MLB Tries to Speed Up the Game

Categories: Baseball, Sports

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MLB has a cunning plan to speed up the pace of games, which means it'll never be adopted
Baseball fans agree on few things, but if there's any one thing upon which all fans agree, it's that most games take too damn long to play. Major League games, which took an average of two hours and 50 minutes in 2010, lasted more than three hours last season. And this can't be blamed on an offensive explosion with home run after home run followed by pitching change after pitching change.

Reports trickled out last week that things might be changing, starting in the minor leagues, but hopefully soon moving up to the majors. The biggest change would be a pitch clock, proposed for use in the AA and AAA minor leagues this upcoming season, positioned at various locations around the stadium. The pitcher will have 20 seconds to make the pitch, and if he doesn't, then a ball will called by the umpire. Tied into this would be enhanced enforcement of the rule stating that batters must keep one foot in the batter's box at all times.

These are all good steps that will help to move baseball along at a crisper pace. It's stuff, however, that can actually be done now. Rule 6.02(d)(1) states that a batter must keep one foot in the box at all times -- there are exceptions, of course. And Rule 8.04 states that a pitcher has 12 seconds to throw a pitch once the batter is in the box. If the batter is outside the box and delaying a pitch, then a strike is supposed to be called on the batter. If the pitcher takes longer than 12 seconds, then a ball is supposed to be called.

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Astros Trade for Slugger but Don't Really Improve the Team

Categories: Baseball, Sports

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Not really sure about how trading for Evan Gattis makes this whole 2017 World Series champ thing happen
You're in a casino in Vegas, one on the Strip, something like Planet Hollywood. And you're at one of the $15 minimum blackjack tables. The dealer's cute, the table's friendly enough, everyone's getting along and joking and having a good time. You're only betting the minimum, but that's no big deal. The chips in front of you are slowly piling up and you're building up a slight profit for the night, making up for what you've lost on various other activities during the day.

That's when the dude shows up. You know, the smart guy with the bro-hipster facial thing going on who thinks he knows everything about blackjack and has his own system worked out. He's kind of drunk but he thinks he's in total control. He keeps bragging about this system of his, but he loses hand after hand and he starts getting flustered. He bitches at the lady on his right for not playing properly and starts loudly contradicting the advice the dealer gives out because she's just a stooge of the casino and if you'll just listen to him you'll hit it big.

Eventually the dude's shouting at the woman and calling the dealer an idiot and the guy to the dude's left has enough and tells the dude to shut up and there's more shouting and then security shows up and escorts the dude away. But the vibe's gone. The dealer's still cute but not flirting. The mood's down. And you start losing and then you just get up and leave before all of your money's gone.

The Houston Astros think they're the smartest team in baseball. They've supposedly figured out angles no one's ever thought of and they're going to build a baseball dynasty derived in part from strategy used to play blackjack. But they're approaching the slightly-drunk-dude-with-the bro-hipster-facial-hair status. They may think their system is the best in the world, but they've yet to actually prove it can do anything besides get big write-ups and cover stories in national sports magazines.

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The Craig Biggio Memory Tour Brings Us to Art Howe

Categories: Baseball, Sports

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Who out there remembers Art Howe as manager of the Astros?
Craig Biggio's election to the Baseball Hall of Fame got me to thinking about Biggio's early years in the majors, and the switch he made from catcher to second base. Art Howe was the Astros manager at this time, and he was the one tasked with implementing general manager Bill Wood's vision for prolonging Biggio's career while still allowing the team to make the best use of Biggio's abilities.

The popular perception of Art Howe is a grotesque caricature from the movie Moneyball that was cobbled together by Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Bennett Miller, and Aaron Sorkin (and if you ask Howe, Billy Beane). He's the old-fashioned baseball guy who can't grasp the genius of his boss Billy Beane and refuses to acknowledge the usefulness of statistics. He's obsessed with getting a contract extension, he won't play Scott Hatteberg, and he's a credit hog who eagerly accepts the accolades for the great season put together by the 2002 Oakland A's.

This perception is, of course, wrong. Art Howe and Billy Beane had issues and a sometimes contentious working relationship. But Howe managed the A's for seven seasons, guiding the team to the playoffs his last three. He didn't obsess over his contract, and he did play Hatteberg. But every movie needs a villain, and the filmmakers of Moneyball decided that Howe's character was the one best suited to voice the baseball establishment's views of Beane and his crazy idea -- Michael Lewis' book does Howe no favors in that it fashions Howe as a clueless button-pusher following Beane's commands.

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In All of the Craig Biggio Talk, Let's Not Forget About Bill Wood

Categories: Baseball, Sports

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Congrats to Craig Biggio
That moment for which Houston sports fans have been eagerly awaiting ever since Craig Biggio was thrown out trying to stretch his 3,000th hit into a double has finally arrived. A player from the Houston Astros is finally being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Biggio, unlike Joe Morgan and Nolan Ryan, will proudly wear an Astros cap on his hall plaque. Randy Johnson, who spend about three magical months in Houston in 1998, was also inducted, but he'll wear the cap of one of his other teams.

It's an honor well-deserved for Biggio, one of the greatest players in franchise history, and one of the greatest second baseman in major league history. He got over 3,000 hits, was a doubles machine, won gold gloves for his defensive play, and was also an All Star while playing at catcher, his original position.

The odds are increasingly in favor of Biggio's teammate Jeff Bagwell, the greatest player in team history, making the Hall of Fame in the next three years. And there's also the chance that another teammate of Biggio's, pitcher Curt Schilling, could be inducted.

