Next Saturday, February 22, the Yankees play their first Spring Training game. From here on out, when you read my Sunday piece, Yankee baseball will be happening that same day. Hopefully, we don’t have to deal with another Yankee-less Sunday until November. Every year, I’m shocked with how fast things go in the offseason. It seems like just yesterday we were celebrating the Yankees signing Gerrit Cole. Somehow, here we are in February, ready for baseball to truly start. Here are some things on my mind as we pull into the homestretch.
The last time I wrote here, James Paxton wasn’t going to be out for three to four months, recovering from back surgery. Now, he’s going to be out for three to four months, recovering from back surgery. Having forgone the idea of signing a depth starter, the Yankees will likely have to get creative with filling Paxton’s spot, unless they want to just hand it to the rehabbing Jordan Montgomery. That wouldn’t be horrible; after all, Montgomery is a talented pitcher with some big league success. However, given his rehabbing status, it might make sense to ease him in to big innings totals. Perhaps the Yankees could modify my plan to use an opener with/for JA Happ and apply it to Monty until he’s ready for big innings or until Paxton gets back. It still accomplishes the same goals as it would’ve with Happ–a different look for batters between Jonathan Loaisiga and a softer throwing lefty, utilizing Loaisiga’s talent, and limiting exposure to the meat of the lineup.
Will this happen? Probably not. Should the Yankees have signed a depth starter to mitigate this circumstance? Probably. Will they be fine either way? Probably. But there could be problems if Paxton has a setback. Hopefully, everything goes smoothly and he’s back in the rotation by midsummer.
Like the Paxton thing, the last time I wrote, MLB hadn’t floated out a new playoff proposal that was (almost) universally panned. Of course, it took less than 24 hours for some writers and media types to get on board. That part was predictable. It reminded me of when the second wildcard came out and just about every mainstream baseball writer was in favor of it almost immediately. This one might be harder to bargain for as the players don’t seem to like it, notably Trevor Bauer. Bauer, by the way, has been the posterboy for something heartbreaking lately. Anyway, as such things do, it got me thinking about my own “If you were commissioner” scenario and here’s what I’d do (roughly; I’m sure I’m leaving something out).
Off the field, I’d like to see a revamp of MLB’s media policy. End blackouts. Let people share content. Make the game more accessible to people who can’t get to the park. Additionally, MLB should–as much as possible and probably more than they do now–subsidize Little League and beyond in urban areas. There is a price barrier to playing high-level baseball that disproportionately affects certain populations. If MLB is serious about getting more black American players into baseball, this could be a step they take.
On the field, I’d like to see the DH universalized and the schedule/playoffs dramatically altered. Balance the schedule and eliminate divisions so everyone plays everyone the same amount of times (or as close to that as possible). Then, at the end of the year, the four best teams from AL and NL make it to the playoffs. If you want to keep the action of the second wildcard, make it five teams each with the four/five seeds playing each other for entry into the DS. However, I’d like it modified. The four seed should only have to win one game while the five seed should have to win two.
Additionally, I wouldn’t mind a computerized strikezone, but I’m less into it than I was before; I’m not sure if it would really add much. A pitch clock would be nice for sure.
The worst thing we can be as fans is anti-change just for the sake of being anti-change. Baseball should be attempting to tinker and tailor the game to grow its audience. That does mean, though, that we get some bad ideas–like the proposed playoff format–floated out every so often. We gnash our teeth and (mostly rightfully) deride the bad ideas. But at least they’re ideas to get us talking about baseball and where we want it to go in the future. And where we all should want it to go is forward.
Happy almost end of winter, folks. Play ball.