DUNN DEAL

Atlanta Braves v Miami Marlins

Mike Dunn and the Marlins agreed to a 2-year, $5.8 million contract Sunday to avoid salary arbitration. As I do my preparation for the 2015 season, here are a few notes I’ve put together, some things you might not have realized about the lefthander, heading into his 5th season in Miami.

BUSY MAN: Dunn’s 150 appearances over the last 2 seasons lead the National League and rank 2nd in the majors to only Cleveland’s Cody Allen (153). Since joining the Marlins in 2011, Dunn ranks 8th in the major leagues and 3rd in the NL with 282 appearances. Only Tyler Clippard (293) and Matt Belisle (282) have pitched in more games in the NL over the last 4 seasons.

CLIMBING THE CHARTS: Dunn’s 282 appearances for the Marlins over the last 4 seasons trail only Braden Looper and Antonio Alfonseca in club history. Looper pitched in 368 games from 1999-2003, while Alfonseca pitched in 307 games from 1997-2005. Dunn needs 26 appearances in 2015 to pass Alfonseca for 2nd place. He begins the season 86 games shy of matching Looper’s franchise record.

THE VULTURE: Dunn’s 10 relief wins last season were the most in a single season by a Marlin. Edward Mujica won 9 games out of the bullpen in 2012, and Robb Nen won 9 in 1997. The 10 relief victories matched Tony Watson of the Pirates for most in the majors in 2014. The last major leaguer to post more than 10 relief wins in a season was Tyler Clippard, who earned 11 wins for the Nationals in 2010.

MAKING THE MOST OF HIS TIME: Dunn’s 10 wins in 2014 were the most in major league history by a pitcher (starter or reliever) who threw fewer than 60 innings in a season. Dunn earned his 10 wins over 57 innings. The previous low was 61 innings pitched by Jose Arredondo of the Angels en route to 10 wins in 2008. Before Dunn, the fewest innings any Marlin had thrown to reach at least 10 wins was 114 1/3 by Anibal Sanchez during his 2006 rookie season. At 10-6, Dunn was the first big league pitcher to ever record as many as 16 decisions in a season in which he threw so few innings. The previous low was held by the Yankees’ Johnny Murphy, who went 12-4 over 68 innings in 1943.

SOUTHPAW SAVIOR: Dunn’s 4 career saves are surpassed by 20 pitchers in Marlins history, but they match the most ever by a Marlins lefty. Taylor Tankersley saved 4 games for the Marlins between 2006 and 2010.

EVERYTHING’S UNDER CONTROL: One of the keys to Dunn’s success over the last 2 seasons has been improved control. He averaged 5.7 walks per 9 innings from his major league debut in 2009 through 2012. Over the last 2 seasons, he’s lowered that average to 3.6 walks per 9 innings, walking a then career-best 3.7 per 9 in 2013, then bettering that mark with 3.5 walks per 9 innings last season.

HE DOESN’T DISCRIMINATE: Having always been tough on lefthanders, who’ve hit .220 against him in his career, Dunn was actually slightly tougher on righties in 2014. A season ago, righthanders batted .219, while lefties hit .220.

For more on the Marlins and Major League Baseball, follow me on Twitter at @GlennGeffner and friend me on Facebook at Facebook.com/GlennGeffner. To have new Fish Tales posts delivered directly to you via email, please click the “Follow” button and enter your email address. Join me for Marlins Hot Stove talk every Monday night from 7-9 p.m. on AM 940 WINZ, iHeart Radio and Marlins.com/HotStove and for Marlins play-by-play throughout the season on 940 WINZ and the Marlins Radio Network.

MONDAY’S MARLINS HOT STOVE SHOW

Monday night, we’ll shine the spotlight on Player Development on Marlins Hot Stove from 7-9 p.m. on 940 WINZ, iHeart Radio and Marlins.com/HotStove.

My guests will include Marlins Vice President/Player Development Marty Scott, as well as 2 of the organization’s top prospects, catcher J.T. Relamuto and lefthander Justin Nicolino.

Also, Kyle Sielaff sits down with Mr. Marlin Jeff Conine, and I’ll wrap up our Marlins Hot Stove National League East preview, talking about the Philadelphia Phillies with their television play-by-play man Tom McCarthy.

