Yesterday, ESPN’s Buster Olney listed nine improvements he would like to implement in major-league baseball. Olney touched on a number of hot topics, including the length of games and the ever-present debate surrounding home field advantage in the World Series. His list incited various levels of support and opposition, but I’m assuming that Olney endeavored less to craft an op-ed than to start a conversation. To that end, it was extremely successful. Many pundits and fans crafted their own list in response, and you can count me among those so inspired. Below, you’ll find the nine things I would change about the game if I had Rob Manfred’s power and enough time to bring my vision to baseball.*
*As a baseball fan, my interests and loyalties lie more with creating a watchable product than maximizing profits. I fully recognize that the preceding caveat turns this exercise into theoretical and unrealistic wishcasting, but why stop now?
1. Remove convenience fees on ticket purchases: We’ll start with something fan-friendly and self-explanatory. Currently, any time you want to buy tickets in advance, you have to order them from a team’s website, or a third-party service like StubHub. The third parties have their own set of baggage, but the team sites are a headache too. The biggest issue is that they charge a “convenience” fee for processing, regardless of whether you print your tickets at home, pick them up at will call, or download them onto your phone. As any fan knows, there’s no convenience associated with paying an extra $3 per ticket, particularly since the surcharge is unavoidable; it’s just a tax on buying tickets. If I was the commissioner, I would ensure that any fan buying a ticket online would only be paying the advertised price.
2. Eliminate barriers to ticket exchanging/re-selling: This isn’t an issue for much of the league, but anyone following the Yankees-Ticketmaster snafu can probably feel which way the winds are blowing. To summarize a long story, the Yankees have made it very difficult for fans to get into the stadium without buying their tickets on Ticketmaster; purchasers are no longer allowed to print their own tickets, which limits everyone’s ability to buy seats from friends, scalpers, or on a website like Craigslist or StubHub. While important looking people in suits will dress these decisions in fancy rhetoric laden with ridiculous phrases like “safer ticketing experience,” the reality is that these policies make it more difficult for fans to attend games affordably. It’s always unseemly when a multi-billion dollar industry squeezes every last cent out of its paying customers, and as commish I would put the kibosh on the practice before it spreads throughout the league. You should be allowed to download your tickets, sell them to friends or fellow Craigslisters, and pay less than face value for tickets to a game with thousands of available seats. Criminy.
3. Remove metal detectors from stadiums: There’s no evidence that metal detectors make attending a baseball game any safer. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence, however, that the long lines outside of metal detectors can make you late for first pitch. There’s also no history of people bringing weapons to ballgames with the intent to cause mayhem, and even if an enterprising terrorist saw fit to do so, the metal detector wouldn’t necessarily impede his plan; instead of bringing a weapon into the stadium, he could instead wreak havoc outside the gates, where he'd find scores of immobile fans helplessly stuck in line while they waited to march through a metal detector. Ultimately, metal detectors are security theater, and if we’re going to trade freedoms for enhanced security, the security should actually be enhanced, damn it.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Chih-Wei Hu, Jordan Patterson, Jeff Brigham, and Hoy Jun Park.
Prospect of the Day: Chih-Wei Hu, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays (Double-A Montgomery): 7 IP, 2 H, B, 6 K.
Hu was one of the most impressive arms I saw climb the hill at the Futures Game, sitting mid-90s (touching 97) and complimenting it with a devastating palm ball that moved like a splitter with fade at 89-90. There’s some deception to his release, which helps the fastball play up despite a fairly straight path, and it makes the slide-piece tougher to pick up as well. He’s still learning how to sequence and miss bats consistently, but the stuff is there for a quality no. 4 starter, and he’s got a frame you can hang all of the innings on.
Others of Note:
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Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Yadier Alvarez, Engelb Vielma, Austin Gomber, and Christin Stewart.
Prospect of the Day: Yadier Alvarez, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers (Single-A Great Lakes): 5 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 10 K.
Alvarez showed he was way too advanced to be facing AZL pitching and earned a promotion to the Midwest League. He’s probably too advanced to be here, too. Alvarez has an easy 80 fastball that will touch triple-digits with life, and he’s showing a plus slider at times to give hitters from both sides of the plate fits. The command still has a long way to go and there’s some effort here that may make him a reliever long term, but outside of Julio Urias, he has the highest upside of any arm in the Dodgers system.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Anthony Alford, Gleyber Torres, Amir Garrett, and Chris Paddack.
