No Bill, the Dodgers could not have had Cliff Lee: Now with Update

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The Los Angeles Times’ Bill Plaschke goes on and on this morning about how the Dodgers’ “whiffed” in nixing a trade for Cliff Lee at the deadline:

Why did the Dodgers sacrifice the chance to acquire Lee, the starter stolen instead by the Phillies at the trading deadline, the guy who brilliantly held the Dodgers to three singles in eight innings of puzzled stares?

Why did the Dodgers sacrifice a sensible postseason rotation, forcing Joe Torre to hand the ball to a spooked Hiroki Kuroda, who threw it well for all of about one batter?

Except they didn’t sacrifice anything because they were never in the running to land Cliff Lee.  There was a single Ken Rosenthal piece back in July that had Lee going to the Dodgers for James Loney and either Clayton Kershaw or Chad Billingsley. At the time the Dodgers said that there was “less than zero truth” to the rumor.  Even better, the shooting down of that rumor came from Plaschke’s very own paper. There was zero speculation, informed or otherwise, of any other possible deal and no indication whatsoever that the teams talked.

Sure, it would be nice if the Dodgers had Cliff Lee, but it would be nice if they had Albert Pujols, Tim Lincecum and the reincarnation of Honus Wagner too.  And all of them, it seems, had just as good a chance of becoming a Dodger last summer as Cliff Lee did.

There are plenty of reasons to slam the Dodgers this morning, Bill, but failing to trade for Cliff Lee is not one of them.

 

UPDATE:  CBS’ Danny Knobler has multiple quotes from Dodgers’ GM Ned Colletti saying that, yes, the Dodgers were actively trying to get Lee and were almost there:

The way Colletti tells it, the Dodgers tried very hard. Colletti didn’t come right out and say he thought the Dodgers had offered more for Lee than the Phillies did, but he was willing to say they offered a lot.

“We offered four guys,” he said. “We were choking on the third guy, and we went to the fourth [too].”

That certainly changes my comments re: Plaschke’s piece.  But, based on the quotes I used to form my opinion on Plaschke’s piece in the first place, it also shows that the Dodgers told a bald faced lie to the Los Angeles Times back in July. 

The rumor business: it’s ugly stuff.

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)
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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)
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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: