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Oh, hey, someone wants to “fix” baseball again

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God knows baseball isn’t perfect.

The pitching-hitting balance seems to be off and the ball is in play far less often than it should be these days. Relief pitching specialists and an overemphasis on max velocity pitching doesn’t help these things or the overall aesthetics of the game. The management-labor balance is out-of-whack. Ticket prices are too damn high. The dependence on cable TV revenues is making it harder and harder for the folks who can’t afford to go to games or who don’t live near ballparks to, you know, actually watch games.

That’s a lot of complaining, but . . .

  • Those complaints come from a place of love for the game;
  • Those complaints are rooted in a desire to see more baseball, not less; and
  • The solutions to those problems, if they are to be found, likely do not involve radically altering the game’s structure and rules because some game theorists came up with some farkakte idea to solve problems that can be solved far more easily with less-obtrusive measures.

The same can’t be said for the steaming pile of ideas I just read in The Wall Street Journal.

Those ideas come from a game theorist and computer scientist, who think that baseball would be “fixed” if we gave teams who hold a lead only two outs in an inning instead of one out. No, I am not making that up. They call it “The Catch Up Rule”:

Here’s the deal. The Catch Up Rule is actually fairly simple. When the game is 0-0 or tied, baseball is played exactly as it is today—three outs per side. But when the at-bat club has or takes a lead, it gets two outs instead of three.

For example: Your team is in a scoreless contest. Then your slugger hits a home run to go up 1-0. Now your inning ends at two outs. Not three. As long as you keep a lead, your at-bat innings are two outs.

That’s it. Tie game, three outs a side. Get the lead, play with two outs. If you take the lead with two outs, the lead stays, but the inning ends.

They say it’d cut about 24 minutes off of games and that it’d cut the margin of victory in each game by over a run, making things more competitive. Philosophically, of course, this is like saying you can lose 40 pounds by cutting off your legs.

The article talks about how this would improve pace of play, but it actually would not. It would cut the length of games, which is a totally different thing than pace of play. Instead of multiple pitching changes and ages between pitches as guys gear up for 100 m.p.h. pitches, scratch their crotches and adjust their batting gloves going away, we’d simply get ages between pitches as guys gear up for 100 m.p.h. pitches, scratch their crotches and adjust their batting gloves for 24 fewer minutes. Also: pace of play, and game length for that matter, is about 1/10 of the problem you’d think it is based on all of the ink you see spilled about it.

The article talks about how it would help competitive balance. That is also baloney, because absolutely no one on the planet thinks “margin of victory per game” is evidence of a competitive balance problem. Competitive balance is about the balance over the course of 162 games or across multiple seasons. That, at the moment, is mostly affected by having a third of the damn front offices in the league not being anywhere near as interested in winning baseball games as they are in making money and stockpiling prospects so, a few years down the road, they can maybe win some baseball games whole making more money.

But hey, none of this really matters when you’re trying to “fix” baseball. Which seems to primarily be a pursuit of those folks who have absolutely no damn idea of why people like baseball in the first place. Funny that.

 

Rays beat Mets 8-5, clinch 1st AL East title in 10 years

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK (AP) Confetti instead of champagne. Silly string instead of beer.

The Tampa Bay Rays, long accustomed to doing more with less, figured out a way to maximize the division-clinching celebration they were allowed to enjoy during a 2020 season shortened by the coronavirus.

Randy Arozarena homered twice and the Rays clinched their first AL East title in 10 years Wednesday night with an 8-5 victory over the New York Mets.

“I’m completely dry right now, which I’m not a huge fan of,” center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, the longest-tenured Rays player, said with a grin. “But you have to adapt to what we’re asked of.”

With teams instructed to celebrate in a muted and socially distant style, the Rays went old school – or maybe elementary school – with their clinching party.

The team filed slowly onto the field after Nick Anderson fanned Andres Gimenez for the final out. A couple of players shot off canisters filled with confetti that eventually dotted the grass and dirt at Citi Field. Hugs and handshakes were exchanged before the Rays doused one another with silly string and lit some cigars in the visiting clubhouse.

Later, hooting and hollering could be heard from the visitors’ dugout.

“We’re little kids trapped in grown men’s bodies,” Kiermaier said.

Joey Wendle and Brandon Lowe also went deep for the Rays to back Tyler Glasnow‘s six solid innings. Tampa Bay will be home at quirky Tropicana Field for a best-of-three first-round playoff series beginning next Tuesday.

