Saturday, July 15, 2017

MLB power rankings for mid-July


By Rick Morris


NOTE: Rankings from start of season are in parentheses.


TOP TIER

1 Los Angeles Dodgers (7-2-2-2)

2 Houston (1-1-1-1)

SECOND TIER

3 Washington (2-3-6-6)

4 Boston (12-7-7-4)

5 Milwaukee (9-10-9-9)

6 Arizona (8-5-5-3)

7 Tampa Bay (20-12-10-10)

8 Colorado (4-6-3-7)

9 Cleveland (10-8-13-12)

10 Minnesota (13-11-8-8)

11 New York Yankees (3-4-4-5)

12 Kansas City (24-24-16-15)

13 Texas (16-20-12-17)

14 Atlanta (26-26-26-22)

15 St. Louis (6-14-18-13)

16 Los Angeles Angels (18-18-11-11)

17 Miami (29-25-23-25)

18 New York Mets (22-15-17-16)

19 Pittsburgh (21-22-24-21)

20 Seattle (17-23-14-14)

21 Toronto (23-13-15-19)

22 Baltimore (5-9-19-18)

23 Chicago Cubs (14-17-20-20)

24 Cincinnati (11-16-22-24)

25 Oakland (27-27-27-27)

26 Detroit (15-21-21-23)

27 San Diego (30-28-28-28)

28 Chicago White Sox (19-19-25-26)

THIRD TIER

29 San Francisco (28-29-29-29)

FOURTH TIER

30 Philadelphia (25-30-30-30)


BIGGEST RISERS: Atlanta (12 spots), Miami (8 spots), Milwaukee and Texas (4 spots), Cleveland, Kansas City, Tampa Bay and Washington (3 spots)


BIGGEST FALLERS: St. Louis (9 spots), New York Yankees and Seattle (6 spots), Los Angeles Angels (5 spots), Baltimore (4 spots), Arizona, Chicago Cubs and Detroit (3 spots)


RANKINGS BY DIVISION – 1 POINT PER RANKING SPOT FOR EACH INDIVIDUAL TEAM

1 AL EAST 55

2 NL WEST 71

3 AL WEST 76

4 NL EAST 82

5 AL CENTRAL 85

6 NL CENTRAL 86


RANKINGS BY LEAGUE

1 AL 202

2 NL 253

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Little League changes the game with new rules, especially bats


By Steve Kallas (posted by Rick Morris)


Little League baseball has instituted several new rules for the 2017 Little League season.  But the biggest change is with respect to a virtual total revamping of Little League bats, which will go into effect on January 1, 2018 and, in virtually all cases, will require the parent of a Little Leaguer to buy a new, often times expensive, Little League bat for the 2018 season.  Since the new bat rules are probably the biggest change, we will deal with those first.  To view the new bat rules and the new 2017 Little League play rules, go to littleleague.org.


HERE COME THE NEW BATS, BUT YOU CAN’T BUY ONE YET


Beginning on January 1, 2018, Little League Baseball is revamping baseball bats to be used in all leagues except Tee Ball and Senior Leagues.  That is, Little League is adopting the so-called USA Baseball bat standard, which is supposed to make the use of non-wood bats similar to wood. 


To begin with, as Rick Wolff and this writer have argued for years, if you’d like to have kids play with a wood-like bat standard, have the kids use wood bats.  Despite Little League’s protestations on their website that wood is “scarce,” it is submitted that having kids play with wood would develop them as hitters and be safer.  While Little League has insisted for years that the aluminum, alloy and composite bats are not more dangerous than wood, virtually anybody who has coached, watched or played Little League baseball can obviously see the difference.


While it’s better than it once was, non-wood bats are still more dangerous than wood bats, in the opinion of this writer and many others.


SO, WHAT’S THE CHANGE?


