TIME Innovation

The Way You Watch Baseball Is About to Change Forever

St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Lance Lynn during a game against the Washington Nationals in Washington on April 21, 2015.
Alex Brandon—AP St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Lance Lynn during a game against the Washington Nationals in Washington on April 21, 2015.

Statcast can start something special for pro baseball

Tuesday night’s game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Washington Nationals served as the coming out party for Statcast, Major League Baseball’s refined tracking technology that yields more data than an average fan could ever want or need.

But this technology doesn’t cater to the average fan; it’s directed instead at those who have demanded more insights and numbers in an era of data journalism and Moneyball geek dreams.

Statcast didn’t yet have a name when Fortune wrote about the “combination of cameras, radar, and proprietary software” one year ago. At that time, MLB Advanced Media (commonly called “BAM” by baseball journalists and execs) had big plans to roll it out in every single ballpark. Now it has. The technology was equipped at all 30 stadiums in time for the current season, but it didn’t get its television due until this week, when the commentators on MLB Network described the system and cited its metrics about a dozen different times.

For now, the system is exclusive to MLB Network, but in weeks, not months, it will be available to the rest of the networks that show games. When Statcast is consulted on-air during a game, an MLBAM spokesperson tells Fortune, “Context and narrative are very important… Otherwise, it’s just a data stream without meaning.” He adds: “We think for TV this will be a revolutionary tool for instant replay.”

What can Statcast do, exactly? A whole lot more than its predecessor, Pitch f/x, which came along a few years ago and was designed to record live pitches to gather speed, velocity, and other measurements. Statcast can take a single play and determine a whole host of numbers, many of them particularly exciting in the context of defense: a base runner’s speed as he jumps from one base to steal another; his lead on the player trying to throw him out; the angle of his running path; the speed of the infielder’s throw; and even the time it took the infielder to get the ball out of his glove. MLBAM used the early version of Statcast to tell Fortune that, one year ago, Cincinnati Reds rookie Billy Hamilton was very likely the single fastest player in baseball.

This time around, MLBAM can get such granular details as a single hit’s “exit velocity,” that is, how hard it was hit. Thus far, 17 days into the season, these sluggers have launched the five hardest hit balls: Nelson Cruz of the Mariners, 119 mph on April 19; Mike Trout of the Angels, 117.7 mph on April 8; Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins, 117.3 mph on April 16; Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies, 117.1 mph on April 7; and Hanley Ramirez of the Red Sox, 116.5 mph on April 19.

Sound exhausting? Then you may not be the target audience for Statcast’s insights—yet. But while Statcast may only end up being cited occasionally in each television broadcast, MLB plans to apply Statcast liberally inside its highly successful “At Bat” app.

This is the beginning of something special for pro baseball. MLB foresaw the stats revolution before its sports-league peers, and acted fast to cater to the so-called “statheads,” a small but vocal group that is fast-growing (just look at the popularity of the ESPN web site FiveThirtyEight, which regularly posts minutia such as comparisons of baseball players’ PECOTA scores) and ever-hungry for more data, more analytics, more ways to scrutinize and inspect the game. Baseball fans are perhaps the wonkiest in this regard (certainly more than football folks, for now), but basketball fans are close, and Adam Silver’s NBA has hopped aboard the stats train in response, partnering with Stats LLC to roll out its own camera tracking technology, SportVU, as well as launching an entire site, NBA.com/stats, devoted to analytics.

Statcast may also help baseball claw back to popularity, in a time when it is widely believed the sport has lost some of its luster to the juggernaut NFL, America’s real “pastime,” if measured by eyeballs. A Wall Street Journal story last month mentioned that the polling firm Luker On Trends asked baseball fans during last year’s season which sport was more interesting to them and the NFL beat MLB by 4%—even in its offseason. You can bet that baseball would like to change that.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com.

