Author: Craig Calcaterra

Craig Kimbrel AP

The Braves have no interest in trading Craig Kimbrel for some reason


The Braves are rebuilding and, no matter what they say publicly, likely do not have winning as their top priority for the next year or two. They have a closer who has been amazing for five seasons and who just about any team would love to have. The universe of elite closers who remain elite beyond, say, seven years of dominance, is pretty damn small. Rivera, Hoffman and . . . um.

Yet, the Braves are not willing to sell high on a commodity a rebuilding team really doesn’t need:

Maybe like that 2015 optimism, the lack of a desire to trade Kimbrel is baloney too. I guess one does better if one acts like it would pain them greatly to part with a player. And, of course, maybe it’s more palatable for ticket sales — and possibly for the haul in return — to wait until the new-look Braves are slogging along in fourth place before shopping Kimbrel.

But really, if the Braves are in the business of stockpiling prospects and shooting for 2017 — as most of their moves, as opposed to their words, suggest — trading Kimbrel right now would make a lot of sense.

Great Moments in Yankees Kremlinology: Max Scherzer edition

scherzer getty

Following the Yankees in the offseason — and the media which covers the Yankees in the offseason — reminds me of the Cold War. No, not the threat of nuclear annihilation or any of that fun stuff, but there is definitely some fun Kremlinology to it all.

Like political reporters who covered the Soviet Union, those who cover the Yankees spend an awful lot of time attempting to understand a secretive organization’s plans and intentions by interpreting indirect clues and, often, reading a whole hell of a lot into the smallest thing.

Which, to be fair, the Yankees have justified by fairly frequently (a) lowering expectations as the offseason begins; only to (b) make some big splash later, with little or no warning. Which makes some sense because the Yankees general manager is, like the Soviet Premier, nominally in charge but answers to an ownership/party hierarchy that can trump his intentions if it so chooses.

Today the New York Daily News thinks the party hierarchy is so choosing. With the headline “Hal Steinbrenner won’t rule out Max Scherzer,” which is only missing an exclamation point because newspapers only do that when countries win World Wars. From the story:

Maybe it’s just his DNA talking, but while Hal Steinbrenner added his voice to the chorus of Yankee bigwigs sounding doubtful about adding a pricey player such as Max Scherzer, the Boss Jr. didn’t slam the door on an expensive upgrade, either.

All from Hal Steinbrenner saying “look, it’s not over till it’s over” in response to questions about the Yankees’ payroll and need to add some starting pitching. Which, sure, because this is the Yankees could mean that they give Scherzer crazy money just after lunch today. Or could mean absolutely nothing and the press is reading too much into an innocuous comment.

Which is what the Yankees’ offseasons have come to look like. Their prerogative, of course. But man, I’d hate to have to cover that team.

Pace of play needs addressing, but the pitch clock should be the last resort

pitch clock

I have mixed feelings in the wake of this morning’s report that baseball is, at least for the minors, considering implementing a pitch clock.

On the one hand, yes, I would like to see the pace of play improved and to do that you have to deal with the batter-pitcher interaction, getting both sides to speed things up. On the other hand, I can’t help but think the pitch clock should be a last resort in this regard, not the first move. My opposition to the pitch clock, has a lot of elements to it, no single one of which is major, but taken together feel like a lot.

It would be a visual distraction. Broadcasters would be flashing it on and off the screen and talking about it all the time. Managers and players would use replay challenges or, at the very least, argue about when it was started and stuff. Technical glitches would happen. Less concretely, it would put lie to the old — and good — saying about how baseball doesn’t have a clock. There’s just a football element to it that I don’t much like.

But more significantly, I am a person who prefers that problems attempt to be solved by the least intrusive means first and that more drastic measures be taken if and only if less intrusive measures prove ineffective. Baseball hasn’t done that yet.

What it could do: simply make the umpires enforce a time limit in which pitchers must throw pitches. The rule book says 12 seconds. Fine, many around the game have said that 12 seconds is too fast, so make it the 20 seconds to which a pitcher is subject under the clock rule. Baseball can, with a simple directive to umpires, ask that this rule be emphasized, just as it has often done so regarding other rules in the past. Have some meetings in spring training and tell everyone, “hey, we’re going to be making a point of this, OK? Don’t say you weren’t warned.” Yes, I realize that can lead to some subjective umpiring. One pitcher may get 22 seconds and another called at 19. But it’s also the case that, if the pace of play is not otherwise a problem in a given game, it will become a non-issue.

The broader problem I see here — which I wrote about back in August — is that a pitch clock is just the latest example of Major League Baseball’s habit of adding unnecessary rules and unnecessary components of new rules when smaller moves might solve the problem. Baseball felt the All-Star Game wasn’t holding people’s interest, so they made it decide home field advantage in the World Series. They felt they had a problem with small market teams not being able to compete, so rather than give them money or draft picks, they put them in a silly competitive balance lottery. They felt they had a problem with calls being missed so rather than simply solve that with a straightforward replay system that would allow umpires to correct their own mistakes, they added an unnecessary manager’s challenge. They felt they had a problem with catchers getting hurt on plate collisions so they made a new rule rather than enforcing existing rules about when catchers can and cannot block the plate.

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but baseball has been a big fan of 90 degree turns and long arcs these days. And of taking the officiating of the game out of the umpire’s bailiwick and putting it into the players’ and managers’.

Maybe a pitch clock will ultimately prove necessary. Or, maybe, if implemented it will prove to not be an issue at all. Heck, for that matter, maybe this is all just a negotiating tactic by the owners, aimed at getting the union to agree to a stepped-up enforcement of existing rules to begin with. But that possibility notwithstanding, I am always skeptical of radical change being Step 1 rather than being taken if and only if a less radical solution is not first attempted.