Craig Calcaterra

Texas coach Charlie Strong calls for a timeout during the first half of an NCAA college football game against UCLA, Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Associated Press

Does baseball need a set number of time outs?


Betteridge’s law of headlines is an adage which states that “any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered in the negative.” I think I’ve broken that one once or twice, but this one is straight up Betteridgeville, baby. And I ask it here because someone else posited it there.

Where? Here, in Joel Sherman’s story in the New York Post today. He says that a good way to speed up the pace of play in baseball is to limit the number of time outs. Time outs referring to mound visits, pitching coach visits, batters walking down closer to the third base coach and the like. Which no one counts now but which Sherman thinks should be limited to five. The column speaks for itself, but mostly speaks to a litany of complaints about slow pace of play, how catchers and pitchers should have their signs worked out ahead of time and about how managers and coaches should time their calls to the bullpen better and the like.

I appreciate the desire to see a faster pace of play. Mound meetings are boring. But the last thing baseball needs is yet another hard and fast rule designed to address a question of judgment. A rule, like every other rule, which would lead to unexpected effects and the imposition of gamesmanship and a level of strategizing heretofore unknown in the game. You think watching coaches manage timeouts in football is a drag, just wait until you see baseball managers doing it. And wait until some analytics department figures out a way to use them to their advantage and another layer of, well, stuff is slathered over a game.

Baseball can get slow sometimes. But it doesn’t have a clock. Let’s keep it that way. Let’s maybe, for a few short moments, actually enjoy the game we have, warts and all, rather than spend all spring trying to fix small problems with big, obtrusive solutions.


Why in the heck is Lazarito Armenteros gonna get $20 million?

cuba hat

This post is not meant to assess Lazarito Armenteros. I am not qualified to do that. Go read Ben Badler at Baseball America if you want a breakdown on the 16-year-old Cuban prospect. Ben knows his stuff when it comes to that.

No, I pose that question because I want to link an excellent article that seeks to answer it and, in turn, tells us so much about the relationship between the rules MLB sets for international signings, how international players are paid and what it all means for competitive balance in general.

It comes from the folks behind NEIFI, a baseball performance and analytics company which provides projections and all manner of other analytics for its clients. This article is a bit out of their usual bailiwick, but it’s nonetheless enlightening and speaks directly to the question posed in the headline and, more significantly, to the problems and inefficiencies of player development, both on the international stage and in the draft.

The short summary: based on talent and scouting reports alone, there is no reason for Lazarito Armenteros to get the $15-20 million he’s likely to get when he signs with a club soon. He’s getting it because there is a “Cuban Premium” out there on the market, which inspires teams to spend more for Cuban prospects than for equally-talented Dominican or Venezuelan players. The premium is a function of some rather high-priced Cuban signings in the past which, in turn, were based on some weird and arbitrary rules and deadlines MLB set with respect to Cuban free agents, not because there was some sense that they were better.

That expands to a conversation about anchoring effects (i.e. if you say, in the first instance, something is worth $X, someone will tend to believe you and not think too hard about it) and black pearls (i.e. they were considered worthless until someone said they were valuable). It more significantly expands into a discussion of how international bonus pools and luxury taxes and things impact team behavior and how, given the current setup, they lead to things like the Dodgers having an outsized advantage in international signings.

The final bit: a proposal of the best way to set up rules regarding the draft, international signings and total player development outlay in such a way to even the field.

To be clear, the authors do not think they have some perfect insight. They note, quite correctly, that any new set of rules, their own proposed rules included, have a much larger impact on the competitive landscape than the rulemakers usually anticipate and that the name of the game is managing a team’s incentives, not its payroll or budget directly. Give a team a number and they’ll unleash their army of analysts on it in order to exploit their limitation. Give them a set of incentives and disincentives, however, and you can more finely manage their behavior.

It’s heady stuff which gets down to the issues we’ve been talking a lot about lately with respect to tanking, slotting and the like. Give it a read.


Reminder: MLB.TV and Extra Innings is cheaper this year

Getty Images

This news actually happened a month ago, but I was just reminded of it by virtue of an email I received reminding me that I, like a lot of you, are members of a class in a class action lawsuit that just settled and that, as a result, we’ll get MLB.TV and the Extra Innings package at a lower price this year.

To refresh your memory, the suit alleged collusion between teams and television networks in the creation of broadcast territories. Which TOTALLY happened and was TOTALLY stupid and random, by the way. Just ask your friends who live in Iowa, Las Vegas or Hawaii about how they can’t stream games for several teams despite the teams and broadcasters making no effort to actually televise the games in those areas. As a result, the cost of these so-called “see every game” packages was wildly inflated for many, giving them up to 33% fewer games than someone who lived in a less-blacked-out area. And which might have inspired some to purchase super expensive sports tier packages from their cable company in order to get them, but I bet that was just a happy coincidence.

In any event, the case settled. Blackouts still exist. They still remain random and arbitrary and we’re not really any closer to any of us being able to cut the cable/satellite cord and just stream everything, local market included, but there are some concessions here and some baby steps. The upshot:

  • A reduction in price for the full package to $110 (from $130);
  • The creation of new single-team packages that will cost $84.99 if you want to just see one team’s games;
  • If you have cable or satellite and have MLB.TV, you can pay an extra $10 to gain access to the visiting team feed for in-market games. Meaning that if you are a Red Sox fan living in New York and you have cable, you can use to get the NESN feed of the game rather than have it blacked out and being forced to watch the YES feed.

The price drop is nice and the other stuff is a point of convenience for some, I suppose. The blackout stuff is still really galling, however. But really, given how dependent MLB and the cable and satellite companies are on sports broadcasting dollars and subscribers, it’s not shocking that we didn’t see a big paradigm shift.