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?

Rays sign lefty Ryan Merritt to a minor league deal

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The Tampa Bay Rays have signed lefty swingman Ryan Merritt to a minor league contract. Nah, it’s not a big signing but we’ll take anything today.

Merritt, who has spent his entire career in the Indians organization, spent the entire 2018 season at Triple-A Columbus. It wasn’t a bad year for him — he posted a 3.79 ERA and a 52/2 K/BB ratio in 13 starts and two relief appearances covering 71.1 innings — but the Tribe just couldn’t find a role for him at the big league level. He has shown in the past, however, that he can hack it in the bigs, having posted a 1.71 ERA in 31.2 innings with the Indians between 2016-2017.

His thing is that he simply doesn’t strike guys out at anything approaching a typical clip for a big leaguer: 3.7 per nine innings in his small sample of major league outings and 6.3 Ks per nine innings in the minors. Which, while it may not prevent him from having success at the big league level, is likely a reason for the limited number of chances he’s been given.

The Rays are probably the best place he could go, frankly. They’ve shown themselves willing to utilize guys in unique ways and are more likely than most teams to find places to spot a lefty control specialist who has shown he can both start and come out of the pen.