Recently, MLB discussions have centered on proposed rule changes. At least one looks like it will be implemented for the coming year. Baseball is steeped in tradition unlike any of the other major sports leagues. Although baseball still seems to be doing well financially, there continue to be concerns about its longevity among younger fans. The game is now seen as an older generation past time. At the heart of the criticism for why fandom is waning revolves around pacing and tradition that don't resonate with today's younger fans.  At the beginning of last season, rising star Bryce Harper was critical of baseballs outdated traditions claiming the game isn't as fun as it could be. In particular, a main point for Harper involved the unwritten rule of not showing emotion when something positive happens at the plate. Bat flips and watching a homerun ball used to get you an automatic buzz cut on your next at bat. Harper feels the game needs an infusion of fun and emotion to bolster its popularity.

So does the game need to change to be relative in today's society?

This year, there have been a few proposed rule changes. We'll highlight a few, and I'll give my own opinions.

1. Man on 2nd Base to start extra innings
     This will apparently be taking place at the World Baseball Classic and some minor leagues. With this proposed change, extra innings would begin with a man on 2B for each team. It's meant to make run production easier and end an extra innings game sooner. This is one where the purist in me screams no way! It is reminiscent of college football starting at the 25 for overtime. If a team is going to win, they should produce all the facets needed to win, from getting on base to moving runners to knocking in runners. Games should be won organically without outside help.

2. Increasing the strike zone up to above the knee
     This change would theoretically mean more action as the batter friendly strike zone would mean more hits, more runs, and more game action. I'm on the fence with this change. I've always been a proponent of  the "pitch strikes and see what the hitter's got" mentality. Yet this favors hitters considerably and would negatively impact lots of good pitchers that make their living on the edges. I'm not sure introducing more action would speed the game up, so it might not jibe exactly with that initiative. I like a good pitching match, but I like slugfests too. Like I said, on the fence.

3. Intentional Walk signaled from the dugout
     The dugout signal for intentional walk looks like it will make its debut this year. I don't have a problem with this change. Not because it will speed up the game, intentional walks are still pretty rare. I've just always thought it's dumb to throw 4 meaningless lobs when it's clear you're putting the guy on base. Purists have asked if not running the bases for homers would be next. To me that's a reward for the hitter to celebrate. I don't believe I've ever seen a passed ball or hit during an intentional walk lob. Plus, why put any undue strain on the pitcher. This rule I like.

Although baseball treasures its roots and history, some things are bound to change with the times. There were plenty of replay skeptics, but baseball has done a good job not making it intrusive. I'm not in favor of changes that would alter stats or the ability to compare players like shortening innings per game or games per season. Please comment on any changes you would implement.
Authored by Ben Reese

