What I found on the Interwebs made me angry


While perusing the vast expanse that is the information superhighway (there’s a term you don’t hear anymore), I spotted two articles about baseball that will impact the Astros. One, I loved. Another made me want to cry.

First, the crying thing.

Apparently, MLB is considering some rules changes: the pitch clock, universal DH, a three-batter minimum for pitchers, and a study to lower the mound. There were some roster rules changes, too, including a longer DL, more time in the minors when optioned, and, drum roll, a 26-player roster.

The DL and the options things don’t bother me that much. The DL used to be longer. Time in the minors when optioned seems like it would hurt teams without deep farm systems, so I’m not overly upset about that.

But most of this is just nuts.

Let’s start with the worst ones: Lowering the pitcher’s mound and, Lord forbid, a three-batter minimum. I imagine the Players Association would veto a rule that would, essentially, put lefty-specialists out of a job. As for the pitcher’s mound, I thought the idea was to speed up the game? Lowering the mound would turn games into high-scoring track meets.

Also, if you lower the pitcher’s mound, do all stats from that point onward have an asterisk of some sort. “Well, Tony Kemp hit .390 and bashed 36 home runs, still wasn’t good enough to make the All-Star team because that was only league average in both categories.”

And I’m guessing all pitchers’ contracts would mental health provision added. “I feel so inadequate doctor. My curveball just hangs there, and I can’t get leverage with my legs. And now my wife AND MY DOG have left me.”

I’m not sure how I feel about the universal DH. If we’re going to go universal, I’d rather have a universal no-DH, but I’m not sure that toothpaste is ever going back in the tube.

And the pitch clock? I swear, I’ll find Rob Manfred and personally slap him across the face. Hard. A pitch clock will change the very nature of the game.

You know those people who complain that baseball is too slow? Watch a football game. Between the non-stop replay looks and what George Will described as “Committee meetings punctuated by violence,” I’ll take baseball.

As for the NBA, it’s a nonstop game of one-on-one with some bystanders on the court. The league has managed to take the best athletes in the world and make them boring.

Leave baseball alone! And while you’re at it, get off my lawn!

We can all discuss the pitch clock down below, but I literally can think of no reasonable argument for a pitch clock besides “It’s annoying and might shave eight seconds off the average game at the cost of alienating more fans than the rest of these cockamamie ideas combined.”

Now, the good news. Well, the glass-half-full news.

Over at another Astros fan website (something about a mound in centerfield that sadly disappeared), they took an off-hand remark by Justin Verlander and a reply by Jeff Luhnow basically saying, “No comment other than, yes, I know how many starters will be free agents next winter. I’m not stupid,” and took those comments to mean the Astros are working on a deal to extend Verlander. Or Gerrit Cole.

The most encouraging thing about the whole article is the quote from Verlander, saying, “It’s something I wouldn’t be opposed to.”

I’ve been working under the assumption that Verlander – and, more likely, Mrs. Verlander – wants to move back to Michigan before too long. That would mean maybe going back for a swan song in the “Crumbling D.”

But Verlander would be a good get for Houston long-term. Just looking at innings pitched and WAR, he’s been good for 200 IP a season since his injury-shortened 2015, and he’s put up at least 6.2 WAR a season since 2016.

In fact, after a WAR of 4.3 in 2013, 0.9 WAR in 2014 and 2.3 WAR in 2015, he’s been consistent and ace-quality since.

So, fans of baseball and the Houston Astros, I ask:

  1. What do you think of these rules changes?
  2. Specifically, let’s talk pitch clock. Is it merely a bad idea or pretty much the worst idea since edible poison ivy?
  3. Do the Astros NEED to extend at least one of the current four (don’t forget Collin McHugh and Wade Miley) 2019 free agents right now? If so, which one?

By the way, pitchers and catchers report Wednesday. So …

  • Who is ready for our long winter’s nap to be done?
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36 comments on “What I found on the Interwebs made me angry

  1. I can respond to the pitch clock idea in one word, “It sucks!” OK that was two. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Some people want to change things simply for the reason of saying “look what exciting changes I brought to the game.” Sorry, Homy don’t play that game.
    As for extensions, yes, yes, yes, and yes for the aforementioned players if they fit into the scheme of things. And finally, ST is almost here.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Maybe some of the vets here can comment on the ’68 season when they moved the mound from 10 to 15″, which ended up being as Pappu wrote, “the Year of the pitcher.” This league hasn’t been shy about adapting. What pains me is the changes all seem to favor the lessening attention spans of the American audience. Hard to blame the league when they’re following the wishes of the majority. Last season, the Marwin rule was implemented, but I only remember a few incidences where umps asked him to get in the box. Supposedly the strike zone was going to be higher, and yet all that did was give umps more leeway to call it, although some umps never have changed their way of calling balls/strikes.

