Indy Ball Weekly Perspective: Twins get a Bum, ATL changes the rules

07/29/2014 5:26 AM - Devo

DEVONTEEPLEINDYPERSPECTIVE.jpgWelcome to the latest edition of the Indy Ball Weekly Perspective

Beach Bums' Johnson signs with Twins

D.J. Johnson of the Traverse City Beach Bums has been picked up by the Minnesota Twins. Johnson, in the midst of his fourth professional minor league season wowed the Beach Bums saving a career high 14 games and posting a 1.30 ERA in 24 games. Johnson is not stranger to the professional ranks. He's spent time within the Tampa Bay Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks organizations. In four seasons he's racked up six wins to go with 10 losses. His 9.8 SO/9 is very impressive as is his 2.69 career ERA in over 110 games and over 150 innings.

Diablos are out of the Pecos League

According to the Pecos League, the Douglas Diablos will not return for 2015. The league reports that the Diablos finished dead last in the league in attendance. Apparently tickets are $6 and fans still didn't come through the turnstile. Unfortunate that Douglas has become another casualty of the indy game.

Atlantic League want to speed things up, Tal Smith explains how

I interviewed Tal Smith of the Atlantic League's Pace of Play committee. Their objective is to make the game more enjoyable for the fans and enhance "watchability". Recently the league came out with six new rules to enhance the pace of the game. Please see below for the full list, courtesy of the Atlantic League.

  • ”Limited Time-Outs” Rule: The defensive team will be limited to three “time-outs” per game, in which mound visits or on-field conferences take place with the current pitcher.  Pitching changes will not be counted as “time-outs,” and in the case of extra innings, one additional “time-out” will be permitted at the start of the 10th inning and every three innings thereafter. Umpires will enforce a strict forty-five second time limit on said “time-outs.”  If the umpire’s warning is disregarded by the defensive team and play continues to be delayed, the umpire shall declare a “ball” for the batter at the plate.  This will limit the number of times play is interrupted by on-the-field conferences.
  • The “Substitute-Runner for the Catcher” Rule: When a catcher reaches base safely as a batter, the manager will immediately a substitute-runner who is not currently in the line-up to take the catcher’s place on base.  This ensures that the start of an inning is not delayed while waiting for the catcher to suit up.
  • Reduced Number of Warm-Up Pitches: Reduce the number of preparatory “warm-up” pitches at the beginning of an inning, or when a relief pitcher enters the game, from eight pitches to six, within 60 seconds. Timing is consistent with Rule 8.03 stating preparatory pitches shall not consume more than one minute of time.
  • Automatic Awarding of an Intentional Walk: When a manager or catcher on the defensive team indicates to the home plate umpire they wish to issue an intentional base on balls, the batter is to be automatically awarded first base without the need for the pitcher to deliver four balls.
  • Directing Umpires to Apply and Enforce Rule 6.02 and Rule 8.04: The Atlantic League office shall intensify its directives to the umpires and direct them to be more diligent applying and enforcing Rule 6.02 (restricting batters “stepping out” of the batter’s box) and Rule 8.04 (requiring the pitcher to deliver the ball within 12 seconds when the bases are unoccupied).
  • Directing Umpires to Control the Pace of Play: ALPB umpires shall be reminded that they control the pace of play and that they need to exercise that control and move the game along in a timely manner.  The umpires shall adhere to the entire strike zone as defined in Rule 2.00 and observe that definition when calling pitches balls or strikes.

Devon is the Founder and Executive Director of The GM's Perspective. He is a former professional baseball player with the River City Rascals & Gateway Grizzlies. Currently, Devon is a Manager at a financial institution in Northern Ontario Canada, and can be reached at devon@thegmsperspective.com. You can follow The GM's Perspective on twitter and facebook. His full bio can be seen here.

Tal Smith talks Atlantic League and Pace of Play Committee

07/25/2014 6:04 AM - Devo

Atlantic League.jpgThe Atlantic League has been working on a variety of ways to speed up the length of games. Over the course of the last year, they’ve been collecting data relevant to the cause and have now created the Pace of Play Committee. The panel consists of some of the greatest baseball minds the game has ever seen: Tal Smith, Roland Hemond, Pat Gillick, Joe Klein, Cecil Cooper, Bud Harrelson and Sparky Lyle. They will be taking suggestions from fans, media, baseball people from a variety of sources, and proposals from the committee, who will look for ways to enhance the "watchability" of the game while keeping the fundamental rules and integrity intact. It’s not just about speeding up independent league games, but enhancing the pace and increasing excitement for fans at every level.

The GM’s Perspective: I do a lot writing on the Independent Leagues, and I read about the Pace of Play Committee on the Atlantic League website. I did a brief summary recently on my weekly recap, “Indy Ball Weekly Perspective”.

I thought it would be a great time to catch up with the Atlantic League and learn more about this new initiative. It would also be a great follow-up to the interview I conducted with former ATL president, Peter Kirk last year.

