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Via Jayson Stark: MLB and the MLBPA are working on an agreement that would “clarify” the new home plate collision rules, specifically for plays like this. An official announcement is expected soon. Stark says the clarification “would remind umpires that while the intent of the rule was to protect catchers from violent collisions at the plate, the wording was not intended to be interpreted so strictly that it would allow runners to be called safe on a technicality if the throw had beaten them to the plate by a substantial margin.”

As Dave Brown put it the other day, home plate has become the twilight zone. No one really seems to know what’s happening on plays at the plate anymore and they’re often followed with reviews and arguments and confusion. Hopefully whatever MLB and MLBPA are working on will clear up some things, but I still expect there to be some bumps in the road. I think the spirit of the rule is great — avoid turning catchers’ brains into mush, basically — but the new rule is clearly a work in progress. There has definitely been a league-wide learning curve in year one.

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MLB released the 2015 regular season schedule this afternoon, and the Yankees will open next season at home against the Blue Jays on Monday, April 6th. The season begins with the ESPN Sunday Night game on April 5th — the league says details about that game are forthcoming — then all 30 teams play on Monday. There are no more staggered starts like this season, when the Yankees and Astros opened on a Tuesday and were literally the last teams to play their first game of 2014.

The team’s full schedule can be seen right here. After the season-opening three-game series with Toronto — the two teams are off on Tuesday, the annual “just in case it rains on Opening Day” off-day — the Yankees will play three games against the Red Sox before heading out on a ten-game road trip through Baltimore, Tampa, and Detroit. As always, April is heavy with intra-division play against AL East rivals. Here are some more schedule details:

  • Subway Series: Rather than the usual four-game home-and-home series, the Subway Series will be split up next season. The Yankees and Mets will play three games at Yankee Stadium from April 24-26 (Friday to Sunday), then another three games at Citi Field from September 18-20 (also Friday to Sunday).
  • 2009 World Series Rematch: The Yankees will play three games against the Phillies in Yankee Stadium from June 22-24. That’s Monday through Wednesday. The two teams will not play in Philadelphia next summer.
  • Interleague Play: The NL East is up for interleague play next year, hence the six games against the Mets. In addition to the Mets and Phillies series, the Yankees will travel to Washington (May 19-20) and Atlanta (August 28-30), and play a four-game home-and-home series with the Marlins (June 15-18). Giancarlo Stanton is coming to the Bronx, people. The Nationals will also be at Yankee Stadium from June 9-10.
  • West Coast: The Yankees only have two West Coast trips next year. They go to Oakland (May 28-31) and Seattle (June 1-3), then Houston (June 25-28) and Anaheim (June 29-July 1). Houston isn’t on the West Coast, but it’s a stop on the way. The Yankees are done with the West Coast before the All-Star break.
  • All-Star Game: The All-Star Game will be played on Tuesday, July 14th next year. The game is at The Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. The Homerun Derby will be Monday the 13th and the Futures Game will be Sunday the 12th.
  • End of the Season: As usual, the Yankees will close the season out with a bunch of games against AL East clubs. They’ll play four games at home against the Red Sox (Sept. 28-Oct. 1) and then three on the road in Baltimore (Oct. 2-4) to close out the year. Twenty-six of their final 33 games will be played within the division.

Joel Sherman says MLB wanted to avoided opening the season in March, which is why the first games will be played on April 5th and 6th. That means the regular season ends in early-October, like the good ol’ days. That last series against the Orioles could wind up being pretty important.

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MLB has essentially eliminated the new transfer rule, effective immediately, the league announced. As we saw when Dustin Pedroia botched a potential double play last night, the new rule said a clean transfer from glove to barehand was required for an out. Things will now go back to the way they were for the last century or so. A bobble will usually result in an out if it was made on a transfer. Thank goodness. MLB did a real bang up job fixing something that wasn’t broken with the new rule.

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(Jared Wickerham/Getty)

(Jared Wickerham/Getty)

Michael Pineda has been suspended ten games for having a “foreign substance on his person” during last night’s game, MLB has announced. Thanks to Monday’s off-day, he will only miss one start. The suspension starts immediately unless he files an appeal sometime between now and the first pitch of tonight’s game.

