MLB’s New ‘Two Way’s To Add To Fan Aggravation

Well its been about two weeks since the last post and so, no surprise to regular readers, Leadglove Rob’s been at it again since then. Yes, never ones to let a chance to shoot themselves in the foot go by without bloodying a toe or two at least, MLB is back at it with more ways to make the sport and league just a bit less interesting and appealing to the fans.

First we have the availability of games online. For years now, the league has been promoting MLB.TV as a way to watch any game you want. No worries about what channel your cable provider might have or if you’re out of the house… pay MLB and you can watch any game, every game online on your PC or phone, or any number of other new device. The service has been a little expensive, but for many, it’s a great way to be able to see all your team’s games anywhere you go.

A good system, so whaddya know – they’ve changed it up in a number of markets for the 2020 season. Some (if not all) the teams are going to have blackouts for their local areas, meaning you’ll be able to watch every game … except your hometown faves. For them you’ll be able to go out to the park to “root, root, root for the home team”… or possibly buy another expensive local service. For Jays fans in their main market of Canada, all 3500 miles from sea to shining sea, it would mean buying a new service from the team’s owner’s Rogers’ Communications. Which some fans might do, but would certainly cut down on their desire to renew their MLB.TV account, as not many Toronto fans will be wanting to plonk down something like $150 (in Canuck bucks) to watch those late-night San Diego/ Arizona battles. Yahoo didn’t think much ofYahoo didn’t think much of the plan, but then again, who does?

Next up, another new Rob Manfred rule announced last year that makes little sense to quite a few fans and is perturbing Cincinnati fans … and possibly Toronto ones too! Enter the “Two way player”. Of course, baseball rode a wave of excitement and international interest a couple of years ago when Shohei Ohtani came over from Japan and signed with the Angels. Another good Japanese pitcher, but with a twist … he is a hitter too. Fans were abuzz, even outside of Anaheim, and while so far, Ohtani’s trips to the mound have been limited due to injuries, he’s been a fan favorite and seen by some as a role model for a brand new kind of player. Brand new old school type of player, some would say. Remember that Babe Ruth, the game’s greatest hitter not only had the home run record for about five decades but also managed to pitch 300 innings twice in a season and finish his career with 94 wins and an ERA barely above 2.

Well MLB apparently thinks we don’t want too much fan excitement or too many star players becoming household names, so they’ve installed rules essentially designed to prevent this from becoming more common. As of this year, teams will have to designate a player as a “two-way” if they want to use him as a pitcher as well as position player. Otherwise, non-pitchers can only appear in extra innings or in blow-out games where the lead is over 7 runs. And, to add a snag to having an influx of players designated as such, they decree that player must have not only pitched 20 innings in the current season or the year before, but also have started 20 games as a position player and had 3 or more plate appearances in each of those games. Since Ohtani didn’t actually live upto those numbers they put in a one-time grandfather clause that will let the Angels call him a two-way this season.

Not so lucky, the Cincinnati Reds, who have a similar, if perhaps less-stellar, type player in Michael Laurenzen. they’ve used him both as an outfielder and a regular arm in the bullpen, but even though he logged over 80 innings last season, and playing 100 games in the field, he didn’t qualify because he was often used as a defensive replacement and didn’t always notch 3 times to the plate. The Reds can still use him this year but would have to call him a “pitcher” (which, it’s not clear, may impede his ability to play regularly in the outfield) or an outfielder who can only be called upon infrequently in extra inning games or blow-outs to pitch.

Another player who will suffer from this new rule is… wait for it… Jose Bautista! Wait, you say. The Jose Bautista of “bat flip” fame? The 50-homer hitting Joey Bats of the Blue Jays of yesteryear? The Bautista who’s apparently retired?

Yes, that Jose Bautista. He never officially retired and has been working out all winter, apparently trying to not only play in this year’s Olympics (glad that baseball is apparently reinstated as an Olympic sport!) but wants to get back to the majors as a two-way player. In his prime, he did have a laser of an arm in the outfield, and doubters who’ve watched him come away less dubious. He apparently has a 94 mph fastball, and a good slider with “legitimate tilt”. Former teammate Marcus Stroman has worked out with him and declares Bautista good enough to make many MLB bullpens right now. And while maybe not fast enough with the bat to lead the league in dingers anymore, have no doubt he could still swat a few out of the park and run down a ball or two in the outfield.

