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Will proposed rule changes have any influence on MLB’s biggest problems?

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Will proposed rule changes have any influence on MLB’s biggest problems?

Designated hitter coming to the National League? Minimum number of hitters for a pitcher to face? Clocks and mound visits and more?

The annual disbursement of possible rule changes landed this week. Multiple reports outlined the ideas being discussed by Major League Baseball and the players’ union. Some are small. Some significant. All discussed on the latest Racing President podcast.

Two major suggestions came from the reports:

-- Make the designated hitter universal starting in 2019.
-- Force pitchers to face a three-batter minimum.

Let’s tackle the DH issue first. 

The American League adopted this rule in 1973. The NL has held onto pitchers hitting, adding more strategy, and less offense, to the game since then. This is not the first push for both leagues to play with the DH. Altering the National League -- and doing so in a way that flushes a type of baseball for good -- is one part of the discussion. The other is the possible immediacy of the change. A week before spring training would be an unfair time to push the DH into the National League. Team rosters are in place (for the most part). Players signed contracts based on being part of a platoon as opposed to a full-time DH. Think of Matt Adams. His value would rise if he could be a DH. Here, he would be stuck until next season because a rule change came in February and not November.

Forcing pitchers to face a minimum of three hitters would reduce in-game changes. That, presumably, speeds the action of the game up. It also hinders strategy for the manager of the pitching team. He can’t counter the opposition’s counter if forced to keep a specific pitcher in the game. 

Of note here is both proposals are geared to boost offense. Pitchers -- who hit a combined .115 last season -- would be replaced by resident thumpers. High-octane bullpens would be challenged in both workload and advantage if pitchers were forced to face a minimum of three batters.

Other proposed ideas include reducing mound visits; an expansion of rosters from 25 to 26 in 2020, with an accompanying reduction from 40 to 28 in September; increasing the minimum time a player spends on the disabled list (a rule that was changed in 2016 when the DL dropped from 15 days to 10); and increasing the minimum time an optioned player stays in the minor leagues. 

The previous change to the disabled list caused teams to place more players on it, in turn rotating the middle relief of their pitching staff along with available players from the minor leagues. Forcing an optioned player to remain longer in the minors, as well as increasing the minimum time a player can spend on the DL, should reduce manipulation of that process.

Baseball’s main question is how much impact any of this would really have. The league and its players want to increase the speed of and action in games. They want to be more relatable to younger generations in order to counter recent attendance slippage. They also want to modernize everything involved within and outside of the game in a pulsating digital society. 

Will these proposals do any of that? The Racing Presidents crew isn’t so sure. Take a listen.

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Nationals, Sánchez blasted by Orioles in another mediocre performance

Nationals, Sánchez blasted by Orioles in another mediocre performance

WASHINGTON --  The Nationals are 4-6 following a Friday night drubbing by the Baltimore Orioles, a team not expected to be remotely good in 2020.

The season’s fluctuations are under way. The Nationals went 1-4, looked listless and were charged with not having fun. They won three in a row to complete the push for an even record. They lost Max Scherzer and two games since. Friday night was particularly abhorrent. They were smacked 11-0 by an Orioles team which had 19 hits. It could have been worse.

“This is just one of those games where you’ve got to put it behind you as quick as you can and come back tomorrow and regroup and go get ‘em tomorrow,” Davey Martinez said. “This game was about as lopsided as I’ve seen in a long time.”


Aníbal Sánchez has problems. His ERA is 7.84. It, like the Friday night score, could be worse.

He shrugged off his poor start to open the season. Sánchez was more irritated Friday -- back on the mound 12 days after the first time. When he walked Renato Núñez on a 3-2 pitch which wasn’t close to a strike, he yelled, then left the mound to pace. Pitching coach Paul Menhart came to visit.

Recall last year. Sánchez opened with a 5.91 ERA across April and May. He was much better in the following two months, righting his season and helping the Nationals from their malaise. But time for a course correction this season is limited.

“I think the situation that happened last year was [me] out of routine,” Sánchez said. “This is only something you have to handle no matter what. … This is going to happen this year early in the season. I think when you’re out of routine, it’s really hard to see what’s going on. Right now I can see the difference between the games with fans and no fans and all the kinds of things. A little bit something in your mind. At the end, I think I need to figure out how to control my game in all those situations.”


Sánchez has made 16.7 percent of his starts (and the team is through the same amount of its season). Only nine remain. Reacting to two starts in normal times is not recommended. However, these are not normal times. Much like the offense -- which failed to score for the first time this season -- Sánchez needs to quickly gather himself. However, Trea Turner doesn’t feel the squeeze is on them yet.

“If we do, it’s just going to snowball on us,” Turner said. “There’s no point to. I think it’s more perspective -- more teams are in the playoffs this year, so you’ve got more room for error. More opportunities to make up ground. That being said, it is a shorter season. We need to take advantage of every game because we’re playing some good ball clubs. They kicked our butts [Friday]. Got to be ready each and every day.”

The Nationals play two more games during the weekend against Baltimore. Austin Voth starts Saturday, Stephen Strasburg returns Sunday. Friday opened a 13-games in 13 days stretch after the jumbled beginning of days off and postponements. Martinez said they were happy to finally be starting what a season traditionally feels like. Day after day, game after game. Time and geography lost to the rhythm of playing.

But, the Nationals entered the game 29th in Major League Baseball in runs, then failed to score. The only team to score fewer is the coronavirus-riddled St. Louis Cardinals who have played five games this season. Their starting staff is yet to anchor them. The bullpen has an injury to its most important offseason signing and Sean Doolittle is ineffective. Fixable problems, but problems to be sure.

Stay connected to the Nationals with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.


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Phillie Phanatic returns favor to Bryce Harper with custom jacket

Phillie Phanatic returns favor to Bryce Harper with custom jacket

Despite only being in year two of his 13-year, $330 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies, Bryce Harper's love for the Phillie Phanatic is well-known.  

On Friday, the team mascot returned the favor by showing some love to Bryce Harper with his new custom suit jacket.

Let’s all take a walk down memory lane since it is #FlashbackFriday and relive the moment when Bryce Harper took his love for Phanatic to the next level on Opening Day with this look: a custom olive-colored suit with pictures of team mascot Phanatic scattered throughout the inside. 

This is just a reminder to find someone who loves you as much as the Phanatic loves Bryce. Or vice versa. A bromance like no other.

Now if the Phillies are smart, they’ll make these suits available for the fans. If they do, there'll be no competition for the best-dressed fan base in the future.

Stay connected to the Nationals with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.