We’ll also have the latest Marlins and major league Hot Stove news and notes as we’re now less than 2 weeks from the start of Spring Training.

If you can’t listen to the show live, all Marlins Hot Stove shows are archived at Marlins.com/HotStove and are also available as a free podcast through the iTunes Store or at Marlins.com/Podcasts.

For more on the Marlins and Major League Baseball, follow me on Twitter at @GlennGeffner and friend me on Facebook at Facebook.com/GlennGeffner. To have new Fish Tales posts delivered directly to you via email, please click the “Follow” button and enter your email address. Join me for Marlins Hot Stove talk every Monday night from 7-9 p.m. on AM 940 WINZ, iHeart Radio and Marlins.com/HotStove and for Marlins play-by-play throughout the season on 940 WINZ and the Marlins Radio Network.

TONIGHT’S MARLINS HOT STOVE SHOW

Ichiro Press Conference

Tonight, we ring in the month of February with another 2 hours of Marlins Hot Stove talk from 7-9 p.m. on 940 WINZ, iHeart Radio and Marlins.com/HotStove.

I’ll devote much of the first hour of our show to the Marlins’ signing of Ichiro Suzuki. In addition to hearing some of Ichiro’s comments from last week’s press conference–and hearing from President of Baseball Operations Michael Hill and General Manager Dan Jennings–I’ll be joined live by club President David Samson.

Just back from Japan, David will talk about Ichiro as well as many other Marlins and MLB-related topics.

Also tonight, Kyle Sielaff talks with Hall of Famer and Marlins Special Assistant Andre Dawson about the 2015 season as well as his trip to Chicago for the memorial service in honor of Mr. Cub Ernie Banks.

And I’ll continue our Marlins Hot Stove National League East preview with a look at the Atlanta Braves through the eyes of radio voice Jim Powell.

We’ll also talk about changes you’d like to see made in Major League Baseball and run down all the Marlins and Major League Baseball news of the day.

If you can’t listen to tonight’s show live, all Marlins Hot Stove shows are archived at Marlins.com/HotStove and are also available as a free podcast through the iTunes Store or at Marlins.com/Podcasts.

For more on the Marlins and Major League Baseball, follow me on Twitter at @GlennGeffner and friend me on Facebook at Facebook.com/GlennGeffner. To have new Fish Tales posts delivered directly to you via email, please click the “Follow” button and enter your email address. And join me for Marlins Hot Stove talk every Monday night from 7-9 p.m. on AM 940 WINZ, iHeart Radio and Marlins.com/HotStove.

IF THE COMMISSIONER ASKED…

With Major League Baseball’s new Commissioner taking office last week and so much conversation about his ideas and priorities, I was thinking about changes I’d like to see made to the Sport. While I don’t expect a call from Commissioner Manfred any time soon, here are some of the things—both very large and very small–I’d recommend if he asked.

Nowhere do I claim that any or all of these ideas are mine and mine alone. But they’re all things that can be done within reason to, in my opinion, make the Game better, fairer, more accessible and more fun.

In no particular order, here we go…

EXPANDING BASEBALL’S GLOBAL REACH

The internationalization of Baseball was an important priority of Bud Selig’s and remains a priority for new Commissioner Rob Manfred. We’ve seen many major league teams play both exhibition and regular season games around the world in recent years, even traveling as far as Japan, China and Australia. While these trips do so much to promote the game globally, one of the drawbacks is you sometimes hear teams talk about being put at a competitive disadvantage when they travel thousands of miles to open their seasons, disrupting their spring preparations and being taken out of their routine by the often physically exhausting trips. I’ve got an idea to make the challenge of these trips more of a “shared sacrifice,” an idea that was born out of a Facebook exchange I had with a Marlins fan in Australia who was telling me how much the Dodgers-Diamondbacks series in Sydney to open the 2014 season has meant to the growth in popularity of the Game in his home country.