The prospect has excited many, especially Toronto fans. Bautista was always well-loved among the Jays faithful and seemed to reciprocate their warmth. With the Jays bullpen so-so and full of possibilites but short of sure-things beyond closer Ken Giles and with the likes of Derek Fisher seeming like contenders for a backup OF spot, many think Jose could actually fit into the 2020 roster. And well, who wouldn’t be a little curious to see the announcer declaring “batting for Texas, second baseman Roughned Odor. And now pitching for the Blue Jays, Jose Bautista…”?

Perhaps unrealistic, perhaps a pipe dream.But what is real is the fact that once again, Rob Manfred and his minions are needlessly draining the game of a little bit more excitement and fun.

7 comments

  1. badfinger20

    What the hell is the reason for the “two way” player rule? There has to be a reason but I cannot figure it out. I don’t think any player is forced to pitch if he doesn’t want to. I wish he would leave the game alone.

    I simply hate blackouts. I have paid for the extra innings many years but could not see the Reds or the Braves when they played the Dodgers. Did they think I was going to get in my car and travel 300 miles either way to see every game?

    Do you think Bautista will catch on?

    • Dave

      It’s another senseless rule… the explanation I read was Manfred was worried about teams stacking the roster with many many pitchers and labeling them as position players to get around the new 13-pitcher maximum. i can’t see many teams really wanting to reduce the number of bench/utility players to add an extra two or three bullpen arms, especially now with the added rules about 3-batter minimum.
      Jose … i think he COULD do it. Whether or not he will is a bigger question mark. For one thing,if he wants to play in the Olympics, that would mean a fair chunk of time off mid-season which would be a deterrant to teams signing him (although, conversely if he kicked ass at the games, that might be a good reason for teams to want him for a playoff run.) The new rule wouldmake it difficult for him to take on that two-way player role, though he might be good enough to succeed at it… a few years ago he had a fantastic arm in the OF, he and Jesse Barfield were probably the two best the team ever had in that respect. I wouldn’t be surprised if he could do a good job for a few innings now and again.

  2. badfinger20

    In the American League maybe…you could stack it more but in the National…no. Just another dumb rule that throws the baby out with the bathwater as some say. Sometimes stupid rules are made to counteract things…and make it worse.

    I hope he makes it but it would be the best story with the Jays. He is not the most popular guy in the world with some other teams. I always liked the guy. All the teams that gave up on him had to regret it.

    I love when players do that…I don’t know if you remember Mark Lemke of the Braves in the 90s. He retired and almost made it back as a knuckleball pitcher.

    That brings up something stupid that I would love to see…we talk baseball so here you go. I would LOVE for a guy that throws a fastball around 100…or up there… to learn the knuckleball…Imagine if you are the batter expecting a 100 mph heater and in comes the floating knuckleball. It would add a twist.

    • Dave

      Oh yeah, I remember Lemke. Everyone liked that guy!! I didn’t know he tried to pitch though – interesting. A somewhat similar story for Toronto was Dave Steib … of course, he was one of their best starting pitchers, but I think it was 5 years after he retired they invited him to spring training as a coaching assistant and after a few weeks it became apparent he was throwing better than some of the 20 year olds he was trying to train, so he had a brief second career out of the Jays bullpen that year.
      I agree with you on the knuckleball. I’ve wondered too why more pitchers don’t learn it and throw it once in a while – not like Neikro or WAkefiled making it the whole game, but just two , three times a game . It would really mess up hitters’ timing.

      • badfinger20

        Sandy Koufax retired in 1966 and in 1981 he was pitching the pre World Series batting practice…he was striking out Garvey, Cey, Baker etc…the coaches politely got him off the mound lol. He couldn’t help it…he was just so competetive.

        The knuckleball would add to a pitchers arsenal. R.A. Dickey was really good at it. He could put some speed on it. Probably the fastest knuckeball.

      • Dave

        one can only imagine the kind of career Koufax would’ve had if he’d been around when they had the current surgical techniques available.
        Dickey was a bit different for a knuckleballer, like you say, a bit more velocity and relied on the knuckler a little less than some. He was quite decent with Toronto but didn’t live up to expectations, hence wasn’t all that popular unfortunately. Tough to live up to expectations when you’re traded coming off a Cy Young.

      • badfinger20

        Dickey played for the Tennessee Vols and they didn’t help his arm. They didn’t keep pitch counts and he figured it was around 130-140 pitches a game. He could hit 96 in college.

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