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#pounditFriday, May 7, 2021

Articles tagged: MLB

Report: MLB to test huge rule change in independent league

Rob Manfred

Major League Baseball likes to test its most radical rule changes in the independent Atlantic League instead of the minor leagues. The latest idea to get a trial run there is particularly notable.

According to Jayson Stark of The Athletic, the Atlantic League will experiment with moving the mound back a foot in conjunction with MLB. That would put the distance between the mound and home plate at 61 feet, six inches, and will only take place during the second half of the Atlantic League season.

The reason for the test is essentially the increased velocity pitchers are generating on their fastballs. Velocity and strikeout rate are both at an all-time high in MLB, and it’s not rare to see teams trotting out multiple pitchers that can easily hit 95 MPH on the radar gun. MLB wants to see if moving the mound back might counteract that velocity and generate a bit more contact.

The Atlantic League will also implement a double hook rule. This would result in teams losing the DH after replacing the starting pitcher. Baseball believes such a change could incentivize teams to stick with their starting pitchers for longer.

MLB has been testing some other major rule changes at other levels of baseball. The mound change would certainly be the most radical.

MLB to move All-Star Game to Coors Field despite Colorado’s KKK history

Rob Manfred

MLB last week grandstanded politically and said they were moving the All-Star Game from Atlanta due to the state’s recently passed election integrity laws. There was an anti-Georgia media and politics-driven smear campaign over the bill, which expands in-person voting, requires ID for absentee voting, and establishes criteria for drop boxes and other voting terms (full bill here).

Even The Washington Post and New York Times have since published articles acknowledging that the law won’t really restrict voting as some extremely loud voices were originally claiming.

That didn’t matter to MLB, which caved to mob pressure and announced an impending move.

On Monday, ESPN’s Buster Olney reported that the All-Star Game was being moved to Coors Field in Denver.

MLB has traded Georgia for Colorado despite Colorado’s KKK history. The Denver Post published an article in 2017 about how the KKK dominated Colorado politics in the past.

Is MLB OK with the KKK’s influence on a state? Do they really want to do business with a state that had past ties to such a hateful group? Maybe they should pull the All-Star Game from Coors Field too. They should probably also contract the Rockies, and the Braves, and not allow any games to be played in those states.

The state of New York has some harsher existing voting laws than the new ones passed by Georgia.

Maybe MLB should remove the Yankees and Mets from New York. After that, MLB should move its headquarters out of New York City. Then MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred can give back his membership to Augusta National since he opposes Georgia’s policies so much.

Why stop there? Every MLB stadium is built on land that was stolen from Native Americans. Maybe all that land should be given back to Native Americans. And every media outlet that advocated for MLB to move the All-Star Game should give their outlet’s headquarters to Native Americans too. And every politician and celebrity who yelled “voter suppression!” about the policy should give all their homes back to Native Americans.

By now, you can probably tell how sarcastic I’m being here. The point is, if you’re going to poke holes at one thing, it invites people to point out all the hypocrisy that lies everywhere else. And if you look hard enough, you can find faults and issues with everything. At some point, everything gets canceled, and you’re left with nothing, and nowhere to play or do anything. That’s not what we should be striving for.

MLB moves All-Star Game out of Atlanta over new voting laws

Rob Manfred

The MLB All-Star Game was scheduled to be held in Atlanta this year, but the league announced on Friday that the event will be relocated.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred issued a statement announcing that the Midsummer Classic will be moved to a new city. He said the decision was made in response to new voting legislation that was passed in Georgia.

The new Georgia election bill, titled the “Election Integrity Act of 2021,” tightens restrictions on voting in the state. Voters will be required to have ID numbers to submit absentee ballots, among other new rules.

Manfred said MLB is finalizing plans to host the game in a new city and will announce the new venue in the near future.

MLB to test limit on defensive shifts in minor leagues

Rob Manfred

Major League Baseball often uses the minor leagues as a testing ground for potential rule changes, and a fairly significant one will be given a trial run in 2021.

In a statement released by the league on Thursday, MLB detailed multiple rule changes that will be tested at various levels of the minors in 2021. Most significant among them is a rule requiring teams to have at least four players on the infield at all times, with both feet completely on the infield dirt. The rule will initially be used at the Double-A level.

Notably, MLB explicitly leaves the door open to possibly forcing teams to have two players on each side of second base, essentially banning defensive shifts. As it stands, the current rule would fundamentally alter overshifted infields against left-handed hitters, preventing teams from positioning a second baseman on the outfield grass as is typically employed.

Any proposal significantly altering defensive shifts would be hugely controversial. As teams have become increasingly savvy, shifts have been heavily deployed and have played a role in depressing batting averages for some players. The belief is that limiting shifts would lead to an increase in batting average and thus more offense. Critics would simply wonder why hitters prone to hitting directly into a shift can’t just adapt their approach.

Possible limitations on shifts have been discussed for years, and there have been times that it looked more likely than not. If the league is pleased with the results in Double-A, don’t be surprised to see something similar adopted at the MLB level within a few years.

Report: MLBPA backed out of call with government about delaying season

Rob Manfred

The MLBPA is so staunchly opposed to delaying the season — and distrustful of Major League Baseball — that its representatives opted out of a call with government officials about the issue.

According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, MLBPA declined to take part in a call between the league and Biden administration officials out of fear that they would be pressured into delaying the season. Instead, the union scheduled a separate call with the same officials for a later date.

The government representatives on the call suggested to the league that the season be delayed by one month with the aim of vaccinating players against COVID-19 before the start of play. Players have been staunchly opposed to any sort of delay to the start of the season, arguing that other leagues are playing despite the pandemic and that their efforts to follow health and safety protocols during the 2020 season were largely successful.

