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Atlantic League experimenting with batters ‘stealing first base’

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People often joke about fast guys who can’t hit by saying “you can’t steal first base.” What Major League Baseball and the Atlantic League’s new rules presuppose is, “what if you can?”

As you’re no doubt aware, Major League Baseball and the independent Atlantic League recently entered into a three-year agreement in which the Atlantic League will adopt experimental rules suggested by Major League Baseball to study their effects on game play. The Atlantic League is now, basically, a guinea pig.

The most talked-about changes to date have been the idea of banning defensive shifts, moving the pitching rubber back a couple of feet to mitigate hard-throwing pitchers which have led to a strikeout boom and to work with electronic ball-and-strike calls. Today Jacob Bogage of the Washington Post talks about the inaccurately-called “robot umpires” but in the course of doing do mentions another experiment that is way, way farther out there:

In the second half of the season, the league will allow batters to steal first base: Any pitch on any count not caught in flight will be considered a live ball, and a batter may run to first base, similar to a dropped third strike.

I’m assuming the impulse is to increase game “action” and to make up for the lack of non-homer hits in the game by allowing runners to reach base on plays that are more exciting than walks. Maybe that helps, but I presume that, if it was ever widely implemented, it would select hard for defensive-oriented catchers at the expense of catchers who can hit. Given that we’re already at an all-time nadir for catchers hitting I’m not sure that’s a good thing, but maybe it’ll be made up for by it selecting for control pitchers. There are always unintended and unexpected consequences for any change.

That aside: Did anyone who actually enjoys baseball ask for this? I realize that hasn’t stopped MLB before, but I am genuinely curious who came up with this idea.

Nationals back off of minor league stipend cut

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Yesterday it was reported that the Washington Nationals would cut the weekly stipend paid to their minor leaguers from $400 a week to $300 per week through the end of June.

For frame of reference, MLB had agreed to pay all minor leaguers $400 per week through May 31. Several teams have agreed to extend that, with the Royals and Twins agreeing to do it all the way through the end of August. The Oakland A’s decided to stop the payments in their entirety as of today. The Nationals were unique in cutting $100 off of the checks.

The A’s and the Nationals have taken a great amount of flak for what they’ve done. The Nats move was immediately countered by Nationals major league players announcing that they would cover what the organization would not.

The A’s are, apparently, still sticking to their plan. The Nats, however, have reversed course:

One can easily imagine a situation in which Nats ownership just decided, cold-heartedly, to lop that hundred bucks off of each minor league check and not worry about a moment longer. What’s harder to imagine is what seems to have actually happened: the Nats did it without realizing that anyone would take issue with it, were surprised by the blowback, and then reversed course. Like, what kind of a bubble where they living in that they did not think people would consider that a low-rent thing to do?

In any event, good move, Nats, even if I cannot even begin to comprehend your thought process.