In the wake of Deflategate, Major League Baseball announces new ball security measures

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It strikes me that, on occasion, MLB will tweak the NFL if the opportunity arises.

Nothing major. Nothing that could be perceived as harmful or piling on. But if the NFL has a P.R. issue that doesn’t involve life, death or serious matters, one gets the impression that MLB will at least smirk about for a bit. Not so much out of insecurity as out of institutional memory of the NFL making a big, big point of pointing at baseball’s problems back in the PED days and before. They won’t make a big thing out of it because, hey, tomorrow they may be the ones with the P.R. issue, but they pay attention to these things.

According to this story, Major League Baseball has been considering changing its ball-handling procedures for a while. But in the wake of yesterday’s Deflategate discipline and the subsequent criticism the NFL and the Patriots have taken as a result, stories like these may get that smirk machine going again:

Major League Baseball pumped up security for its game balls this season in the wake of the Tom Brady flap.

Starting this year, an MLB representative watches the baseballs while a clubhouse assistant carries them from the umpires’ room to the field.

And if the supply runs low during the game, an MLB security person is now sent to retrieve more from the umps’ room.

As C.J. Wilson notes in the article, there is only so much you can do to a baseball. Doctoring it is usually pretty obvious and such balls are thrown out immediately already. The non-cosmetic changes to baseballs that really affect their properties occur during fabrication, and that’s something the league itself would be behind, not any one club or player.

So, methinks this is probably not terribly necessary, even if changing the procedures are ultimately harmless. And me also thinks that some people in Major League Baseball might be chuckling a little bit about the NFL’s problems at the moment as they remind the world that, hey, at least we have our balls in order.

Angels’ Andrelton Simmons opts out of final 5 games

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Shortstop Andrelton Simmons has opted out of the remainder of the Los Angeles Angels’ season.

The Angels announced the four-time Gold Glove-winning shortstop’s decision Tuesday before they faced the San Diego Padres.

Los Angeles (24-31) is still technically in the playoff race with five games left in the regular season, and Simmons clearly caught the Angels by surprise, although the club said it respected his decision.

The 31-year-old Simmons, who can be a free agent this winter, is finishing his fifth year with the Angels. After spraining his ankle in late July and missing 22 games, Simmons is currently batting .297 with 10 RBIs while playing his usual stellar defense, albeit with four errors in 30 games.

“At this time, I feel this is the best decision for me and my family,” Simmons said in a statement. “We don’t know what the future holds, but we would like to sincerely thank the Angels organization and Angels fans for welcoming and making us feel at home.”

Manager Joe Maddon acknowledged he was caught by surprise when general manager Billy Eppler told him about Simmons’ decision Monday night after Simmons went 1 for 4 with an RBI single in the Angels’ home finale. Maddon texted Simmons, but hadn’t heard back by Tuesday afternoon.

“I’ve really enjoyed this guy a lot,” Maddon said. “I’m a big fan. This guy is a good baseball player, and I’ve enjoyed the conversations, too. It’s just unfortunate. He’s really a big part of what we’re doing right now.”

Simmons is a favorite of Angels fans for his defensive wizardry, and owner Arte Moreno has described Simmons as perhaps his favorite player to watch on the roster. Simmons has batted .281 with 36 homers and 281 RBIs during his five seasons with Los Angeles, and he won the Gold Glove in 2017 and 2018.

“He’s a thinking kind of a player, and I’ve enjoyed him a lot,” Maddon said.

Simmons will be a free agent this winter, and the Angels have an obvious replacement for him in David Fletcher, who has a .374 on-base percentage while regularly hitting leadoff for the Angels during his breakout major league season. Fletcher has been playing second base since Simmons’ return from injury.

But the Angels haven’t publicly closed the door on Simmons’ return, and he could be given a qualifying offer. Maddon has repeatedly said he would like Simmons to return in 2021 if possible.

The Angels haven’t had a winning season during Simmons’ five years in Anaheim, although Simmons said last week he wasn’t discouraged by the lack of team success. Simmons played his first four major league seasons in Atlanta, and he hasn’t appeared in the postseason since 2013.

Simmons also said he hadn’t been involved in any recent contract talks with the Angels, but he had enjoyed playing for the club. When asked if he wanted to return to the Halos, Simmons said he would have to “plead the fifth.”