This suspension is not like Alex Rodriguez‘s suspension. The Yankees will not be able to call up a player to replace Pineda and have to play with a 24-man roster for the next ten games. What can you do. The rules are the rules. Pineda does get paid during the suspension (only drug suspensions are unpaid), though I’m not sure if he still accrues service time.

Hopefully Pineda does not appeal. There is a ton of evidence against him — video plus he admitted to using pine tar following the game — and the odds of getting the suspension overturned or reduced are tiny. Let’s get this thing out of the way early in the season rather than having the appeal hanging over the team for weeks on end.

David Phelps is the obvious candidate to make the spot start, but the Yankees could always call up one of the veterans from Triple-A. I guess it depends on whether Phelps is needed out of the bullpen over the next few games. We’re a few days away from worrying about that. Pineda’s rotation spot doesn’t come up again until next Saturday, against the Rays. He is eligible to return the following Monday. Pineda made a dumb mistake and now he has to face the music. That’s all there is to it.

Update: Pineda told reporters he will accept the suspension and begin serving it tonight. “I made a mistake,” he said, stating the obvious. Seems like appealing would have been pointless. Glad he didn’t.

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Got some spare Joe Girardi-related notes lying around, all stemming from last night’s game and the whole Michael Pineda pine tar incident. Away we go…

Yankees file protest, MLB investigating ESPN camera

During the game, Girardi “pushed” a remote ESPN camera that was filming Pineda in the tunnel while he was talking to pitching coaching Larry Rothschild and trainer Steve Donohue. The video is above. According to Erik Boland and George King, the Yankees formally protested to MLB because the camera was snooping around in what was supposed to be a private area. The league is investigating.

“What frustrated me is that the camera is meant for the dugout and Michael was already out of the game so I don’t want it down in our tunnel. It’s a private area and it has been clearly stated that it is for the dugout, not for the tunnel and conversations that happen between players and coaches,” said Girardi. “If I was really going to tear up the camera I would have torn it up but I was just trying to get it from being in the tunnel … I think MLB is going to have a problem with ESPN.”

I didn’t realize the camera was designated for the dugout and field only when I wrote last night’s recap, so I take back what I said about Girardi likely getting fined. I get that ESPN was trying to find a juicy shot, but if the tunnel was off limits, Girardi was absolutely right to turn it around. I don’t know what can come of the protest — this is not the same as protesting a play on the field — but hopefully the league puts the self-proclaimed World Wide Leader in Sports back in line.

Girardi may talk to MLB about changing foreign substance rules

The use of pine tar or other foreign substances has been universally supported around baseball, including by the Red Sox following last night’s game, but Pineda made the mistake of being so obvious about it. Girardi told Jorge Castillo he will consider talking to MLB about changing the substance rules so that pitchers can legally use something to help their grip.

“That’s something I’ll talk about with Major League Baseball,” said Girardi. “You’re at the highest level. You want safety. I’m going to talk with Major League Baseball.”

The thing that really stands out to me is that hitters are okay with pitchers using pine tar. Both Mike Napoli and A.J. Pierzynski said they were fine with it as long it was well-hidden. If everyone within the game is fine with pitchers using something to improve their grips and no one is being harmed in any way, I don’t see why some kind of substance shouldn’t be approved. Let the whole process be transparent, have pitchers declare the substance and get approval from the umpires before the game. Makes sense to me.

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(Elsa/Getty Images)

(Elsa/Getty Images)

Yesterday, Major League Baseball announced a new award that will honor the best relief pitcher in each league, replacing the Delivery Man of the Year award. Yes, that existed. The AL version of the new award will be called the Mariano Rivera Reliever of the Year Award. The NL version has been named after Trevor Hoffman. Both players spent their entire careers in their respective leagues.

“Both Mariano and Trevor represented our sport magnificently on and off the mound and earned the universal respect of our fans in their legendary careers,” said commissioner Bud Selig in a statement. “I believe it is appropriate to redefine an existing award in honor of their contributions to Baseball, and I am delighted that many of the most decorated relievers in history will select the winners.”