In light of the call, MLB had offered the MLBPA a 154-game schedule with a delayed start and full player pay. The union had concerns with certain aspects of the deal, and also felt it came too close to spring training to be feasible. That means that in spite of the government’s recommendation, the MLB season will start on time and is set to feature a full 162-game schedule.

Report: MLB players unlikely to agree to delayed season

Rob Manfred

Once again, Major League Baseball and the MLBPA are at odds over the scheduling of the upcoming baseball season. The good news is the outcome of a failed deal appears likely to be much less damaging this time.

Commissioner Rob Manfred proposed a 154-game season that starts a month late. The league believes it has offered a fair compromise for players while reducing health risks, and would at least like to receive a counteroffer from the MLBPA.

Lingering distrust on both sides is making things difficult, however. According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the MLBPA has multiple concerns about the proposal. There is concern that language in the proposal could grant Manfred additional power to cancel games and cut into players’ earnings, and there are also worries about pushing back spring training when pitchers have already begun the process of getting physically ready for the scheduled Feb. 17 start date.

Players recognize that a delay could be reasonable, but there is a feeling that the proposal came too late, especially when some players are already in spring training cities with rented housing that would need to be canceled. One player also questioned the necessity of a delay when the NFL, NBA, and NHL are all playing.

The good news is that the drawn-out drama that followed similar disagreements prior to the 2020 season seems less likely to follow. According to Passan, the likeliest scenario if no agreement is reached is that players would report to spring training as currently scheduled. The alternative would be for Manfred to activate the national-emergency clause in the CBA, but that would inevitably lead to a showdown in court, which neither side wants.

No agreement would have other ramifications, though, particularly for rule changes. 2020 saw games played with a number of one-off rule changes, including 7-inning doubleheaders and expanded playoffs. There’s even growing momentum to make some of those changes permanent. Without a deal, though, the league may simply be forced to revert to the old rules until further notice.

MLB makes new proposal for 2021 season schedule

Rob Manfred

Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association are working on a new agreement for a 2021 schedule, and the league is proposing a late start to the season.

MLB has proposed a 154-game season that starts a month later than usual, Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports reports. The league also wants an expanded postseason, though the union previously rejected that proposal.

Brown notes that players would be paid for an entire season even if only 154 games are played.

MLB and the MLBPA had a lot of trouble reaching an agreement last year for how to schedule their season amid the coronavirus pandemic. They have obviously gotten a much earlier start on negotiations this year. There should also be fewer unknowns, which should help with the discussions.

There has been talk about MLB making some serious changes to its schedule regardless of the pandemic.

Could MLB switch to neutral site World Series for the future?

Rob Manfred

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred liked hosting the World Series at a neutral site so much that he’s willing to consider it for the future.

Manfred said that there are many reasons a neutral site World Series could be beneficial for the teams involved. He did admit, however, that depriving home fans of seeing their teams in the World Series was a significant drawback.

“You should always think about innovation,” Manfred told Eric Prisbell of Sports Business Daily. “I wouldn’t say a neutral-site World Series is completely off the table. There were things that we saw in Texas that were advantages for us. You can plan. You can take out travel. You can pick sites that eliminate weather problems. Those are all things worthy of conversation and discussion. I think the big (weight) on the scale in favor of our traditional format, the thing that really matters at the end of the day, are fans in home markets.”

Manfred is right about the possible benefits. In theory, weather would never be a concern, and teams could cut down on travel. However, many fans of the teams involved wouldn’t be able to simply travel to a neutral site to see their team play. That’s especially true if one of the teams doesn’t play particularly close to the neutral site.

On one hand, the players didn’t seem to mind playing at neutral sites. Plus the games were by and large quite good. There’s no substitute for a packed home crowd in a playoff game, though.

MLB postseason format will be true test of pitching depth

Shane Bieber

The MLB has officially announced its plans for the 2020 postseason, and pitching depth will likely be more important than ever in determining which team is crowned World Series champion.

Expanding the postseason from 10 to 16 teams means more games, and MLB is accommodating that with fewer off days. Perhaps the most notable thing from Tuesday’s playoff schedule reveal is that there will be no off days during the Wild Card Series, Division Series or League Championship Series.

A typical postseason series has days off for travel. That allows teams to use their best starting pitchers (and relievers, for that matter) in more games. In order to do that now, starting pitchers would have to pitch on fewer days rest. A team’s ace would only have three days off between starts if pitching twice in a Division Series.

In the past, a team could rely on three or four starters in the postseason. Now, the team with the most rotation depth may have an advantage over the team with the best ace. It will be interesting to see how that element plays out.

MLB, MLBPA agree to bubble plan for majority of playoffs

Rob Manfred

Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association have been working on a plan to hold postseason games at neutral-site bubbles, and the two sides are now in agreement.

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported on Tuesday that MLB and the MLBPA have agreed to play the Division Series, League Championship Series, and World Series at neutral sites in a bubble-type environment.

Plans were already in place to expand the playoff field from 10 to 16 teams for this season. Rather than have a one-game Wild Card play-in, the first round will be a best-of-three series. Those series will not be played in bubble sites, with the higher-seeded team hosting them.

Joel Sherman of the New York Post shared some more information about the quarantine plan heading into the postseason.

Previous reports indicated that the American League will likely play its postseason series in Texas with the National League playing somewhere in Southern California. The World Series is expected to be hosted at Globe Life Park, which is the new home of the Texas Rangers. You can read more details of the 2020 postseason format here.