Maybe it's these new glasses with the rose-colored lenses, but the Phillies' future doesn't look too bad.
OK, they won't win the pennant this season or next or the one after that, but they will improve. Maybe not this season where they will still inhabit the cellar of the National League East unless they can get past the Atlanta Braves who are also "rebuilding."
However, for the first time in quite a while, the Phillies have good prospects in the minor leagues. But they won't be in Citizens Bank Park in 2016, at least not from the start of the season. 
In fact, they have good prospects, even some great prospects, at just about every position. They have pitchers, a couple catchers, infielders and outfielders who have the potential to be good major league players.  This hasn't happened since the early 1970s in Philadelphia. You'll remember these names and the statistics that go with them.
In 1972, the Phillies brought up a young shortstop named Larry Bowa, who many thought wouldn't be able to hit his weight, and a slugger named Greg Luzinski. The next year, Mike Schmidt, Bob Boone, Dick Ruthven and Larry Christianson arrived in Philly.
These players didn't immediately bring home a pennant. It took them several years before they all got going.
Actually, the first season for some of them was less than sterling. Schmidt, who was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1995, hit only .196 in his debut season with 18 home runs.
These players formed the nucleus of the 1980 team, which won Philadelphia's first World Championship, beating the Kansas City Royals in six games.
By the way, that 1980 team had some other youngsters worthy of mention. Lonnie Smith added speed and some comedy in the outfield, Keith Moreland backed up Boone behind the plate and Bob Walk, Marty Bystrom, Randy Lerch and Dickie Noles spent quality time on the mound.
That said, the in-coming class of prospects might be as good or better. Some are already in Philadelphia and some are maybe one or two years away. But they are coming.
Maikel Franco is already in Philly. The young third baseman is expected to hold down that spot for many years to come.
Tops on the prospect list is shortstop J.P. Crawford, the team's No. 1 draft pick in 2013. He has been steadily moving up through the farm system and is one of the top 10 prospects in all baseball right now.
Crawford suffered an injury in the Arizona Fall League but it won't affect his 2016 season. That season will probably begin at Lehigh Valley with at least a September call-up in his future.
There are also pitchers, a lot of them. The Phillies' front office traded away many of the "old guard" of Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, etc., and got back arms.
From Texas, in the Cole Hamels deal, they got right-hander Jake Thompson, who helped pitch Reading into the Eastern League playoffs. They got Zach Eflin from the Dodgers in the Rollins trade and Mark Appel, the first pick in the 2013 draft by Houston, from the Astros.
If anything is certain it is that pitchers take more time to mature than position players. These three and the others coming up in the minors will be no exceptions. Don't look for them this season.
Behind the plate, there are two highly rated catchers in the system. Jorge Alfaro, who also arrived from Texas, has been one of the top catchers in the minors for several seasons. He was injured last season and will probably start the year in Reading.
The other backstop is Andrew Knapp, a second-round pick of the Phillies in 2013. The switch-hitter was having a decent 2015 at Clearwater in the Florida State League (High Class A) but exploded when called up to Reading, hitting .360 with 11 home runs and 56 RBI in 55 games. That alone could propel him to Lehigh Valley this season.
There are outfielders also. One of the keys to the Hamels deal was outfielder Nick Williams.
Williams is a five-tool players. He has speed and power and can play all three outfield spots. He played only 22 games in Reading after the trade and may end up back there to start the year.
Another outfielder with an intriguing resume is Roman Quinn. He was a second-round pick of the Phils in 2011 who started out his career as a shortstop.
Injuries have hindered Quinn's rise through the system, however. He missed a lot of 2015 with a hip injury.
When he is healthy, he is the ideal leadoff hitter. The switch-hitter hit .306 and stole 29 bases in 58 games for Reading in 2015 before his injury and probably will join Williams in the R-Phils' outfield to start 2016.
The newest addition to the prospect list in second baseman Scott Kingery, drafted in the second round of the 2015 draft. Kingery has a quick bat (he was the top hitter at the University of Arizona and led the NCAA in hitting for much of his senior season) and good speed. He will move quickly through the system but may arrive in Philly after the others.
These are just a few of the prospects rising through the Phillies' farm system. There are more, some closer to the majors than others.
But it does bode well for Phillies' fans, even without these glasses.
This past December, For Baseball Junkies celebrated its fifth birthday.  The blog has always been a passion for Hersh, Mc and I.  It started as a mechanism for us to memorialize some of our daily conversations while creating a forum for us to connect with other self proclaimed baseball junkies.  Some personal highlights have been connecting with "The Baseball Collector," Zack Hample before he became "the guy who held A-Rod's 3,000 hit for ransom."  Befriending Shawn Anderson, creator of the "Hall of Very Good," and getting a "Like" on our Facebook page from Billy Sample.

Today, as the baseball world officially welcomed a new class to the Hall of Fame, we are pleased and excited to introduce a new contributor to our page, Ben Reese.  Ben is a lifelong baseball fan who has covered high school sports in the greater Philadelphia region for more than 40 years.  He kept his hand in writing as a contributor at and we are honored to have him share some of his thoughts with you.  Enjoy!

