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2021 MLB playoffs – Enrique Hernández’s impressive performance drew praise from Houston Astros’ manager Dusty Baker



The live interviews of managers on broadcasts often receive criticism, but sometimes they produce moments like Saturday night, when Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker reacted to a monstrous home run from Boston Red Sox center fielder Enrique Hernández on television.

“Oh Lord,” Baker said as the ball traveled over the left-center field wall, chuckling under his breath.

Before the home run, Baker told the broadcast that starting pitcher Framber Valdez was struggling. Hernández then unloaded on a pitch from the Astros hurler.

“He hung a breaking ball,” Baker said. “Usually he doesn’t hang them. He was having trouble finding his release point because he was bouncing some of them, and then he hung that one. Got to flush that one too and start all over again.”

Broadcaster Joe Buck soon let Baker return to his duties managing Houston.

“I’m going to blame you guys,” Baker said.

After the game, Baker talked about what it was like to be live on television during Hernández’s first home run of the evening.

“It was terrible,” Baker said. “I blame Fox for that because invariably, when you are doing it live – an in-game live interview something usually always happens.”

Hernández finished the evening with two homers, a double, a single and saved two runs with a diving catch in center field, although his performance could not bring Boston over the top in a 5-4 defeat at the hands of the Astros in Game 1.

Baker couldn’t help but praise the Red Sox center fielder after the game.

“I haven’t seen a hitter this hot in the last week than Kiké Hernández,” Baker said. “Boy, when I saw that ball go up, I was like, oh man, that was a blast. Then he blasted another one. It’s not a good feeling when you know you’re live on air and you see that ball leaving the ballpark.”

So far this postseason, Hernández is 14-for-28 in six games with four doubles, four home runs, eight RBIs and seven runs scored. He currently ranks first in MLB postseason stats in hits, home runs, RBIs, and extra-base hits. Friday also marked his third career playoff game with 10 total bases, the most in baseball history. He also became the first leadoff hitter in MLB postseason history with two homers and four hits in a game according to ESPN Stats and Info.

“Enrique right now is en fuego,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora.

Hernández said his postseason experience with the Los Angeles Dodgers helped prepare him to perform in big moments.

“There’s nothing that compares to playing in the playoffs until you play in the playoffs,” Hernández said. “And the fact that I was able to be in the postseason six years when I was with the Dodgers, it was huge. We played some very important games, and with time you kind of get a little numb towards the moments.”

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Sources — MLB makes first labor proposal since lockout, awaits union’s counter as threat of postponed spring training looms



Major League Baseball on Thursday made its first labor proposal since locking out players Dec. 2, focusing on a narrow set of issues that did little to encourage players and heightened the likelihood of spring training being postponed, sources familiar with the situation told ESPN.

During the sides’ first meeting that discussed core economic issues in 43 days, the league proposed changes to the arbitration system for players with two-plus years of service, tweaked its proposed draft lottery and offered the ability for teams to earn draft picks if top prospects find early success in the major leagues, according to sources.

MLB hoped the proposal would spur discussion with the union after the sides’ failed negotiations leading up to the lockout led to six weeks of inaction.

Topics not discussed Thursday that have been in the players’ suite of asks included changes to the competitive-balance tax and raising the minimum salary.

While the league indicated before the lockout that it was not open to considering free agency before six years or changes to the current revenue-sharing plan, the union could include both in a counterproposal.

The timing of the union’s rejoinder could be paramount to salvaging the mid-February reporting date for pitchers and catchers, though multiple sources fear that negotiations will pick up closer to the end of the month, when the threat of losing regular-season games becomes more realistic.

The disappointment from players in the league’s proposal Thursday wasn’t altogether unexpected. MLB offered a significant revamping of its system in paying players with between two and three years of major league service time, offering an increase in money going to those players through a formula that would determine their pay.

Currently, the salaries of two-plus players are bifurcated. The top 22% of players in the class who have the most service time are designated as “Super 2s” — and receive an extra year of arbitration eligibility, during which they are allowed to negotiate their salaries. The other 78%, regardless of performance, can be renewed by teams at just above the minimum salary. While MLB’s proposal would eliminate Super 2s in the future, sources said, players who currently have one day of service would be able to choose between the current system that includes Super 2s and the performance-based proposal.

MLB’s proposal, sources said, would eliminate Super 2s. Between that and the implementation of a formula — which MLB previously proposed for all arbitration-eligible players — the immediate reaction from players, sources said, was negative, with fears that implementing a scale for two-plus players would at some point open the door to the same in other arbitration-eligible players.

