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Summary[]

Ben Lindbergh and Jeff Sullivan banter about the Yankees signing Troy Tulowitzki, Whit Merrifield’s vaguely worded optimism about the Royals, and the necessity of unrealistic expectations, then answer listener emails about holiday sports conversations (featuring Ben’s mom’s hot take about Mariano Rivera and the truth about Rivera versus Edgar Martinez), players who are literally in the Hall of Fame, why many fans side with owners over players in economic matters, the worst baseball card poses, fans managing games, playoff teams drafting players from non-playoff teams, and imposing time limits on games, plus Stat Blasts about Willians Astudillo, John Jaso and the best players never to qualify for the batting title, and alphabetical batting orders.

Topics[]

  • Sports conversations with family
  • Worst baseball card picture
  • Fans siding with owners instead of players in free agency
  • Stat Blast: Willians Astudillo's low strikeout rate in the Venezuelan Winter League
  • Best position player careers to never qualify for the batting title
  • Alphabetical batting order
  • Hall of Fame requires physical player presence
  • Fans input on in-game managerial decisions
  • Baseball with a clock
  • Playoff teams drafting players off non playoff teams

Banter[]

  • Troy Tulowitzki signed a one year contract with the New York Yankees.
  • Whit Merrifield thinks that the Royals could steal up to 250 bases in the 2019 season. Ben and Jeff are amused by his generic comments about how the Royals could be good this season.
  • Bad teams with unrealistic expectations in spring training
  • Jeff the hockey player

Email Questions[]

  • Relatives at family gatherings with wild baseball ideas: Jared: During the holidays my family members always bring up sports to me with some being more knowledgeable than others. Usually there are a few ridiculous opinions in these conversations. This year the best was that the Yankees should trade Judge for Strasburg and then sign Harper. Is this something that happens to you as writers and what's been the most ridiculous one you've heard?
  • Zac: I was putting some baseball cards in sleeves and I got to 1991 Braves outfielder Tommy Gregg. On this card was Gregg fouling a bunt straight down in the dirt. My question is what would be the worst cover pic for a baseball card? Adam Lind’s baby powder fart comes to mind for me.
  • Public perception of owners v players: Bruno in Brazil: A question related to free agent and the perception of economics in baseball. In general, there seems to be a big perception shift today in major sports, compared to some decades ago, when talking about finances, players salaries and money. Seems today that many (maybe most) fans tend to side with owners and management (which is an arm of the owners), who are billionaires making more and more millions off being baseball owners, and against the players, whose careers are usually very short, the odds of "making it" are very low, and who are the ones we actually enjoy watching actually play the game at high level. Whenever there is talk of strike, collusion or players salaries, all I seem to hear and read is that players are millionaires complaining that they don't make enough millions, that they should be thankful, etc etc. I've even had a fan tell me that the owners are the ones 'allowing' the players to play, so they should be compensated more than the players (as they are). Why do you think that is? What changed it? What is the influence on this of players salaries being public knowledge (and always without taxes and agent fees being considered) and their collective bargaining being somewhat public on the side of the players (players and the PA using the media to spread their message), while the team's financial situation and profits are secret and their negotiations is always behind close doors?
  • Ed from Saint Paul: I was looking at John Jaso's career and I noticed that he never had enough PAs to qualify for the batting title. Is he the position player to have the best career despite never playing a full season?
  • Evan: Has any team ever started a lineup whose nine hitters where in alphabetical order, by last name? My internet skills are not strong enough to answer this question myself, but I'm hoping you guys can find an answer. With nine players, there are 9 factorial possible orderings in a given lineup. That's 362,880. Only one of them is in proper alphabetical order. There have been about 217,000 MLB games and about 434,000 lineups, so it's possible that we've never seen an alphabetical lineup.
  • Taylor: In Episode 1316, Ben said the following "Hopefully Joe Mauer himself will one day be in the hall of fame, or at least a plaque with his likeness." This got me thinking, what if when players were elected into the hall of fame, they themselves had to physically stand in the hall of fame for everyone? There would be no plaque, just a nameplate and the actual player either telling you some fun facts about themselves. This would be required by law (somehow, I am not sure how the law works). What would their work schedule be? Would they just be required to stand in their booth during the baseball season or would they have to be in Cooperstown a certain percentage of time throughout the year? Also, would players actively campaign against themselves of getting in on the basis of them not wanting to stand in a booth in Cooperstown until they die? Would HOF players try to play into their seventies so they would have less time to spend in their booth?
  • Daniel: I was recently thinking about how baseball has been trying to increase fan engagement and the thought occurred to me. What if fans were able to have input on in-game decisions? Let’s say they were able to vote in via text on their smartphones and could make one managerial decision a game? let’s say we start with pitchers. The vote would be on when to take out the pitcher, or who would relieve the current pitcher, or what pitch limit they would have or when to intentionally walk a batter. I can see pinch-hitter decisions coming into play as well as specifics in the batting order. What kind of nonsense would occur and what would be the most common silly decision fans would make? Could you imagine mike trout being intentionally walked every time? OR would there be much difference between fans and current mlb managers?
  • Ted in Washington DC (Patreon): I wanted to get your thoughts on a proposal for timed baseball - i.e. a running game clock instead of 9 innings. I should mention that I am a Red Sox fan and this proposal is very much inspired by watching David Price grow older between pitches. The basic outline of the rules are: Game Time: 120 minutes Outs, innings, strikes/balls work the same way. Home team bats first. Game goes until 120 minutes is up. The team with more runs wins. If tied, put 10 minutes on the clock and continue. Do so until the game is resolved. The clock runs at all times, with the exception of between innings, home runs, pitching changes, and injuries.
  • Brendan: How would baseball be different if the playoff teams could draft two additional players from non-playoff teams, like what happens in the Venezuelan winter league?

