Link-O-Rama: Not every lineup is a work of art

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* Mark Newman of MLB.com talked to future Hall of Fame managers Joe Torre, Bobby Cox, and Tony La Russa about the art of filling out a lineup card, and Torre provided my favorite quote: “With our current lineup, you know where [Matt] Kemp, [Andre] Ethier, Manny [Ramirez], and [Rafael] Furcal will be. Those guys will be in the top four or five spots.”
Torre has recently come to his senses by finally using Kemp near the middle of the order, but overall this season the guy with the second-highest batting average and third-best OPS on the Dodgers has been “in the top four or five spots” just 38 times in 139 games. By comparison, Kemp has batted sixth (24), seventh (46), eighth (21), or ninth (3) a total of 94 times. And this is a career .302/.349/.485 hitter who’s batting .306/.363/.506 this season. That’s some art.
* Yesterday the Nationals were thinking about shifting Cristian Guzman to second base in an effort to overhaul their infield defense. Today the Nationals “plan to revamp the bullpen” this offseason. Translation: Teams that lose 100 games in back-to-back seasons are often motivated to make lots of changes.
* Mike Cameron’s strained hamstring is expected to keep him out until at least Friday, causing Adam McCalvy of MLB.com to write that “the Brewers are well-covered in the outfield, with Corey Patterson, Jody Gerut, and Jason Bourgeois all available to play center field.” You know something is structurally wrong with a sentence when “well-covered” and “Corey Patterson” are used in tandem.
* By making his 28th start of the season yesterday Josh Beckett triggered his $12 million option for 2010.

Rob Manfred on robot umps: “In general, I would be a keep-the-human-element-in-the-game guy.”

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 5:  Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred talks with media prior to a game between the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on April 5, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
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Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:

Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.

The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?

Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.

The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.

I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.

Report: MLB approves new rule allowing a dugout signal for an intentional walk

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 29:  MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred laughs during a ceremony naming the 2016 winners of the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award and the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award before Game Four of the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 29, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images
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ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.

MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.

Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.

Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this: