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Mike Moustakas starting second baseman for Brewers

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A month ago, when the Milwaukee Brewers signed Mike Moustakas, Craig Counsell said that they’d give him a look at second base. It was a surprising statement given that Moustakas hasn’t played a single inning at second base in his entire career and given that Travis Shaw, the Brewers’ third baseman for most of last season, played 39 games at second base after Moustakas joined the team in a midseason trade. The expected move was that Shaw would go to second and Moustakas would end up at his usual third base.

This is especially true given that hardly any established players move from a corner position to a middle infield position and even fewer do it for the first time when they’re 30 like Moustakas is. Utility guys maybe, but it’s not like Moustakas was even a superior third baseman. He was fine, but no one ever considered him a defensive whiz over there.

Yet, here we are. The early spring training experiment is going to continue into the regular season:

On the one hand I want to say that if such a move — an eight-year veteran moving left on the defensive spectrum for a contending team — had a great chance of success, it would’ve been more common in baseball history. On the other hand teams are obviously looking at defense in a far more granular way now than they used to and are thus able to rely far less on the “it’s not frequently done” prejudices and far more on data and positioning and all of that. The Brewers are not idiots, after all, and they want to win what might be the toughest division in baseball this year, so they wouldn’t do this if they didn’t truly think Moustakas could pull it off.

It’ll be fascinating to watch. 1987 Craig, who used to put square pegs in round defensive holes in order to maximize offense while playing baseball simulations on his Commodore 64, approves.

Straight-away center field will be 385 feet at London Stadium

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Marley Rivera of ESPN has a story about some of the on-field and in-game entertainment, as well as some aspects of the field conditions, for this weekend’s London Series.

The fun stuff: a mascot race, not unlike the Sausage Race at Miller Park or the President’s race at Nationals Park. The mascots for London: Winston Churchill, Freddie Mercury, Henry VIII and the Loch Ness Monster. I suppose that’s OK but, frankly, I’d go with Roger Bannister, Shakespeare, Charles Darwin and Guy Fawkes. Of course no one asks me these things.

There will also be a “Beat the Streak”-style race which had better use the theme to “Chariots of Fire” or else what the heck are we even doing here.

They’ve also taught ushers and various volunteers who will be on-site to sing “Take me out to the ballgame,” which is a pretty good idea given how important that is to baseball. As a cultural exchange, I think some major league team should start using “Vindaloo” by Fat Les during the seventh inning stretch here. It’s a banger. It also seems to capture England a bit more accurately than, say, “Downton Abbey” or “The Crown.”

That’s all good fun I suppose. But here’s some stuff that actually affects the game:

The end result will have some interesting dimensions. The field will be 330 feet down each foul line, and it will have a distance of 385 feet to center field, which will feature a 16-foot wall. Cook also said it would have an expanded, “Oakland-like” foul territory, referencing the Athletics’ Oakland Coliseum expanse.

Those dimensions are unavoidable given that the square peg that is a baseball field is being shoved into the round hole that is a soccer stadium. As Murray Cook, MLB’s senior field coordinator tells Rivera, that sort of thing, while perhaps less than ideal, is at least in keeping with baseball’s strong tradition of irregular field conditions. It will, however, be one of the shortest dead center distances in baseball history.

Oh, and then there’s this:

Protective netting was also an important issue addressed when building the ballpark, with Cook stressing that his team has implemented netting that “is the largest you’ll ever see in any major league ballpark.”

[Craig makes a mental note to bookmark this for the next time MLB says it won’t mandate extended netting in the U.S. because doing so is too difficult]