In my proposal: Every other season, all 30 major league teams would open their seasons with 2 international games. While there may or may not currently be 15 international markets that already have a stadium whose facilities and, most importantly field dimensions, could accommodate a regulation MLB field, you can basically cut the number of facilities you need in half by sending groups of 4 teams (2 AL and 2 NL) to each of 7 different cities and 2 teams (one AL and one NL) to an 8th city. In the 4-team cities, you could play 2 days of day-night doubleheaders, with each team giving up one home opening, so they’d still play 80 home games in their home ballpark.

For example, the Marlins, Dodgers, Mariners and White Sox could open the season in London. On the first day, the Marlins could play the Dodgers, and the Mariners could play the White Sox. On day 2, your doubleheader could match the Marlins and Mariners in game one and the Dodgers and White Sox in the nightcap.

While those 4 teams are playing in London, you could have 4 teams in Tokyo, 4 in Rome, 4 in Beijing, 4 in Rio de Janeiro, 4 in Mexico City, 4 in Madrid and 2 in San Juan.

Some of these markets could host games every 2 years, while others can be inserted into a rotation to include new and emerging Baseball markets with capable facilities. These bi-annual Baseball-wide international openers could be a huge boost to the Sport around the world while exposing all 30 clubs in the benefits and the challenges of helping broaden Major League Baseball’s appeal worldwide.

EXPAND EARLY, NOT LATE

Teams carry 25 active players all year until September, when they’re able to call up any member of their 40-man roster for the season’s final month. I’ve never understood why games at the most critical time of the season, when playoff spots are often won or lost, are basically played under different rules and with different rosters. Teams can have 15 pitchers in their bullpens. They can more easily match up relievers in key spots. They have a seemingly endless supply of extra players on the bench to mix and match at any time. All of this removes so much of the strategy that makes the Game great all season at a time when you’re playing your most critical games. Here’s my 2-part proposal:

First, I’d suggest teams can carry 5 extra players in April when teams often find themselves more reliant on their bullpens because many starters are not yet fully stretched out and often don’t pitch as deep into games as they do as the season wears on. They can protect themselves from that challenge by carrying extra arms in the opening month. If they choose to instead, yes, they could carry extra position players as well on their 30-man expanded April roster.

That said, I’m not suggesting the elimination of September call-ups. I fully appreciate rewarding players for successful minor league seasons or exposing prospects to the major leagues for the final month. Yes, I’d say you can still call up anyone on your 40-man roster, but I propose a limit of 28 active players for any given game. When a manager takes out his lineup card each night, he must specify who his 28 active players are for that night’s game. This eliminates the excessive use of relief pitchers or pinch hitters that fundamentally changes the way the game is currently played in the critical month of September.

MODIFY INSTANT REPLAY

I’m fine with Instant Replay. I think it made the game better in 2014. In a perfect world, I’d propose one replay umpire in every press box in Major League Baseball, who can immediately look at any play that could be potentially challenged and usually offer a decision within seconds. There are challenges to this proposal, including the expense of hiring additional full-time umpires to fill this role and the expense of adding technology in all 30 press boxes. You throw in the large financial investment MLB made to construct its Instant Replay Command Center in New York last year, and I acknowledge the ship has sailed on this idea.

That leaves us to look at the process we now have. Can it be sped up? No doubt. And the easiest way to do that is to eliminate the need for the manager to make the slow, protracted walk out to the field while trying to buy time for his replay coordinator to render a verdict on whether or not to challenge the call in question. My proposal is simple: If a team thinks there’s a chance it may want to challenge a call, the manager—without leaving the top step of the dugout—immediately calls out to the home plate umpire that his team needs to take a look at that play. The umpire then pulls out a stopwatch, and the club must decide whether or not to challenge within 60 seconds. If you don’t have the answer in one minute, you forfeit your right to challenge, the call stands, and the game resumes. All of this happens quickly and without the silly scene of the manager making the long, slow walk out to the field and the long, slow walk back to the dugout.

Another thing I’d change about instant replay is to make the names of the umpires responsible for each game in the New York replay command center readily available. Yes, as I learned last August, MLB distributes a weekly schedule to members of the media who specifically request it (although that schedule lists 2 crews and does not specify who is responsible for which individual games). Just as the names of the 4 umpires on the field on a given night are printed on lineup sheets distributed to the media and presented in the ballpark, on radio and on television, so too should the names of the replay umpires working each game be made public prior to the start of every game. They should be every bit as accountable to fans and media as the umpires on the field are.

