‘While science may win on the field aesthetics wins hearts and minds’

MLB schedule release
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If history is any guide, figure this week to be one of the slower weeks of the baseball offseason. There’s turkey to make, you know. In lieu of actual news, I’ll try to post some interesting links for your reading pleasure.

Here’s one. It’s actually a transcribed speech, but it’s still good. It’s from baseball’s official historian John Thorn, talking about the current state of the game and the disconnect we’re experiencing between the quality of play and quality of the players on the one hand and the aesthetic qualities on the other. Well, first he talked about freedom of the press, Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, but then he got to that part:

The dilemma for owners and players and fans may be understood as The Paradox of Progress: we know he game is better, so why, for so many, does it feel worse? I submit that while Science may win on the field, as clubs employ strategies that give them a better chance of victory, Aesthetics wins hearts and minds.

I get that. I have no objective argument with most of the strategic choices teams and front offices make — who to pitch, how to pitch, when to bunt, how to construct a roster — for they are manifestly sensible. Experience, run expectancy calculations and other math generally bear all of that stuff out. And, of course, there is no doubting whatsoever that the skill and talent of the current crop of players is vastly superior to anything seen in the past. Especially the pitchers.

But, as I’ve noted before, I’m not necessarily watching baseball to see efficiency in action. I’m watching to enjoy a game and connect with some players whose careers I can follow and enjoy over years and years. Increasingly, however, the game is a fairly slow, slogging, choppy and a less-than-ideal product in that regard. Action is low, players are viewed as increasingly disposable and the prisms through which I have historically viewed baseball are increasingly cracked. I wrote about this with starting pitching vs. heavy bullpen use earlier this year, for example, and most of that sentiment still holds.

Which isn’t to say that baseball is dying or going to Hell or anything like that. As Thorn notes in the piece — and as I have also noted many times in the past — people have been saying the game has been going to Hell since the 19th century and it still hasn’t gotten there. As a prediction, such sentiments have been dead wrong. Don’t let anyone complaining about the current game get away with claiming that he or she has a monopoly on insight into the current game.

But as a statement of aesthetic preferences, well, they stand on their own, at least for the person offering them. The issue becomes what to do if more and more fans’ aesthetic preferences are offended. What then?

Padres claim 2-time All-Star catcher Gary Sánchez off waivers from Mets

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

SAN DIEGO — The scuffling San Diego Padres claimed catcher Gary Sánchez off waivers from the New York Mets.

The two-time All-Star was designated for assignment after playing in three games for the Mets. He went 1 for 6 with three strikeouts and an RBI, looking shaky at times behind the plate.

With the disappointing Padres (24-29) getting meager offensive production at catcher, they hope Sánchez can provide a boost. Austin Nola is batting .131 with three extra-base hits and a paltry .434 OPS in 39 games. His part-time platoon partner, second-stringer Brett Sullivan, is hitting .170 with four extra-base hits and a .482 OPS in 21 games since getting called up from the minors April 16.

Luis Campusano has been on the injured list since April 17 and is expected to be sidelined until around the All-Star break following left thumb surgery.

San Diego is responsible for just over $1 million in salary for Sánchez after assuming his $1.5 million, one-year contract.

The star-studded Padres have lost seven of 11 and are 3-3 on a nine-game East Coast trip. They open a three-game series at Miami.

San Diego becomes the third National League team to take a close look at the 30-year-old Sánchez this season. He spent time in the minors with San Francisco before getting released May 2 and signing a minor league contract a week later with the Mets, who were minus a couple of injured catchers at the time.

After hitting well in a short stint at Triple-A Syracuse, he was promoted to the big leagues May 19. When the Mets reinstated catcher Tomás Nido from the injured list last week, Sánchez was cut.

Sánchez’s best seasons came early in his career with the New York Yankees, where he was runner-up in 2016 AL Rookie of the Year voting and made the AL All-Star team in 2017 and 2019.

He was traded to Minnesota before the 2022 season and batted .205 with 16 homers and 61 RBIs in 128 games last year.

With the Padres, Sánchez could also be a candidate for at-bats at designated hitter, where 42-year-old Nelson Cruz is batting .245 with three homers, 16 RBIs and a .670 OPS, and 37-year-old Matt Carpenter is hitting .174 with four homers, 21 RBIs and a .652 OPS.