Currently, arbitration salaries are determined by a precedent-based system in which players compare their statistics to past players’ and negotiate their salaries. The league’s attempt Thursday to address service-time manipulation — a practice in which teams keep players in the minor leagues in attempts to gain an extra year before they reach free agency or keep them from reaching Super 2 status — came via rewarding teams that promote top prospects who find success, according to sources.

MLB proposed awarding a draft pick if a team places a Top 100 prospect on its opening day roster, then the player wins Rookie of the Year or finishes in the top 3 of MVP or Cy Young voting within his first three seasons, sources said. The offer included the possibility of a pick in an international draft, sources said, indicating that the league is continuing to push for a change in the signing of non-domestic amateurs. A team, sources said, could reap only one pick per player, meaning if he won Rookie of the Year and then MVP, the second award would not lead to a second pick.

Players’ skepticism toward the idea mirrored that of when the league proposed using the Wins Above Replacement system from FanGraphs to replace the arbitration system. While the idea of incentivizing teams to break camp with their best 26 players is a goal of players, doing so through the opinions of outsiders — in this case the baseball writers who have turned prospect lists into a successful industry — did not appeal to them, sources said.

The third leg of the league’s proposal included a tweak to its draft lottery, which it had previously proposed with three teams, to which the union countered asking for eight. MLB stuck with three teams but offered for a team to be ineligible for the lottery in three consecutive seasons, according to sources.

MLB also continued to push for a 14-team playoff, as opposed to the 12-team version the union proposed, and offered a universal designated hitter, sources said.

Previous discussions stalled without much movement toward a deal. The league had offered to eliminate direct draft-pick compensation — which penalizes teams that sign top free agents — while the union had accepted expanded playoffs.

MLB proposed to increase the Competitive Balance Threshold (CBT) from $210 million to $214 million but added penalties for teams that exceed it, while the union said it would allow teams to place advertising patches on uniforms.

A chasm remains with most of the core economic issues. The players had proposed reaching free agency and arbitration earlier, hiking the CBT threshold to $245 million and amending revenue sharing. Which of those, if any, are the union’s greatest priority could become clearer in its next offer.

And that may offer a greater sense of whether the game’s first work stoppage in more than a quarter century takes the early days of spring training as its only casualty or continues into the regular season.

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Atlantic League ends trials with 61-foot mounds, robo umps for balls and strikes



NEW YORK — The Atlantic League is restoring its pitching mound to 60 feet, 6 inches from home plate and returning strike zone judgment to umpires after experimenting with moving the rubber back a foot and using an automatic ball-strike system.

The independent league announced the changes Thursday as part of its partnership with Major League Baseball. The sides have been paired since 2019, with the Atlantic League agreeing to test rules and equipment that might one day reach the majors.

The automated ball-strike system debuted in the Atlantic League for the second half of the 2019 season and has since been tested and tweaked in the affiliated low-Class A Southeast League. The so-called robo-umps might still one day make it to the majors, although a move to ABS there doesn’t seem imminent.

The 61-foot, 6-inch mound appears dead. Neither the data nor feedback from players or coaches in the Atlantic League last season suggest the extra foot had much effect.

The Atlantic League will continue to use larger, 17-inch bases; anti-shift rules; and a change to extra innings that puts runners at first and second to begin the first inning after regulation and then loads the bases for innings after that.

The league said in a statement Thursday that it will announce other rules experiments for 2022 later this spring.

“We are honored to pioneer the future of the game with Major League Baseball,” Atlantic League president Rick White said. “We’re proud that many tests today will find their way to the big leagues in the future. We will continue to closely corroborate on tests with MLB.”

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Travis Snider retires after 8 big league seasons



Travis Snider says he has retired after eight major league seasons.

“I have contemplated this day for for a while but the time has finally come for me to hang up the spikes,” he wrote Thursday on Instagram. “I have spent many waking hours and sleepless nights trying to find a way back to the show. How to fix my swing. How to be a better teammate and a leader. What I have learned through those experiences is what gives me the confidence in this transition to becoming a ‘former player.'”

Snider, who turns 34 on Feb. 2, last played in the major leagues in 2015 with Pittsburgh. He spent last season with the Atlanta Braves‘ Triple-A farm team at Gwinnett and hit .174 with four home runs and 15 RBIs in 138 at-bats.

Snider was the 14th overall pick by the Blue Jays in the 2006 amateur draft. He had a .244 average with 54 homers and 212 RBIs for Toronto (2008-12), Pittsburgh (2012-15) and Baltimore (2015).

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