    I suggested here several times to expand to 26-man, which would obviously favor the Astros strong ML-ready prospects. The article Dan wrote had the best suggestions, being more inclusive of MiLB and the fans.

    Get off my lawn was a nice touch, Brian! It’s awfully cold today in Houston, but can you even see your lawn where you are?

    As to extensions of JV and Cole, I really don’t think it’s in the cards. Both will be seeking huge paydays. The two things tipped in our favor is the window to win championships, and Brent Strom. But honestly, we’ve gotten awful spoiled being able to rely on those workhorses. While change is coming around real soon, Chippie’s are likely to be very pleasantly surprised at the pitching gems we have lurking. Having faith in a GM who has been miles ahead of the league, unearthing the likes of Altuve White and James gives me comfort in an ever changing world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sure I can see my lawn. It’s that white thing with the yellow dots where Sir Pickles and Brandi have been.

      I disagree that the majority of FANS want these changes. I think the casual sports fan hears these ideas and says, “Whatever. Sounds good to me.” But by and large, those people aren’t the core baseball fans, and they aren’t going to change their baseball viewing (and, more importantly, buying) habits over shaving a minute off the average game or an extra half run scored per game.

      Right now, the mound is no higher than 10 inches. The mere idea of going down from there is insane.

      As for the extensions, I think Verlander is the most important despite his age. I also think, if he pitches well, I’d take McHugh over Cole. Cole’s a better pitcher, but McHugh is very good and comes cheaper. Financially, you can’t sign them all, so those are my picks.

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      • To qualify, I didn’t mean the purist fans. The league seems to treat us as though we’ll never leave, but the younger generation is who they’re challenged to draw in. All the music, advertisement, ballpark features to interest the passers-by … this is what I always liked about baseball, as opposed to Basketball and Football. No cheerleaders, or halftime hype — just hardball. Not anymore. It’s catering to almighty dollar.

        I also have a disagreement with your McHugh comments, but take heart, nobody agrees with me. I think it’s a real stretch to think Collin will get back to a (emphasis Full-Time) Startery profile. Not that he cannot, but with his loss of fastball velocity, it’s going to be easier to sit on his putaway pitches (SLI/CB). I would much prefer we save his arm by limiting his action in 2019. We will need him in 2020 (along with Peacock). The reasoning behind this is James is a ToR, Whitley is an Ace, Martin and Bukauskas are going to be absolute studs, and I like Framber more than Op. We aren’t even talking about Cionel and Armenteros, Deetz is still a SP. Right behind them are Solomon Bielak Ivey Javier, and a kid who K’s 68 in 38 innings, Bryan Abreu. I like McQ’s experience, but the talent is deeper coming from 290W.

        It’s probably out of our hands if JV ($100M), and Cole ($200M) can get the money elsewhere, while we have others to consider as well (AB, GS, CC, etc.). Some have suggested Luhnow will make a drastic move, others point to Luhnow’s comments sounding unsatisfied with As-Is. Apparently, we’ve come in 2/3 on several deals, so it hasn’t been for lack of effort.

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      • I have a number of very long, verbose replies in my head that want to get out. Instead I’m going to keep it short. The most important tools for a pitcher are location and movement. Inability to locate a pitch means you will have a short career. Throw a pitch straight as an arrow and the harder you throw it the faster you’ll whip your neck around watching it leave. We have some minor league pitchers with tantalizing potential. The problem is they’re unproven. We need to see what they can do before it makes sense to replace someone like McHugh. Even as a starter his fastball isn’t that far off from MLB average (92.6 MPH last summer). His breaking pitchers are anything but average, however, and when he’s locating his fastball he is very tough to hit. I’m not predicting a Cy Young, but at his salary it makes all the sense in the world to not throw him out until someone forces your hand through high performance.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Instead of a pitch clock MLB should take a queue from the Hollywood awards shows. When a pitcher is taking too long to deliver they should start playing the exit music.