TIME Baseball

The San Francisco Giants Could Become the First MLB Team to Ban Chewing Tobacco

Minnesota Twins v San Francisco Giants
Brace Hemmelgarn—Getty Images A general view of the exterior of AT&T Park following the game between the San Francisco Giants and the Minnesota Twins on May 23, 2014 in San Francisco, California.

Players have been dipping for as long as anyone can remember, but that could soon change

A San Francisco city ordinance could make the Giants the first team in Major League Baseball to ban chewing tobacco on the field.

City supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday to ban smokeless tobacco in playing fields throughout the city and specifically targeted baseball—a sport infamous for the player’s use of tobacco, according to a statement from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, which pushed for the law.

The ordinance must pass one more vote and, if San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee signs, the rule will be implemented on Jan. 1 2016—in time for the MLB baseball season.

Jess Montejano, a legislative aide for the ban’s chief sponsor, Supervisor Mark Farrell, told TIME that legislators began working on the ordinance in the beginning part of 2015 because “it’s a serious health issue” in which “kids are seeing their athletic heroes chewing tobacco on the baseball diamond.”

Montejano also added the San Francisco Giants “are fully aware of the intention” and that proponents of the ban believed the team would support MLB’s stance on the issue of chewing tobacco.

After the law was initially proposed in late Feb., MLB issued a statement saying that it “has long supported a ban of smokeless tobacco at the Major League level” and that it had been seeking “a ban of its use on-field in discussions with the Major League Baseball Players Association.”

A study published April 10 from the University of California San Francisco suggested that seeing players chewing tobacco was akin to product endorsement. It found that “modeling of smokeless tobacco use by…elite athletes is strongly associated with smokeless tobacco initiation among adolescent males.” The study also cited an NCAA statistic that found that 52.3% of collegiate baseball players tried smokeless tobacco at least once in 2012 to 2013.

When asked if the ban would essentially force players to quit, Montejano cited former MLB pitcher Curt Schilling, who blames tobacco for his mouth cancer. “Schilling said it was the worst thing about his life and if he could change one thing from his younger years it would be to quit.”

TIME Baseball

The Cincinnati Reds’ Manager Bryan Price Dropped 77 F-Bombs in a Pre-Game Rant

Pittsburgh Pirates v Cincinnati Reds
Joe Robbins — Getty Images Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price looks on during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Great American Ball Park on April 9, 2015 in Cincinnati, Ohio.


There may be no crying in baseball, but there’s plenty of cursing — just ask Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price.

During a media session ahead of Monday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers, Price unleashed a five-minute, 34-second profanity-peppered onslaught that would have made Ty Cobb wince.

“The final tally was 77 uses of the ‘F’ word or a variant and 11 uses of a vulgar term for feces (two bovine, one equine),” reports the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Price was upset about media outlets allegedly running information that could be deemed valuable to rival teams and reporting on the status of one player who was being relegated to the minors before the coach had a chance to tell him personally.

Or as Price put it himself: “I’ve been as candid as I can f-cking be about this team and our players, and we’ve got to deal with this sh-t, every f-cking team that we f-cking play has to know every f-cking guy that’s here and what they can and can’t do? F-ck me. It’s a f-cking disgrace. I’m f-cking sick of this sh-t.”

[Cincinnati Enquirer]

TIME Baseball

Yankees Slugger A-Rod Apologizes for Misconduct

New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez runs to third base in their MLB American League baseball game against the Boston Red Sox in Boston, Massachusetts, August 18, 2013
Dominick Reuter—Reuters New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez runs to third base in their MLB baseball game against the Boston Red Sox in Boston on August 18, 2013

"As far as the Yankees are concerned, the next step is to play baseball in spring training"

Alex Rodriguez apologized to New York Yankees top executives on Tuesday, ahead of his return to professional baseball after a yearlong suspension for steroid use.

