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Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Stories by Grey Papke:

Report: MLB adding 15-day IL for pitchers to combat roster manipulation

Major League Baseball is making another change to the injured list for 2020, this time to try to cut down on roster manipulation.

According to Jon Heyman of MLB Network, MLB will keep the 10-day IL in place for position players. However, pitchers will now be subject to a 15-day IL, with the league aiming to cut down on roster manipulation.

15 days was the standard IL length prior to the 2017 season, when it was changed to ten. IL usage has shot up since the rule change. A lot of that has been down to pitchers, as it becomes easy to avoid a starting pitcher for one turn through the rotation — and replace him on the roster — by simply subjecting him to a brief, sometimes retroactive IL spot. That has led to more reliever usage, which is something the league is also trying to cut down on.

MLB is already working on the reliever situation, with a rule forcing relievers to pitch to at least three batters unless the half-inning ends first. Increasing IL time for pitchers will force teams to think twice about when to put a pitcher on the shelf. All of these changes fundamentally have to do with increasing the pace of play, an issue that commissioner Rob Manfred has long sought to address. Whether any of it actually makes any meaningful difference remains to be seen.

MLB GM wants Jeff Luhnow ‘banned for life’ if he knew of Astros’ sign-stealing

Jeff Luhnow

It is becoming clear as their sign-stealing scandal unfolds that there is deep antipathy toward the Houston Astros within Major League Baseball.

That bitterness is particularly clear at the executive level. One anonymous general manager told Andy Martino of SNY that he would like to see Astros GM Jeff Luhnow kicked out of the game if it can be proven that he had knowledge of the Astros’ use of technology to steal signs.

“If Jeff Luhnow knew about this, he should be banned for life,” the general manager said.

Another team executive said he wanted to see the league throw the book at the Astros.

“How naive I was,” the executive told Martino. “I hope MLB buries the Astros.”

It’s understandable why this is. It’s not going to sit well with anyone in the sport if one team gained a major competitive advantage by cheating. It’s even worse knowing that that team won the World Series. The video evidence is really quite damning, and left a sour taste in many mouths. Given how blatant it seems to have been in retrospect and how long it lasted, there’s going to be a hunger to see some sort of severe punishment inflicted upon the Astros by the league.

Ohio State AD denies that Chase Young allegation came from rival school

A popular Chase Young conspiracy theory has been debunked by Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith.

Smith spoke to the media Wednesday after Young’s two-game suspension was handed down. At one point, he brought up a theory that had been floated by some, including FOX broadcaster Gus Johnson, suggesting that Maryland might have had something to do with the NCAA learning of the loan Young received.

That was not true, according to Smith, nor was it the doing of any other Big Ten rival.

“I want to be clear: The accusations did not come from Maryland, the accusations did not come from Penn State or anyone else in the Big Ten,” Smith said, via Dan Hope of Eleven Warriors.

Smith added that the violation was reported to Ohio State, not the NCAA, though he would not state whether it had been done anonymously.

Ultimately, it’s the end of an amusing, but unlikely theory. Even if it had been an effort on the part of a rival, it didn’t work at all. The Buckeyes beat Maryland without Young, and he’ll only sit out one more game now. That game is against Rutgers, so Ohio State will be heavy favorites. After that, they’ll have Young back for Penn State and Michigan, their two biggest games of the season.

Report: NFL growing more likely to adopt 17-game schedule

Roger Goodell

The NFL is increasingly likely to get its wish of a 17-game regular season amid ongoing labor talks, according to a report.

Mark Maske of the Washington Post reported Wednesday that talks between owners and the NFLPA are progressing well, and there is increasing optimism that a new labor deal could be finalized in 2020. That deal is growing more likely to include a 17-game season, with owners willing to make concessions to soothe concerns of players over adding an extra game to the existing schedule.

One concession is likely to relate to player compensation, though it’s unclear what that will entail. There is also no word on what other concessions may be granted to the players in exchange for the expanded schedule.

If a 17-game season does happen, it will be the result of compromise on both sides. Owners originally wanted 18 regular season games, but that was a non-starter with the players’ union. They dropped their demands, and the players now appear willing to meet halfway. The fact that more regular season action may well come at the expense of a preseason game or two doesn’t hurt either.

Michigan DC Don Brown fires a warning at Ohio State

We are over two weeks away from the 2019 edition of the Michigan-Ohio State football game, but that doesn’t mean the Wolverines aren’t already thinking about it.

Defensive coordinator Don Brown certainly is. Appearing on Michigan’s official “In the Trenches” podcast last week, Brown offered something of a challenge to Ohio State ahead of the Nov. 30 clash when asked what the Wolverines needed to do to be ready for the Buckeyes.

“I think we just need to stay true to form,” Brown said, via Patrick Murphy of 247 Sports. “I think we’ve done a good job of giving our guys stuff on a week to week basis where they’re probably wondering, ‘Why are we practicing this play? Why are we practicing that play?’ So, we’ve done a good job of keeping their hands in it without really telling them their hands are in it. But, they know.