    I’m actually in favor of the three batter minimum for the pitcher…but probably not as they would implement it. My version would be this: a pitcher relieving another must either finish the inning in which they enter or face three batters. However, in the event the offensive team substitutes a pinch hittter the relief pitcher would only be required to face that hitter.

    I’m not fully on board with the roster changes. I like expanding it to 26. I would leave September expansion alone or at least not reduce it to such a small level. If they’re really concerned they could limit the active players for each game to 28. I’m probably not in the minority in that I want to see our minor league players rewarded with a cup of coffee rather than off posting pictures of their latest round of golf on instagram.

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    • Replying to your earlier comment, Devin. A lot to say but I’ll be brief. McQ is better as a novelty, I’d start with a 150 IP plan, but I think he’ll get beat out. Which is fine bc I want him dominant in post season (Bellinger?), and I want to extend his contract with limited use this season. He hasn’t pitched Startery profile in 2.5 years (trying to stretch in Japan), I see no reason to push him when Cionel Armenteros James Valdez Martin Bukauskas can eat innings (at some point). I don’t share skewed bias that prospect inexperience is less than replacement value. If Collin begins season as No.3, which I think belongs to Josh James, now with Miley in the mix, it moves our chance to win the World Series less than 1% either way. Overall, our problem last season, and 2015 was fatigue/compromised players. McQ took a backseat last season, no shame in being overly cautious as in ’17, when miraculously he developed an elite slider while injured for “dead arm.” I’ll be pleasantly surprised if he regains 2015 form, what are the odds? By July, we will have three different starters than OD.

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      • You made some great points – moving McHugh out of the rotation early on probably doesn’t do much to help or hinder our quest for the WS trophy. Obviously we’ll have to see it play out. The other is about fatigue. I’ve been complaining since 2015 when Harris was trying to get October outs with his arm holding on by a thread. Failing to manage those resources better to have players fresh when the games really count is a problem. Hopefully our rotation stays healthy enough that Hinch has no need to overburden the bullpen.

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  4. Great topic Brian.
    The article I read on mlbtraderumors disturbed me even more on one point as it talked about “lowering the mound AND/OR MOVING IT BACK….”
    I am having real problems with picturing pitchers who have spent their whole life throwing 60′ breaking balls trying to change to 62′ breaking balls or whatever.
    Here let’s play NBA ball with a 9′ or 11′ rim or move the 3 pt line in. It seems totally goofy.
    One of my sons said it is like baseball wants to bring back the days of steroid baseball.

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    • Agreed – good comments Dan, clever Devin on the exit music.

      Again, I’m fine with pace of play anyway bc baseball is supposed to be a spectacle, full of people watching and enjoying the scale and atmosphere. People who complain about pace seem to me to be missing out on the total experience, worrying about ‘what time is it.’ Eh, potato pahtato.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Dan, I have so much to say on this it would be impossible to stay on topic. I keep trying and failing. Instead of moving the playing field around I have a better idea – let’s encourage players to not strike out.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I saw the moving back of the pitcher’s mound and immediately thought of Eddie Feigner. So make the pitcher face 3 batters minimum. One he pitches blind folded. One he pitches from his knees. And one he pitches from second base. And we can have the announcers tell jokes between innings. Let’s not forget donkey baseball for some games.

      Judy Collins- “Send in the clowns…. never mind they are here”

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  5. As much as I despise Bud Selig, this clown is worse. Changing rules just for the sake of changing rules isn’t going to attract new fans, just piss off the existing fans.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I think having the DH in the minors for everyone, but then having half of MLB baseball not using it, is dumb. It’s akin to having half of a professional hockey league playing with a smaller goal. Fix it.
    Let’s say I’m a fan of a NL team and the Yankees are coming to my city for their only visit in three years. Why do I want to see the Yankees suddenly have to sit one of their stars and watch Tanaka hit? How come my team never has a shot to put a David Ortiz or an Encarnacion in their lineup?
    How come my #8 hitter doesn’t get to hit because he got walked intentionally? Why did Charlie Morton have to lose a whole year of his career rehabbing from a torn hamstring trying to leg out a bunt?
    When Houston was moved to the AL I wasn’t upset about having to watch the DH, I was upset about being in the AL West. That was, and still is, dumb.
    Dropping the mound down or moving it back is dumb. You are asking for more injuries to MLB pitchers trying to change their deliveries to account for the changes. Why in the hell would anybody want that?
    Whatever the league does about the pace of play, just do it and quit talking about it. So many hitters get out of the box and stand there, slowing the game. Just stop it! People who aren’t fans of the game stay away from the game because of the wasted time. I have personally heard that from hundreds of people in my lifetime.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You hit on a key thing op. Pitchers would still be trying to throw 98 mph fastballs against the laws of physics with less leverage from a taller mound or from a farther distance and end up hurting themselves.