The strain was created when Rodriguez, widely considered one of the top talents to ever play the game, was suspended for the 2014 Major League Baseball (MLB) season as punishment for his role in the Biogenesis of America steroids scandal that ensnared the MLB in 2013.

In an effort to reverse the suspension, the three-time American League Most Valuable Player sued MLB, its players’ union and a Yankees team physician.

The Yankees and Rodriguez issued a joint statement on Tuesday.

“Alex initiated the meeting and apologized to the organization for his actions over the past several years,” the statement said. “There was an honest and frank discussion on all of the issues. As far as the Yankees are concerned, the next step is to play baseball in spring training.”

Rodriguez, who turns 40 in July, is set to make $61 million over the next three years, thanks to a 10-year $275 million contract he signed in 2007.

According to ESPN sources, Rodriguez will also apologize to the media prior to the start of spring training in late February.


Bye Bye, Bud: Selig Left His Mark On Baseball

Baltimore Orioles v New York Yankees
Jim McIsaac—Getty Images MLB Commissioner Bud Selig speaks to the media at Yankee Stadium on September 23, 2014.

Bud Selig was never the most charismatic public face of baseball. But his job was never to inspire

One thing everyone can agree on: It’s the right time for Bud Selig to hand over the keys.

Selig, baseball’s commissioner since 1992, officially leaves the job Saturday. Rob Manfred, a long-time deputy, takes over. Selig, 80, took baseball to a new place. He’s left his mark. Let’s see what the new guy can do. (Manfred seems fond, for example, of trying to speed up the game. That’s good news.)

Bud Selig was never the most charismatic public face of baseball. But his job was never to inspire. In sports, the players, and sometimes the coaches, do that. Commissioners are tasked with growing their sports for their bosses—the owners—and keeping the games fair. Baseball produces almost $10 billion in annual revenue; the game made just over a billion yearly when Selig took over. Local television deals, in particular, are flourishing. In a media world obsessed with “content,” baseball, with its 162-game schedule and hot-stove intrigue, benefits. Selig’s team was smart enough to capitalize on this: MLB Advanced Media, baseball’s tech engine, has minted millions. Interleague play, and the expanded playoffs, have been good for business.

As for fair play: The controversy over performance enhancing drugs has been picked over plenty. Whether or not Selig was willfully blind to the 1990’s steroid boom, it happened under his watch. Selig’s push for tougher drug testing wasn’t some heroic response. It was the only prudent one, and testing still has flaws. Remember, Alex Rodriguez may have copped to his 2010-2012 drug use. But he did not fail a test during that time.

Selig instituted revenue sharing, and even teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals, hopeless during most of Selig’s tenure, eventually became winners. His hawkish approach to controlling labor costs contributed to the 1994 strike. Like steroids, the work stoppage stains his resume. But since that disaster, baseball has enjoyed two decades of labor peace. Selig deserves some credit.

He also deserves blame for one of the dumbest polices in sports: giving home field advantage in the World Series to the league that wins the All-Star game, instead of the team with the better record. This gimmick defies logic and fairness. Manfred should reverse it.

One of Manfred’s more serious challenges will be to bring more cultural cachet back to baseball. That unquantifiable spark, buzz, whatever you want to call it. The game consists of thriving fiefdoms, but lacks the national bonds we’ve seen with players in other sports, like LeBron James and Peyton Manning. Baseball’s gone hyper-local: You can obsessively watch your team daily, on all kinds of devices. Maybe Manfred will tap into some marketing magic to make more young people fall for Mike Trout, Yasiel Puig, and other emergent stars. Maybe he’ll push baseball beyond the bottom line.

That’s something Selig just wasn’t wired to do.

