The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

The BUSINESS of baseball

Major League Baseball owners, over the objection of players, have made more rules changes trying to turn America's Pastime into something it never should become:

Major League Baseball passed a sweeping set of rules changes it hopes will fundamentally overhaul the game, voting Friday to implement a pitch clock and ban defensive shifts in 2023 to hasten the game's pace and increase action.

The league's competition committee, composed of six ownership-level representatives, four players and one umpire, approved a pitch clock of 15 seconds with empty bases and 20 seconds with runners on, a defensive alignment that must include two fielders on each side of the second-base bag with both feet on the dirt as well as rules limiting pickoff moves and expanding the size of bases.

The vote was not unanimous. Player representatives voted no on the shift and pitch-clock portions of changes.

The rule is strict: The catcher must be in position when the timer hits 10 seconds, the hitter must be have both feet in the batter's box and be "alert" at the 8-second mark and the pitcher must start his "motion to pitch" by the expiration of the clock. A violation by the pitcher is an automatic ball. One by the hitter constitutes an automatic strike.

The banning of defensive shifts, which were once a fringe strategy but have become normal occurrence and the bane of left-handed hitters, is among the more extreme versions, preventing defensive player movement in multiple directions. With all four infielders needing to be on the dirt, the days of the four-outfielder setup will be over. Even more pertinent, shifting an infielder to play short right field, or simply overshifting three infielders to the right side of the second-base bag, will no longer be legal.

Because the problem with baseball in the last 20 years has nothing to do with trading players like so much feed corn so that no one cared about their home team players anymore, and nothing to do with the new playoff rules making the season pretty much irrelevant, and nothing to do with turning baseball parks into Disneyfied "Entertainment Zones"...no, the problem was always the action.

And of course, turning off your traditional fan base has always worked in the long-term interests of the sport.

Notable Friday afternoon stories

Just a few before I take a brick to my laptop for taking a damned half-hour to reformat a JSON file:

Oh, good. My laptop has finished parsing the file. (In fairness it's 400,000 lines of JSON, but still, that's only 22 megabytes uncompressed.) I will now continue with my coding.

American League rules, apparently

I went to a Cubs game today for the first time since 6 June 2019, mainly because they have made a quest of finding imaginative ways to lose.

Today they lost because of a new rule imported from kickball, where they put a man on second base at the start of extra innings. They want the game to end sooner, you see, but with the wind blowing in like this:

Then you get a 1-1 ballgame going into the 11th. The next run will win the game, because hitting really sucks with a 20-knot wind coming from center field. And the next run—shown on the scoreboard above—did win the game. That, and some lousy Cubs hitting.

I still had fun, but I really would have preferred the Cubs win instead of the Mutts.

Day 2 of isolation

Even though I feel like I have a moderate cold (stuffy, sneezy, and an occasional cough), I recognize that Covid-19 poses a real danger to people who haven't gotten vaccinations or who have other comorbidities. So I'm staying home today except to walk Cassie. It's 18°C and perfectly sunny, so Cassie might get a lot of walks.

Meanwhile, I have a couple of things to occupy my time:

Finally, today is the 210th anniversary of the War of 1812 and the 207th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo.

Chicago's great sports teams

Chicago's two baseball teams gave up a combined 36 runs yesterday, with the Cubs losing to the Reds 20-5 and the Sox losing to the Red Sox 16-7. Perhaps the bullpens could use a little work, hmm?

In other news:

Finally, astronomers have produced a photo of the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy, and were surprised to see it looks nothing like Ted Cruz's head.

The end times?

Yesterday we had summer-like temperatures and autumn-like winds in Chicago, with 60 km/h wind gusts from the south. That may have had something to do with this insanity:

Yes, the Cubs won 21-0 yesterday on 23 hits, their biggest shutout in over 120 years:

Nico Hoerner was one of five Cubs to record three or more hits, finishing with three RBIs on a career-high four hits. After a three-hit performance Friday, it also marked the first back-to-back three-hit games of his career.

