Spring Training games have begun; there is more to see in Florida and in Arizona than a bunch of guys working out. The games do not mean much of anything, but they do represent a step toward the start of meaningful baseball and they do mean something about guys who are trying to secure a roster spot on a major league club. In any event, since baseball is about to become a staple of the sports world, I want to start with a couple of baseball notes today.
Let me start with the new intentional walk rule for this year. When the manager in the dugout signals the umpire, the batter to be intentionally walked will be motioned to move to first base. This is being characterized as a way to increase pace of play. So, let me do some math for you.
- ESPN said that in 2015 there were 932 intentional walks in 2430 games. That is 1 intentional walk every 2.6 games.
- Let me estimate that an intentional walk takes 40 seconds – 10 seconds for each pitch that is “just a bit outside”. [/Bob Uecker]
- That means the time saved will be 40 seconds every 2.6 games or an expected time savings of 15.4 seconds per game.
I believe the proper reaction to that increase in pace of play is “Whoop-di-damned-do!”
There was a story recently that the owner of the Miami Marlins, Jeffrey Loria, had a “handshake deal” to sell the club for $1.6B and the buyer was going to be Ivanka Trump’s brother-in-law, Joshua Kushner. The transaction hit a snag because there are also rumors that Loria could be in line to be nominated as US Ambassador to France and that appointment juxtaposed with the potential buyer might not look so good. Loria is not one of the most beloved sports owners in the country, but I must agree that this deal would smell like 3-day old fish if he were then nominated to an Ambassadorship. However, when the story was still fresh, there were callers to sports radio who felt it necessary to opine that this was a sign of the apocalypse for the US because – of course – Jeffrey Loria was not qualified to be an Ambassador and his only qualification for the job was that he was a rich man and a political donor.
All of that may be true – or not; I know nothing about Loria’s knowledge skills and abilities outside the world of baseball. However, I do know that his nomination and his confirmation would not be apocalyptic for the country because there have been myriad ambassadorships handed out by presidents in the past to rich friends/supporters of theirs.
As MLB teams begin to play their Spring Training games, I think there are 3 interesting questions that should draw fans’ attention as the real season begins and begins to develop:
- How will the Red Sox replace David Ortiz? I do not mean only how will they replace him in the lineup; I think they will need to replace him as a team leader and a positive clubhouse guy.
- What will the Cubs do with Kyle Schwarber? His best position is “batter” but the Cubs only play a few games with a DH. As a catcher, his coming off a serious knee surgery makes him questionable and as an outfielder he was nothing better than average defensively before the injury. So, do the Cubbies keep him or extract a ransom from an AL team where he can be a DH potentially as impactful as David Ortiz?
- Two of the better NL teams need to focus on their right field position. The Nationals’ Bryce Harper (a former NL MVP) had a bad season in 2016; the Pirates’ Andrew McCutcheon (a former NL MVP) also had a bad season in 2016. McCutcheon is moving to right field this year and that is where Harper plays too. So, which of these two players will better approximate their MVP status in 2017?
There are times when a pithy comment from a sports columnist tells you all you really need to know about an occurrence in the sports world. Here are some recent examples:
“Dolphins signed six ex-players including Dan Marino to ceremonial one-day contracts. Team denied it was a publicity stunt.” [Greg Cote. Miami Herald]
“Ex-Lions cornerback Stanley Wilson II was arrested in the buff on suspicion of burglary in Woodburn, Ore. — his third naked run-in with police in eight months.
“On the bright side, prosecutors say, picking him out of a lineup shouldn’t be a problem.” [Dwight Perry, Seattle Times]
“Idle thought: Comparing the defense-free NBA All-Star point-orgy to a pickup game is an insult to playground basketball players everywhere.” [Bob Molinaro, Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot]
“At the NBA All-Star Game, the West defeated the East 192-182. I mistook the headline for an article on declining American credit scores. [Brad Dickson, Omaha World-Herald]
Finally, since most of today’s rant had to do with baseball matters, let me close with this overarching baseball observation from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World Herald:
“Alex Rodriguez said there is a “zero percent” chance he plays baseball again. Speaking of zero percent chances, the Minnesota Twins have reported to spring training.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………