TIME Baseball

Reports: Max Scherzer Agrees to 7-Year Deal With Nationals

Division Series - Detroit Tigers v Baltimore Orioles - Game One
Mark Cunningham—Getty Images Max Scherzer pitches against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards in Baltimore on Oct. 2, 2014

Max Scherzer got his money, and the National League’s deepest rotation just got deeper. According to multiple reports, Scherzer has reached an agreement with the Nationals on a seven-year contract. Financial terms have not been announced, but FoxSports’ Ken Rosenthal reported that the deal will be worth more than $180 million. If that is indeed the case, this contract would then rank second among those signed by pitchers in terms of both total value and average annual value behind only Clayton Kershaw‘s seven-year, $215 million extension signed with the Dodgers last year (that deal had a $30.7 million AAV). The signing also sets up the likelihood that the Nationals will trade one member of the starting rotation that posted the league’s best ERA while helping the team to an NL-high 96 wins and the NL East title last season.

Ever since Scherzer turned down a six-year, $144 million extension offer from the Tigers back in March — sometimes reported as a seven-years, $160 million offer when including his 2014 salary — on the heels of winning the 2013 AL Cy Young award, it was clear that the 30-year-old righty and his agent, Scott Boras, were aiming for a deal of distinction. They found one. If Rosenthal’s source is correct, Scherzer’s contract will be the largest free agent deal ever signed by a pitcher, topping the six-year, $155 million deal to which the Cubs signed Jon Lester back in December, and the seven-year, $155 million contract the Yankees gave Masahiro Tanaka last winter. Kershaw’s deal and the seven-year, $180 million contract signed by former Tigers teammate Justin Verlander were both extensions.

With the Cubs satiated by the Lester signing, the Tigers unwilling or unable to make another Verlander-sized commitment and the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and other big-spending teams all sitting this one out, the market for Scherzer had been slow to develop this winter. That’s in part by design, as Boras has operated this way in the past. Clients of his such as Michael Bourn, Prince Fielder, Kyle Lohse and Rafael Soriano all signed after most of the other comparable free agents had come off the board and just weeks before pitchers and catchers reported for spring training — or sometimes even afterward. As of Sunday afternoon one other team was said to be in the running for Scherzer’s services, but that team was never identified.

That Scherzer would wind up with Washington makes a certain amount of sense. Both Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister are heading into their final season before free agency and, barring injury, quite likely to command nine-figure deals themselves, and the move also reunites Scherzer with the man who drafted him. Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo was the Diamondbacks‘ scouting director back in 2006 when the team chose Scherzer with the 11th overall pick out of the University of Missouri. Scherzer didn’t actually sign until May 31, 2007, however, by which point Rizzo had moved on to Washington as its assistant GM.

After winning the AL Cy Young in 2013 on the strength of a season in which he went 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA, 2.74 FIP, 10.1 strikeouts per nine and 6.7 WAR (Baseball-Reference version) in 214 1/3 innings, Scherzer enjoyed a 2014 season that was nearly as strong, going 18-5 with a 3.15 ERA, 2.85 FIP, 10.3 strikeouts per nine and 6.0 WAR in 220 1/3 innings. Both seasons were significant steps beyond the solid performances he put up during the first 4 1/2 seasons of his career with Arizona (2008-09) and Detroit (2010-12).

During that period, Scherzer’s best single-season ERA was 3.50 (2010) while his best FIP was 3.27 (2012); his overall numbers from 2008-12 included a 3.88 ERA and 3.72 FIP. By backing up his award-winning campaign and making his second straight All-Star appearance (he started the 2013 game at Citi Field), he made clear that he had elevated his game to a new level, and thus was worthy of a top-shelf deal.

In signing with the Nationals, Scherzer joins a team that won the NL East flag for the second time in three years in 2014 and a rotation that led the league in ERA (3.04) while ranking second in quality start rate (65 percent). The team’s top five starters — Zimmermann, Fister, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Tanner Roark — all posted ERAs of 3.57 or better (105 ERA+ or better) while accounting for all but 13 starts; both Fister and Gonzalez served stints on the disabled list during the first half of the season.