Beginning in 2018, if you play in the Little League Minors, Majors or Junior division, you will need to have a bat that has the new USA Baseball mark.  This mark is a new invention intended to make non-wood bats more like wood bats in terms of ball speed off the bat.


The only exception to this rule is, if you used an accepted one-piece wood bat in 2017, you will be able to use that one-piece wood bat in 2018 (believe it or not, there are multiple two-piece wood bats that must have the USA Baseball mark to be used in 2018, which means you have to buy a new bat).


Likewise, EVERY aluminum, alloy and composite bat MUST be replaced for the 2018 season.  To this day, you can still buy 2017 bats (at discounted prices in many instances as stores try to get rid of their inventory) that are “garbage” (in terms of one parent’s comment at JustBats.com) as of January 1, 2018.  In addition, most, if not all, of these bat sales do not tell you that the bat you bought in 2017 (or the bat you still may be inclined to buy for fall ball in a few months) is worthless and cannot be used in 2018.


As of early June, according to JustBats.com, no bat manufacturer had instituted any kind of trade-in of a 2017 bat for a 2018 bat.


Very sad – and a terrible rip-off.  For a feeling for what many parents are thinking, go to JustBats.com and look at the 45 or so questions/comments pages where many parents let their feelings be known.


To recap: other than an accepted one-piece wood bat, every other bat used in Little League in 2017 is unusable in 2018.  To make matters worse, there are currently no 2018 bats on the market today.  You can’t buy one now.


Most estimates are that the new bats for 2018, which have that USA Baseball mark, will begin to be sold in September of 2017.


Finally, and this is for another time, Little League has approved two different barrel sizes for Little League bats – 2 and1/4 inches and 2 and5/8 inches.  This, and an additional part of the new rule that eliminates drop limits on these new bats, raises additional questions.


A BRIEF PRIMER OF 2017 NEW LITTLE LEAGUE RULES


There are other rules, new for 2017 that should be looked at:


1)     SPEEDING UP THE GAME – KEEPING ONE FOOT IN THE BATTER’S BOX


Little League is attempting to speed up the game by implementing a rule that states that a batter must keep one foot in the batter’s box during his/her at-bat.  While an interesting idea, which was tried in three games during the 2016 Little League World Series, the rule raises a potential can of worms.


For starters, there are eight (count them, eight) exceptions to the rule.  Given how much is already put on the plate of an umpire, this, in and of itself, could cause problems.


For example, one exception is when a batter checks his swing.  If he does, he’s allowed to step out of the box.  Another exception occurs when a play is “attempted.”  OK, so a lefty batter is up and a runner on first goes to steal second.  If the catcher (almost always righty) throws down, the batter had better get out of the way.  But what about if a catcher fakes a throw – is that a “play?”  It’s unclear.


In any event, the umpire warns the batter after one violation and then calls a strike on the batter for any additional violation of the rule.  Remember, the umpire has to go through eight exceptions in his mind before he can issue a warning or call a strike.


Interestingly, a good umpire can move the game along without this rule.  He can encourage kids not to step out of the box, to hustle in and out between innings.  Or, he can leave it to the coaches to tell their teams what is expected both in the box and in hustling in and out between innings.


To dump all of this on an already overloaded umpire (complaints from both teams parents and coaches, etc.) is asking a lot of, often times, volunteer umpires.


This rule is optional for local leagues (they vote on whether to implement it or not) but will be mandatory in the Williamsport tournament.


2)     SPEEDING UP THE GAME – INTENTIONAL WALK


This rule is for the Minor and Major divisions of Little League.  Like Major League Baseball, you can now walk a batter intentionally without throwing any pitches.  One interesting sidelight to this rule is that four pitches will be added to the Little League pitcher’s pitch count, even though he/she doesn’t throw a pitch.


As with MLB, in this writer’s opinion, the no-pitch intentional walk rule saves seconds or a minute in a game – not a very long period of time.  But, in Little League, where both hitter and pitcher are trying to learn how to play the game, this could hurt both sides.


