Giants

Dear MLB: Solutions for pitching changes, reviews, extra innings and more

Dear MLB: Solutions for pitching changes, reviews, extra innings and more

It's been nearly two days since the latest fulmination about the crushing tedium of baseball -- its pace, that is, rather than its execution -- and how its games can be made faster for the modern generation, which apparently lives life as though it has a Lyft waiting in the driveway.

The most notorious one, which sticks a runner on second base after the 10th inning of games to bring back the thrills of the sacrifice bunt and slow roller to the right side, was rightfully ridiculed for its inherent idiocy, but a competition committee (like the one in the NFL that gave us the exciting new catch rule that requires a wide receiver to hold a thrown ball until death) keeps firing out new ideas like speeding up intentional walks and replay mechanics.

None of which is guaranteed to do anything or even suggestive enough to intrigue the youth of America (say, anyone younger than 50) to watch more baseball.

But since they have ideas, we have ideas.

PITCHING CHANGES

THE ISSUE: There are a lot more of them now than ever because managers be managing. No baseball idea ever goes uncopied or unabused, so shaving time off here is vital.

THE SOLUTION: After the first reliever, each additional reliever loses a pitch, as in the third reliever starts off with a 1-0 count, the fourth with 1-1, the fifth with 2-1, etc. By the time you get to the fifth guy, it’s a full count and hitters have one pitch. Time will fly right by, and if it means the end of the delicate mental battles between pitchers and hitters, hey, at least you’ve shaved off a couple of minutes – until you get some wiseass who just fouls off pitches out of spite.

MUSIC

THE ISSUE: Every hitter has his own tune, and moseys to and saunters from the plate to hear as much as much of said song as possible. This first became a crisis when Carlos Baerga of Cleveland seized upon Macarena in the mid-90s, thus midwifing a torture implement of untold agony to the game.

THE SOLUTION: Speeding up the music slowly but discernibly to fool the hitters into changing their stride to the plate, thus getting to the box earlier and saving . . . oh, 10 seconds tops. Until, of course, you get a hitter who figures it out and has Sibelius’ Karelia Suite played. That’ll slow anybody up.

REVIEWS

THE ISSUE: It takes too long to initiate the process because managers like to take their time deciding, it takes more time because umpires trot blobblishly to the video equipment, and even more time because the fellows in the Chamber Of Secrets often agonize over a play. Getting it wrong seems eminently more sensible by comparison.

THE SOLUTION: Managers must pay out of their own pockets (cash only; no billing) for every challenge – $5000 to a charity, service organization or winery of their choice. In addition, umpires can decide to accede to a challenge or decline it if the call is too obvious by simply saying, “No. You’re wrong. I’m not doing it. Shove off, Waddles.” The kids baseball is trying to reach like that sort of anti-authority kind of thing, even if it is delivered by someone in authority.

TIME BETWEEN INNINGS

THE ISSUE: Commercials, which help pay the freight but are often not worth the wait. This will not be changed because sports would rather turn back time than give back a dime, but I see one idea.

THE SOLUTION: Starting the game while the commercials are still playing, and then telling the folks at home, “You missed a five-pitch groundout, a review and a manager ejection while you were watching that floor wax commercial . . . and here’s the 1-1 to Khris Davis.” This will enrage viewers and sell them on the idea of coming out to the ballpark to see all the stuff they miss at home. This solves the sports-wide problem of television being a better vehicle than the “in-game experience,” which is a stupid term that should never be used again under penalty of beating.

EXTRA INNINGS

THE ISSUE: They’re extra. Evidently, some people in baseball think more baseball is worse than less, a marketing concept known as “scarcity by embarrassment” that has never really taken off in America, or anywhere else for that matter.

THE SOLUTION: Tell anyone who doesn’t like extra innings to take poison. If you really are trying to make the case that your product stinks so much that you would do anything to minimize it, why not make the games seven innings, or even five (thereby taking care of Problem No. 1)? Why not just run a simulation of the game, send the results to the MLB offices and ship the box scores out to all the metrics folks to reduce to sub-atomic structures as they do currently?

THE ALTERNATE SOLUTION: Reduce the season to six marathon weekends – 72 hours in a row without rest. The more games a team fits in, the better chance it has of winning enough games to get to the postseason, a seventh weekend, so the players will pretty hustle their sit-upons down to the nubbin for the extra paycheck. That’ll speed up the game to a very agreeable pace.

THE ALTERNATE TO THE ALTERNATE SOLUTION: Extra innings are great. The more, the better. More people are more interested in a 17-inning game than not. In fact, innings 10 through infinity are played at a much faster pace than innings 1 through 9, so just start with the 10th and don’t tell anyone you’re doing it. You know, just to see if anyone is paying attention.

GASBAGGING

THE ISSUE: People yammering ceaselessly about time of game being the reason baseball fans skew older and how this is a fundamental crisis that must be addressed immediately lest the sport die and the nation implode atop its rotting corpse. This has been an ongoing snivelfest for nearly ever, and baseball is no more willing to put its money where its stopwatch is than it ever has been.