And finally, there needs to be a system in place through which fans in the ballpark, and fans enjoying a game on radio or TV, are informed in a timely manner of what exactly is being challenged (that’s not always 100 percent clear) and whether a call that is not overturned was upheld because it was “confirmed” on video replay or it merely “stands” because replay was inconclusive. As one who for some games had access to the direct communication from the New York command center to the ballpark last season, I know with certainty those key words, “confirmed” and “stands,” were not always communicated in the first season of Instant Replay. There has to be a quick way for the crew chief or home plate umpire to get thorough information to home team PR officials in the press box for distribution to the media, to the broadcasters and to the control room personnel who can either put information on the scoreboard or put it out via the public address, making sure that fans in the ballpark, and those listening to the radio or watching TV, are fully informed in a timely fashion.

SAY BYE BYE TO RULE 7.13

I’m all for protecting catchers from injuries that could be sustained in malicious collisions at home plate. If you want to require base runners to slide into the plate as they do in high school and college, fine. But this rule as it was employed in 2014, so ambiguous and left so wide-open to interpretation, created far too many problems. And I’d estimate that 90 percent of the players (especially catchers!), managers, general managers and club officials with whom I’ve discussed the topic feel the same way.

DELAY THE DEADLINE

I’d push the non-waiver trading deadline back from July 31 to August 15. With expanded playoffs, more teams than ever are in the hunt in late July, making the “buy-or-sell” decision tougher than ever. A couple of extra weeks gives everybody more time to see how things play out. If you still want to make a deal on July 31 (or earlier), go ahead. But an extra 2 weeks would add some clarity for many ballclubs.

EARLIER START TIMES FOR WORLD SERIES GAMES

I grudgingly accept that there are several reasons why you can’t play day games during the World Series. Day games on weekdays limit your television audience, and day games on weekends would go head-to-head with the majority of a weekend’s College Football and NFL games. Still, why can’t we start all World Series games at 7 p.m. Eastern? That start time works in all MLB markets all season. Why do we let TV dictate that the biggest games of the year start an hour or more later, meaning most kids can’t watch? We’ve taken the World Series (and much of the entire postseason) away from the next generation of fans. This may ruffle feathers on the West Coast, although we’re only talking about one hour. That said, 80 percent of the US population lives in the Eastern and Central time zones, with less than 15 percent in the Pacific time zone. This move would be in the best interest of the vast majority of the country (and the overwhelming majority of major league fan bases as 22 of the 30 clubs are in the Eastern or Central time zones). Starting earlier for the 15 percent in the West is no worse and no more unfair than ending later for the 80 percent in the East and Midwest. And for the record, I did a quick check of the last 45 World Series, going back to 1970. 28 of the last 45 World Series have featured 2 teams from the Eastern or Central time zones. Only 3 of the last 45 World Series have been contested between a pair of West Coast teams. And only 20 of the last 90 World Series participants have called the Pacific time zone home. I’m not looking to pile on the West Coast. I love the West Coast and lived there for 6 years. But numbers dictate the extreme majority of fans in this country would benefit from moving the start time of all World Series games to 7 p.m. Eastern. If MLB is serious about trying to cultivate more young fans, this is critical.

NEXT TIME IT DOESN’T COUNT

I’d put an end to the All-Star Game determining home-field advantage for the World Series. I like and respect so much of what Bud Selig did for the Game during his historic and revolutionary 22-year tenure as Commissioner. I truly believe that every move he made was made with what he believed to be the best interest of the game at heart. But determining home-field advantage for the World Series by who wins an exhibition game in which the best players don’t even play more than a couple of innings is ludicrous. Take your pick: the league champion with the better regular season record gets home-field advantage (like in the NBA) or—if you want to do something more innovative—give home-field advantage for the World Series to the champion of the league that posts the better record in Interleague Play during the regular season. At least those are real baseball games that teams are doing their all to win. The All-Star Game is a fun exhibition game. That’s all it should be.