For example, you might want to walk the big kid or the great hitter more frequently.  You don’t risk a wild pitch or anything like that.  You take the bat out of the hands of a kid who is trying to improve as a player.


Yes, we know that, for many coaches (unfortunately), winning is everything, something that you can’t totally eliminate from Little League baseball.  But to take the bat out of a kid’s hands because he’s a good hitter is sad at the 8, 10, 12-year-old level.


As for the four pitches added to the pitch count without pitching, presumably this was done so a manager can’t keep his pitcher in longer and, maybe, will be a deterrent to actually intentionally walking people.  But these smart managers might just bring in a pitcher to walk a guy intentionally, thus nullifying the (maybe) intention of the rule.


3)     STEALING AND RELAYING OF PITCH SELECTION AND LOCATION


In 2017, stealing and relaying of pitch selection and location to alert a batter is deemed unsportsmanlike behavior.  If the umpire believes this is happening, both the player and the manager may be ejected from the game.


Another difficult rule to implement and it places another burden on the umpire.  While stealing signs is a part of baseball, you’d like to think that 10-year olds, etc. are not going to be taught by managers to steal signs.


On the one hand, it’s “part of the game.”  On the other, it’s probably best to wait until these kids are older before they start to steal signs.  Having said that, is it OK to steal the third base coach’s bunt or steal sign (as opposed to pitch location)?   Again, interesting issues arise.


This rule is optional for local little leagues but will be mandatory in the 2017 Williamsport tournament.


4)     ON-FIELD ALTERCATIONS


In 2017, Little League is giving guidance to help umpires with respect to fights and physical altercations.  According to this language, a manager, coach or player shall not leave wherever they are on the bench or field during a fight or physical confrontation.  If one does, and, in the umpire’s judgment, he/she does it to prevent a fight or restore order, this would not be a violation.


Again, like virtually all of these rules, well-intentioned, it would be hard for any coach or manager to stand still if there’s a fight going on.  More pressure on the umpire to determine what the coach/manager is thinking/doing and you can bet that the coach who runs down from third base with every intention of breaking up a fight may have a different reaction if/when he gets pushed or punched.


Frankly, you might need more than an umpire to break up a real physical altercation and, often-times, tempers run high among coaches the older the kids playing are – you won’t see the intensity in a tee ball game that you will see in a Majors game.


It would be shocking if a coach literally did nothing and stood in a coach’s box when a fight breaks out.  Again, more pressure on the ump and a call to all coaches to be right-minded, no matter what the perceived “stakes” are in that particular game.  


CONCLUSION


While all of these rules are well-intentioned, they should be reviewed at the end of the season and tweaked where necessary.  While everybody, for example, should hail the mandatory criminal background checks instituted in 2017 which eliminate participation to potential coaches with respect to crimes involving or against a minor or minors, one wonders whether that should be expanded to crimes, especially felonies, that don’t involve a minor or minors.


And while the new USA Bat mark is being instituted by many leagues other than Little League, it has been poorly implemented, with many parents correctly upset that they just spent hundred(s) of dollars on a 2017 bat that will be worthless in a few months.


While some will argue it was well-publicized, all parents should have been told about this directly long before this season started.  In any event, it would be nice if Little League and other leagues put some pressure on bat manufacturers and retail bat sellers to have a trade-in policy for the old bats and/or a discounted price policy for the new ones to help poor people and even others who paid a small fortune for a bat this year.

 

© 2017 BY STEVE KALLAS ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Saturday, July 1, 2017

MLB power rankings for start of July


By Rick Morris


NOTE: Rankings from start of season are in parentheses.