The Baseball Writers of America have spoken.

They have cast their votes and decided that Ken Griffey Jr. And Mike Piazza were worthy of addition to the Baseball Hall of Fame. There is no argument from this quarter as to their worthiness for that honor.

However, there is room for argument about several other candidates on this year's ballot. And there is also some disagreement with the restrictions imposed by the Hall of Fame on that ballot.

First, let's touch on Griffey and Piazza. Griffey has been ticketed for the Hall ever since his first Major League game.  He had the bloodlines from his Major League father. He also had the experience in professional clubhouses from the time he could walk.  

Obviously, he didn't disappoint. His 636 homers and sometimes unbelievable defense ensured his selection.

Just an of note here: three voters did not put Griffey on their ballot. They will be hunted out and dunned for their reason.  

Leave them alone. They certainly had their own reasons which are irrelevant.

Really, there are only two reasons that matter. One is that they, however misguided, felt that no one deserves to be unanimous.  The other should be more obvious. With the reduction of voters and with the remaining voters allowed to only select 10 names from the list of eligible players, those three voters left Griffey off in order to give another player a vote.

After all, as was seen with his 437 votes, Griffey didn't need those three votes to get in. But someone like Alan Trammel, in his final chance as election, did.

Piazza, a 62nd-round selection in the draft, couldn't have been thinking about the Hall of Fame when he got drafted by the Dodgers. He really was just a bow to his godfather Tommy Lasorda when Los Angeles selected him.

He proved how astute the Dodgers were with his play throughout his career. No other catcher in the history of the game have ever hit as many home runs as he did.  With his lowly beginnings, he more than earned his trip to Cooperstown.

Now for the rest of them.

The jump in percentage of votes received by Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens demonstrates that the now-reduced voting group is younger and more forgiving than the 100 or so voters who were cut from the list. Whether that is right or wrong, only time will tell.

Another PED-tainted player, Mark McGwire, in his final year on the ballot, didn't make it. And Sammy Sosa, who has his accusers, got only seven percent of the vote.

If Bonds and/or Clemens ever are elected, then something should be done for Pete Rose. As many have said, the Hall of Fame is a museum, not Heaven.

Certainly, Rose sinned against baseball. He bet on games while a working member of the professional baseball fraternity.  But he also had more hits than anyone before or after his career. That should be honored or at least given the opportunity to be honored.  If he is ever on the ballot and selected, put on his plaque that he was banned from baseball for betting on games. And leave it at that.

Many of the talking heads on the MLB Network have been calling for an expanded ballot in the future. Allow the writers to vote for 12 or 15 players.  That might be a good idea. But it will also allow more controversy.

But, then again, that's what the off-season is all about.

Ben R.
Today, at 6 PM, the Official Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2016 will be announced.  This exercise always has a way of getting us excited, upset and befuddled.  Unfortunately, the process is getting more and more difficult with each passing year.  The ballots are officially clogged - there are 20 players on this year's ballot with a Baseball Reference Hall of Fame monitor (HOFm) score over 100... the Baseball Reference Hall of Fame monitor score was created to track the likelihood of a particular player's enshrinement.  It compiles their statistics, accomplishments and accolades and formulates it into a relative scoring system whereby any player with an HOFm of 100 or better is worthy of Hall of Fame consideration.  The higher the score, the more likely a player will get a call from The Hall.  With so many hold-overs, the "10 Player Vote Limit" rule is undoubtedly causing real BBWAA voters much angst.  If you want to vote for 15 players but you only have 10 votes, is a vote for Ken Griffey, Jr. a wasted vote because he's almost assuredly going to get in anyway?  Is it better to vote for a guy like Jeff Kent to ensure that he doesn't fall off the ballot?  That's a philosophical question I can't answer but hopefully, you see the dilemma.

