The Yankees will continue their Grapefruit League season on the road against the Orioles tonight. That is a 6pm ET start and the game will be televised. Luis Cessa will start and make his case for an Opening Day rotation spot. Until then, here’s some news to check out.
Sabathia joins ESPN
CC Sabathia’s post-playing career is starting now. Earlier this week ESPN announced Sabathia is joining the network in a variety of roles. Sabathia told Bryan Hoch he’ll make 15 in-studio appearances on various shows (SportsCenter, First Take, etc.) this year — only on days he’s not pitching, of course — as well as several call-in appearances. Most appearances will cover non-baseball sports.
“As I begin to look toward the future, I’m excited to have this opportunity with ESPN. With that said, my singular focus is on winning another World Series Championship for Yankees fans and the city of New York,” Sabathia said in a statement. Based on his podcast, Sabathia seems very well suited for a media gig like this. He knows his sports and I couldn’t imagine him sitting in a broadcast booth calling or analyzing a game. This seems like a better fit.
Yankees reach deal to buy back YES Network
After weeks of rumors, the Yankees have reached a deal to purchase the 80% of the YES Network they do not own from 21st Century Fox, report Josh Kosman and Richard Morgan. It’ll cost them $3.47 billion and the deal has 120 days to close. Amazon and the Sinclair Broadcast Group are among the investors. With the deal, Amazon will be in position to control streaming rights for Yankees (and Nets) games.
The YES Network was valued at $3.9 billion when the Yankees sold an 80% stake to 21st Century Fox in 2012. Disney has a deal in place to buy 21st Century Fox and must sell off various regional sports networks to get approval. I’m not sure what this means for streaming Yankees games in the short-term. Kevin Draper and Edmund Lee indicate Yankees games could be included in Amazon Prime memberships. The sale isn’t final yet, and as more information comes in, I’ll be sure to pass it along.
MLB, MLBPA nearing rule change agreement
According to Ron Blum and Jeff Passan, MLB and the MLBPA are expected to ratify a series of rule changes at some point before Opening Day. Among them is a change to All-Star Game voting. The new system will be a two-step process. The first vote will pick three finalists at each position. The second will be a one-day race to pick a starter from the three finalists. Sounds fun. Here are details on the other forthcoming rule changes:
- 26-man rosters with a 13-pitcher maximum (begins in 2020).
- 28-man rosters with a 14-pitcher maximum in September (begins in 2020).
- Injured list and optional assignment minimum increase to 15 days (begins in 2020).
- Extra innings in the All-Star Game begin with a runner on second base (begins in 2019).
- No pitch clock until at least 2022.
I am totally cool with expanding rosters to 26 players. I don’t like limiting the number of roster spots that can be used for pitchers and I am strongly against limiting September call-ups. Many players are going to miss out on a big league opportunity (and a month’s worth of big league salary) because of that. What would Stephen Tarpley’s outlook be right now had he not gotten an opportunity to come up last September? Making it more difficult to reward minor leaguers for a good season, audition young players for next season, and rest fatigued regulars seems like a bad idea.
MLB announces Atlantic League experiments
Last week MLB and the independent Atlantic League announced a partnership in which MLB will use the Atlantic League to test various rule and equipment changes. In exchange, MLB will install Trackman (i.e. Statcast) at all eight Atlantic League parks and take over as official statistician, and increase their scouting coverage of the league. Yesterday MLB announced the changes they’ll test this year. The list:
- Trackman will assist umpires with calling balls and strikes.
- No mound visits except for pitching changes or injury situations.
- Three-batter minimum for pitchers unless they complete an inning (or get injured).
- Increase size of first, second, and third bases from 15 inches square to 18 inches square.
- Require two infielders on each side of second base when a pitch is released.
- Reduce time between innings from two minutes, five seconds to one minute, 45 seconds.
- Move the pitching mound back two feet to 62 feet, 6 inches from home plate.
“Players sign in the Atlantic League for the Major League Baseball showcase opportunity it offers. We are excited to see that showcase grow exponentially, while working with MLB on initiatives critical to the future of the game,” said Atlantic League president Rich White in a statement. Making the bases larger will help avoid collisions and hands and ankles getting stepped on, so that’s a plus. I don’t like the three-batter minimum for pitchers or eliminating shifts, but whatever. I’m fighting a losing battle.
Moving the mound back is a seismic change and, weirdly, it will only happen during the second half of the Atlantic League season. They’re going to move the mound back midseason! I assume MLB is looking for ways to increase balls in play and reduce strikeouts. Is this the best way to do it? I have no idea. That’s why they’re giving it a test run. The big concern here is health. The extra two feet and theoretical increase in contact isn’t worth it if pitchers are getting hurt.