The press does not cheer

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I was at the press conference at Citi Field on Monday when Matt Harvey and Max Scherzer were introduced as the All-Star starters. The conference was hosted by Brian Kenny. It took place in an area of Citi Field which, at the time, was restricted to press and baseball officials, so there were no fans there.

After introducing the pitchers and managers, Kenny — standing at a lectern in front of the assembled press, in a setup that is very much like some sort of dinner event with guest speakers or a Dean Martin celebrity roast or something — said “let’s hear it for Matt Harvey and Mac Scherzer.”

Dead silence.

Which was absolutely predictable, as “no cheering in the press box” and its corollary “no cheering by the press” is a Cardinal rule of baseball writers. Really: you cheer in the press box and you will likely be expelled. If not, you will certainly be mocked and shunned. It’s like a Klingon Discommendation ceremony. Even I, who often thinks of ways to be subversive in situations like that, would never mess with that rule. Not because I think it’s necessarily an important rule, but because it’s very, very clear how seriously everyone takes it and there are limits to how subversive I’ll be.

In the past couple of days, Kenny has taken to Twitter to talk about it some and he was joined in debate on the matter by Ken Rosenthal. Yesterday they took their debate to Kenny’s radio show on NBC Sports Radio, and it was some entertaining stuff:

For what it’s worth, I’m sympathetic to Kenny. I mean, sure, he misread his audience and never should have expected that he’d get a round of applause from them at a news conference. And I totally understand that the rule is never going to change. But it does strike me as kind of silly that there are no exceptions to it.

We’ve accepted, generally, that one can be a fan and retain their objectivity. Why can we not accept that one can appreciate an accomplishment or show some restrained respect in the form of applause without losing that objectivity too? I didn’t cheer for Harvey and Scherzer when Kenny asked us to, but I could see a situation in which I applauded while wearing my press pass. Someone finishes a 27 strikeout perfect game or something. I don’t know. But I could see it happening.

Would that mean I don’t take my job seriously? I’m sure many would think so. But my job is to talk about sports and sports can be pretty fun and inspiring sometimes. Do we want the press to be 100% immune to that? Or, worse, to not be immune to that but to pretend that they are?

Diamondbacks, T.J. McFarland avoid arbitration

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Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports reports that the Diamondbacks and reliever T.J. McFarland have avoided arbitration, agreeing on a $1.45 million salary for the 2019 season. McFarland, in his third of four years of arbitration eligibility, filed for $1.675 million while the Diamondbacks countered at $1.275 million. McFarland ended up settling for just under the midpoint of those two figures.

McFarland, 29, was terrific out of the bullpen for the D-Backs last season, finishing with a 2.00 ERA and a 42/22 K/BB ratio in 72 innings. While the lefty may not miss a lot of bats, he does induce quite a few grounders. His 67.9 percent ground ball rate last season was the third highest among relievers with at least 50 innings, trailing only Brad Ziegler (71.1%) and Scott Alexander (70.6%).

McFarland was dominant against left-handed hitters, limiting them to a .388 OPS last season, but the D-Backs deployed him nearly twice as often against right-handed hitters, who posted an aggregate .764 OPS against him. It will be interesting to see if the club decides to use him more as a platoon reliever in 2019.