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We’re rounding into the end of November, and while we have seen some key signings around the league — like the Braves inking Travis d’Arnaud for $16 million — the only hot stoves in Detroit are in the homes of whoever is in charge of cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year.
As we reflect on what it is we may be thankful for in the coming days, let’s take a gander at what’s going on for the Detroit Tigers and the rest of the league.
Mr. Fix it
The Tigers’ new hitting coach, Joe Vavra, recently made a trip to the Dominican Republic to check in on Jeimer Candelario, Willi Castro, and Dawel Lugo — three guys that could probably use his help. Vavra has a tough road ahead of him this year in his efforts to turn around what, by all accounts, was a dismal offense. He seems to be focused on individual accountability, stating that getting better is on the player, and that they need to have a plan.
“This is going to be all about you. This is your deal, but you have to know what you’re up against and who you’re up against on a daily basis, and you have to come up with plans. And your plans have to be solid, because you’re going to be called out in front of your teammates every night on your plan. So, if you’re not prepared to have your plan or understand what a plan is, that’s what we’re here for, to get you through that, so you can actually understand what you’re planning. And that’s not an easy task.”
Vavra spoke also about knowing how to change approaches depending on the strike count, and spoke a bit about the incorporation of a modern analytics approach. Vavra should bring improvement in 2020; he has a low bar to clear.
A little bit pitchy
If you think hitting is the only area where changes are being made, you would be wrong. The organization has brought in a Director of Pitching Development and Strategies, as well as a Coordinator of Player Development and Analytics. Both of these are brand new positions. If you would like a clearer picture of who these two people are and what exactly they will be doing, David Laurila of FanGraphs spoke with general manager Al Avila about it and has a bit more detail for you.
Seek and destroy
Well, it seems MLB commissioner Rob Manfred may have gone and stepped in it. The backlash to the initial outlay of the ill-advised minor league overhaul brought forth by Major League Baseball was strong and swift. In response, MLB put out a statement that went something like, “Oh, hey guys my bad. Chill. I just want to make things better for… the players. Yeah, the players. That’s right.”
It didn’t take much time for most of the United States Congress to come out in opposition to the plan, and for New York senator Chuck Schumer to dip his foot into the “maybe baseball should lose it’s anti-trust exemption” pool. MLB responded with a letter laying out how they subsidize the minors. They are also continuing to beat the “we’re in this for the players” drum, identifying the substandard facilities of 40 minor league teams, a number that is almost double of what the league stated just months prior.
Bill Madden of the New York Daily News takes a deep dive on what is really going on here; spoiler alert: it’s basically that MLB is trying to save a few bucks — and it’s a very few — by instituting a plan that appears to be not too well thought out. The ends don’t seem to justify the means, but when has that stopped Major League Baseball?
When asked about negotiations for the next Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), and the characterization of the the statements he reportedly made to the players reps in negotiations over the summer, Manfred stated that those characterizations were inaccurate, and the players reps offered a proposal that would seek to “turn back the Basic Agreement 50 years.”
Craig Calcaterra of NBC Sports does an excellent job of dissecting just how disingenuous and dumb that statement was while going on to further interpret Manfred’s statements in a manner that doesn’t look good for future negotiations. In short, it may be that MLB is unwilling to budge in the face of a threatened labor stoppage. That’s a pretty hard line to take at such an early stage. Who’s looking forward to a strike?
She’s a hit
Professional baseball continues to inch slowly forward. In recent news the New York Yankees reported that they have hired Rachel Balkovec as a full-time hitting coach at the minor league level. To piggyback on that good news, the Chicago Cubs also announced that they brought Rachel Folden on board as a hitting lab tech and the fourth coach for their rookie league squad in Mesa. It’s a good day to be a Rachel.
Around the horn
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Baseball is awesome
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