NY Sports Day
Matt Mankiewich

Karpin: Who’s Not On First For Yanks

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The Yankees have all the ingredients to make a run at the World Series but there are still some tweaks needed to complete the roster. One of those tweaks concerns the depth at first base.

Greg Bird is the incumbent of course, but what happens if he gets hurt again. With all due respect, Bird still needs to prove he is durable not to mention those times when new Manager Aaron Boone will need to pinch run for the first baseman. The Yankees should have a “plan B” because they don’t want another “Chris Carter situation” where they were trying to fill a need with players like Ji-Man Choi, Garrett Cooper and even pitcher Bryan Mitchell, who played the position out of necessity in an extra inning game and dropped a foul pop up for an error.

According to the depth chart on yankees.mlb.com, the back up first baseman listed are Tyler Austin, Miguel Andujar and outfielder Billy McKinney who is just starting to learn the position. (McKinney played 22 games at first base for Scottsdale in last season’s Arizona Fall League)

Austin is an average player but doesn’t fit the bill. Andujar has never played first and still needs to develop defensively at third which leads to the point of a Todd Frazier signing making more and more sense as we head to spring training. Frazier would start at third but could also spell Bird if need be, especially against a tough left hander. Ronald Torreyes gives them depth at third but would be “exposed” as a starter.

As the Mets sent off their equipment for spring training, General Manager Sandy Alderson narrowed his list for signing a potential free agent infielder to three including Frazier, Neil Walker, and Eduardo Nunez. Despite his lack of defensive prowess, Nunez’ best position is third base. Asdrubal Cabrera has already made it known that he would move to second if the Mets signed a third baseman.

Spring training is fast approaching so a free agent signing frenzy is expected to take place in the very near future. I think the “trigger” could be when Eric Hosmer signs or one of the free agent pitchers (Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb) finds a home.

We’re getting closer to an announcement of some sort concerning Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred’s plan for “pace of play” rules for the 2018 season. Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic cited sources that revealed some of those proposals for the upcoming season.

According to Rosenthal’s report, MLB would not have a pitch clock for the upcoming season but if the games “are 2:55 and longer, 18-second clock for ‘19 with no runners on base starting May 1, with ball-strike penalty.” The clock would be lengthened to 20 seconds if the games in 2019 average longer than two hours and fifty minutes. I agree with those who contend that “time of the game” is not the problem, it’s the “dead time” in-between the action, but the length of games will become a point of contention because of additional scrutiny.

Going forward, if a pitch clock does come into play, I would like to see the cessation of the
“automatic intentional walk.” Here’s my suggestion. The 4-pitch sequence would have a ten second pitch clock and if the pitcher violates the rule twice, I would treat it as a balk and the runner on base would advance. Calling a ball would not be a penalty in that case so you would need something more harsh. A conventional balk would have to be egregious to be called on an intentional pass.

There were other items of note in Rosenthals’ report including a limit of “six mound visits” during the course of a game.

The Union has balked at the idea of a pitch clock but would probably go along with the limitations on mound visits. It’s been well publicized that Manfred has the power to implement changes without the Players Association’s approval but the Commissioner is well aware of the tension that has developed between the two sides due to the slow movement in free agency this off season.

This doesn’t exactly come under the “pace of play” rules but it is an interesting idea when used the right way.

Commissioner Manfred has proposed putting a runner on second base to start the 10th inning of a spring training game and the 11th inning of the All Star Game. This has been used before, most recently in the World Baseball Classic to bring a conclusion to those games so as not to wear out the pitchers.

I would never be in favor of this to be used in a regular season or post season game but I’m totally on board if it’s used in the All Star Game. I’d even go so far as to say I would like to see it begin in the 10th inning.

The “Midsummer Classic” is the perfect venue for a gimmick of this kind and it could lead to some other delicacies that could potentially draw more attention to the game.

Whether you like this innovation or not, can you imagine the debate that would be sparked if the All Star Game went to an extra inning. With social media monitoring the game, those who were not watching would certainly tune in if the game did go extras. How many “eyeballs” would be lured to see how the innings would play out. With other “pace of play” rules thrown in and a reasonable starting time, the All Star Game could become a very interesting watch.


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