(Via Bryan Hoch)

Folks, see above for proof that Spring Training is finally here: there are now photos of baseball players in the shining Florida sun. While camp may not officially begin until Wednesday, that is my personal standard for Spring Training. Look forward to many more photos of Yankees standing around, maybe stretching, and perhaps throwing a baseball. Exciting!

The start of Spring Training means that there is actual news to share again, so we’ll be running a (mostly) daily news and notes post at night. Once the games start, we’ll turn that into a daily recap of the day’s games and relevant news. It’s not the regular season by any means, but I’ll take it. Any baseball is good baseball. Also, this happened, which was pretty funny:

Onto the news!

A Playoff Proposal You’re Going to Have to See to Believe

So, Joel Sherman has some interesting news, to say the least. Late this afternoon, he dropped an exclusive story that immediately sent shockwaves around the baseball internet:

You’re going to want to read the whole thing yourself and then read it again to confirm to yourself that your eyes weren’t deceiving you. He reports that MLB is “seriously weighing” a drastic restructuring of the league’s playoff format to “keep what [fans] it has” in an everlasting battle against the NBA and NFL. Seems a bit dramatic to me, but what the hell do I know. Anyway, [deep breath] here is the proposal:

  1. Expand the playoff pool for each league from 5 teams to 7.
  2. The team with the best regular-season record in each league would receive an automatic berth in the Division Series.
  3. The other two division-winning teams and the league’s top wild card team would each then host a best-of-three Wild Card round with no away games. (The bottom three wild card teams would have no home games, which seems dumb if the idea is, as it seems to be, to discourage tanking, as home playoff games are a huge revenue generator!)
  4. The two-seed (i.e. the division winner with the second best record) would then choose its opponent in the Wild Card round. The three-seed, after the two-seed did so, would then choose their opponent. The second wild card team would then play the last team in a weird, nationally-televised (this part is key!) cosplay of schoolyard basketball.

I am going to be very clear about this so that there’s no confusion: I absolutely hate this proposal. I could not hate it more, actually. It seems clear that the real idea here — aside from the obvious calculation that more playoff games = more money — is to discourage tanking. If so many teams just aren’t going to try, even marquee franchises like Boston, then it does make sense for the league to do something.

However, this is not it. First, the addition of the second wild card now didn’t change the tanking calculus, so I don’t see why this would. Second, a team can now make the playoffs while being bad. Under this system, last year’s Mets would have been a playoff team! How that will change the tanking calculus is beyond me. Plus, there’s the whole “no home games” thing, which, again, doesn’t encourage trying.

Finally, this essentially renders the 162 game season meaningless. To bring this home to the Bronx, let’s consider the 2018 season. Because Boston won 108 games, the 103-win Astros and 91-win Cleveland would have been the top two seeds in the WC round. The 100-win Yankees would have been the #3 seed. Houston would have chosen between the 97-win Athletics, the 90-win Rays, and 89-win Mariners. It introduces a huge amount of randomness into the playoffs, which I personally dislike. Is it so crazy to imagine the 89-win Mariners winning two out of three? It doesn’t seem fair to the Actually Good teams, which is the point of a 162-game season: to determine the good teams.

MLB should drop this idea immediately, and I hope that they floated it to Sherman just to gauge reaction.


Masahiro Tanaka Still Rules

Here’s an update you didn’t need: Mashario Tanaka still rules. He arrived in camp today (hooray!) and said this to reporters:

I love his honesty here. Tanaka is famous for his competitive fire, so I can’t say I’m surprised, but I still love it. It’s firing me up and making me wish tomorrow was Opening Day.

In any case, this will be A Thing all season. Players are going to get asked about the Astros and there are going to be more comments like this. Players are rightfully pissed off about the sign-stealing scandal and they’re being open about it. I imagine the hate is especially strong with Cleveland, the Yankees, and the Dodgers. It’s also causing actual lawsuits from former players, which is an interesting development. (That case won’t ever make it to discovery, but I still love to see it.)

Tanaka would have been my first guess for active players to outright say so (CC doesn’t count), but it’s still jarring to see. Even if I expected it. The players really hate the Astros (editor’s note: so do I) and they aren’t even pretending to hide it. I’m going to say it now: I want the Yanks to play Houston in October and I want the Yanks to absolutely pummel them. Just destroy them 11-0 in every game, en route to winning a title. That would be pretty cool. It wouldn’t make up for 2017 nor 2019, but I’d take it. I think the players would, too.

Chad Green, No Longer an Opener

Finally, Chad Green had some interesting comments in an interview with Bryan Hoch:

He doesn’t expect to open games next year, which is good on my end. Here’s the full quote:

“Opening was a little bit out of necessity last year, but we’ve got some guys that are going to step up and pitch some big innings. With Monty being back and guys getting some experience under their belt, I think we should be good.”

Even with the Paxton injury, the Yanks are in good shape with their pitching, I think. Hopefully they don’t need to open games anymore, and besides, I think Green is best used in a multi-inning relief situation anyway. He also added some comments about Gerrit Cole (he’s excited to work with him!) and about Matt Blake (he’s also excited to work with him!). Check out the whole interview for more.

Baseball, folks. It’s basically back. That’s the good stuff. More to come as we get more news, but it feels good to actually have stuff to report on and new photos to look at, doesn’t it?