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Kaz's Korner

Astros begin exhibition games much aware of MLB's new rules

Major League Baseball’s three new rules that will be enacted during the 2023 season are already being scrutinized by the 30 teams, especially by the Houston Astros and their manager Dusty Baker during the opening weekend of the exhibition season in Florida and Arizona.

The 73-year-old like able and respected Astros manager, who should be a shoo-in for Baseball’s Hall of Fame when he finally does retire for good, spent most of Saturday’s opening game against the New York Mets fixated on the scoreboard in right-center field.

“I was watching the clock every batter,” Baker told the writer for the Houston Chronicle. “It got down to two and three seconds a bunch of times.”

However, no Astro let it expire as the team completed its spring training opener with a 4-2 win over the pitching-rich New York Mets in an almost unbelievable time of two hours and 33 minutes without a pitch-clock violation.

But Baker had the upper hand in the situation because he played a lineup of mostly minor leaguers, who spent all of last season with the clock that their major league brethren will face in the 2023 season.

“Houston’s starting battery of Brandon Bielak and Korey Lee spent most of last season in Class AAA Sugar Land with a pitch clock in use. All but one of the seven relievers that followed Bielak were minor leaguers for most of last season. The lone veteran, non-roster invitee Austin Davis, got through the fourth inning without violating any of the rules,” the article pointed out.

More of Baker’s concern was centered around the hitters, who must be in the batter’s box and engaged with the pitcher before the clock reaches eight seconds.

“Atlanta Braves prospect Cal Conley did not during the ninth inning of his team’s Grapefruit League game against the Boston Red Sox. With a full count and the bases loaded, the umpire called an automatic strike against Conley, ending the game,” the Chronical article stated.

‘It will be baseball like we’ve never seen it in the past 146 years,” pointed out a baseball writer for USA Today Sports Weekly. “Pitch clocks in a sport that used to pride itself on having no clock. Base bags the size of pizza boxes. Position players who are actually playing in their natural positions.”

“This is going to be the biggest change in baseball that we’ve seen in our lifetimes,” MLB executive vice president Morgan Sword says.

MLB realized that its game was starting to bore its fans. The average game last season was 3 hours, 7 minutes—more than 30 minutes longer than games played in the 1970’s. There were 60,765 infield shifts last year. MLB believes the pitch clock will reduce the games by 30 minutes.

According to MLB, the enlarged bases—increasing from 15 inches to 18 inches and shortening the distance by 4 ½ inches from first to second and second to third—will encourage more stealing and reduce injuries while the ban on shifts will showcase more defensive prowess.

MLB also is certain there will be a whole lot of complaints all spring, figuring it will take about a month for the players to get accustomed to all the changes.

“Certainly, it will be a massive adjustment to the veterans, but 47 percent of players have experienced the new rules in the minor leagues—including rehab assignments,” the USA Today article concluded.

The minor leagues, which certainly serves as a guinea pig for all the MLB proposals, will be experimenting with the electronic balls and strikes during the 2023 season, but will have real live umpires for three days a week, with hopes it will work out as well as this year’s three proposals and be ready for the major leagues in the very near future.

KWICKIES…If you are strapped with the Jefferson County daily newspaper that doesn’t even cover Lamar baseball very adequately. the Cards are off to their best start in many decades and were 8-0 going into last night’s game against Alcorn State.

I was probably the only non-family member to call him by his real first name “Mario”, but Ray Dal Sasso and I had something in common — the Chicago Cubs. Ray loved that team and I played baseball in their organization in 1960’s. Ray was a great golfer and very successful race horse owner and loved to talk about baseball. I will miss him and his good nature. Visitation will be from 5 to 7 pm tomorrow (Thursday) at Claybar in Orange.

The Chicago Bears are thinking very seriously of trading away their No. 1 pick in the upcoming NFL draft in hopes of finding a team that will trade several draft picks for that precious No. 1 pick, according to ESPN Monday morning.

Northern Kentucky’s designated hitter Liam McFadden-Ackman belted two first-inning grand slams last weekend as his team (6-1) destroyed Western Michigan (0-6) 27-4. He finished the game five-for-six with a double, triple. 4 runs scored and 10 RBIs. He completed hitting for the cycle in the sixth inning.

Orange native Wade Phillips remained an undefeated head coach in the new XFL as his Houston Roughnecks defeated the Arlington Renegades 23-14 Sunday, running their record to 2-0. Arlington’s final six drives resulted in three punts, a missed field goal ad two touchdowns. It looks to me like Wade’s first team defense is plenty salty.

The Big 12 is thinking about added four more schools to the conference with Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders’ Colorado Buffaloes in the group. The three other schools include Arizona State, Arizona and Utah.

Chris Kirk’s tap-in birdie on the first extra hole earned him a victory in the Honda Classic Sunday at Palm Beach Gardens, FL. It was his first PGA Tour win in eight years as he defeated Eric Cole who each finished the 72 holes tied at 266, Kirk earned $1.512 million while Cole settled for a nifty $912,600 check.

JUST BETWEEN US…AT&T SportsNet Southwest—you know, the network that carries the Houston Astros game we can’t watch as a Spectrum customer and before that Time Warner—informed both the Astros and the Houston Rockets --games they also carry--on Friday of its plans to exit the regional sports network business because it is on the verge of financial collapse. The main question as the Houston Astros prepare for their season opener next month and the Rockets wrap up their NBA season is which channel the games will air and who will pay production costs for telecasting the games. A spokesman for AT&T SportsNet Southwest said that they “will not have sufficient cash to pay the upcoming rights fees and that unless it can transfer ownership of the network by March 31, the only realistic option is to file for Chapter 7 liquidation.”


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