Eno Sarris of Fangraphs has an interesting story about how the Giants — and a lot of other teams, though he uses the Giants as his example — look for any sort of small edge to make the lives and work of their players, coaches and staff easier. Be it from making them more comfortable on the charter flight to making sure Bruce Bochy doesn’t have to poop in a stall next to Madison Bumgarner, the Giants are looking for ways to improve. Why? Here’s Giants Vice President Bobby Evans:
“Any advantage you can gain, or any possible roadblock you can eliminate, you should try to do it,” said Sabean. “It’s all value add and cost,” admitted Evans, “but the additional costs we’ve taken on are not that significant in the grander scheme.” In the end, Evans felt it was a question of “what do you value?”
That all makes sense. It still makes me wonder why teams don’t pay minor leaguers enough for them to avoid sleeping on air mattresses and eating at Carl’s Jr. six times a week, but either through lawsuits or teams realizing that taking care of all of their employees is the right thing to do, that will change eventually as well.
We’ve talked about The Players’ Tribune before. That’s the website Derek Jeter has created in order to give athletes a direct platform for publishing their views and stories and things. Some stuff there is good, some stuff not as good. It’s like a lot of outlets. Bonus points for being unique and having some ambition.
One of the more talked-about things regarding The Players’ Tribune in its first few months, however, are the titles given to the athlete contributors. Lots of “editors” and “senior editors” and the like. This despite the fact I seriously doubt Kobe Bryant or whoever is actually doing any editing or management for The Players’ Tribune. Whenever a new post is put up there, some journalists on Twitter will make a crack about the “editor” title claimed by the athlete. I’ve joked around a bit in this regard myself.
But with the latest installment — this one from Mets pitcher Matt Harvey about his year recovering from Tommy John Surgery — I think I have figured out something about how these titles work. I think they’re about the athletes trolling journalists:
“New York City Bureau Chief” is fantastic. Partially because it makes me imagine an actual news bureau of elite athletes someplace in New York, barking at each other like Walter Burns and Hildy Johnson. But mostly because I am coming to believe that the purpose of these titles is to mock actual journalists. The senior editors and columnists who pass judgment on the players by virtue of their positions. I bet a lot of players think very, very little of these guys, and view criticism from a lot of them as mere arguments from presumed authority rather than reasoned critiques. So they’re turning the tables a bit, giving themselves titles and daring the press to mock them. Go follow some reporters on Twitter and you’ll see them quite frequently oblige the athletes in this regard.
Not that it’s some Important Statement. Athletes have better things to do than fight with the media. It’s just some impish table-turning on a group of folks many athletes consider to be annoyances at best, enemies in some cases.
More of this, please. Don’t stop at “Bureau Chief.” I want to see a ballplayer call himself a something-or-other “emeritus” before the end of spring training.
Rob Manfred makes a lot of money, but there are some things he has to deal with that I’d not wish on my worst enemy. From Bob Nightengale’s latest:
Rose badly wants to talk to new Commissioner Rob Manfred and state his case . . . “I wish I could tell that I know what he’ll do,” Rose tells USA TODAY Sports, “but I’ve never met him. I’ve never seen him.
“But I’d love to talk to him.”
Manfred has spent the first few weeks of his commissionership talking to every single media outlet that asks for his time. Really, if you put out hardcore punk ‘zines in the late 80s, you probably got a sit-down with Manfred some time recently. I’d bet a great deal of money, however, that Rose doesn’t make it onto Manfred’s agenda any time soon.
Mark Armour and Dan Levitt have written a book: In Pursuit of Pennants, which examines how front offices have historically found innovative ways to build winning teams. In support of that, they are counting down the top-25 GMs of all time over at their blog. Since it’s slow season, I’m going to continue linking to the countdown as it’s great stuff we rarely read about in the normal course.
Maybe I oversell that in the headline, but not by much. Everyone knows that Babe Ruth was acquired by the Yankees from the Red Sox. Few know that Ed Barrow, the man who built the original Yankees Dynasty, was also acquired from the Red Sox, one year later. Barrow was the Sox’ manager, but the Yankees put him in charge of the front office.
In some ways he invented the modern-day position of GM, marrying the business side and the baseball side of baseball operations, whereas before it was separate. I guess that has since broken down some more, with baseball operations people now focusing less on the business side, but Barrow’s model held for most of the 20th century. He also put together the best scouting operation in all of baseball. And, of course, laid the groundwork for the Yankees to dominate for over forty years.
By the way, Dan Levitt wrote a book just about Barrow back in 2008. It was excellent! I reviewed it for the New York Post at the time, if you’re curious. If you’re not, at least go read Dan and Mark’s assessment of Barrow here.
Also, go check out Mark’s appearance on MLB Network yesterday.
A couple of years ago college baseball changed its rules regarding bats, which in turn reduced offense considerably. Scoring and home runs are down, which is particularly notable in a sport which had long featured big offense. In response, there has been a change in the ball to boost scoring:
The change on the baseball is relatively subtle: The seams have been lowered so it’s more like the one used at the professional level. Researchers found that the flat-seam ball could travel as much as 20 feet farther in the air than the previous raised-seam ball.
It’ll be interesting to see the results. It also makes me wonder if Major League Baseball is going to do anything to its ball, be it publicly or secretly.
Baseball has done this in the past, albeit via different means than the seam-lowering. The National League did so in the 1930s, leading to a dramatic uptick in scoring. Many people suspect Major League Baseball tinkered with the ball in 1987 — which led to a big spike in offense — and again in 1993 which led to another big spike.
So here we are again in a time when everyone is worrying about low scoring. There are all sorts of ideas of how to indirectly boost offense. But history shows that changing the baseball leads to immediate results. I wonder if anyone at MLB has thought about this in the past few months. I wonder if I should make this my go-to conspiracy theory if, somehow, offense bounces back in a big way in 2015.