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Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard open up about frustrations with institutional racism

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Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard open up about frustrations with institutional racism

Former Phillies stars Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard sat down this week for a wide-ranging discussion about race in baseball and in America.

The talk, hosted by The Athletic, comes amid nationwide protests speaking out about institutional racism in the United States and in its police system after last week's killing of George Floyd in Minnesota.

Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was killed in Minneapolis last Monday night by a police officer in an incident caught on camera. The officer kneeled on his neck for an extended period of time while Floyd was handcuffed.

Rollins and Howard both discussed the frustration, anger, and sadness they felt from watching the widely-shared video of Floyd's death:

ROLLINS: [...] In the beginning, it was more shock. It was like, 'This dude, he really just sat there on his neck.' And then, the next day, you think about it, I remember I was picking up some food, and like Torii, I just started crying. Just angry. What do you do? This man has no remorse. There was not one second it appeared he considered (stopping). It was kind of like, 'I hear you, but I’m not going to do it. I don’t want to. I don’t have to do it. I’m protected by the badge. If he dies, he dies.' That was his attitude.

And that’s the part that really, really gets to you. How many other people, whether behind the badge or just in life, literally have the same feeling, think the same way? That if this person dies because I’m white and he’s black, and he didn’t listen to what I said, then I’m going to do what I want with him until I get his compliance? And if he dies, he dies.

HOWARD: It’s kind of like what Jimmy said: This dude was just sitting on his neck. But what got me was, he’s telling you he can’t breathe. You haven’t learned from the past in the sense of what happened in Ferguson and other cities? This man is telling you. He’s on the ground. He’s handcuffed. You’ve got four or five different police officers right there. There’s no need for that. My man started crying out for his mother. At what point do you think this dude is a threat, when he’s calling for his mom?

Howard then went on to recount a time he was pulled over by police in Philadelphia late at night, in what he believes was 2007 or 2008, without being provided a clear reason from a police officer.

HOWARD: Everybody knows what the police-car lights look like. I’m like, 'OK, let me act right because this cop is right behind me. I’m going to try and let this dude pass.' We pull up to the same light. He pulls up next to me. I’m going left. He’s going right. The light turns green, boom, my signal is on, I’m doing everything proper. I make my left turn. He sits there at the light. Two seconds later, boom, he makes the left and follows me. Pulls me over and asks for a license, registration, the whole nine yards.

I said, 'Officer, can you tell me what I was doing?' He said, 'Well, I ran your plates and nothing came back.' I was like, 'Isn’t that a good thing? I didn’t speed, didn’t run any lights. I wasn’t doing anything crazy, but you felt the need to pull me over.' Then another police officer pulled up, a black police officer. He went over to the dude and said, 'You know who that is?' He came over and talked to me, the dude wound up leaving.

I said, 'Look, man, if I’m breaking a law, I don’t care who I am, what I do, that don’t matter. If I’m running a light or not signaling and you pull me over, that’s fine. But when he tells me he pulled me over because he ran my tag and nothing came back what am I supposed to do?' The black officer said, 'Yeah, that dude has done that a few times.' He ended up getting reprimanded by his superiors. But when you have people like that working in that capacity, what can you do?

The whole conversation, which also includes former Phillie Doug Glanville and other former MLB players, is extremely important reading, and well worth your time.

It's important to note the differences in Howard's experience and that of former Flyers winger Todd Fedoruk, who noted in 2015 that Philadelphia police officers were known to give hockey players, an overwhelmingly white group of athletes, free passes on dangerous harmful behavior, like driving drunk.

Rollins and Howard are the latest Philadelphia athletes to publicly voice their frustrations with instituional racism and abuse of power by police officers.

In the last week, Carson Wentz, Zach Ertz, Tobias Harris, Ben Simmons, Bryce Harper, Jason Kelce, and dozens of other local athletes have spoken up in support of the black community, and against racism.

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MLB rule changes: 6 ideas to boost MLB's entertainment value

MLB rule changes: 6 ideas to boost MLB's entertainment value

Before Commissioner Rob Manfred implemented a 60-game season last week, many a pundit discussed the inability of the owners and players to come to an agreement and its negative impact on the sport. Another topic of conversation that emerged was the dissatisfaction of many with the state of the game itself.

Baseball has always been my favorite sport and it remains so. But even I have to acknowledge that cracks have emerged in the facade of the grand old game. Much of the blame can be directed to the influx of analytics which has stripped the game of activity and transformed contests into 3-plus hour science experiments. 

So what can the sport's leadership do to increase the entertainment value for fans not interested in watching how algorithms play out in real-time? Here are some ideas:

Expand the strike zone

There was a time when it was exciting to see if a top hitter could connect off a top pitcher. Now it's a struggle to work the count and deliver "good takes." If MLB returns to calling the high strike, it will theoretically cut down on walks and force hitters to swing the bat, thus creating more balls in play and more action. It should also cut down on the length of games.