But for now, ahead of the official announcement, I wanted to share our "official" FBJ Ballot (we are not BBWAA writers so our votes don't really count, although we are fortunate enough to know writers with real, actual counting votes)... our selection process is quite (sarcastically) complicated... we each make our choices and if a player is on two out of three ballots, we cast a vote for that player.  
Without further adieu, here are our selections:

Ken Griffey, Jr. (first ballot)
Pete Rose (write-in)

Making these selections proved to be no easy task and the desire to be consistent was clearly pitted against a desire to do what is best for the future.  Admittedly, I've been pro-Raines in the past but I felt compelled to cast my final personal vote for Alan Trammell in his final year because I think he deserves it and I'm hoping that Raines can find enough support to stick around.  I've also been pro-Jeff Kent and but with only ten spots, I couldn't find a place for him on my personal ballot.  

The last name on that list is sure to raise an eyebrow.  It was brought to my attention that a small handful of BBWAA writers have written-in Pete Rose this year and we couldn't be happier.  While Rose's banishment from baseball is certainly appropriate, a baseball Hall of Fame without the all-time hits leader seems very cheap (the same could certainly be said for Bonds as the all-time Home Run leader).  The Hall of Fame is a completely separate entity from Major League Baseball; it would be very interesting to see what would happen if enough writers wrote-in Pete Rose.  Unfortunately, that's unlikely to happen but we're happy to advocate for the cause. 

Unfortunately, what we think will happen is much different than what we actually voted for... the most likely scenario is Ken Griffey Jr. and MAYBE Mike Piazza... if the trend line of Piazza's support is any indication of what will happen this year, he'll be right around the required 75% mark.  Griffey will probably get somewhere between 90% and 95% support but will almost certainly not be the first unanimous selection (Randy Johnson was left off 15 ballots last year).

So there it is... let us know what you think.
“Baseball is a game of inches.”  That’s a cliché that’s thrown about quite often by announcers, analysts, and old timey fans.  It’s true to a degree and was so during the 2015 World Series between the Mets and Royals.  An in between hop, a jump on a fly ball, a throw that just barely pulls someone off the bag or goes up the line.  “Give ‘em an inch, they’ll take a foot.”  That’s another more universal cliché you often hear.  That sentiment summed up the Royals this postseason as they used every mistake and every opportunity to make their opponents pay for giving just an inch of hope.  The Royals mustered 7 come from behind wins this postseason and actually trailed the Mets in every single game of the World Series.  They plated over 40 runs between the 7th and 9th innings during the playoffs.  It was that never say die attitude and confidence that propelled them to winning the 111th Fall Classic.

Game 1 saw the notion of inches on the first pitch as Alcedis Escobar put one in the left-center gap.  Yoenes Cespedes got a bad jump and then miscommunicated with rookie Michael Conforto as to who was playing the ball.  Cespedes stabbed at it, but missed by a few inches.  The Mets would take the lead 3-1 later in the game.  The Royals tied with the Mets again taking the lead on a Eric Hosmer error scoring Juan Lagares.  In the bottom of the 9th with Jeurys Familia on the mound who hadn’t given up a run in the postseason, Alex Gordon takes him deep on a ball that was up in the zone by a mere few inches.  It took 14 frames to settle, but you got the sense that KC wasn’t going to let up and would find a way to win.  In the 14th, an error by David Wright pulled Lucas Duda off the bag and led to the winning run on a sacrifice fly by Hosmer, redeeming himself.  This would be the first of several Mets miscues that the Royals would use to their advantage. 

Game 2 was a one-sided affair with Johnny Cueto pitching masterfully as he kept the Mets’ hitters off balance the entire game.  Duda managed the only 2 hits for New York and yet they still had the lead at 1-0 going into the 5th.  During that half inning, the Royals used timely deke and dunk hits sprayed all over the field to put 4 runs on the board.  Cueto didn’t need any more than that keeping the Mets guessing the whole night with his myriad styles of delivery to the plate.  Kansas City would add 3 more runs in the 8th to complete the 7-1 romp on their way to holding serve in their home ballpark.