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    • While it’s no fun for fans, Hinch spoke repeatedly about how Marwin works AB’s. Since pitchers are taught to create a rhythm, his “antics” were constantly criticized from anyone of opposing interest. I’ll side with baseball players’ comments on that, not fans.

      An easy solution? Be like Nolan Ryan, and start to pitch only when he is ready. Or let the players handle it. I notice Gerrit Cole works very quickly. I’m sure he will stare at the batter, then the ump to speed up play. However, a savvy hitter isn’t going to let him dictate that, and that’s a part of the cat/mouse I enjoy.

      The rest of your comments about DH make a lot of sense.

      Like

  7. I mentioned the death of Frank Robinson in passing yesterday. Roadthriller called him one of the more underrated players of all time. Brian T was talking about a mutual friend who said what a fine person he was.
    Wanted to hit on a few things about him:
    – First African American manager in the majors
    – Rookie of the Year
    – Two time MVP – once in each league – fifteen times in the top 20 of MVP voting
    – 14 time All- star
    – Triple crown winner in his first season with the Orioles after a trade with the Reds
    – Only man to win ROY, MVP and Manager of the Year
    – 10th all time in HRs
    – Top 20 in runs scored, runs created, extra base hits, time on base
    – 21st in RBIs
    And he played a good chunk of his time when the pitchers had real advantages over the hitters
    A true Hall of Famer

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Two of my co-workers got into the discussion with me about the pitch clock, something they both think is a great idea.

    I called them evil and said that kind of attitude will see them rotting in hell for all eternity.

    So, yeah, my position on this is pretty clear.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I really don’t see the pitch clock making much difference but its visible and might make the umps enforce the staying in the box rules. There needs to be a penalty for batters stalling and if pitchers and catchers can’t get on the same page and come up with signs that are difficult to steal they ought to be penalized as well. Of course if there are guys on base the pitcher can restart the clock by throwing over to a base. Stepping off ought not to be enough. If a guy has to make a throw there’s always the chance he’ll throw it away and then the baserunning fun begins.

    Part of the pace of play issue is the number of strikeouts that are eating up the game. It takes at least three pitches to record a K but only one to get a first pitch pop up. I think casual fans are turned off by incessant Ks. And I doubt that lowering the mound or backing it up would result in “high scoring track meets” but even if it did the increased action would be very welcome by most fans. I can enjoy a 1-0 game because I’m a sophisticated fan and can appreciate the difficulty and skill it takes to pitch and defend well but I’m a very unsophisticated soccer fan so 1-0 games are a complete turn off to me. Most folks want to see balls put into play. Rather than move the mound I would prefer elevating the lower edge of the strike zone and then if you really want to do it right go ahead and institute an electronic strike zone so that there is consistency from one game to the next and we’re not tortured by the personal strike zones of the likes of Angel Hernandez and Joe West. Pitchers like Dallas Keuchel would be impacted the most but since Dallas isn’t pitching for us I’m OK with it.

    Arguments for keeping the NL DH free are really pretty pathetic. I grew up an NL fan rooting for the Cincinnati Reds and then for the Astros when we moved here in 1985. I was initially miffed that we got moved to the AL but after a few years I got over it. The 2017 Astros were a hoot to watch because they were an offensive powerhouse even though we really didn’t get a lot of DH production but what we did get was a LOT more than we would have gotten from a pitcher. In 2018 the Astros pitching was terrific but would we have had three 200 innings guys if they were being removed in the fifth or sixth inning for a PH?

    If LOOGYs go the way of the dinosaurs so be it. Making a pitcher face three hitters or end and inning is OK by me. Give me guys like Devo or even -dare I say it- Sipp who can get lefties and righties out. OTOH what about righty specialists like Joe Smith who can’t get lefties out? Let them up their game or move on.

