Wrong rant, buster.

Major League Baseball is four years into the Buster Posey Rule. As Saturday Night’s Opener of the National League Championship Series demonstrated, the implementation of the rule is still capable of creating controversy.

During the seventh inning of the Cubs’ 5-2 loss for arguing the application of the rule, turning an out at the plate into the Dodgers’ final run. Cubs manager Joe Maddon* was ejected arguing the use of the rule on the field, then continued to rant about the rule’s very existence in his post-game press conference, comparing it to a revoked soda tax in a strained analogy.

The rule was correctly applied. Cubs’ catcher Willson Contreras stuck his left leg out to block the plate before he caught the ball, and in a way that wasn’t necessary to complete the catch. He did it to block Charlie Culberson’s lane to the plate, and he did it quite well, giving the sliding Culberson no access to the dish.

Maddon’s chief complaint, at least in the postgame press conference, was with the rule itself. He said he’s disagreed with it from the beginning. To be fair, Maddon is a former catcher, so you can understand why he might be opposed to the rule – he’s taken way too many blows to the head.

Because there’s one thing that hasn’t happened in baseball since the Buster Posey Rule went into effect. Baseball hasn’t created any more Buster Poseys. Runners approaching home plate no longer have to make the choice between sliding and attempted manslaughter. They just slide. And taking this choice away from the Scott Cousins** of the world, the marginal ballplayer who is always going to choose the felony when the alternative is to be considered soft (which usually comes complete with a one-way ticket to Triple A), has resulted in a much safer game around the plate.

Allowing baserunners to attempt to dislodge the baseball from the grasp of the catcher through any means necessary never made sense, particularly given it was pretty much limited to just one base (though in Hal McRae’s day, it also extended to middle infielders engaged in the nefarous act of trying to turn two).

Moreover, it’s not the way the game is played at any level below the major leagues, save a few rogue associations run by sociopaths. Games played at Little League up through the NCAA do not permit catcher assault. Professional baseball was alone in that regard, until MLB finally wised up.

The Buster Posey Rule is a good thing. Joe needs to shut the hell up.

*This is the second time Maddon has railed over the correct implementation of an MLB rule that went against his team, following his 2016 diatribe when the Chase Utley Rule went against his club. Dressing up your team in cute outfits doesn’t give you a free pass to go all Tony LaRussa on us.

**The Buster Mangler.

No Rest for the Weary

One trend in the 2017 postseason, which is a continuation of what we saw in 2016, is the eagerness for managers to go to starting pitchers coming out of the bullpen. In the deciding Game 4 of their ALDS, the Red Sox and Astros each went to their Game 1 starters for large swaths of the middle innings. The Cubs leaned on Jon Lester in Game 4, while Dusty Baker gave Max Scherzer the mid-game call in Game 5.

The results haven’t been bad. Only Scherzer really crapped the bed, and his rough outing was aided by a whole lot of weirdness and a few less than well-struck balls. Expect to see more of this as the postseason goes on. Also, expect it to be a mistake.

Yes, we all remember Madison Bumgarner’s remarkable 5 shutout innings to close out the 2014 World Series, three days after winning Game 5. And Randy Johnson had a similarly memorable outing in the 2001 Fall Classic, when he got the final four outs against the Yankees one day after going seven shutout innings. Those outings are a little more understandable (though Bob Brenly’s use of Johnson for seven innings in Game 6 when his team held a 15-0 lead after four frames remains utterly indefensible). As far as those seasons were concerned, there literally was no tomorrow.

This is different. This was the division series. And pushing your best pitchers to throw on less rest when they are at their most tired is a recipe for failure. In all likelihood, it will come back to bite these guys in the ass.

Consider 2016, when Terry Francona won plaudits for his aggressive* bullpen use in the playoffs, as well as his decision to push his injury-hammered starting rotation to go on four days of rest rather than the typical five.

Starting pitchers on full or extended rest in the 2016 postseason threw 287.1 innings of 3.37 ERA baseball. Starting pitchers on short rest threw 40 innings at 6.08, which is even more significant since it’s typically only the best starting pitchers who are asked to go on short rest.

Now, the starters out of the bullpen have pitched better than the guys starting on short rest. Even so, there’s likely to be a cumulative negative effect on these guys.

Jon Lester threw 55 pitches the other night, a move defended based on it being his “throw day.” Now, I don’t know how many pitches a guy tosses on his throw day, but the 55 from Wednesday night didn’t include the balls tossed in the bullpen warming up or the ones before each inning. More important, not a single throw-day pitch is ever tossed under the same tense, high-stakes atmosphere that you find in a Game 4 of the NLDS. It’s simply not the same, which is why managers don’t use their throw-day starters in the middle innings of a July game in Milwaukee.

But this is the postseason, and managers have to do something. And doing what the other guy is already doing is one of their favorite things to do. Thus, I don’t expect managers to stop this trend any time soon. In fact, it’s just as likely to grow in popularity.

However, I do expect the teams that eschew this practice will have a meaningful advantage as the postseason moves on.

*Sports people love aggressiveness. But in my experience with youth ball, aggressive is another way of saying stupidly run into outs on the bases, dive into walls, or take some other ill-advised course of action. You can have aggressive. I’ll take smart.

Worth a link

I saw this on my Facebook feed, and thought it a good read. I had no idea the legendary Moses Fleetwood Walker, the first African-American to play Major League Baseball, was once a Yeoman (though, technically, he was a Yeoman before they were Yeomen). He attended school and played on the college’s first baseball team.