TOP TIER

1 Houston (1-1-1)

2 Los Angeles Dodgers (7-2-2)

SECOND TIER

3 Arizona (8-5-5)

4 Boston (12-7-7)

5 New York Yankees (3-4-4)

6 Washington (2-3-6)

7 Colorado (4-6-3)

THIRD TIER

8 Minnesota (13-11-8)

9 Milwaukee (9-10-9)

10 Tampa Bay (20-12-10)

11 Los Angeles Angels (18-18-11)

12 Cleveland (10-8-13)

13 St. Louis (6-14-18)

14 Seattle (17-23-14)

15 Kansas City (24-24-16)

16 New York Mets (22-15-17)

17 Texas (16-20-12)

18 Baltimore (5-9-19)

19 Toronto (23-13-15)

20 Chicago Cubs (14-17-20)

21 Pittsburgh (21-22-24)

22 Atlanta (26-26-26)

23 Detroit (15-21-21)

24 Cincinnati (11-16-22)

25 Miami (29-25-23)

26 Chicago White Sox (19-19-25)

27 Oakland (27-27-27)

28 San Diego (30-28-28)

29 San Francisco (28-29-29)

FOURTH TIER

30 Philadelphia (25-30-30)


BIGGEST RISERS: St. Louis (5 spots), Atlanta (4 spots), Boston and Pittsburgh (3 spots)


BIGGEST FALLERS: Texas (5 spots), Colorado and Toronto (4 spots)


RANKINGS BY DIVISION – 1 POINT PER RANKING SPOT FOR EACH INDIVIDUAL TEAM

1 AL EAST 56

2 NL WEST 69

3 AL WEST 70

4 AL CENTRAL 84

5 NL CENTRAL 87

6 NL EAST 99


RANKINGS BY LEAGUE

1 AL 210

2 NL 255

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

On Pete Rose, why does the Hall of Fame ignore Bart Giamatti?


By Steve Kallas (posted by Rick Morris)


Many of you know the saga of Pete Rose and his attempts to get back into baseball and/or into the Hall of Fame.  These, of course, should be totally separate issues.  But now a ruling by the Hall of Fame’s board of directors (curiously voted on in December 2016 and only announced this past week) has upheld the absurd rule (known by many as the “Pete Rose Rule”) to keep Rose out of the Hall of Fame.


PETE ROSE, HALL OF FAMER


Say what you want about Pete Rose, but nobody questions that his on-field abilities should have given him a first ballot vote for Hall of Fame induction.  All-time hit leader, Charlie Hustle, multiple World Series winner, etc., etc., etc.


But a funny thing happened on the way to the Hall of Fame.  It was shown that Rose, as a manager, had bet on his team to win (not to lose, a big difference for right-minded people).  In any event, on August 24, 1989, came the announcement/press conference that Pete Rose had agreed to a lifetime ban from baseball.


Since Shoeless Joe Jackson of the 1919 Black Sox scandal had been on the Hall of Fame ballot and even received some votes over the years, there didn’t seem to be any question that, in 1991, after his five-year post-retirement waiting period, Rose would at least have a chance to be voted into the Hall of Fame.


BART GIAMATTI DOES NOT WANT ROSE TO BE BANNED FROM POSSIBLE INDUCTION INTO THE HALL OF FAME


Author Kostya Kennedy, in his fine book, “Pete Rose, An American Dilemma,” recounts what then-Commissioner Giamatti said on the day that Pete Rose was banned for life:

           “When asked at the press conference announcing Rose’s ban from baseball whether the expulsion would have bearing on the  Hall of Fame, Giamatti had dismissed the idea, saying he saw no place for intervention:


‘YOU,’ he said, addressing the BASEBALL WRITERS in attendance, ‘WILL DECIDE WHETHER HE BELONGS IN THE HALL OF FAME.’ “

(p. 229, footnote 1) (emphasis supplied) 


How this statement of Bart Giamatti’s view on Pete Rose and the Hall of Fame has somehow escaped Fay Vincent, Bud Selig and many others is hard to imagine.