From the press release, here are the nuts and bolts of how the new awards will work:

A panel of nine of the greatest relief pitchers in history will vote on the recipients of the new awards. In addition to Rivera and Hoffman, other voters will include the four living Hall of Fame relief pitchers – Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers, Rich “Goose” Gossage and Bruce Sutter – and the three relievers who round out the top five in career saves – Lee Smith (478 saves), John Franco (424 saves) and Billy Wagner (422 saves).

The nine voters will rank the top three A.L. relief pitchers and the top three N.L. relief pitchers, based solely on regular season performance. Using a 5-3-1 weighted point system (i.e., five points for a first-place vote; three points for a second-place vote; and one point for a third-place vote), the Award in each League will be given to the relief pitcher who accrues the most total points.

Based on the voting panel, something tells me the new awards will go to whoever leads the league in saves. Or maybe the guy who finishes second if he has a really low ERA. I’m not expecting a whole lot of objectivity out of that group. Whatever.

Rivera, as you know, retired after last season and was the greatest relief pitcher in the history of the universe. Hoffman was very good himself, but Rivera was on another level. For example, Rivera allowed 38 fewer runs than Hoffman despite throwing 194.1 more innings, and that doesn’t consider ballparks and divisions and all that. Let’s not even bring up the postseason.

Anyway, awards are fun and I’m glad Mo has one named after him. He certainly deserves it not only because of the career he had, but because of the person he was and how he represented both the Yankees and MLB. I wonder who will be the first Yankees reliever to win the award? David Robertson is as good a guess as anyone, but who knows with this stuff. It’ll be cool when it happens though. Congrats to Rivera for having the award named after him.

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Feb. 24th: The rule change, which is being called “experimental,” has officially been announced by MLB and the players’ union. Long story short, the runner must not deviate from his path to the plate and the catcher can not block the plate without the ball. Plays at the plate are subject to instant replay. The full details are right here.

Feb. 19th: Via Jon Heyman: The ban on home plate collisions may be ratified in time for the start of Spring Training games. MLB approved the rule change back during the Winter Meetings, but both the umpires’ and players’ unions still have to sign off. Heyman says the umpires are likely to approve the change, so really all that’s left is the thumbs up from MLBPA.

According to Buster Olney (subs. req’d), the holdup has to do with precise language for the new rules and is not an indication things may fall apart. Several players and managers were consulted during the process, including Joe Girardi. The basic idea is that the runner will not be able to target the catcher and the catcher must give the runner a clear line to the plate. Everyone wants the game to be safer, but they also want the rule change to be approved soon so players can adjust during Spring Training, before the real games begin.

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Expanded instant replay has been officially approved for the 2014 season, MLB announced. The owners, players’ union, and umpires’ union all had to sign off on the new system before it could be implemented. Replays will be conducted at the league’s central office in New York, not on-site by the umpires.

The system is explained here. Here’s the short version: Managers get two challenges per game, but they lose the second challenge if the first is unsuccessful. Kinda silly, but whatever. The crew chief can elect to review any play from the seventh inning on without a manager’s challenge. The full list of reviewable plays are right here and notice that the neighborhood play at second base is not reviewable. That could have created some headaches. Clubs are now allowed to show any and all replays on the ballpark scoreboard, even those that were not reviewed. That’s neat. It’s not a perfect system but it is progress.

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Via NY Post: River Ave. at 161st St. will be renamed Rivera Ave. in honor of Mariano Rivera following a City Council vote on Tuesday. The vote passed 47-0. “It’s an honor to have a street named after me,” said Mo. “ I have a lot of great memories driving down that street. My family and I are extremely grateful for this.”

Council member Maria del Carmen Arroyo, whose district includes Yankee Stadium, filed the paperwork after being persuaded by a fan. The Post and Foley’s NY Pub & Restaurant led the campaign to get the street renamed. I’m guessing just the stretch of River Ave. alongside Yankee Stadium will be renamed, but either way this is pretty cool. Rivera is being honored for his charity work in the community as much as his playing career. (No, we’re not changing the name of the site.)

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MLBPA executive director Michael Weiner has passed away following a battle with inoperable brain cancer. He was 51. Weiner, who grew up in Paterson, N.J., replaced Donald Fehr in 2009 and had been with the union since 1988. He was incredibly bright and an extraordinary leader, and he continued to work hard for the players even after being diagnosed last August. Condolences to his family and friends.

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