Some fans are complaining, but the players love the extended netting

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One of the larger rules/context changes of the offseason was Major League Baseball’s, well, encouragement, of teams to extend protective netting farther down the lines than it had been in the past. Most clubs have done this.

I’ve heard a lot of fans complaining to me about this. Which was fun because all of the complaining came before any games were played this year, but that’s how complaining goes sometimes. They’re worried about sightlines and the intimacy of the ballpark and all of that jazz and they really enjoy tut-tutting people who don’t pay full attention to every game and, I guess, stand ready to snag a line drive foul ball traveling at 100 miles per hour like they are. A lot of tough, tough hombres who flash slick leather like to complain about netting, I’ve found.

But there’s one group of people who love the extended netting. The players. Bob Nightengale speaks to them today and several of them go on record talking about how disturbing it is to hit a foul into the stands that harms someone and how happy they are that the chances of that happening have been reduced to some degree. They know how fast the ball travels and they know that, even if you’re not on your cell phone or messing with your kids or talking to your seatmate that it’s not always possible to stop a screaming foul ball headed toward your face. No matter what the people who hate nets say.

I’m still critical of the specifics of Major League Baseball’s “policy” on netting, as I feel that it is more of a buck-passing, liability avoidance measure than it is a clear and concerted attempt to improve fan safety. Why not just mandate a certain standard? But that aside, more netting is good. You get used to it in five minutes if you’re at the game. And it makes a lot of people safer.

Brown hired as general manager of Houston Astros

astros general manager
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HOUSTON — In joining the World Series champion Houston Astros, new general manager Dana Brown’s goal is to keep the team at the top of the league.

“I’m coming to a winning team and a big part of what I want to do is sustain the winning long term,” he said. “We want to continue to build, continue to sign good players, continue to develop players and continue the winning success.”

Brown was hired by the Astros on Thursday, replacing James Click, who was not given a new contract and parted ways with the Astros just days after they won the World Series.

Brown spent the last four seasons as the vice president of scouting for the Atlanta Braves.

“He is very analytic savvy,” Astros’ owner Jim Crane said. “He’s a great talent evaluator based upon what we’ve seen at the Braves, seasoned at player acquisitions, seasoned at player development and retention. They were often able to extend some of their player contracts… he’s got great people skills, excellent communicator and, last but not least, he’s a baseball player and knows baseball in and out and we were very impressed with that.”

The 55-year-old Brown becomes the only Black general manager in the majors and joins manager Dusty Baker to form just the second pairing of a Black manager and general manager in MLB history. The first was general manager Ken Williams and manager Jerry Manuel with the White Sox.

Brown said he interviewed for GM jobs with the Mets and Mariners in the past and that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told him to stay positive and that his time to be a general manager would come.

“It’s pretty special,” he said. “We understand that there are a lot of qualified African Americans in the game that know baseball and that could be a big part of an organization and leading organization in baseball operations. So at the end of the day, I think it’s good for our sport to have diversity and I’m really excited for this opportunity.”

Crane was asked about having the league’s only Black general manager.

“Certainly, we are very focused on diversity with the Astros,” he said. “It’s a plus, but the guy’s extremely qualified and he’ll do a great job. It’s nice to see a man like Dana get the job and he earned the job. He’s got the qualifications. He’s ready to go.”

Brown doesn’t have a lot of connections to the Astros, but does have some ties. He played baseball at Seton Hall with Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, who spent his entire career with the Astros and serves as special assistant to the general manager. He played against fellow Hall of Famer and special assistant to the general manager Jeff Bagwell in the Cape Cod league during a short minor league career.

Brown said he spoke to both of them before taking the job and also chatted with Baker, whom he’s know for some time.

“Dusty is old school, he cuts it straight and I like it,” Brown said. “And so that means I can cut it straight with him.”

Brown worked for the Blue Jays from 2010-18 as a special assistant to the general manager. From 2001-09 he worked as director of scouting for the Nationals/Expos. He began his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he spent eight years as their area scouting supervisor and East coast cross checker.

Click had served as Houston’s general manager since joining the team before the 2020 season from the Tampa Bay Rays.

Brown, who has been part of drafting a number of big-name players like Stephen Strasburg, Ryan Zimmerman and last season’s National League rookie of the year Michael Harris, is ready to show Crane that bringing him to Houston was the right choice.

“Baseball is all I know, it’s my entire life,” he said. “So I want to empty myself into this city, the Astro fans and let Jim Crane know that he made a special pick.”