BRING BACK PETE

It’s time for Baseball to bury the hatchet with Pete Rose. Pete (finally) confessed to his crime, and he’s done his time. While I do not believe someone who admitted to gambling on major league games as a manager should ever be allowed to manage again, I’d welcome Pete back into the game if an organization would like to hire him as a coach or minor league instructor, and I would definitely put him on the Hall of Fame ballot. Maybe the writers don’t see fit to elect him, but his playing career merits a spot on the ballot to let the electors decide. His potential induction would introduce a whole new generation of fans to a player whose performance and passion for the game inspired millions and ought to be celebrated anew by young fans who never got to see him play. The PED crowd got a competitive advantage, cheated the Game and brought a tremendous black eye to the Sport during their playing careers. Still they appear on the Cooperstown ballot for the writers to determine their fate. Pete Rose, whose crimes were admittedly serious, committed his offenses after his playing career. To me, it’s not right that Barry Bonds can be on the Hall of Fame ballot, but Pete Rose cannot be.

And, finally, my personal favorite suggestion:

SCHEDULE CHANGE

I’d change the regular season Major League schedule to more of an NBA-style format, where every team plays each of the other 29 clubs every season, and I’ve come up with the math to make it work. Under my plan, each club would play 2 home and 2 road series against every other team in its division as well as one home and one road series against the other 10 clubs in its league. Each team would also play one series a year against every club in the other league except for its “natural rival,” which it would face in 2 series, one at home and one on the road. If you play a team from the other league at home this year, you’d play that team on the road next year. This serves several purposes, including making sure that every fan base has the chance to see every team in Baseball at least once every 2 years and also assuring that every playoff contender in each league has played essentially the same schedule outside of its division. No one carries the burden of a brutal Interleague schedule as opposed to someone else’s parade of cupcakes.

Here’s how you break it down to make the math work: Every team plays 56 games within its division (a 3-game series and a 4-game series at home and on the road against each of the other 4 teams in its own division). Each team plays 3 games at home and 3 on the road against each of the 10 other clubs in its league. That’s another 60 games, bringing you to 116 and leaving 46 Interleague games. You play one 3-game series against 14 of the 15 teams in the opposite league (7 series at home and 7 on the road), and 4 games (2 at home and 2 on the road) against your “natural” rival. That adds up to 162 and also means teams will only play 2 2-game series every season. No one in Baseball likes 2-game series (the Marlins are scheduled to play 4 in 2015).

I’d love your feedback on the suggestions above. And what realistic ideas would you suggest if YOU had the Commissioner’s ear? Go ahead and comment below.

For more on the Marlins and Major League Baseball, follow me on Twitter at @GlennGeffner and friend me on Facebook at Facebook.com/GlennGeffner. To have new Fish Tales posts delivered directly to you via email, please click the “Follow” button and enter your email address. And join me for Marlins Hot Stove talk every Monday night from 7-9 p.m. on AM 940 WINZ, iHeart Radio and Marlins.com/HotStove.

MARLINS HOT STOVE

I’ve got 2 action-packed hours of baseball talk for you tonight on Marlins Hot Stove from 7-9 p.m. on 940 WINZ, iHeart Radio and Marlins.com/Hot Stove.

My guests include Marlins pitching coach Chuck Hernandez and first baseman Justin Bour. Kyle Sielaff has a fascinating conversation with long-time major league umpire and current Umpiring Observer Steve Rippley, and I’ll preview the 2015 Washington Nationals with one of their radio play-by-play voices Dave Jageler.

We’ll also discuss the latest news around Major League Baseball, and I hope you’ll participate in tonight’s show as well. Among the topics on the table: recent discussions about trying to speed up the pace of major league games. Tweet me your opinions or your questions or, better yet, call in when we open the phone lines during our second hour.

For more on the Marlins and Major League Baseball, follow me on Twitter at @GlennGeffner and friend me on Facebook at Facebook.com/GlennGeffner. To have new Fish Tales posts delivered directly to you via email, please click the “Follow” button and enter your email address. And join me for Marlins Hot Stove talk every Monday night from 7-9 p.m. on AM 940 WINZ, iHeart Radio and Marlins.com/HotStove.

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