No, seven inning games are not a solution to baseball’s problems

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Dan Bickley of AZCENTRAL Sports has a column touting Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall as the next baseball commissioner. Why? Because baseball is dying, you guys:

The sport no longer needs tradition, once the primary selling point. It needs reinvention and imagination. The proof can be seen at the All-Star Game, where the average viewer in 2013 was 53 years old . . .

Demographics are a legit concern, actually. It’s better to have a lot of butts in the seats than fewer butts in the seats, but the age of the butts is important for the future. It may be overstated a bit in baseball’s case in that baseball is quite famously a game people abandon in their teens and 20s only to come back to when they’re older, but MLB can’t always count on that. So, no, when someone goes after the demographic I’m not necessarily going to break out the BaseballIsDying-o-Copter to combat it.

Of course, there is some less relevant hand-wringing here:

Meanwhile, the Home Run Derby has become laborious and irrelevant, with players taking pitch after pitch after pitch. It’s the same type of inactivity that defines and dooms the sport. It also shows just how out of touch baseball can be, such as when an excoriated drug cheat (Nelson Cruz) makes the All-Star Game by popular vote.

How can baseball be out of touch — the implication being that it’s out of touch with its fans — when it is the fans who voted Cruz in? Indeed, preventing Cruz from playing despite the fans wanting him in the game would, by definition, make baseball out of touch. But don’t worry. He has a solution:

But then MLB has to get aggressive. It needs to think about seven-inning games and lowering the pitcher’s mound. It has to find a way to increase the action, hacking away at the fatty blocks of inactivity clogging most every game.

Thus is the nature of most baseball-is-dyingism: overstating problems and leaping to radical solutions which evince an ignorance of baseball and the context in which it is played. Anyone who thinks that, say, lopping off innings and thus fundamentally altering the game is a way to deal with slogging game times before, say suggesting that rules regarding times between pitches be enforced or more minor rule tweaks like rules against stepping out of the box or even changes to the way pitching changes are made probably doesn’t know about or care about such rules. They’re assessing baseball from the outside with the eye of a hired gun consultant who doesn’t care about what happened before or what happens after. All they want is to be able to say “problem solved” and move on to something else.

You never see people who know or care about the game say stuff like this. It’s just the tourists.

Noah Syndergaard: ‘I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency’

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Yankees starter Luis Severino and Phillies starter Aaron Nola both signed contract extensions within the last week. Severino agreed to a four-year, $40 million contract with a 2023 club option. Nola inked a four-year, $45 million deal with a 2023 club option.

While the deals both represented significant raises and longer-term financial security for the right-handed duo, some feel like the players are selling themselves short. It has become a more common practice for players to agree to these types of deals in part due to how stagnant free agency has become. Get the money while you can.

Mets starter Noah Syndergaard is in a similar situation as Severino and Nola were. He and the Mets avoided arbitration last month, agreeing on a $6 million salary for the 2019 season. He has two more years of arbitration eligibility left. A contract extension with the Mets would presumably cover both of those years plus two or three years of what would be free agent years. As Tim Britton of The Athletic reports, however, Syndergaard plans to test free agency when the time comes.

Syndergaard said, “I trust my ability and the talent that I have. So I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency and not do what they did. But if it’s fair for both sides and they approach me on it, then maybe we can talk.” He clarified that he would be open to a conversation about an extension, but the Mets thus far haven’t approached him about it. In his words, “There’s been no traction.”

Syndergaard, 26, has been one of baseball’s better starters since debuting in 2015. He owns a career 2.93 ERA with 573 strikeouts and 116 walks in 518 1/3 innings. Among pitchers to have logged at least 400 innings since 2015 and post a lower ERA are Clayton Kershaw (2.22), Jacob deGrom (2.66) and Max Scherzer (2.71). Syndergaard made only seven starts in 2017 yet still ranks seventh among pitchers in total strikeouts since 2015.

If Sydergaard doesn’t end up signing an extension, he will be entering free agency after the 2021 season. The collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2021 and a new one will likely be agreed upon around that time. Syndergaard will hopefully have better prospects entering free agency then than players do now.