“It’s another year, it’s a different group. They better be careful now because we’re hitting our stride too. This is a two-way street, and I know our guys will be ready in three weeks.”

It was the “they better be careful” remark that attracted attention — enough to that Buckeyes coach Ryan Day was asked if he’d like to offer a response. His answer? “Not really.”

If anything, this just demonstrates how seriously both teams take the rivalry. Ohio State has been preparing for Michigan on background all year, too, so it’s not as if this is a one-sided obsession. Brown’s challenge is great: Ohio State has an even better scoring offense than last year’s team did, and they beat the Wolverines 62-39 with Michigan essentially playing to keep its playoff hopes alive. The Wolverines have beaten Ohio State just twice since 2001, which does not sit well with them at all, so the focus is definitely understandable.

The good news? Brown hasn’t gone as far as Karan Higdon did last year when talking about the big game, which ended very poorly.

Scott Boras wants MLB to force teams to try to win

High-profile MLB agent Scott Boras has a lot to say about competitive balance in Major League Baseball, and he’s hoping to put pressure on both sides to address it in upcoming CBA negotiations.

Boras criticized the industry’s “competitive hibernation,” and called on the next CBA to include some sort of mechanism to mandate competition going forward.

Boras has a vested interest in this, of course. A third of the league lost 90 or more games in 2019, and four of those ten teams lost over 100. To make matters worse, interest in top free agents was limited due to only a handful of teams making moves to aggressively compete in the near term, which played a role in the likes of Bryce Harper, a Boras client, not signing on with a new team until after spring training had started. The market was so limited that one star player admitted he signed an extension with his current team partially because he saw what happened to Harper and Manny Machado on the open market.

It’s not really clear how one would give the mandate Boras wants. People will suggest a salary cap, but that doesn’t help much when the issue is many teams not spending aggressively. One thing is for sure: the players share Boras’ concerns, and that could mean bad news for the sport’s labor peace going forward.

Report: Rawlings may have inaccurately marketed ‘authentic’ postseason baseballs


Rawlings’ handling of baseballs used in Major League games continues to come under scrutiny, though for slightly different reasons now than they have previously.

Dr. Meredith Wills, who has studied various baseballs on behalf of The Athletic, ordered authentic 2019 postseason baseballs to examine for a study. The baseballs she received from Rawlings, marketed as being the same that were being used in 2019 playoff games, contained numerous differences compared to 2019 regular season ones. Many had thicker seams, and some of the batch codes on them did not match up with those appearing in 2019 batches. In essence, these served as hints that the baseballs may have been intended for use in 2018.

Rawlings CEO Dennis Sollberger suggested in a statement to Katie Strang of The Athletic that it was possible for the baseballs to have been manufactured in 2018 and that such baseballs would not have been used on the field. Experts suggested to Strang, however, that while that may not be uncommon, it could be fraudulent if Rawlings authenticated these as 2019 postseason baseballs when they were never intended for that use. Rawlings CEO Mike Thompson dismissed this interpretation as “incorrect,” stating that it was normal for baseball supply to be held over from year-to-year and all baseballs are manufactured under the same standards.

The major issue here is that these Rawlings baseballs are explicitly marketed as authentic to the postseason, complete with authentication stickers and numbers. These baseballs are sold at a much higher price — just shy of $300 for a box — as opposed to a typical ball marketed for regular season use. If they were never actually intended for postseason use in 2019, it would, at best, be misleading marketing, and could even be of interest to the Federal Trade Commission, according to experts and attorneys Strang spoke to.

The major question surrounding postseason baseballs in 2019 was whether there was something different about them to depress the playoff home run rate compared to the regular season baseballs, which were widely believed to be different. This is an entirely different question entirely — and while it may not impact the games played on the field, it would certainly have some interest to fans and memorabilia collectors.

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Gabe Kapler addresses his handling of Dodgers allegations

New San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler had to address a difficult topic in his introductory press conference on Wednesday.

The Washington Post reported last February that in 2015, a 17-year-old girl had reported to Kapler, then the Dodgers’ director of player development, that she had been videotaped by two Dodgers minor leagues while being assaulted by two women in a hotel room. Kapler did not go to the police, instead trying to set up a dinner with the girl and the minor leaguers. The girl later went to police and stated that she had been sexually assaulted by one of the players. Kapler later stated that he had not been aware of that allegation until the Post reported the story, and said his process was in line with the club’s policy.

During Kapler’s press conference Wednesday, both Kapler and Giants president Farhan Zaidi, who was GM of the Dodgers at the time of the allegations, addressed what happened to get ahead of potential questions.

Kapler was 39 at the time of the Dodger incidents, so to essentially say that he would’ve needed to talk to his mother to handle that situation better is fairly ridiculous. It’s easy to see that the Giants knew this would come up and wanted to try to get ahead of it, but it’s unlikely that Kapler’s explanation — and his admission that he was in over his head at the time — is unlikely to silence his critics. This, combined with fan antipathy toward the hire due to his mediocre record and unusual decision-making with the Philadelphia Phillies, probably isn’t how the Giants wanted his tenure to start.