With the 28-year-old Zimmermann and soon-to-be-31-year-old Fister both a year away from free agency, the likelihood is that one of the two will be traded to create room in the rotation and to trim payroll. Zimmermann, a second-round pick in 2007, will make $16.5 million in 2015, while Fister, a former teammate of Scherzer’s in Detroit who was acquired in December 2013, will make $11.4 million. The Nats are known both to have discussed an extension with Zimmermann and to have engaged with multiple teams about the possibility of trading him. According to a tweet from Jon Morosi of FoxSports, they also would be “willing to listen on Strasburg.”

We’ll have more information on the signing as news becomes available.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME Baseball

Here’s the Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2015

Randy Johnson smiles after pitching a perfect game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field in Atlanta on May 18, 2004.
MLB Photos/Getty Images Randy Johnson smiles after pitching a perfect game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field in Atlanta on May 18, 2004.

Four players enter the Baseball Hall of Fame this year

Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on Tuesday.

Johnson, nicknamed The Big Unit for his towering 6-foot-10 frame, was one of the most feared pitchers in the game during his prime. His dominant fastball and filthy slider guided him to five Cy Young awards, including four in a row from 1999 to 2002. In 2001, Johnson shared World Series MVP honors with Curt Schilling in the Arizona Diamondbacks‘ seven-game series win over the New York Yankees. Johnson played for six teams in his career before retiring after the 2009 season.

Joining Johnson is Martinez, an eight-time All-Star and three-time Cy Young winner. He played an integral part of the 2004 Boston Red Sox team that won the franchise’s first World Series in 86 years. His 1999 season with Boston remains one of the greatest pitching seasons in modern baseball history. Martinez finished 23-4 with a 2.07 ERA and 313 strikeouts, en route to a unanimous Cy Young and a second-place finish in MVP voting. He retired after the 2009 World Series, in which he pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies.

Rounding out the trio of power pitchers in the 2015 class is Smoltz, the longtime Atlanta Braves pitcher who was at separate times in his career among the game’s best starting pitchers and closers. Smoltz started regularly through 1999, helping the Braves to a World Series win in ’95 and earning a Cy Young in 1996. After Tommy John surgery, Smoltz became a full-time closer in 2002 and promptly recorded 55 saves, a then-National League record. He returned to Atlanta’s starting rotation in 2005. He retired after 2009 with more than 3,000 strikeouts, 200 wins and 150 saves.

Biggio enters the Hall of Fame in his third year on the ballot. He spent his entire 20-year career with the Houston Astros, playing catcher, second base and outfield. He became the 27th player in MLB history to join the 3,000-hit club in 2007, and the first in Astros history. He’s the only player in baseball history with 3,000 hits, 600 doubles, 400 stolen bases and 250 home runs. He also retired with 285 hit-by-pitches, the most in MLB history.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME Football

Ken Griffey Jr. is Now a Professional Photographer

Griffey has taken a shine to photography since his retirement from the big leagues

That man above with the professional looking camera set up on the sidelines of the Fiesta Bowl is not a stringer for the Associated Press or Getty Images. It’s Ken Griffey Jr. Because, of course.

Griffey didn’t just watch the game from the sidelines Wednesday night – he photographed it for ESPN.

Griffey has taken a shine to photography since his retirement from the big leagues. His new hobby afforded him the opportunity to watch his son, Arizona wide receiver Trey Griffey, both in the flesh and from behind the lens. Arizona eventually lost to Boise State, 38-30.

No word yet on whether all of Griffey’s shots were of Trey, or just some of them. Look at the size of that lens, though!

This isn’t Griffey’s first time hitting it big with a hobby outside of baseball. One must not forget his illustrious rap debut.

This article originally appeared on Si.com

TIME domestic violence

NFL Executive Breaks Down While Talking to Congress About Domestic Violence

He described watching "helplessly" as his mother be beaten when he was a child.

A top NFL executive broke down in a congressional hearing on domestic violence as he recounted as a child “watching helplessly” while his mother was beaten.