Rivas, Seiya Suzuki, Ian Happ and Willson Conteras all had three hits.

The margin of victory surpassed 19-0 shutout wins on June, 7 1906, against the New York Giants and on May 13, 1969, against the San Diego Padres.

The Cubs’ 21 runs were the most since they scored 26 against the Colorado Rockies on August 18, 1995. And the 21-run win margin marked the team’s largest since a 24-2 win at the Boston Braves on July 3, 1945.

The last time the Cubs did something historic, the world changed for the worse a few days later. I'm filling water jugs and taping my windows...

Thursday afternoon miscellany

First, continuing the thread from this morning, (Republican) columnist Jennifer Rubin neatly sums up how the Republican justices on the Supreme Court seem poised to undo Republican Party gains by over-reaching:

We are, in short, on the verge of a constitutional and political tsunami. What was settled, predictable law on which millions of people relied will likely be tossed aside. The blowback likely will be ferocious. It may not be what Republicans intended. But it is coming.

Next up, Washington Post sports columnist Barry Svrluga argues that the Major League Baseball labor dispute and the lockout announced this morning will do nothing to prevent baseball from continuing its fade into irrelevance:

What can’t happen as MLB and the players’ union negotiate, though, is the actual game they stage being forgotten. Whatever the flaws in its salary structure and the dispersal of revenue, there’s money to go around. ... What should matter more than the money, then, has to be the game itself. The game itself is wounded.

Finally, today is the 20th anniversary of Enron filing for bankruptcy. In honor of that history, I give you the Deodorant Building Enron Headquarters in downtown Houston as it appeared in June 2001:

Sure Happy It's Thursday!

Corny ball games

Chicago's minor-league White Sox will play the New York Yankees tomorrow at a temporary 8,000-seat ballpark adjacent to the Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Iowa:

The Sox and Yankees begin a three-game series in the most unusual of locations. Thursday’s game will be played at a temporary 8,000-seat ballpark on the Dyersville farm where the Academy Award-nominated 1989 movie “Field of Dreams” was filmed.

“I was raised to embrace the history of the game,” Sox manager Tony La Russa said Tuesday. “Too often we lose parts of it. We should do a better job and we should do that.

“ ‘Field of Dreams’ is a great movie, embraces all about family and (what) the game is all about. A very special opportunity. Our guys are really excited to be there. I’ve seen some of the comments already. Should be a great day for the White Sox.”

This will be the first major-league game ever played in Iowa.

About that Cubs fire sale

As of June 11th, the Cubs were tied for first place. That turned out to have been the high point of 2021. The nadir arrived over the weekend when the organization perpetrated the "biggest 24-hour roster dump in franchise history," according to the Chicago Tribune:

The Cubs entered the Brewers series hitting .186 in June, the fourth-lowest average of any team in any calendar month.

After beating the Cubs 13-2 in the opening game of the homestand, again with Sogard pitching in relief, the Philadelphia Phillies knocked out Arrieta in the second inning of Game 2, taking a 7-0 lead in a 15-10 win.

The Cubs lost 11 straight, their longest skid since a 12-game streak in 2012, the first year of the rebuild. They finally ended the streak on July 7, and one day later Hoyer announced his plans had changed in the previous 11 days.

Joc Pederson was dealt to the Atlanta Braves before the opening game of the second half, igniting the sell-off. Tepera was traded to the Chicago White Sox on July 29, and Rizzo was sent to the New York Yankees after that day’s game with the Reds. 

Bryant, Báez and Kimbrel were all gone in the final hours before the July 30 trade deadline — and the last hurrah was over. TV cameras caught Bryant in the dugout of Nationals Park in an emotional embrace with hitting coach Anthony Iapoce.

It took only 11 days for the Cubs to destroy a season that seemed to have so much promise and less than 24 hours for Hoyer to dismantle the core.

I remember the San Diego Padres having a similar purge in the 1990s. It took them a very long time to recover.

Oh well. It's just business, right?