It is the third division crown for the thrifty Rays, whose payroll this season is just over $28 million – more than only the Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles. Tampa Bay, which began play in 1998, also won the AL East, home of two big-spending powers in the Yankees and Red Sox, in 2008 and 2010.

“It feels great to win the division, no matter what division you’re in,” Kiermaier said. “But especially the American League East – it’s just a different animal.”

After missing a chance to clinch Tuesday, the Rays went into Wednesday again needing just a win or a Yankees loss against Toronto to lock up the division championship.

The Rays (37-20) broke a 2-all tie in the sixth on Arozarena’s two-run homer off Michael Wacha and pulled away, taking care of business themselves while New York was routed 14-1 by the Blue Jays.

“At the end of the day, a clinch is a clinch,” said Wendle, who homered in the second. “But to do it on a win – everybody’s kind of riding the high of winning the game along with the division. We didn’t want to see it come down to them losing a game.”

Tampa Bay also is closing in on wrapping up the top record in the AL and the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.

Lowe, who had an RBI fielder’s choice in the third, hit a two-run homer in the eighth. Willy Adames added an RBI single later in the inning and Arozarena homered again in the ninth.

The insurance came in handy for the Rays when the Mets scored three times off Oliver Drake in the ninth – via an RBI groundout by Robinson Cano and a two-run homer by Todd Frazier – before Anderson closed the door.

“I think we had the game pretty much in control (and) certainly recognized what was going on in Buffalo, but I don’t know if you can ever prepare for a moment like that – it’s pretty special,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said.

Glasnow (5-1) allowed two runs on three hits and one walk with eight strikeouts.

Gimenez and Dominic Smith homered off Glasnow in the final home game of the season for the Mets, whose long-shot playoff hopes were further damaged with the loss. New York began the day 2 1/2 games out of an NL wild-card spot.

“We still have a shot with the four games left and we’re competing,” manager Luis Rojas said. “We’ve just got to do what we do – just keep fighting like we did in the ninth.”

Wacha allowed four runs on six hits and struck out four in six innings.

STABLE SHIRT

Rays pitcher Charlie Morton sported a T-shirt picturing a stable of horses as he spoke with reporters during a pregame Zoom call. Morton did little to discourage the notion the shirt was inspired by Cash’s viral rant earlier this month, when he declared the Rays have “a whole damn stable full of guys that throw 98 mph” after Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman threw near Mike Brousseau’s head in the ninth inning Sept. 4.

“The stable shirt?” Morton said. “It was in my locker last week and I like horses.”

With a grin obviously growing even behind his Rays mask, Morton said he rode horses as a kid.

“So I was ecstatic to see this shirt in my locker and I wore it,” he said.

As for the fireballers on the Rays’ pitching staff?

“We’ve got some guys that throw really hard,” Morton said.

ANOTHER LOSING SEASON

The loss guaranteed the Mets (25-31) will finish with a sub-.500 record for the ninth time in the last 12 seasons – a total matched or exceeded only by the Chicago White Sox (nine), Miami Marlins (10) and San Diego Padres (10). The White Sox and Padres have already clinched playoff spots and a winning record, while the Marlins are in second place in the NL East.

New York made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons in 2015 and 2016 and went 86-76 last year.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Rays: LHP Jose Alvarado (shoulder, lat) is scheduled to throw batting practice to 3B Yandy Diaz (hamstring) and 1B Ji-Man Choi (hamstring) at Tropicana Field on Thursday. Cash said all three players are progressing and he hopes they are available for the playoffs. . Brousseau (oblique) missed a fourth consecutive game. Cash said he would have been available off the bench if needed

Mets: RF Michael Conforto (hamstring) returned to the lineup as the designated hitter after missing two games and went 0 for 4. . The Mets activated RHP Dellin Betances (lat), who last pitched Aug. 29, and optioned RHP Corey Oswalt to the alternate site.

UP NEXT

Rays: After a day off Thursday, Morton (2-2, 4.64 ERA) is scheduled to get his postseason tuneup in the opener of a series against the Phillies on Friday.

Mets: Rookie LHP David Peterson (5-2, 3.80 ERA) opens a four-game road series against the Nationals. Peterson struck out a career-high 10 against the Braves last Saturday.