“Domestic violence was a way of life in my home growing up,” said Troy Vincent, the executive vice president of football operations for the NFL. “My brother and I watched helplessly numerous times as my mother was beaten and knocked unconscious while we dialed 911. We saw how she struggled to seek help and find the courage to say no more.”

The hearing, comes days after a court reinstated former Ravens running back Ray Rice, who in February dragged his fiancee, now wife, out of an Atlantic City casino elevator. Rice was initially suspended for only two games before a public outcry led NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to indefinitely suspend him. Vincent outlined several steps the NFL would undertake, including a “thorough review” of its personnel conduct policy with the goal of setting “clear rules” of misconduct for its players. Vincent added that the NFL would oversee a mandatory education program, training “critical response teams” to help prevent sexual and domestic violence, as well as raise awareness through collaborations with groups like No More.

“Recent events have made clear that we have not kept our standards current with our own values,” said Vincent, who added that “we failed” and “the commissioner failed” in his initial punishment of Rice.”We know now that the right people weren’t at the table…we’ve learned from those mistakes.”

Vincent said he expects that ex-FBI director Robert Mueller will come to the conclusion of his independent investigation “shortly” and that he believes the results would be made public.

“We’ve been humbled,” he said at the beginning of his remarks. “We’ve accepted the criticism we’ve received. And we’re committed to being a part of the solution. We will get this right.”

West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller, who chaired the hearing, called for the four major professional sports leagues to develop uniform policies to “effectively and appropriately” punish players who commit criminal acts against women and children. Many of the senators noted the outsize influence athletes have on America’s youth and lambasted the leagues for its current efforts in responding to domestic violence.

“There is a long list of players in the NFL, NBA, NHL, and Major League Baseball who have been charged with, and in some cases convicted of, domestic violence, and the leagues have done little to nothing in response,” said Rockefeller in his opening remarks. “In fact, the press has reported that a culture of silence within the leagues often prevents victims from reporting their abuse to law enforcement. This has to change.”

Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller said in the hearing that every minute in the United States 20 people will experience domestic violence, “last night” more than 20,000 phone calls were made to domestic violence hotlines and that one in three women will experience such physical abuse from a partner sometime in their lives.


Baseball Umpire Comes Out as Gay in First for Pro Sports

Dale Scott
Elaine Thompson—AP Umpire Dale Scott officiates a game between the Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays on Aug. 7, 2013, in Seattle, Wa.

Dale Scott has been an MLB umpire for 29 years

Major League Baseball umpire Dale Scott is the first active male official to come out as gay in the four major professional American sports leagues.

Scott discussed his sexuality in an interview with OutSports published Tuesday. He previously came out in the October issue of Referee magazine, in which the umpire was profiled. Referee, which is subscription-only, has a circulation of roughly 45,000.

A photograph showed Scott with his husband and had the following caption:

Scott’s resumé includes three World Series, three All-Star games, six league championship series and 10 division series. He and his longtime companion, Michael Rausch, traveled to Australia for the 2014 season opener between the Diamondbacks and Dodgers.

Scott has been an MLB umpire for 29 years. Major League Baseball officials and other league umpires were already aware of Scott’s sexuality even before theReferee magazine story was published, according to OutSports. Scott told OutSports that when the piece ran in the magazine, nobody even mentioned the photo to him.

Scott also said that while he would have been “horrified” if a story came out that he was gay early in his career, individuals around the league have personally given him their support throughout his career, making the decision to go public easier.

The umpire, who was the crew chief for this year’s NLDS between the Dodgers and Cardinals, has worked three World Series.

“I am extremely grateful that Major League Baseball has always judged me on my work and nothing else and that’s the way it should be,” Scott told OutSports.

Violet Palmer, the first female referee in the NBA, announced in July that she is gay.

No active Major League Baseball player has publicly announced he is gay.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

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