On running out of pitchers in the fall league and Don Mattingly

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Last week I passed along an MLB.com story about Don Mattingly running out of pitchers while managing in the Arizona Fall League, causing the game to be stopped after seven innings.

Mattingly taking over as the Dodgers’ manager has been met with a lot of scrutiny, in part because he’s never managed before and in part because he committed several gaffes while subbing for Joe Torre in the past.

He’s participating in the AFL to gain some managerial experience before the games actually mean something, and so his running out of pitchers while there seemed plenty newsworthy (particularly since MLB.com ran a relatively lengthy story about it).

However, quite a few Dodgers fans have chimed in to say that the AFL incident is meaningless and covering it only serves to flame the “Mattingly is overmatched as a manager” fire. I don’t necessarily agree, but I’ll let Jon Weisman of Dodger Thoughts state his case:

As someone who wishes the next Dodger manager had more experience, I nevertheless found this to be completely unremarkable. Some people have been using it to launch more snark at Mattingly, but that snark betrays a lack of understanding of what the AFL is–a series of games designed to provide a limited number of players with practice in a (pseudo-)competitive setting.

The math is simple: Mattingly was given five pitchers to work with Thursday (two others were injured), and was expected to get them all in the game while adhering to strict pitch-count limits. Over the first six innings he used three hurlers, none of whom pitched all that well, leaving him with two for the final three.

The real trouble began with Dodger prospect Steven Ames, a 17th-round pick in 2009, couldn’t retire any of the seven batters he faced in the seventh inning. The next pitcher, Marlins prospect Steve Cishek, fared little better, retiring only two of the next seven batters, using 36 pitches in the process.  That forced Mattingly to use a sixth pitcher, Braves prospect Cory Gearrin, who was supposed to pitch today, in order to complete the seventh inning Thursday.

Weisman also quotes Mattingly as saying, basically, “My hands were tied and I’d do the same thing again.”

I don’t doubt that’s true, nor do I doubt that the whole thing is ultimately meaningless, but that doesn’t preclude it from being newsworthy given the interest in all things Mattingly-as-manager. With that said, many Dodgers fans are already tired of the topic, so I don’t blame them for pushing back at guys like me who bring it up. Or as Weisman put it: “Save the grievances about Mattingly for when they actually matter.”

MLBPA proposes 114-game season, playoff expansion to MLB

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ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports that the Major League Baseball Players Association has submitted a proposal to the league concerning the 2020 season. The proposal includes a 114-game season with an end date on October 31, playoff expansion for two years, the right for players to opt out of the season, and a potential deferral of 2020 salaries if the postseason were to be canceled.

Passan clarifies that among the players who choose to opt out, only those that are considered “high risk” would still receive their salaries. The others would simply receive service time. The union also proposed that the players receive a non-refundable $100 million sum advance during what would essentially be Spring Training 2.

If the regular season were to begin in early July, as has often been mentioned as the target, that would give the league four months to cram in 114 games. There would have to be occasional double-headers, or the players would have to be okay with few off-days. Nothing has been mentioned about division realignment or a geographically-oriented schedule, but those could potentially ease some of the burden.

Last week, the owners made their proposal to the union, suggesting a “sliding scale” salary structure. The union did not like that suggestion. Players were very vocal about it, including on social media as Max Scherzer — one of eight players on the union’s executive subcommittee — made a public statement. The owners will soon respond to the union’s proposal. They almost certainly won’t be happy with many of the details, but the two sides can perhaps find a starting point and bridge the gap. As the calendar turns to June, time is running out for the two sides to hammer out an agreement on what a 2020 season will look like.