Needing a win in Game 3, the Mets sent fireballer Noah Syndergaard to the mound.  His first pitch came within inches of drilling the hot hitting Escobar.  That kind of bravado from Syndergaard could either juice up the Mets for a comeback in the series or awaken the Royals even further to keep up the pressure, now with a chip on their shoulders.  This game, the Mets dominated as the bats came alive en route to a 9-3 victory.  Wright had 4 RBI and it looked briefly like New York was poised to make it a very competitive series.  In an interesting managerial move, Mets skipper Terry Collins used his setup guys Reed and Clippard, along with his closer Familia in a mop up role where they weren’t needed. 

Game 4 pitted Chris Young against the newest Met pitcher, Steven Matz.  Both pitched great through the first few innings.  Rookie Michael Conforto came out in this game belting 2 homeruns for New York.  Kansas City would touch Matz in the 5th on an RBI single from Gordon and again in the 6th on a Lorenzo Cain single.  New York would take a 3-2 lead into the 8th but no lead was safe against this resilient Royals club.  After 2 walks from Clippard, Collins went to his closer Familia again.  Hosmer hits a weak ground ball to 2nd that Daniel Murphy misplays allowing the ball to miss his glove by a mere inch or two.  The tying run came in and back to back singles plated 2 additional insurance runs.  Royals closer Wade Davis closed the doors on the Mets with a six out save to put KC up 3 games to 1.  During the 9th, another costly mental error hurt the Mets when Cespedes was doubled off to end the game.

In a must win Game 5, New York sent out Harvey again to save the season.  Embroiled in a controversy over his innings limit the past two years, it appeared Harvey was primed to take the Mets on his shoulders in this pivotal elimination game.  He pitched masterfully throughout the game doing what no other Mets starter had done before – consistently get the Royals to swing and miss.  Kansas City had largely avoided the Mets advantage of power pitching, proving to be very hard to strikeout.  Harvey dispatched 9 Royals via the strikeout in Game 5.  Curtis Granderson led off the game with a homerun and the Mets got an insurance run on a Hosmer error.  Going into the 9th, Harvey had only 102 pitches in the game, leaving everyone to wonder who would pitch the final inning.  With Familia warming up, Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen informed Harvey his night was over.  A jazzed up Harvey immediately went to plead his case to Collins insisting he wanted to go back out there.  He could be seen saying “no way!” over and over about being taken out.  Collins relented and the crowd erupted when Harvey ran out of the dugout.  However, as they had been the entire series, the Royals were un-phased by the roar of the crowd or the sense of drama and destiny of the Dark Knight out to save Gotham from elimination.  Cain worked a full count into a walk to start off the inning.  Instead of going to the closer, Collins stuck with his starter to go after Hosmer, who was destroying the ball with runners on base.  Cain stole second easily and Hosmer laced a double to left scoring their first run.  Now Familia was brought into the game asked to be perfect with no one out and the tying run on second.  Hosmer went to 3rd on a grounder by Mike Moustakas.  Next up Salvador Perez (eventual MVP) hit another weak grounder to the left side.  Wright snatched it up and even looked Hosmer back before firing to first.  As soon as Wright looked to first, Hosmer bolted for the plate.  Duda’s throw was off the mark, yet again opening a window for Kansas City as they tied the game.  A good throw and the game is over with the series moving back to Kansas City.  The Royals would blow it open in the 12th plating 5 runs to cinch the series. 

 Some interesting notes regarding the series:
·         The inside the park homerun to start Game 1 was the first since 1929
·         Familia is the first pitcher to blow 3 saves in the World Series.  Game 5 blown save was without surrendering a hit
·         KC first team to trail 3 games in the 8th or later to win all 3
·         After Game 1, KC did not have another homerun.  Mets had 5. 
·         Wright, Murphy, and Cespedes went 11-64 (.171) for the series
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