and then held on as a the Dbacks’ rally fell short.

Angels 7, Mariners 6: Hey, the Angels won! First time after 11 straight losses. Albert Pujols hit a three-run homer and Cliff Pennington hit a go-ahead triple in the eighth inning as the Angels rallied from a 4-1 deficit in the fifth and a 6-5 deficit in the seventh.

Pirates 4, Giants 3Jung Ho Kang hit a tiebreaking home run in the eighth as the Pirates win for the fifth time in six games, knocking the Giants out first place for the first time since May 10th. San Francisco has the worst record in baseball since the All-Star break at 9-20.