Baseball is doing its best to get replay right

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People complained that the reviews of the Gary Sheffield and Daniel
Murphy home runs this week took too long, with the former taking more
than six minutes and the latter almost four minutes. I can understand
the frustration, but you have to laud Major League Baseball for having its priorities in order:

“In the case you’re talking about, the home run call on Sheffield,
that one took about six minutes – just over six minutes. And the reason
for that was because we were really trying to get clear and convincing
evidence if we were going to overturn the call. So we were pulling up
all the various camera angles that we had available to us, and it took
us some time to discern whether or not that play could be overturned.
Ultimately, the home run was upheld, but it took a little time. But we
want to get the play right. The ultimate, ultimate, overriding concern
is to get the play right.”

Which it should be. We can argue about whether or not replay itself is
a good idea, but if you’re going to go with replay, there’s no reason
to rush it if it risks getting the call wrong.

Not that baseball shouldn’t do what it can to speed up the process
where it can. Indeed, based on some of the reviews we’ve seen, I can
think of two things that would go a long way towards making replays as
efficient as possible.

First: strongly discourage umpires from standing around trying to
decide if a replay should be reviewed. During last week’s Red Sox-Mets
game, the umps held a conclave around third base for some time,
apparently trying to determine if Youkilis’ shot down the left field
line should be reviewed. We all got pride, and umpires more than most
of us, but really, it was obvious within about five seconds of the ball
clearing the fence that there was a question as to whether it was fair
or foul. End the conference, go watch the video, get the call right,
and play ball.

Second: as we get more experience with replays, patterns are
probably going to develop. We can imagine, for example, that given the
stupid placement of the railing and advertisements on the upper deck at
Citi Field, that more than a few disputed calls are going to occur
there. Indeed, just about every park is going to have its own
particular problem areas, and once they’re identified, perhaps it would
be worth installing some fixed cameras that focus specifically on those
areas. Also, given that balls over the foul pole are going to be an
issue, maybe baseball should install the same sort of camera that sits
on every set of goal posts in the NFL.

Heck, they could even solicit sponsorships for the things. Based on the great publicity they’re getting over the Murphy homer, Subway would probably pony up at this point.

UPDATE: Donald Trump declines Nats offer to throw out the first pitch

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UPDATE: Welp, we wont’ get to see that:

Sad!

8:53 AM: It’s just gossip now, but Politico is hearing that Donald Trump is in talks to throw out the first pitch at Nationals Park on Opening Day. The Nats are not commenting. Neither are the Palm Beach Cardinals of the Florida State League, who no doubt feel slighted given that the president effectively is a local.

With the caveat that, on Opening Day, tickets are likely to be more expensive and thus you’re likely to have a lot more rich people and friends-of-the-owners in attendance, thereby ensuring a more conservative crowd, I’m struggling to imagine a situation in which Trump strolls on to a baseball field in a large American city and isn’t booed like crazy. He’s polling as low as 36% in some places. He’s not exactly Mr. Popular.

Oh well. I look forward to him three-bouncing one to Matt Wieters and then grabbing his phone and tweeting about how it was the best, most tremendous first pitch in baseball history. Or blaming Hillary Clinton for it in the event he admits that it was a bad pitch.

2017 Preview: Texas Rangers

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Texas Rangers.

The Rangers somehow won the AL West last year despite not being super great at any one aspect of the game. There are stars here — Adrian Beltre, Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish and Rougned Odor are all spiffy players — but the Rangers won the division by being greater than the sum of their parts. They scored a decent number of runs despite some bad collective peripheral numbers and they allowed more runs than anyone in the AL except the Twins and Athletics. Yet they had a great record in one-run games and outperformed their pythagorean record by a WHOLE lot. Luck shined brightly on the 2016 Rangers.

It’s hard to expect luck to hold in any instance, but that’s especially the case when there have been some pretty significant changes. Changes like the loss of Carlos Beltran, Ian Desmond and Mitch Moreland. In their place: A full season, the Rangers hope, from Shin-Soo Choo, a converted-to-outfield Jurickson Profar and Mike Napoli. That may wash out OK, especially if Choo is healthy, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see some regression in two of those offensive slots.

Starting pitching is also a big question mark. Cole Hamels at the top is not a problem, obviously, and if Yu Darvish is healthy and durable the Rangers have an outstanding 1-2 punch. Martin Perez in the third spot presents promise, but he’s been exactly average so far in five major league seasons. The back end of the rotation has some real problems. Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross are hurt at the moment and even if healthy, Cashner seems to be a shell of his once-promising self. A.J. Griffin is looking to pitch in his first full season since 2013. If the Rangers are strong contenders all year it’s gonna be on the “Spahn and Sain and two days of rain” model, but I have no idea what rhymes with “Darvish” and that’s sort of a problem.

The bullpen is going to look a lot like it did last year. Sam Dyson will close, but manager Jeff Banister has shown in the past that he’s not a slave to keeping guys in any one role down there. Jeremy Jeffress will likely set up but he’s closed before. Some think Matt Bush or Keone Kela could close. We’ll see Tanner Scheppers and lefty Alex Claudio. Banister has a Manager of the Year Award on his mantle and while that often doesn’t mean anything, it usually suggests that a guy knows how to deal with his pen. Banister will do OK with what he has.

Really, though, the rotation is a concern, as is hoping that a 35-year-old Mike Napoli and a soon-to-be 38-year-old Adrian Beltre can continue to be the types of players who can form the offensive core of a playoff team. There’s talent and a track record here, but there’s a lot of uncertainty. For that reason, I suspect the Rangers will fall back a smidge this year, even if they’re a playoff contender.

Prediction: Second Place, American League West.