Tal Smith: I’ve known Peter Kirk for a long time, from when he first got involved in baseball back in 1990 when he was operating affiliated clubs in Frederick and other areas (Baltimore affiliates). As you know, Peter is chairman of Opening Day Partners, Sugar Land Skeeters, and other teams in the Atlantic League. I do some consulting and advisory work for Opening Day Partners and Peter. Over the course of time, our baseball interests, like so many people in the game, have noticed and have become concerned with the games running exceedingly long. It’s fine if it’s a long game and it’s interesting, but there’s an awful lot of dead time that’s crept into our game. It’s something that we thought we could examine and initiate some ideas that would speed up the pace of the game and make it even more interesting and more attractive to the fans.

After a lot of discussion and exchange of ideas, the Atlantic League did create the committee you are aware of. The announcement was on the 26th of June.

GMs: If the readers aren’t aware, who makes up the committee?

TS: The committee is comprised of a couple long time managers and coaches; Sparky Lyle, and Bud Harrelson, both who have great Major League pedigrees, and obviously long service and familiarity with the Atlantic League. Joe Klein, of course, general manager for three Major League clubs and a long time executive director of the Atlantic League. We went out and got two of the legendary baseball figures in Pat Gillick and Roland Hemon. And we also have Cecil Cooper, a fine player in his own right, and a Major League manager to get another independent view. We’ve got a seven member committee, whether we expand on this or not, we’ll have to wait and see. You have to understand, we’re only in our few first weeks.

GMs: I know that you will proposing some items to the Executive Committee, but what sort of things have been tossed back and forth for review? 

TS: Many things come to mind. Two areas, which are of a big concern, are controlled by the umpires. They really control the pace of the game. From the standpoint of a strike zone, hitters take too much stepping out and the time it take pitchers to deliver the ball.  As you undoubtedly know there are, among official playing rules, specifically rule 6.02 that deal with hitters stepping out, rule 8.04 deals with the pitcher delivering the ball on a timely matter when the bases are unoccupied. We’ve talked about those sorts of things, but much of those are judgments calls and we hope to be able to get umpires to become more diligent in their focus and application of the existing rules. Beyond that, there are a lot of other things that have been discussed.

The deployment of pitchers today is different from what it used to be. Complete games are rare, and specialists are relied upon in certain situations i.e. left vs. right with the result being many more pitching changes. Every time there’s a pitching change it consumes five minutes and creates a stoppage or a delay in the action. Rules presently require that a relief pitcher coming into to face one batter. That lends itself to a lot of pitching changes. And today with the emphasis on analytics and the left/right match-ups to which I referred.

One of the other things we’ve kicked around for further evaluation and discussion is whether it would make sense to require a relief pitcher, who is coming in during the course of an inning, to face more than one hitter to get away from the constant left/right match-up where a relief pitcher comes in and faces one guy. The result is a delay in action and another guy comes in and so on.

There are a number of things such as the intentional walk. That’s a minor consideration, and doesn’t consume much time, but is it really necessary to deliver the four pitches outside before the batter is awarded first base?

We’ve talked at length about the delay in games if the catcher was on base or the final out. You have to wait on him to get his gear back on and come back to the field of play. Is there a way to remedy that, perhaps with a designated runner for the catcher? .

One of the principle areas we’re focusing on is the number of mound conferences during a game where the manager or the pitching coach or infielders or catcher come out to confer on the mound. Should there be a limit imposed there or time out? Baseball is the only team sport to my knowledge that doesn’t have some kind of a policy as to how many times you can stop or interrupt or delay play. Obviously if a manager makes a second trip to the mound with the same pitcher in the same inning he has to make a pitching change, but that doesn’t remedy all the other mound conferences. We’ve discussed and will probably recommend some limitation on the number of those mound visits that might be permitted.

We’ve met twice, that’s just the beginning stage of our work, and it’ll be an ongoing exercise.

GMs: Do you think Major League Baseball would adapt any of these proposed new rules?

TS: I think they might take a look at what we’re doing. I think the benefit the independent leagues, particularly the Atlantic League, has is the fact that they are independent and we can implement these things. They are up to the executive committee, which is principally the owners of the clubs and the league, it’s up to them, their prerogative.

I think that’s the benefits. It’s a lot easier for us (Atlantic League) to implement certain initiatives like the ones I’ve outlined, I think Major League Baseball would hopefully take a look at what we’re doing and evaluate it. I would hope these things prove beneficial. These proposed rules will be viewed on a trial basis. We may very well recommend, and once it’s adopted, and after it’s put to use for a year, we may find that it’s not beneficial.

Our intent is to not just benefit the Atlantic League, but benefit baseball. I think all of baseball is confronted as they face the same issues; the elapsed time and the pace of the game. The focus really has to be on the pace. There can be a lengthy game that is exciting because of the action. There can shorter games that are dull because the pace is still too slow.