Prospect of the Day: Anthony Alford, OF, Toronto Blue Jays (High-A Dunedin): 2-for-6, R, 2 BB, K, 3 SB.
This has been a disappointing season for Alford, without question, but it’s games like this that remind you just how talented he is. Keep in mind that not only is he only 21 years old, but he also had his development in baseball delayed by that egg-shaped sport. He’s still a tremendous athlete who has shown he has a game plan at the plate, and he’s going to be a big-leaguer because of his speed and ability to go get it in center field. It’s not a fast-track profile, but if you’re patient, this could be a leadoff hitter someday.
The Cardinals system is in a relatively fallow period, but one underestimates their development system at his own peril. We talk to pitchers Sandy Alcantara and Junior Fernandez.
Background: The St. Louis farm system is not what it once was. After several years rated as one of the best systems in the game, featuring impact talent at the top, supplemented by seemingly endless depth, most experts see the Cards’ system as having few in the way of potential stars and thin in the way of depth. Back in 2011, when the Cardinals’ A-ball affiliate was in Quad Cities, it won the Midwest League title with a roster that included Kolten Wong, Greg Garcia, Carlos Martinez, Seth Maness, Kevin Siegrist, Trevor Rosenthal, and the late Oscar Taveras.
Notes on prospects who stood out over the weekend, including Kolby Allard, Cody Ponce, Patrick Kivlehan, and Myles Jaye.
Prospect of the Weekend:
Kolby Allard, LHP, Atlanta Braves (Short-season Danville): 6 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K
Even with the all of the talent the Braves have accumulated on the pitching front in the last two drafts, Allard is still the guy with the highest upside, and he’s pitched like it since being “demoted” to the Appy League. All three of his pitches will flash plus—though the change is mostly an average offering—and he throws all these pitches for strikes. There’s work to be done, but this is your ever-so-rare, high-floor, high-ceiling pitcher.
Minor leaguers face an unfortunately challenging road convincing the world that they have jobs.
There are people in the world who don't seem particularly to care whether minor leaguers make a living wage. They are unmoved by the idea that Major League Baseball, so cloying in its assertions of hard work and grit and the right way, isn’t particularly interested in paying for those things.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Chris Paddack, Brandon Woodruff, Elniery Garcia, and Luis Alexander Basabe.
Prospect of the Day: Chris Paddack, RHP, San Diego Padres (Low-A Fort Wayne): 5 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K.
Paddack’s walk was his third of the season, and the nine strikeouts give him a K:BB ratio of 21-to-1. That is Kershaw-esque, my friends. Acquired in the Fernando Rodney deal, Paddack has a filthy change that flashes plus-plus, and it plays up because of his above-average fastball and his ability to throw those pitches for strikes (obviously). He’ll need to improve the curveball, but if it can become an average pitch, he’s a no. 3 starter.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Scott Blewett, Sal Romano, Stephen Gonsalves, and Cornelius Randolph.
Prospect of the Day: Scott Blewett, RHP, Kansas City Royals (Low-A Lexington): 7 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 10 K.
Blewett struck out seven in his first three innings of work, before “slowing” to the statline you see above. A second-round pick out of New York in 2014, Blewett has struggled to show a lick of consistency as a professional, but when you see him on days like yesterday, there’s a lot to like. The fastball is plus, the curveball isn’t far from that vicinity, and he’ll mix in a fringe-average change for good measure. There’s a long way to go, but the Royals have no reason to panic about this talented righty just yet.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Kolby Allard, D.J. Stewart, Max Pentecost, and Miguelangel Sierra.
Prospect of the Day: Kolby Allard, LHP, Atlanta Braves (Short-Season Danville): 6 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, 7 K.
The Braves were aggressive in assigning Allard to full-season ball after his return from two back surgeries, but he’s looked much more comfortable in four starts since jumping back down to short-season. The fastball sat 92-93 out of the gate in this one, and he whiffed the side to start his night.