Players are concerned their routines will be messed up as a result of pace of play changes. Well, tough.

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Jayson Stark of ESPN has a story about how players are concerned that their voices will not be heard in the ongoing discussion about increasing the pace of play in Major League Baseball. Yes, the union is involved and the union asks players about such things, but no players are on the committee which is discussing possible rules changes.

At the outset, yes, I agree: players should be at the table, not just Tony Clark. If it were just about their rights being protected, fine, let the union deal with it. But if it’s about the actual mechanics of the job, the people who do the job probably have better insight about all of this than anyone. Or at least should be in the conversation when the way they do their job is being changed.

That said, the players’ complaints, as told to Stark, don’t exactly move me. Among them:

That too much of the blame for slowing the game — and most of the responsibility for fixing it — seems to have been placed on players. Players complained that Selig has made a number of comments about how “aggravated” he is with hitters who step out of the box after every pitch and start “adjusting all the crap [they] have on.” That tone, said one player, “isn’t helping.”

I hate to break it to you guys, but you are the reason games are slow. Yes, commercial breaks are a bit longer than they used to be, but it’s the batter and pitcher interaction — and lack of action — which is what is slowing everything down. Maybe pointing that out “isn’t helping” insofar as your ego and your hurt feelings go, but addressing that is the primary way to help speed things up.

Indeed, the other things players mention as culprits — commercial breaks, sabermetrics encouraging batters to take more pitches and more pitching changes happening — deal directly with the finances of baseball, the strategy of baseball and the rules of baseball, respectively, and making changes to those things would be far more problematic than simply having players, you know, step on it a bit.

There is one funny bit here, however. One of the changes on the table — a change which is being tested in the Arizona Fall League right now — is the pitch clock, which would be visible on the outfield wall and behind home plate and which would, in theory, ensure that pitchers deliver the ball in a timely manner when no runners are on base. Curtis Granderson muses:

“You could have a situation where there are 10 seconds on the clock, and fans are yelling, ‘3-2-1,’ and messing the pitcher up. … And the next thing you know, the hitter and the pitcher are both rushing to the clock because they don’t want a violation.”

Am I crazy, or wouldn’t that be pretty cool? This is no different than “Hey batterbatter saaaawiiiiing batter!” This isn’t tennis or golf. Suck it up.

Most of the players complaints here boil down to “man, don’t mess with our routines.” Welp, sorry. Your routines are way easier to mess with than rules which would fundamentally alter the game. And your routines are the primary problem. You should totally be in the conversation dealing with all of that, probably in a more active role than you currently are, but ultimately the burden of change is going to fall on the guys who actually play the game.

Renfroe slam helps Rays sweep young Blue Jays in 1st round

Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
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The Tampa Bay Rays gathered in front of their dugout and posed for a celebratory team picture they’re hoping will not be the last they take this postseason.

Hunter Renfroe hit a grand slam and the top-seeded Rays won a postseason series for the first time in 12 years, overpowering the young Toronto Blue Jays 8-2 Wednesday to finish a two-game sweep of their wild-card matchup.

And with a roster featuring just a handful of players who have posted impressive resumes so far, the AL East champs believe they’re nowhere near finished.

“We’ve been confident since Day One. So if we put the our heads down and just do what we’ve been doing and prepare like we’ve been preparing, the sky’s the limit,” winning pitcher Tyler Glasnow said.

Said manager Kevin Cash: “We have very good players first and foremost.”

“I understand the back of the baseball card stuff and some of our guys are not as established,” he said. “What we do have, what makes it formidable is that the entire roster is used to help us win games. We do that consistently during the season and are definitely going to do it in the postseason.”

Renfroe launched the first playoff grand slam in franchise history during a six-run second inning. Glasnow kept Tampa Bay ahead from there, allowing two runs – on a pair of homers by Danny Jansen – in six innings.

Mike Zunino hit a two-run homer off Blue Jays ace Hyun Jin Ryu during Tampa Bay’s big inning. Manuel Margot and Randy Arozarena also drove in runs as the Rays advanced to the AL Division series against either the New York Yankees or Cleveland Indians.

The next round starts Monday at Petco Park in San Diego. Renfroe is plenty familiar with the stadium – he hit 85 home runs in the previous three years for the Padres before being traded to the Rays last December.

“The opportunity in front of us is where you want to be,” Cash said.

The Rays celebrated with some hugs and handshakes after the final out.

Glasnow, who walked one and struck out eight before a small gathering of family and friends who were allowed to attend the series at Tropicana Field.

Ryu was rocked for a season-high seven runs in 1 2/3 innings, the lefty’s shortest outing of the season for the wild-card Blue Jays.

It was a disappointing finish for Toronto, which overcame a slow start to make a surprising run to its first playoff berth since 2016 with a roster featuring 19 players without previous major league playoff experience, including Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

“Great season. I’m proud of my kids to make it to this point,” second-year Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said.

“It’s obvious that the Rays are a pretty good team, that’s why they’re picked to go to the World Series,” he said. “In this series, we didn’t hit. We only scored three runs. That’s not enough to beat that team.”

The Rays, who won the opener 3-1 with a nice mix of pitching, defense and timely hitting, had dropped five consecutive multigame postseason series dating to the 2008 World Series.

A year ago, they beat Oakland in the AL wild-card game before losing to Houston in the division round – a five-game setback that nevertheless heightened team expectations heading into this season.

Ryu signed with the Blue Jays in free agency last winter after being an All-Star with the Los Angeles Dodgers and finishing second in NL Cy Young Award balloting in 2019.

The 33-year-old lefty had the AL’s fourth-best ERA this season. And, his career mark of .295 is third-best behind Clayton Kershaw (2.43) and Jacob deGrom (2.61) among active pitchers with at least 700 innings pitched.

Ryu’s impressive credentials meant nothing Wednesday.

The Rays began the first inning with three straight hits and scored their first run on Manuel Margot’s one-out single. Ryu escaped a bases-loaded jam by striking out Willy Adames, however his outing got worse the next inning.

After Zunino’s homer made it 3-0, Tampa Bay loaded the bases again on a double, walk and shortstop Bo Bichette’s second error of the day.

Renfroe, obtained from San Diego in an offseason trade that sent Tommy Pham to the Padres, hit his grand slam into the left field seats to extend the lead to 7-0.

“They were getting hits off all my pitches. I don’t think they were necessarily sitting on one or something like that,” Ryu said through a translator. “I just didn’t have a good game.”

“We have a lot to be proud of, we really do,” Jansen said. “We knocked on the door and next year we’re going to be ready to go through it.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Blue Jays: 1B Rowdy Tellez, who had a pinch-hit single in Game 1 Tuesday, remained out of the starting lineup. He was placed on the 10-day IL on Sept. 9 with a right knee sprain and missed the rest of the regular season.

Rays: INF Yandy Diaz (right hamstring strain) started at third base, his first game since Aug. 31.

UP NEXT

The Rays will play in the AL division round for the sixth time in franchise history, with all of the appearances coming since 2008.

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