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Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2018 — No. 21: Mound visits limited

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We’re a few short days away from 2019 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2018. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were more akin to tabloid drama. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

Modern baseball games continue to be something of a slog. They’re long and there are a lot of pitching changes and a lot of dead time. Major League Baseball has taken a few stabs at remedying this but they haven’t really accomplished all that much. One of the more noticeable stabs came last February when the league announced a new rule which limits the number of mound visits in a game.

Teams are now be limited to six non-pitching change mound visits per team per game — managers can go to the pen a million times if they want — and one extra visit if the game goes into extra innings. The mound visit rule is not limited to coach or manager mound visits. It also includes position players, including catchers, visiting the mound to confer about signals and the like. Mound visits to check on injuries do not count, nor do visits which relate to catchers and pitchers truly being crossed up on signals after they have exhausted mound visits. Which, theoretically, puts a lot of discretion on the umpire to decide the purpose of a pitcher-catcher conversation.

The fun part: the new rule has no enforcement mechanism to it. No automatic strikes or balls or ejections or anything. The umpire is just supposed to disallow the visit . . . somehow. Thankfully there was never really a test for such an occurrence. In late April the Angels were the first team to use up their mound visits in a game, though they did not try for a seventh. A handful of other teams went to six meetings but it wasn’t an epidemic or anything. Indeed, I’m unaware of any team that tried for a seventh meeting, actually and can’t find evidence of it becoming an issue in any game. I suppose if there had been a big dustup or controversy around the new rule it would’ve ranked higher than number 21 on this countdown.

Did the mound rule have any impact on length of games in 2018? Not really. Average game time was three hours and four minutes. While, yes, that was down by four minutes from 2017, it’s the same average game length from 2016, which tied 2018 for the third longest average game time since such records have been kept.

Maybe MLB should have a . . . meeting about it.

Report: Yankees could be in on Nolan Arenado

Nolan Arenado
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The Yankees appear to have moved on from free agent Manny Machado this winter, but could they be turning their attention to Rockies superstar Nolan Arenado? That’s the idea floated by Andy Martino of SNY, who hears that GM Brian Cashman has been involved in recent discussions concerning the third baseman. No official comments have been made to the press yet, though, and it’s not clear whether the Yankees would prefer to pursue Arenado prior to the 2019 season or partway through it.

The 27-year-old infielder earned his fourth consecutive All-Star nomination, Silver Slugger, and Gold Glove award in 2018 after slashing .297/.374/.561 with 38 home runs, a .935 OPS, and 5.7 fWAR across 673 plate appearances. There’s no question he’s provided immense value to Colorado’s lineup over the last half-decade, and his consistency and incredible power at the plate helped form the basis of the record $30 million arbitration figure he presented to the team last week. The Rockies countered at $24 million, however, and in doing so may have jeopardized their chances of convincing the infielder to forego free agency in 2020 and take a long-term deal instead.

Assuming he declines to negotiate an extension with the Rockies, Arenado’s decorated résumé and career-best 2018 numbers should attract plenty of interest around the league — a reality that could put considerable pressure on the Yankees (or any other interested party) to finesse a deal sooner rather than later. For now, the club is prepared to enter the 2019 season with hot-hitting third baseman Miguel Andújar, whom Martino speculates would be the “centerpiece” of any trade with Colorado.