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MLB Roundup 1/30: Dusty Baker hired as Astros manager

Plus Kris Bryant’s decision and a couple sort-of rule changes.

Divisional Round - Washington Nationals v Chicago Cubs - Game Four Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Astros hire Dusty Baker

And then there was one. The Red Sox are now the only team in baseball who does not have a manager after the Astros hired Dusty Baker on Wednesday. At first glance, this seems like a weird match as Baker seems to be an old-school type and the Astros are, well, not that. I think that’s the wrong way to look at this, though. Baker is one of the most well-respected people in the game and brings a credibility that can’t be matched by many others. The Astros desperately need that kind of presence after everything that’s happened the last few months. People will point to his failures of 15 years ago, but that ignores how Baker has grown, most notably in his last stint with the Nationals. But I will say what I say with most any managerial conversation: I have no idea. So much of what a manager does is behind the scene, I find it hard to be confident in any opinion.

Sox Spin: I wouldn’t have minded the Red Sox hiring Baker, but I’m not sure how realistic that really is.

Kris Bryant loses his grievance

Kris Bryant came into the league in 2015 and immediately performed at a high level against major-league pitching. And by immediately, I mean he did so a couple weeks into the year, because the Cubs held him in Triple-A to “work on his defense.” It’s the wink-wink, nudge-nudge excuse for every team holding down a top prospect to manipulate their service time and get an extra year of control. It happens basically every year, but it was about as blatant as ever with Bryant, who would file a grievance to get that year back and become a free agent after this season. That’s been going on for years now, but it finally ended yesterday and Bryant came out on the losing end. He’ll be a free agent after the 2021 season.

This is an absurd decision and tacit permission for every team to keep down their best players. It was probably always going to end this way, though, because it’s really hard to prove that a team had illegitimate reasons to keep a player down. Note that had Bryant been called up a day earlier, he would have been a free agent after this season. The natural reaction, for some reason, is for people to blame the Players Union. That’s not entirely incorrect, as these exploitable rules have been around for a while now and the union hasn’t fought hard enough to change them. At the same time, that is taking too much responsibility from the clubs, who are breaking the rules. Just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it’s okay to do. There is a requirement in CBAs to act in good faith, and that’s not at all happening here. Arguing that teams obviously have to screw their best prospects isn’t a good point, and it’s rather just a depressing way to look at the world. Anyway, I could go on and on with this, but I won’t.

The other part of this is that Bryant’s trade value increases, but there haven’t been as many rumors on that front lately. It seems like the Cubs are going to keep their star third baseman. Novel concept.

A couple MLB sort-of rule changes

MLB announced a couple of changes over the last few days. First, umps will be mic’d up in order to explain to crowds and TV audiences what happened after a replay review. I have seen some people complain as it’s giving umps more facetime, which, come on. I get that, but this is obviously good. I need no more evidence than that one Rays game I am too lazy to look up the specifics for when there was something like a 20 minute delay because of a batting order dispute. Or something along those lines. That was absurd and no one knew what was happening until after the game. That’s unacceptable. No more of that is good, even if I have to listen to Joe West for maybe an extra ten seconds every once in awhile.

Baseball also announced that, with the new 26-man rosters, they can only carry 13 pitchers. This was expected, but it’s now official. I would have preferred a 12-man staff, but that wasn’t ever realistic.