BART GIAMATTI DIES ON SEPTEMBER 1,1989


Unfortunately for Commissioner Giamatti (and, as it turned out, for Pete Rose as well – to a much lesser degree, of course), Bart Giamatti died of a massive heart attack in Martha’s Vineyard on September 1, 1989.  According to the Kennedy book, the 51-year-old Giamatti had been “overweight and a chain smoker and unhealthy in many ways.”  Indeed, according to Kennedy, Giamatti’s “doctors were not entirely shocked by his fate; an autopsy suggested that Giamatti had suffered a separate, minor heart attack as well.” (p. 214).


In addition, Kennedy points out that Giamatti’s death gave those in charge of Rose’s fate (Fay Vincent and, later, Bud Selig) “another reason that it has been so difficult to ever forgive Pete Rose.”


SO, WHAT HAPPENED?


Pete Rose was still on track (no gambling pun intended) to become a Hall of Famer (or at least to be voted on by the writers, as Bart Giamatti had wanted) in 1991, five years after he had retired from playing in 1986.


But the powers-that-be decided in 1991, before there could be an actual Pete Rose Hall of Fame vote, that they would meet in what was described as a “sham” by one baseball writer involved and pass a rule that would ban Pete Rose and all others on the permanently ineligible list from even being considered for the Hall of Fame.


Kennedy goes into excellent detail about the meeting in New York City on January 10, 1991 and what a joke it was.  According to Kennedy, eight of the ten men present were there to specifically stop Pete Rose from getting into the Hall of Fame later that year.


It’s a compelling read (pp.227-231) with the highlights (lowlights?) being that there were two members of the Baseball Writers Association there, executive secretary Jack Lang and past president Phil Pepe. 


According to Lang, the committee process (on the new rule) “was a sham, from start to finish.”  Former American League President Lee McPhail brought up the motion to ban all players on the ineligible list because he was “very concerned” that Rose might be inducted into the Hall of Fame (again, either unaware of what Bart Giamatti wanted or, worse, unconcerned about it).


According to the Kennedy book, Lang and Pepe, the two baseball writers (and Hall of Fame voters), “protested strongly but to no avail.” The original vote was 7-2 (only the two baseball writers voted against the rule) with the Hall of Fame’s president, Ed Stack, eventually joining the minority to make it 7-3.  According to Pepe, that was for show: “If it had been 5-4 when it came to Ed there is no way he would have voted to even it up.  It was a calculated vote, for show.”


And, believe it or not, that’s how Pete Rose was banned from the Hall of Fame (less than a month later, the full Hall of Fame board of directors passed the rule).  Forget what Bart Giamatti had said; these guys just ignored his desire to have the baseball writers vote on Rose and steamrolled a rule through to shaft Pete Rose.


And, to this day, it has worked.


FLASH FORWARD TO THE LAST FEW YEARS


Pete Rose wrote to now-commissioner Rob Manfred who had a different take on the Rose Hall of Fame situation: he punted it to the Hall of Fame.  Manfred, in late 2015, denied Rose’s request to get back into baseball but avoided the Hall of Fame controversy: “It is not part of my authority or responsibility here to make any determination concerning Mr. Rose’s eligibility as a candidate for election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.”


Maybe Manfred read the Kennedy book.  Maybe he was/is aware of the obvious preference of Bart Giamatti, considered a great man by all of his successors as commissioner, to allow the writers to vote on whether Rose should be inducted into the Hall of Fame.


But it would have been nice (and fair) if Manfred had simply stated (given Giamatti’s view), that the writers should decide Pete Rose’s Hall of Fame status because that’s what then-Commissioner Giamatti stated at the time and, therefore, Rose could now be voted on by the writers.


Ask Manfred and he would probably say now, as he did then, that it’s not part of his authority/responsibility to do that.  But who stands up for what Bart Giamatti wanted if not the commissioner of baseball?


Very sad.  And very wrong.


SO, WHAT DID THE HALL OF FAME DO?


In September 2016, Pete Rose’s attorneys sent a letter to the Hall of Fame asking that the Hall of Fame voters (still the baseball writers) be allowed to consider Rose.