Statblast[]

  • Willians Astudillo has only struck out 15 times in 705 Venezuelan Winter league at bats (2.1%), lowest strikeout rate in the league since he started playing in 2014.

Notes[]

  • The 2007 Mets were the last team to have 200 steals. No team has had 250 or more steals in a season since 1992.
  • Ben and Jeff both have families that don't follow baseball.
  • Ben's mother believes Mariano Rivera is bad. He theorizes that it is due to small sample size. Perhaps she's only seen Rivera give up a home run in the 1997 ALDS and the series-losing walk-off in the 2001 World Series.
  • “This is why I insist on podcasting every day and don't take Christmas week off, because I was raised by someone who criticizes Mariano Rivera.” - Ben
  • Jeff thinks it "might be the hottest baseball take I've ever heard." He "can't imagine the impossible standards that have been set" for Ben, given his mom's "unreasonably exorbitant standards for human performance."
  • Jeff did manage to get a reaction from his future father-in-law by mentioning that he once used the urinal next to Edgar Martinez.
  • Edgar Martinez has a career .579/.652/1.053 slash line off of Mariano Rivera in 19 at bats. However, 6 of those hits came in 1995, when Mariano Rivera hadn't yet become good.
  • Jeff can't think of a card depicting in-game action worse than a foul bunt. Ben's choice is Bill Pecota's 1991 card showing him swinging and missing.
  • Ben considers a few factors for the pro-owner bias: Since we know how much players earn, but not how much owners make, we don't think about the fact that owners are raking in the dough. The ratio of player salaries to typical worker salaries is much higher now than in the previous century. Owners are perceived as having earned their ownership status, whereas players are being paid to play a silly game. Your average fan has played baseball but has never owned a baseball team. That said, he believes that media has turned more pro-player in recent years.
  • Jeff notes that baseball salaries are beyond the dreams of most people, so they don't understand why players deserve even more money. He believes that people are fans of teams more than they are fans of players, and they don't want their team to be the one to do the "right thing" while putting itself at a disadvantage. He compares it to affordable housing, where people are generally in favor of it, as long as it's not near them.
  • The best player to never qualify for the batting title is catcher Rick Dempsey with 27.7 fWAR. Catchers dominate the list because they require more days off. The best non-catcher is Bernie Carbo. John Jaso is in 62nd place.
  • Dan Hirsch of Baseball Reference found exactly one game with an alphabetical starting lineup: Cincinnati Reds, on May 12th, 1934 against the Boston Braves. Jeff thought there would be more, because teams will pull stunts at the end of the season, like rotating a single player through every position.
  • Ben and Jeff are convinced that players would campaign against themselves or even sabotage their own careers to avoid receiving a life sentence to the Hall of Fame. Jeff raised darker and darker scenarios, until he realized the solution: Take performance-enhancing drugs!
  • Bill Veeck let fans control a game in August 1951: Fans wisely allowed starter and Effectively Wild legend Ned Garver to remain in the game after a shaky start. In 2006, the Schaumburg Flyers "Fan Club: Reality Baseball" allowed fans to make decisions like setting the starting lineup. Jeff suspects the fans would overuse the best players, and the game would slow down immensely due to all the voting. Ben points to fan voting for All-Star Games as evidence that fan decisions would turn out badly.
  • Baseball originally did have a natural clock: Play stopped when the sun went down. Ben thinks a clock would make things faster, but not better. Jeff agrees. Ben says that in general he gets anxious when he sees a clock counting down.
  • Taking players from non-playoff teams is common in Caribbean leagues.
  • Ben feels the team that played the season should be the one in the playoffs. He worries that adding a new player just for the playoffs would tarnish the sense of team success.
  • Jeff compares this to the 2004 movie Miracle, where the US Olympic men's hockey team rebels against the possibility of a ringer being added (forcing another player to be cut).
  • Jeff fears that teams who have secured a postseason appearance would tank to get a better playoff draft pick. Also, teams might draft pitchers with the goal of overusing them and making them worse when they return to their original teams.
  • Jeff says, "I don't think ringers are fun, and I don't think fans would treat it as very fun. It's a novelty."
  • A similar question about drafting players from non-playoff teams appeared in Episode 1281.

Links[]

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