Still, it’s not as if it should have come as a surprise, as Oberlin was the first college in the country to admit students of all races back in 1837. It’s always been a leader in civil rights for all.

Oberlin’s past fits pretty damn well with Kiera’s future, I must say.

Anyway, it’s short, but informative.

Go Yeo

TBtB: Rays Voting Thread

The Rays nominating thread attracted about as much attention as mid-day Rays game with the visiting Athletics.

Alas, we press on.

Choose one of the five names listed below.
A) The Aquarium
B) Rays Field
C) Suncoast Dome
D) Thunderdome
E) Tropicana Field

 

Editor’s Note: This will be the final installment of TBtB for a while. We’re going to take the playoffs off and resume the series in November.

TBtB: Tampa Bay Rays

Part 6: Tropicana Field

When I was a wee lad, there were a handful of parks that were almost exactly alike, and a whole bunch more that didn’t stray too far from the basic template – fully enclosed fields, with symmetrical walls (often with the stupid yellow line four inches from the top of the fence) and, often, covered with turf. The National League was swimming in these. They were called cookie cutters, a nickname not bestowed with fondness.

Tropicana Field is the opposite of those sterile ashtrays, at least compared with its peers. It’s the last traditional fixed dome left, and one of just two parks with the fake stuff on the floor. It’s got the catwalks that come into play. Nothing else in the sport is like it. It’s also the only current ballpark built on spec, constructed in hope of landing a major league team, which it did eight years after it was built.

Alas, just being different isn’t enough, as the Trop is generally regarded as the league’s worst venue, by quite some margin.

Still, even crappy ballparks deserve a good name (do they?). So, let’s give the fans of Tampa-St. Pete something they can be proud of when they stay as far away from the park as possible on game nights.

But if finding a great name for this crappy venue doesn’t excite you, let’s consider this an opportunity to find a suitable name for its eventual replacement.

Ballpark History

Built: 1990

Capacity: 42,735 (naked), 31,042 (with tarp).

Name: Tropicana Field, 1998-present. Stadium was also known as Florida Suncoast Dome and Thunderdome (non-Mad Max version) before being occupied by Rays.

Other ballparks used by club in its current city: None

Distinctive Features:  The aforementioned catwalks, the Ted Williams Hitters Hall of Fame, the Ray-filled Touch Tank beyond the right-centerfield fence, the dank.

Ballpark Highlights: In 1999, Wade Boggs became the first player to homer for his 3,000th hit.

In 2005, cheapskate owner Vince Naimoli had a Mets scout ejected from the ballpark for using his private bathroom.

After a decade of futility, the newly christened Rays played their first home playoff game, a 6-4 victory over the Chicago White Sox en route to their lone World Series appearance. The game was punctuated by Evan Longoria homers on his first two postseason plate appearances and the appearance of those godforsaken cowbells.

In 2011, the Rays rallied from a 7-0 deficit against the New York Yankees, capped by Dan Johnson’s walkoff homer in the bottom of the ninth. The victory completed an improbable final-month comeback to claim the AL wild card over the Chicken and Beer Red Sox.

 

 

TBtB: Nationals voting thread

We’re down to five selections for the Nationals’ park. The key question is whether one emerges from the pack to challenge the only name the place has ever known, Nationals Park. Nats fans, I’m sure, would be happy to call it anything if it meant getting out of the upcoming first round of the National League playoffs.

Choose One:

A) Anacostia Park
B) Capitol Street Grounds
C) Nationals Park
D) Navy Yards
E) Potomac Park

 

TBtB: Washington Nationals

 

 

Part 5: Nationals Park

The rare modern stadium without a corporate sponsor. Alas, Nationals Park doesn’t exactly ring out as requiring a lot of deep thought, though it is a nod to the place that predated old Griffith Stadium.

One would think the club’s D.C. location would offer ample naming opportunities for the ballpark. Then again, one would think the club’s D.C. location offered the architects ample opportunities for exciting backdrops, and they failed miserably in what’s an otherwise OK park, as I recall from my one visit there.

If nothing else, can we try to keep this thread from going all OTP: Politics, please?

Ballpark History

Built: 2008

Capacity: 41,339

Name:  Nationals Park (2008-present)

Other ballparks used by club in its current city: RFK Stadium 2005-07. Previous DC teams played at Griffith Stadium, 1911-1965, Boundary/Nationals Field, 1895-1911

Distinctive Features: A sliver of the crowd can get a glimpse of the Capitol. Cherry blossoms line the leftfield pavilion.

Ballpark Highlights: Randy Johnson beat the Nats 5-1 to win his 300th career game while pitching for the Giants.

President Barack Obama throws out the first pitch to open the 2010 season, proving conclusively that baseball was not his sport.

In 2010, top pick Stephen Strasburg was absurdly dominant in his closely watched Major League debut, striking out 14 Pirates* and walking none in seven innings.

In 2012, after almost seven full seasons of futility that bore striking similarities to another famous Washington outfit, the Generals, Teddy Roosevelt won the President’s Race.

Jayson Werth’s ninth-inning home run off Lance Lynn gave the Nats a 2-1 victory in Game 4 of the NLDS, the first time Washingtonians had seen the home nine win a postseason game in 79 years.

*At the time, the equivalent to fanning 11 major league hitters.