    I think in summation those of us who are lifelong fans and baseball cognoscenti need to realize that there are not enough of us to support the game we love as we have learned it. The game needs the casual fan looking for entertainment. Watching guys whiff over and over again and drag their sorry butts back to the dugout is not inspiring. More action is good! The commissioner may have some odd ideas but at least he recognizes the problem and a lot of it is us.

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  10. I find it interesting that Manfred is saying no way they consider the DH for the NL, while they are considering to screwing with the mounds.
    It comes down to $$$ of course – DH raises the payroll a bit. This does not bode well for future negotiations between the players and the owners.

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  11. I am definitely in favor of the universal DH. It’s ridiculous to have 2 leagues play by different rules and then apply those rules during the World Series based on the ballpark the game is played. The National League of MLB is one of the only leagues (including high school and college baseball) that doesn’t utilize the DH. It’s time to move into the 21st century and adopt the DH universally.

    I would lower the 3 batter rule to 2 batters or the end of the inning, whichever happens first. This should still allow room for a LOOGY/ROOGY, but would require a bit more strategy on when to bring them into the game.

    I don’t a pitch clock is that big of a deal. I think there is a rule already in place, but it just is never applied by the umpires. I have attended several minor league games over the years and it is not an issue or even noticed by the fans during the game.

    I don’t want to change the pitching mound, but if they absolutely feel they need to change it I’d rather adjust the height than the distance from homeplate. That just seems like it will create more problems than it is worth. Also, I am absolutely opposed to banning the shift. This is probably the one hill I will die on regarding MLB rule changes. Why are we punishing teams for using the best advantage they can, within the rules, to get a batter out? I am so strongly opposed to this line of thinking.

    Liked by 4 people

    • universal DH just makes sense. i thought i would miss the strategy of pitcher’s at bats, when to take em out etc. but nooooooo havent really even thought about it.
      as far as moving the pitchers mound back however, what a cool thing that would be, why if you moved it back far enough the pitcher could get in on some double play exchanges at second and even EVEN have a chance at an unassisted triple play at second. whoooo weeee wouldnt that be fun to put on the scorecard!!! now if i could just find that facetious font i would be done.

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  12. Pace of the game issues: the only thing that’s certain to speed up the game is reduce the time between half-innings. Sure, it cuts into advertising time, so let’s see how serious they are about it. Everything else is just nibbling at the margins.
    Mound: changing the distance from home plate is insane. Totally changes the calculus of the game. Mound height? Well, they’ve done that before so I’m not all that opposed to it.
    DH: the issue doesn’t inspire passion in me, maybe because the Astros have never really capitalized on it. But it seems to me the better arguments are in favor of having the NL go to it.
    Pitchers: I lean toward making Verlander the priority. I doubt he wants such a long term deal as Cole might. He might even be willing to go on a mutual option year to year type deal. Plus he is so well respected and seems to have positive influence with the younger guys.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Having the DH rule everywhere on the planet except for the National League is dumb. But the rule will not get changed simply because National league fans would go nuts, just like we did when we moved to the American League. I don’t think it’s that big a deal though, in fact it adds a bit of intrigue to the World Series.

    Most of the other suggestions are just plain stupid. No way the mound gets moved back. But I could see a couple of more inches shaved off of it. The game constantly evolves. Let hitters get better at hitting the ball where there is no fielder. That will lessen the drastic shifts we see today for those batter who can only go one way.

    When we won it all in 2017, you’ll remember that Mike Fiers led the team in innings pitched. 170 something. Getting 150 out of Collin McHugh would be plenty. We’ll probably see starts from 10 or 12 guys this year. We don’t need anyone to give us 200 innings. I’d actually rather see Verlander and Cole max out at 175.

    Heck, if we extend one pitcher, Cole would be the long term prize. But the money he’ll cost, assuming he keeps pitching like 2018, might make him impossible to sign.

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  14. Manfred must not have a hobby……thinking of stuff to screw up a pretty perfect game, is *STUPID*. No, you don’t mess with the mound and another rule change with the pitch clock, didn’t succeed last year. JEEZE.
    The guys on 610am seem to think giving Verlander a 4yr $100 million contract would be something Crane and Luhnow should get done. Trying to keep Verlander AND Cole, would put trying to sign Springer out of the money picture.
    I’d do the Verlander deal in a New York minute! Becky⚾

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