THE SOLUTION: Shutting up at the first available opportunity, and maintaining that stance until the rest of us have safely left earshot. That may not speed up baseball, but time won’t seem to run nearly so slowly the rest of the day.
 

Report: Two Giants hitters elect free agency

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Report: Two Giants hitters elect free agency

With free agency set to begin five days after the World Series ends, two hitters that played for the Giants during the 2017 season have put their names on the open market.

Veteran third baseman Conor Gillaspie and longtime minor league outfielder Carlos Moncrief have both elected for free agency, according to Baseball America.

The 30-year-old Gillaspie appeared in 44 games for the Giants this past season. He hit just .168/.218/.288 with four doubles, two home runs and eight RBI. He was designated for assignment on August 3 and outrighted to Triple-A Sacramento on August 5. With the River Cats, Gillaspie hit .375 with four doubles in 15 games in August.

Prior to the 2017 season, Gillaspie signed a one-year, $1.4 million deal with the Giants.

As for Moncrief, the soon-to-be 29-year-old finally got his first call-up the majors this past season after eight and a half seasons in the minors. He debuted for the Giants on July 29. In 28 games, he hit .211/.256/.237 with one double and five RBI. While he didn't do much with the bat, Moncrief showed off a cannon for an arm when he patrolled right field.

Giants reassign pitching coach Dave Righetti, two other coaches

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Giants reassign pitching coach Dave Righetti, two other coaches

SAN FRANCISCO — Late in a 98-loss season, general manager Bobby Evans met with members of the coaching staff to discuss new roles. The shakeup of the staff ended up being a stunning one. 

Pitching coach Dave Righetti was one of three coaches to be reassigned Saturday morning. After 18 seasons as pitching coach, Righetti will now serve as special assistant to the general manager. Bullpen coach Mark Gardner was given a “special assignment role to assist in pitching evaluations.” Assistant hitting coach Steve Decker will be a special assistant for baseball operations. 

The moves cap a 13-month run in which the coaching staff has taken much of the blame for a $200 million roster that was poorly constructed in places and played embarrassing baseball for long stretches of the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Third base coach Roberto Kelly was let go after the 2016 season and first base coach Billy Hayes was reassigned. More changes appear on the way. 

“It does raise the level of attention to change when you struggle as much as we have, but you’re always contemplating making changes to try to help keep pushing your guys and make sure you continue to have different perspectives and new voices and reflections on how to get the most out of them,” Evans said on a conference call. 

Throughout September, multiple coaches expressed concern about their future roles, but the Giants held off several weeks before announcing changes. At least two members of the staff were involved in managerial searches elsewhere, and third base coach Phil Nevin is reportedly still a candidate for the open job in Philadelphia. 

Evans confirmed that he has interviewed outside candidates for a hitting coach role, but he would not go so far as to say Hensley Meulens will be reassigned as well. He also would not speak to the future of Ron Wotus, although the longtime bench coach is expected to be mixed up in future changes as well. Evans indicated he would announce further moves after all the open managerial vacancies are filled.

For now, the Giants are in the process of trying to find a new pitching coach. They are focused on experienced outside candidates, and they have plenty of options, as several other teams have made changes this month. Evans hinted that he wants the next pitching coach to have a more analytical approach. 

Righetti's replacement will have massive shoes to fill. His run was the longest for a pitching coach in franchise history. The Giants, usually so reliant on pitching, finished 16th in the Majors with a 4.50 ERA, but it’s hard to see how Righetti takes the blame for that. Madison Bumgarner missed a chunk of the season after a dirt bike accident, Johnny Cueto had a brutal injury-plagued year, Matt Moore battled himself and had the worst ERA in the National League, and the bullpen struggled, with closer Mark Melancon pitching through an injury that required season-ending surgery. 

Righetti was credited with helping to develop a rotation and bullpen that won three titles, and the bond he shared with pitchers was on display during the final weekend of the year, when Matt Cain talked repeatedly about their close relationship and went straight for Righetti after he came off the field for the final time. While it’s often hard to figure out where to give credit, even in a down year for the staff, Righetti played a role in Sam Dyson’s resurgence, and he helped Ty Blach and Chris Stratton break in as big league regulars. 

“Ultimately a change for us in the clubhouse is really an opportunity just to put a new voice with our pitching staff and try to keep pushing to the heights that we aspire as an organization and a club,” Evans said. “Changes sometimes are needed as much for the sake of that new voice as anything, and I think that was really the priority here.”

Righetti will help Evans in a front office role. Evans admitted that Righetti’s “heartbeat is in uniform as a coach,” but said he was willing to take on a new role for an organization he loves. 

Gardner, a former Giants pitcher, had been on staff since 2003. He will now help to evaluate pitchers inside and outside the organization, and Evans said Gardner could serve an important role in evaluating trade options. Decker joined the big league staff in 2015 after a long run working in the minor leagues. The 2017 season was his 23rd with the organization. He will have a “blank canvas,” Evans said, working in different roles inside the organization. Decker will also help with draft preparation.