The umps deny that there is an unwritten rulebook

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In the wake of the Erick Aybar play on Saturday night, an article in today’s New York Times attempts to debunk the notion that there are any unwritten rules:

But as often as Major League Baseball umpires have been caught
making the wrong calls this October, Layne’s call could help eradicate
the notion that umpires make certain calls according to historical
precedent, and not what actually happened on the field.

For
instance, there is no such thing as tie goes to the runner. And pitches
are not strikes if they go over the so-called “black” part of the plate
for the simple reason that there is no black part of the plate in Major
League Baseball.

And umpires do not give credit to a fielder for
making a good throw, [MLB’s VP of umpiring Mike] Port said. If a tag is not made before the runner
hits the bag, then the umpire is supposed to call him safe.

The gist of the article is that if any of those plays are called, it’s simply a matter of the umpire getting the play wrong, not a matter of umps enforcing rules from some unwritten rule book or based on tradition or whatever.

I won’t deny that they’re technically wrong calls, but we see those plays called all the time, right? I mean, the assertion that “there is no such thing” as balls on the black being strikes or the neighborhood play runs counter to our obvious experience watching games.  In light of that, one of two things has to be the case: (a) there really is an unwritten rulebook; or (b) umpires get way more calls wrong than they’ll ever admit to because, like I said, we see that stuff called every single day.

So here’s the question I’d really like to see answered by umpire czar Mike Post, who is quoted in the article: are umpires disciplined or deducted points in evaluations or whatever when they call an out on the neighborhood play? Or when they call a consistent but technically wrong strike zone? I have this feeling that they aren’t or, at the very least, that “we’ve been calling it that way for 100 years” is viewed as an acceptable defense when umps are being graded and evaluated by their bosses.

If so, then there truly is an unwritten rulebook in practice.  Which may or may not be a good thing (I’m split on some of these things), but it certainly means the linked article is more of a propaganda piece than anything else.

Kyle Hendricks and Adam Warren will compete for No. 5 spot in Cubs’ rotation

Chicago Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks throws during the first inning of Game 3 of the National League baseball championship series against the New York Mets Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
AP Photo/David J. Phillip
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Expect Kyle Hendricks and Adam Warren to battle it out for the fifth spot in the Cubs’ starting rotation this spring, writes Gordon Wittenmyer for the Chicago Sun-Times. Clayton Richard could serve as a fallback option as well.

Hendricks, 26, pitched well in his first full season in 2015. He finished with a 3.95 ERA and a 167/43 K/BB ratio over 180 innings. That was a solid follow-up to his rookie campaign in 2014, when he posted a 2.46 ERA over 13 starts.

The Cubs acquired Warren, 28, from the Yankees in the Starlin Castro trade. He contributed both out of the rotation and the bullpen in the Bronx this past season, pitching 131 1/3 innings with a 3.29 ERA and a 104/39 K/BB ratio.

One through four, the Cubs’ rotation is solid with defending National League Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, John Lackey, and Jason Hammel.

Mets GM Sandy Alderson plans to limit David Wright to 130 or fewer games

David Wright
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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Mets third baseman David Wright missed four months of the 2015 season due to spinal stenosis. In other words, Wright dealt with a narrowing of his spinal column. Going forward, the Mets plan to be cautious with Wright so as not to overuse him.

As ESPN’s Adam Rubin reports, Mets GM Sandy Alderson plans to have the 33-year-old Wright play in no more than 130 games. Alderson said, “We’re gonna make sure that he’s not overworked. So it’s important for us to find somebody who can play 30 games or so at third base when he’s not in there. But I think we have to be realistic, and not expect that he’s gonna be an absolute everyday [player] out there playing 150 or 155 games. That’s not gonna happen.”

Wilmer Flores played 26 games at third base in his rookie season in 2013, so he could back up Wright as needed. But Alderson mentioned that because Wright would mostly sit against right-handed pitchers, the switch-hitting Neil Walker or Asdrubal Cabrera could get the call at the hot corner.

When he was on the field last season, Wright hit a productive .289/.379/.434 with five home runs and 17 RBI in 174 plate appearances.

Marlins still searching for starting pitching depth

Aaron Harang
AP Photo/Matt Slocum
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The Marlins would like to add “another pitcher or two” before pitchers and catchers report to Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro writes. Among starting pitchers available, Kyle Lohse, Aaron Harang, and Alfredo Simon are candidates for the Marlins, but they may hold out for the possibility of inking a major league contract. Tim Lincecum and Cliff Lee are other potential candidates, per Frisaro.

This offseason, the Marlins signed Wei-Yin Chen to a five-year, $80 million deal and Edwin Jackson for the major league minimum. The back of the rotation, though, is still a question mark as Jarred Cosart, Adam Conley, and Justin Nicolino will compete with Jackson for two spots. David Phelps is dealing with an elbow injury and may or not be ready by Opening Day, but he could function in a swingman capacity as well.

Shocker: Bruce Bochy tabs Madison Bumgarner to start Opening Day

Madison Bumgarner
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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You might want to sit down for this news. Giants manager Bruce Bochy has tabbed ace Madison Bumgarner to start on Opening Day in Milwaukee against the Brewers, CSN Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic reports. Shocking, I know.

The Giants had a busy offseason, adding Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija to the starting rotation, but neither had a shot at getting the Opening Day nod considering what Bumgarner has done for the Giants over the last five seasons.

Since the start of the 2011 season, the 26-year-old lefty compiled a 3.05 ERA with 1,034 strikeouts and 239 walks across 1,050 innings. Among starters who logged at least 800 innings in that span of time, only Clayton Kershaw, Cueto, Zack Greinke, David Price, and Felix Hernandez have posted lower ERAs.  And Bumgarner is the only one among them with a championship ring. In fact, he has three.