Wild Card Game - St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

Hitting For The Cycle: International Prospects, Selig’s Successor, Pace of Play, and the Braves New Stadium

After an unexpected off day due to rain, the Washington Nationals will resume their series against the Miami Marlins this evening. Until then, here are the four national articles that you absolutely must read from the past week. You’ll learn about this year’s international prospects, Jerry Reinsdorf and Bud Selig‘s battle for MLB’s next commissioner, baseball’s incredibly slow pace of play, and the Atlanta Braves censoring those who disagree with them about their new stadium.

Single: Why July 2 Prospects are Harder to Track This Year by Ben Badler (Baseball America)

For those not in the know, there is an official window to sign international prospects, and it comes every year on July 2nd. In the past few years however, this has turned from frenzy into a slow burn, and due to the increasing emphasis on developing prospects and the minor league system, most of these players are locked up prior to the deadline. Imagine, if you will, the NCAA signing day. There are always going to be “verbal agreements” and “handshake deals”. In the past, these deals have been frowned upon but allowed, and the old saying goes that if you give an inch they will take a mile; that’s exactly what is happening.

Every year, MLB holds a January showcase in which all the 15 and 16 year-old potential targets are invited to perform for every team in a centralized location, making things much easier on everyone’s travel schedule. However, the vast majority of the top prospects this past season took things easy at the showcase, because they had already committed to a particular team. It’s been a few years since the Nationals have been active at all in the July 2 market, so let’s hope that Rizzo and company got to work 12 months ago with their “handshake agreements”.

Quote: “Imagine if a scouting director in the United States with one of the biggest draft bonus pools hadn’t seen Tyler Kolek or Brady Aiken since the summer of 2013.”

Double: 10 Degrees: As MLB looks for Bud Selig’s successor, Jerry Reinsdorf makes power grab by Jeff Passan (Yahoo! Sports)

For the third time ever, Bud Selig is set to retire at the end of his contract. Those of you that are fans of House of Cards, main character Frank Underwood will appreciate this piece by Jeff Passan that shows just how much backroom dealing takes place within the ownership ranks of MLB. Now, only Selig knows if he will actually step down at the end of his term, and it seems as though, if he does, he has hand-picked Rob Manfred as his successor. This news comes at odds with notorious power broker and Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf.

Major League Baseball under Bud Selig has seen revenues increase seven-fold, most of which has gone directly into the owners pockets. It would make sense that he would want his legacy to be in the hands of his number two – especially because Manfred knows “where all the bodies of the Selig era are buried.” This will be fascinating to watch over the next nine months. Will Manfred be the chosen one? Will Reinsdorf use his considerable clout to work the room for his own choice? Will Selig actually retire? Stay tuned.

Quote: “And the only thing more dangerous than a powerful man is one who tells the truth about how he lassoed that power.”

Triple: Why pace of play has slowed to a crawl, and a dozen ways to fix it by Tom Verducci (Sports Illustrated)

In the past 10 years, the average time of a Major League Baseball game has increased by 29 minutes and 11 seconds. Let that sink in for a minute. Ok, are you back with us? Great. Now over that time, run scoring is down 13.3%. So we are now seeing a drastic decrease in runs despite the fact that games are a half-hour longer. Any baseball fan who has been paying attention knows exactly why; batters stepping out to adjust their gloves, pitchers stepping off the mound, defensive shifts, pitching changes, manager challenges, etc.

There are a ton of simple fixes that are already in the rule book such as the pitcher must deliver a pitch “within 12 seconds after he receives it” – ha, yeah right. When was the last time that happened? Does a player deserve to get time called when he is waiting for the pitcher to throw? No, that’s umpires discretion, and they certainly are allowing this just about every time. Verducci runs through twelve ways that MLB could speed up the game, some of them simple (pitch clock) and some of them off the wall (illegal defense rules). At least someone is thinking about this, and hopefully someone in Joe Torre’s office is paying attention.

Quote: “The task is to keep the game attractive to the casual and young fans while honoring the expectations of the core fan. Adding 29 minutes of dead time and less action doesn’t help.”

Home Run: Opponents Barred From Speaking As Cobb County Approves Braves Stadium by Barry Petchesky (Deadspin)

This is an utter disaster. Not only are the Braves leaving a baseball stadium that is just 20 years old, but they have swindled the residents of Cobb County into $400 million in taxpayer money – all without a vote or public discussion. The fact that this can happen in 2014 is a travesty and only goes to show the greed of Braves president John Schuerholz who said (I’m not paraphrasing) “it didn’t leak out. If it had leaked out, this deal would not have gotten done.”

This story gets worse and worse as the Cobb County Commissioners met last night in a preposterous exercise in governmental futility as they listened to a limited discussion of public comments from all pro-stadium supporters while barring any other discussion from taking place. Opposition voices were “forcibly removed from the room”. The project has a Cobb County price tag of $400 million, but initial projections have that number being short by at least $100 million. This is going to be a blood bath for the residents of Cobb County. Public discussion should be the life-blood of local politics, but in this case, the Braves successfully conned the County with what is turning out to be false promises of private development.

Quote: “The meeting was over within two hours, the commissioners approving everything without debating or taking questions.”

About Craig MacHenry

Writer for The Nats Blog and co-host of Nats Talk On The Go podcast