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The Sports World Reacts To The Death Of ESPN's Stuart Scott (1965-2015)

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By Alan Rose (Stu and Alan) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
A few weeks ago on the Monday Night Football pregame show on ESPN, Suzy Kolber was sitting in for Stuart Scott hosting at the onsite desk. I can't recall which former players she was sitting with (likely some permutation of Steve Young, Trent Dilfer, and Ray Lewis), but at the end of the segment, just before kickoff, she had the crew come out to the desk to join them.

At that point, Kolber sent tearful wishes and prayers to Scott, then the whole lot of ESPNers joined hands and raised their arms to salute to the longtime personality, who had been battling cancer on and off for seven years.

It was at that point that you knew that Scott's health situation, the severity of which he did his best to shield from his viewing audience (save a very revealing speech at the ESPY's in accepting the Arthur Ashe Courage Award), was grave.

On Sunday morning, Stuart Scott passed away in a Hartford, CT area hospital at age 49.

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Some (More Than Likely Wrong) Sports Predictions for 2015

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The year 2015 brings some bad news for Craig Biggio fans.
Welcome to the second day of 2015. It's that time that I make my predictions for what's going to happen in the upcoming months. Most of these will be wildly wrong, but who knows. Every now and then I actually get something right. So...

10. Jadeveon Clowney tears his ACL on his first play back on NRG Stadium turf. The Texans still refuse to acknowledge any problems with the pallet system. The next game, J.J. Watt tears his ACL and must miss the entire season. At this point, the NRG Stadium turf is immediately ripped out and replaced by the rotting astroturf sitting inside the Astrodome.

9. The Rice Owls win Conference USA, the second time in three seasons the football team has pulled this off. The Houston Cougars, under new head coach Tom Herman, win eight games and look to be a vastly improved team with high-powered offense and an attacking defense.

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Looking Back at the Year in UH and Rice Sports

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The Cougars definitely want to get 2014 over with
With the Rice Owls having played in the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve, and the Houston Cougars playing in the Armed Forces Bowl next Friday, maybe now's a good time to take a look back at the year that was in UH and Rice sports.

HOUSTON COUGARS

Beginnings: A new era dawned on Cougar sports with the opening of TDECU Stadium where Robertson Stadium used to stand. The minimalist facility, seating 40,000 people, offers up great sight lines and a tremendous view of downtown Houston. Finishing touches are still being applied, but it's a huge improvement for fans and players.

Embarrassments: The Cougars opened up TDECU Stadium by losing 27-7 to UTSA. This was just the first of several embarrassing losses for the football team. The Cougars also lost to Tulane on homecoming (Tulane had won just two games at that point), and the Cougars struggled to defeat a Tulsa team that had managed just two wins up to that point. And the basketball team was embarrassed on multiple occasions, losing by 39 and 15 points to Louisville, 23 points to Memphis, 37 points to UConn, 23 points to Rutgers, and 21 points to UCF.

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The Astros Are Ready for 2015 Already

Categories: Baseball, Sports

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Thanks again for that cover link, SI
It's fast approaching time to kiss 2014 goodbye. And I for one am eagerly awaiting for a new start in 2015. But before the New Year arrives, let's take one last look into the year for the Houston Astros, the somewhat lovable group of losers playing baseball at Minute Maid Park.

The Good

6. The Astros won 70 games. While that still makes for a losing season, it's a hell of a lot better than the three seasons before that which saw the Astros lose 100-plus games each year. The team also showed improvement with the starting pitching and the farm system started to finally produce some of the long promised talent.

5. Speaking of that promised farm system talent, George Springer came up the majors in May and proceeded to set the world on fire. He hit 20 homers in only 345 plate appearances. He displayed speed on the bases, walked a decent amount, and played a very good outfield. The only problems were he struck out a lot (114 times) and missed a lot of time with injuries (which can probably be blamed on the Sports Illustrated cover jinx.

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Is This the Year for Jeff Bagwell? Probably Not

Categories: Baseball, Sports

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There will likely once again be no Hall of Fame induction for Jeff Bagel
The new inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame will be announced early next month. So let's just get this out of the way now: Jeff Bagwell's name will not be one of the inductees. Craig Biggio's name will likely be announced, but Bagwell, the best player in Astros history, will be left out once again.

The Hall of Fame ballot was mailed out to voters last week, and it's a crowded ballot. There are 34 names on it, with 17 of those names (including Biggio and Bagwell) being players who were also on last year's ballot. Voters can only vote for a maximum of 10 players, and a player must receive 75-percent of the votes cast to be inducted -- Biggio missed by two votes last year. There were 571 ballots cast last year, and 50-percent of those ballots contained the maximum 10 names.

It's not yet known how many eligible voters will actually vote this year, but it's safe to say that 75-percent of those who vote won't be voting for Bagwell, who is in his fifth year on the ballot. There's been much speculation in years past about why Bagwell can't get the required number, most of that speculation centered on steroid rumors.

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Rockets Fans, Meet Your New Best Friend: Root Sports Southwest

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Tonight I will leave work after my show is over, I will settle in, fix myself a plate of whatever tasty treats my girlfriend Amy has prepared for dinner, sit down on the couch and do something that I've been unable to do since the end of the 2011-2012 NBA season:

I will watch a local Houston Rockets broadcast from the comfort of my own home!

It almost sounds weird to say it, it's been so long since I've been able to do this, and I feel like Red in Shawshank Redemption. I mean... Bill, Clyde, and Bull, complemented by the dulcet tones of Kevin Eschenfelder and Calvin Murphy on the pre and post game shows.... I mean.... This is the excitement only a free man can feel!

And damn if it isn't a great game on tap tonight as well, a battle between the teams with the two best records in the league, the Rockets and the Memphis Grizzlies!

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