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Terrerobytes: An unchecked 26th man threatens baseball

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Plus: CBA update, special Hall of Fame ballot, charitable endeavors and a prospects-only market for Chris Sale

MLB: World Series-Chicago Cubs at Cleveland Indians Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

In his latest article for SI.com, Tom Verducci minced no words when it came to the proposal to add a 26th man to active rosters:

Baseball's owners and players have talked about expanding rosters to 26 men as part of the collective bargaining agreement negotiations. If they do so without limitations on pitcher usage, it will be the worst thing to happen to the sport since Astroturf and threaten to end the game’s period of record growth.

It’s a strong position on the verge of being melodramatic, but he supplies enough evidence to keep it from teetering over the edge. Relief pitching is as great for winning games as it is for putting non-hardcore fans to sleep. If relievers are overpowering, they suppress offense. If they’re bad, they lead to multiple pitching changes an inning and an unbelievable amount of dead time. If they’re overspecialized ... both. And there’s no slowing it down, because the Times Through the Order Penalty is finally taking hold:

The third-time concept is changing the game rapidly. In 2016 starters faced batters the third time around the lineup less often (on a per-game basis) than any time in baseball history. The number of times a starter faced the same hitter a third time dropped 10.3 percent just in the past two years.

And rarely does a starter get all the way through the lineup a third time. Starters faced 27 batters this year in 1,405 starts—the lowest in recorded history, even with virtually double the number of games today as there were through 1960. The number of such starts declined 16% just since last year, and 36% just since 2011.

And this was with Robin Ventura leading all managers year after year in long outings by and slow hooks for his starting pitchers. Imagine where these numbers might go with him out of the league.

The 26th man can be fun if used for pure bench power or speed, as it would bring some balance back to the offense. It can’t/shouldn’t be used for a situation where there’s a pitcher for every hitter, because systemically hoping for an even smaller minority outcome isn’t fun.

Take the World Series, during which I pulled for the Indians but wasn’t emotionally invested in either team. It was cool watching Andrew Miller and Cody Allen overpower people through the first six games, but it was more riveting when Bryan Shaw had to choose between Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist in Game 7. Or, if you couldn’t find the fun in a Cubs threat no matter the circumstances, how about when an exhausted Aroldis Chapman was trying to get by with relative junk against righties and Carlos Santana almost walked him off?

Baseball is more when pitchers have to navigate minefields, instead of half-pitchers only appearing with an upper hand. I don’t see a need for an eight-man bullpen when the seventh reliever is often underworked, but if that can’t be legislated away, then I wouldn’t mind seeing a two-batter rule implemented on an experimental basis. Considering how different September and October baseball looked from the first five months of the season, forcing a reliever to face two hitters no longer strikes me as a radical departure.

Terrerobytes

CBA update: Owners have backed off the idea of the international draft. The luxury tax rules are the new sticking point, but Ken Rosenthal tweeted that they’re usually the last part addressed.

Articles like this one from Jay Jaffe are why I love the Hall of Fame voting season, even if the results are often aggravating. Harold Baines and Albert Belle don’t have a strong chance of getting into the Hall of Fame through the veterans’ committee on the Today’s Game Ballot, but it’s fun to review great careers regardless.

This Chicago-centric profile of Curtis Granderson covers a lot of ground — his own career, opportunities for young South Siders and baseball’s self-selection, among it. In other settings, he has the tendency to boil down controversial issues to their blandest elements -- see his reaction to the election — but he opens up plenty here.

Jeff Sullivan’s attempt to build a Chris Sale market is somewhat a response to Ken Rosenthal’s article -- what if the White Sox can’t actually touch the “can’t-touch” players? Using only minor leaguers, it goes back to the Red Sox and Dodgers offering the best mix of position players and pitches, with the Astros, Nationals and Braves being heavy on young power pitchers.

Reports like this one are based on a single tweet by an ESPN radio host, so there’s a chance it’s overblown. Whatever the case, Jose Quintana intends to pitch in the upcoming one:

In his first year in Kansas City, Edinson Volquez was a postseason hero. In his second year, he was one of baseball’s worst pitchers. He earned $20 million over those two years, and at the end of the deal, his value didn’t change much. The Marlins signed him for two years and $22 million.