Friday, March 15, 2019

The coming change

There's a lot to unpack in the set of rule changes announced Thursday, a handful to take effect this season but most in 2020.

I love, love, love the tightening of the time between innings for nationally televised games. I won't be so fond of the likely increase of split-screen ads, but they weren't going away regardless. It's like ticket prices. Ticket prices have nothing to do with player salaries; they're set by demand for the tickets. As long as somebody wants to buy a split screen ad, Fox and ESPN will sell it to them.

And I don't give a rat's behind about the All-Star Game changes.

Those are 2019 changes. Coming in 2020:

Three-batters-or-end-of-inning minimum for pitchers. Say goodbye to the LOOGY, and to 17 minutes  24 seconds to face four hitters (as detailed in this piece).

We may well have passed the period of peak LOOGY, or Left-handed One Out GuYs. Certainly the Twins have not had somebody like Dennys Reyes in some years. Reyes, in three seasons with the Twins, made 191 appearances and pitched a total of 126.1 innings for Ron Gardenhire, and if he faced a right-handed batter that meant anything in the context of the game, the manager made a public apology.

But there are still LOOGYs around. Tim Collins, of whom I wrote here the other day, was certainly used in that manner last year by the Nationals, and if he makes the roster that would be his likely best-use.

Limits on September rosters. I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I dislike the bloated rosters and the occasional games in which a manager uses nine relievers because he has them to use.

On the other, as noted on Twitter by J.J. Cooper, the September callup has been used by at least some organizations to reward org players who are on their way out. Consider Brian Dinkelman, who spent eight seasons toiling in the Twins system. He got a September callup in 2011. That may well have meant the majority of his career earnings.

Minor leaguers are mistreated by the system. The players union abets the maltreatment and the commissioners office, to put it bluntly, lies about it.  It's a disgrace. September call-ups alleviated it a little. Now that's going away too.

26-man rosters for most of the season. This is a sop to the union, which probably expects the extra space to go to a veteran. It won't. Kids are cheaper.

Designated pitchers and position players. I really don't understand how this is supposed to work on a Shohei Ohtani, or more to the point, Brendan McKay. who is coming up the Rays system as a pitcher-first baseman. Yes, we see more position players pitching than we used to ... but it's in blowouts or deep in extra innings, and that's still permissible until this rule.

Pitch clock. Dropped for the duration of the collective bargaining agreement. Too bad.

Reopening the CBA. OK, that's not a rule change. But it's potentially significant. The economic relationship between labor and management has shifted sharply under the current one, and it seems obvious to me that we will either see a drastic reimagining of that relationship or a labor war, and maybe both.

I can't see how the reimagining can happen in a six-month negotiation. It will take time. If the commissoners office negotiates in good faith, we might avoid the labor war. I'm skeptical, but I'm certainly willing to be proven wrong.

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