Eliminate video review

In theory, video review is great. Umpires are human and no one wants honest mistakes to alter the outcome of a game. But in practice, video review has been a tedious endeavor with little satisfaction concerning inconsequential plays. How many times have you watched a replay and still not been able to tell if the tag beat the runner? That doesn't even factor in the time wasted waiting to see if a team wants to review a play in the first place.

Video review has also dramatically reduced the opportunity to see one of the game's great moments, the on-field manager/umpire argument. Give me more Billy Martin and Larry Bowa losing it and less Joe West in a headset.

Eliminate interleague play

Setting aside the unique circumstances of this upcoming season and the need to reduce travel as much as possible, it's time for interleague play to leave the game. There was a time when this concept made sense. The chance to see Ken Griffey Jr. or the Yankees play in an NL park was exciting because you didn't really see them otherwise. 

Technology and social media have now made it so that any fan can see every Mike Trout highlight moments after they occur. And for every series where you might get to see Trout or the Yankees or Red Sox, there's three more against the likes of the Tigers, White Sox and Rangers. Those are season stoppers. What's more interesting to Phillies fans: a 3-game series against the Mariners or another crack at the Mets? 

This plan would require realignment. No big deal. Send the Astros back to the NL.

Reduce distance between bases to 88 feet

As we mentioned above, baseball games currently lack action. Middle infielders swing for the fences and very few players attempt to steal bases on a consistent basis. Reducing the length between the bases from 90 feet to 88 feet would hopefully incentivize putting the ball in play and encourage more stolen base attempts without fundamentally changing the nature of the game.

Big milestone bonus

One of the things that baseball has lost for most of this century is the pursuit of significant single-season milestones. When was the last time a player chased one of baseball's hallowed records in a season? In the 1990s, Tony Gwynn took a run at .400 before the strike ended his quest. Roger Maris' home run record of 61 was in play until Mark McGwire set the new standard in 1998. The specialized nature of the game and the increase in the Three True Outcomes (walk, strikeout, home run) have all but squashed the chase for single-season milestones.

Baseball's regular season needs storylines like that to captivate fans on a national level. So let's incentivize it. Each team contributes $1 million a season for a pool of $30 million total. If a player reaches a significant milestone or record, they receive that money as a milestone.

If I were choosing, I'd establish the following as the marks:

• HR record
• RBI record
• .400 BA
• 57-game hit streak
• 30 wins
• Sub-1.50 ERA (with minimum 175 innings)
• 350 strikeouts
• 70 saves

If a season passes without one of these milestones being hit, the pool rolls over. Imagine the interest if in 2022 a player was within striking distance of one of these marks and $30 million was on the line.

Reset the home run records

This idea is the companion of the previous suggestion. Thanks to performance-enhancing drugs, baseball's single-season home run record has become untouchable. Lost with it is a significant piece of the game's charm, the legitimate pursuit of immortality. We all know that the top-six home run seasons of all-time (belonging to Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa) are inauthentic displays of science run amok. The commissioner should deem them as such and reestablish the sport's home run record as Maris' 61 total from 1961. 

It's not like track and field allows world record times to stand if runners test positive for steroids. Why should baseball? It's not just the right thing to do, it will also bring the sport's most important record back into play. While he's at it, Manfred can also reset the all-time HR record to Hank Aaron's total of 755.

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Former Phillies pitcher Tyson Brummett dies in plane crash in Utah

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Former Phillies pitcher Tyson Brummett dies in plane crash in Utah

Former Phillies pitcher Tyson Brummett died Friday morning in a plane crash in Utah. 

Brummett, 35, was piloting the small plane when it crashed in the Wasatch Mountains outside Salt Lake City, according to the Utah County Sheriff’s Office. 

All four passengers died in the crash — Brummett, his 35-year-old friend Alex Ruegner, and Ruegner’s uncle and aunt, Douglas (62) and Elaine Blackhurst (60). 

Brummett had a cup of coffee for the 2012 Phillies, making one appearance in Game 162. He was in the Phillies’ system from 2007-12, pitching 110 total innings at Triple A Lehigh Valley. 

The Phillies drafted Brummett in the seventh round in 2007. He was one of seven players drafted and signed by the Phillies that year to eventually make the majors, the others being Travis d’Arnaud, Jake Diekman, Justin De Fratus, Joe Savery, Michael Taylor and Brian Schlitter.

Tragically, Brummett is the third former Phillies pitcher since 2006 to die piloting a plane. Roy Halladay crashed into the Gulf of Mexico in November 2017, and Cory Lidle flew into an apartment complex on New York’s Upper East Side in October 2006.

Members of the UCLA baseball family reacted Saturday morning to the loss of Brummett, a former Bruin.