 Devon is the Founder and Executive Director of The GM's Perspective. He is a former professional baseball player with the River City Rascals & Gateway Grizzlies. Currently, Devon is a Manager at a financial institution in Northern Ontario Canada, and can be reached at devon@thegmsperspective.com. You can follow The GM's Perspective on twitter and facebook. His full bio can be seen here.

Indy Ball Weekly Perspective: Tosoni leads Explorers, Hall gives Ducks a boost

07/22/2014 4:18 AM - Devo

DEVONTEEPLEINDYPERSPECTIVE.jpgWelcome to the latest edition of the Indy Ball Weekly Perspective

  • Canadian Rene Tosoni is quietly having a solid season for the American Association's Sioux City Explorer's. I spoke to Tosoni earlier this year about his experiences in the game and what he's doing right now shows the dedication he has to get back in affiliated baseball. After 63 games, Tosoni leads the team in hits (66), home runs (6), base on balls (29), doubles (17), tied for lead in triples (2), and second in RBI (34).
  • Aside from all the Tracy McGrady hoopla, there was still an All-Star Game going on, and the Sugar Land Skeeters took down the very best the Atlantic League had to offer. The Skeeters scored two runs in the bottom of seventh to break a 3-3 tie and held on to win 5-3.
  • Former big league veteran Bill Hall has signed with the Long Island Ducks. This marks his second stint with the Ducks. Hall has been around a long time and is best known for his eight years with the Milwaukee Brewers. That is obviously where he put up the best numbers of his 11-year career. Originally drafted by the Brewers in the 6th round of the 1998 amateur draft, the Ducks are adding someone that can play any infield position and anywhere in the outfield. Hall was an integral part of their 2013 championship run, and will no doubt contribute again this year according to Ducks president and general manager, Michael Pfaff. “He was an important piece of our championship team in 2013, and we look forward to having him back again this season.”
  • Journeyman Casper Wells has signed with the Bridgeport Bluefish. Wells has bounced around the bigs since 2010. Hall has four big league seasons under his belt spending time with the Detroit Tigers, Seattle Mariners, Oakland Athletics, Chicago White Sox, and Philadelphia Phillies. In 277 games, the former 14th round pick of the Tigers, is a career .230 hitter. He has 25 career home runs and 81 RBI.

 Devon is the Founder and Executive Director of The GM's Perspective. He is a former professional baseball player with the River City Rascals & Gateway Grizzlies. Currently, Devon is a Manager at a financial institution in Northern Ontario Canada, and can be reached at devon@thegmsperspective.com. You can follow The GM's Perspective on twitter and facebook. His full bio can be seen here.

Tracy McGrady call it quits, retires from baseball

07/18/2014 4:35 AM - Devo

Tracy McGrady retires.jpgTracy McGrady is best known for being a basketball player, a great one at that. He played 15 years, averaging nearly 20 points per game, but retirement didn't sit to well with him. He had a dream to play professional baseball. Far-fetched yes, but the independent Sugar Land Skeeters saw an opportunity and ran with it.

McGrady worked with Roger Clemens and was even clocked at 90mph during off-season workouts. He performed admirably against Alvin College in a preseason warmup, throwing 15 pitches, nine of those were for strikes.

Throwing strikes ultimately became McGrady's downfall.

Making the team was a long shot in the eyes of most, but it's a good move for an indy team. The Skeeters are one of the best indy teams out there and they can draw. They've sat atop the attendance leaders each year since their inaugural 2012 season pulling in over 1 million fans. They put a winning product on the field and have seen big names likes, Roger Clemens, Scott Kazmir and Jason Lane, (all with MLB experience) take the field. Having McGrady on the mound made perfect sense.

Unfortunately, the stars didn't align and McGrady has officially retired from baseball, according to CBS Sports.

Purely for PR, McGrady participated in the Atlantic League Home Run Derby and went Yasiel Puig putting up a donut. He was named starter for the All-Game and took the hill for the last time. He gave up one run on one hit. After recording his first professional strikeout, McGrady walked off the mound to a standing ovation and announced his retirement.

Overall, the numbers aren't that impressive. In four starts he went 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA. He walked 10 guys.

In an interview with CBS, McGrady's dream of playing baseball was realized. Even though it didn't turn out the way he way he liked, the experience is something he will never forget.

“This has been an awesome year. Not having my basketball career end the way I wanted but having the opportunity to be friends with some of the guys and get to know them and compete with them, learn from them every day, it’s been an honor.”

Devon is the Founder and Executive Director of The GM's Perspective. He is a former professional baseball player with the River City Rascals & Gateway Grizzlies. Currently, Devon is a Manager at a financial institution in Northern Ontario Canada, and can be reached at devon@thegmsperspective.com. You can follow The GM's Perspective on twitter and facebook. His full bio can be seen here.