MLB’s bigger bases could lead to more steals, fewer injuries
By Jay Cohen in Peoria
PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) — Like a violin virtuoso using a new music stand, San Diego Padres third baseman Manny Machado noticed a difference right away.
Not only are the bases bigger, but they feel different, too.
“It’s definitely different, for sure,” said Machado, a two-time Gold Glove winner. “They look better. I just got to kind of keep playing with it and stepping on it and kind of like getting the feel for it. But it’s definitely different for sure.”
The bigger bases — going from 15- to 18-inch squares — are part of a flurry of changes by Major League Baseball designed to put more action and athleticism back in the game and make it more appealing to a younger generation of potential fans.
When the new rules were adopted by baseball’s 11-person competition committee in September, the four players on the panel supported the bigger bases and voted against the use of a pitch clock and limits on defensive shifts.
The new bases — “They look like a pizza box,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora cracked — cut down the distance between the bases by 4 1/2 inches. The distance between third and home and home and first was trimmed by 3 inches.
It doesn’t sound like much, but the impact could be considerable.
Instead of waiting around for a three-run homer, big league teams could try a more aggressive approach on the basepaths. Coupled with new limits on what MLB calls disengagements — pickoff attempts or steps off the rubber — it’s more important than ever that pitchers are quick to the plate and strong-armed catchers stay alert with runners on.
“The run game, preventing the run game, is something that we’ve talked about, we’re going to continue to talk about, because … the stolen-base attempt should increase a good bit, I think,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.
Major league teams finished with 2,486 steals in 3,297 attempts last year, up from 2,214 steals and 2,926 attempts in 2021, according to Sportradar, but much lower than 3,229 steals and 4,365 attempts a decade ago in 2012.
In testing in the minors, two Triple-A leagues used the bigger bases for half of the 2021 season. One experienced a 2.2% increase in successful steals, and the other posted 0.7% increase.
The 2012 season — when Mike Trout led the majors with 49 stolen bases — was the last time the big leagues surpassed 3,000 steals and 4,000 attempts.
“I’ve definitely been thrown out by less than (4 1/2) inches … so maybe that starts factoring into results,” said Chicago Cubs second baseman Nico Hoerner, who swiped a career-best 20 bases in 22 attempts last year.
Of course, it also gives the majors’ top defensive first basemen an even better chance of keeping runners off base altogether.
“I think it could help. It’ll give me another inch or so of reach on a throw that wants to pull me off the base,” said Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Christian Walker, who won his first Gold Glove last year.
Besides the activity on the basepaths, Major League Baseball is hoping the change will help reduce injuries. While testing the bigger bases in the minors, there was a 13% decline in what the league calls “injury events near the bases” from 2021 to 2022.
There’s more room for first basemen to avoid getting stepped on, or to pull their arm away in time to avoid a batter hustling up the line. It also should help avoid collisions all over the diamond.
“When you walk on the field, you don’t really notice it, and getting closer to the bag, you definitely do notice it,” said Cubs first baseman Eric Hosmer, a four-time Gold Glove winner. “It seems like a little flatter, too, as well. Not only bigger and longer, but definitely a little flatter.
“But yeah, I think it’s going to prevent some injuries, so I think anytime you can even knock that number down one or two guys, that’s well worth it.”
AP Sports Writer David Brandt and AP Baseball Writer Noah Trister contributed to this report.
Follow Jay Cohen at https://twitter.com/jcohenap
AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Gauld nets winner as Whitecaps beat CF Montreal to claim Canadian Championship
VANCOUVER — Ryan Gauld scored the matchwinner off a penalty in the 65th minute as the Vancouver Whitecaps beat CF Montreal 2-1 to ensure the Canadian Championship trophy stays on the West Coast for another year.
Montreal scored its lone goal in the 83rd minute after Vancouver defender Tristan Blackmon failed to clear the ball in his team’s box, allowing Montreal forward Sunusi Ibrahim to tuck it past goalkeeper Yohei Takaoka.
The Whitecaps opened the scoring 57 minutes in off an error from Montreal goalkeeper Jonathan Sirois, which allowed striker Brian White to slot the ball home.
It’s the second straight year the Whitecaps have claimed the Canadian Championship.
Up until the breakthrough goal, Vancouver had been denied by Sirois’s several acrobatic saves, including one where he stopped what looked like a sure goal with his feet mid-dive.
The Whitecaps outshot Montreal 20-9 with the Quebec side leaving it until late to threaten Takaoka’s goal.
Canada men’s head coach John Herdman presented the Best Young Canadian Player Award to midfielder Ali Ahmed, who missed the match as he continues his recovery from a concussion.
Canada Soccer interim general secretary and former national team player Jason de Vos presented the George Gross Most Valuable Player Award to Julian Gressel, who recorded an assist on White’s opener.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 7, 2023.
The Canadian Press
Nevada revisits Oakland Athletics stadium plan in special legislative session
This rendering provided by the Oakland Athletics on May 26, 2023, shows a view of their proposed new ballpark at the Tropicana site in Las Vegas. The Nevada Legislature is set to convene Wednesday, June 7, for a special legislative session to consider whether to provide $380 million in public financing for a stadium that would host the Oakland Athletics on the Las Vegas Strip. (Courtesy of Oakland Athletics via AP, File)
By Gabe Stern in Carson City
CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — The Oakland Athletics’ search for a new home has drawn Nevada lawmakers into a special legislative session Wednesday to weigh whether the state should cover $380 million of the $1.5 billion stadium planned for the Las Vegas Strip.
The public funding would mainly come from $180 million in transferable tax credits and $120 million in county bonds. Backers have pledged that the creation of a special tax district around the proposed stadium would generate enough money to pay off those bonds and interest. The plan would not directly raise taxes.
The A’s would not owe property taxes for the publicly owned stadium. Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, would also contribute $25 million in credit toward infrastructure costs.
The proposed 30,000-seat stadium would be the smallest in Major League Baseball.
The Legislature adjourned Monday after its 120-day, biennial session with disputes over one of the five major budget bills that funds capital improvement projects. On Tuesday, Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo held a special legislative session to pass that bill.
Lombardo’s office had introduced the stadium financing bill with less than two weeks left in the regular session. It is unclear how many days the second special session will last.
Special sessions are fairly common in Nevada’s Legislature, which lasts for four months every other year. There have been seven since 2013 for a variety of reasons — pandemic protocols,statewide redistricting, budget disputes and approval for $750 million in public funding to help build Allegiant Stadium when the Oakland Raiders moved to Las Vegas.
The A’s have been looking for a home to replace Oakland Coliseum, where the team has played since arriving from Kansas City for the 1968 season. The team previously sought to build a stadium in Fremont, California, as well as San Jose and finally the Oakland waterfront — all ideas that never materialized.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has said that a vote on the Oakland Athletics’ prospective move to Las Vegas could take place when owners meet June 13-15 in New York.
Stern is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service that places journalists in newsrooms. Follow Stern on Twitter: @gabestern326.
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