Apparently, in December (by conference call, no less), the Hall of Fame board of directors met and “deliberated” the “validity” of Rule 3(E) (the “Pete Rose Rule) that was rammed through in that New York City hotel room under a “sham” process in 1991.


Not surprisingly, according to the Hall’s statement, “[a]fter extensive discussion, a vote was taken in which the Board ratified” the Pete Rose Rule.  There was no disclosure as to the actual vote (it would be nice to know if anyone had the guts to vote against Rule 3(E)).


There was also no discussion about whether any member is even aware that it was Bart Giamatti’s wish that the baseball writers, not future commissioners, not future Hall of Fame board of director members, vote specifically on Pete Rose for the Hall of Fame.


CONCLUSION


Pete Rose is now 76-years-old.   He has been banned from baseball for almost 28 years.   Clearly, Bart Giamatti wanted him banned for life from being on a baseball field in any capacity until he, at least, “reconfigured his life.”  You can debate that all you want – but let’s say he hasn’t “reconfigured his life.”


Make no mistake: the “reconfigure your life” test had NOTHING TO DO with Pete Rose getting into the Hall of Fame.  In Giamatti’s own words, on the day Rose was banned for life, “you [the baseball writers] will decide whether he belongs in the Hall of Fame.”


So Fay Vincent, Bud Selig, Rob Manfred, Jeff Idelson and all of the members of the Hall of Fame board of directors at the December 2016 meeting (by conference call) have ignored (or are unaware of) the specific statement of Bart Giamatti.


That should be corrected immediately and Rose should be put on the Hall of Fame ballot.


Of course, don’t hold your breath waiting for the right thing to happen.


© 2017 BY STEVE KALLAS ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Lounge on YouTube: Mini-Episode #850 – 2017 NBA Draft preview


By Rick Morris                                          

Mini-Episode #850 previews the 2017 NBA Draft.


       


       


       


       

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

MLB power rankings for mid-June


By Rick Morris


NOTE: Rankings from start of season are in parentheses.


TOP TIER

1 Houston (1-1)

SECOND TIER

2 Los Angeles Dodgers (7-2)

3 Colorado (4-6)

4 New York Yankees (3-4)

5 Arizona (8-5)

6 Washington (2-3)

THIRD TIER

7 Boston (12-7)

8 Minnesota (13-11)

9 Milwaukee (9-10)

10 Tampa Bay (20-12)

11 Los Angeles Angels (18-18)

12 Texas (16-20)

13 Cleveland (10-8)

14 Seattle (17-23)

15 Toronto (23-13)

16 Kansas City (24-24)

17 New York Mets (22-15)

18 St. Louis (6-14)

19 Baltimore (5-9)

20 Chicago Cubs (14-17)

21 Detroit (15-21)

22 Cincinnati (11-16)

23 Miami (29-25)

24 Pittsburgh (21-22)

25 Chicago White Sox (19-19)

26 Atlanta (26-26)

27 Oakland (27-27)

28 San Diego (30-28)

29 San Francisco (28-29)

FOURTH TIER

30 Philadelphia (25-30)


BIGGEST RISERS: Seattle (9 spots), Kansas City and Texas (8 spots), Los Angeles Angels (7 spots), Colorado and Minnesota (3 spots)


BIGGEST FALLERS: Baltimore (10 spots), Chicago White Sox and Cincinnati (6 spots), Cleveland (5 spots), St. Louis (4 spots), Chicago Cubs and Washington (3 spots)


RANKINGS BY DIVISION – 1 POINT PER RANKING SPOT FOR EACH INDIVIDUAL TEAM

1 AL EAST 55

2 AL WEST 65

3 NL WEST 67

4 AL CENTRAL 83

5 NL CENTRAL 93

6 NL EAST 102


RANKINGS BY LEAGUE

1 AL 203

2 NL 262