As we had to sit through yet another night without baseball on Saturday, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports penned a pointed piece on the scheduling embarrassment that is the MLB playoffs:
Beaucoup bucks buy Fox the leverage to insist on starting the World
Series on a Wednesday instead of the Saturday that was standard until
2007. That’s right: The World Series should have started already. Only
because Saturday night is a TV ratings sinkhole, and the potential of
two games on Saturday makes Fox executives cower, they make us wait.
And wait. And wait.
Didn’t used to be that way. Prior to 2007, there was a standard
formula employed since baseball introduced the wild card. The playoffs
always started the first Tuesday following the regular season ending.
The LCS would begin seven or eight days later. And the World Series
came 11 days after the start of the first LCS.
Now the postseason starts on a Wednesday. And while the LCS this
season began eight days later, the World Series doesn’t start until 13
days after the first LCS game. There are off days built in specifically
to adhere to Fox’s request of a Wednesday start, and with the World
Baseball Classic already pushing the season back a week, there will be
at least one – and as many as four – World Series games this November.
Because baseball was always meant to
be experienced in mittens and snow hats. At least they’ve thrown us a
bone by giving us slightly earlier start times, however the late
innings of the ALCS games have been a chore to sit through, even for
the most die-hard of fans. Coincidence or not, things have worked out
pretty well for FOX and TBS this October, although they have the
presence of the Yankees to thank for that.
The Phillies will have a week layoff
when the World Series begins on Wednesday. And as Passan points out,
such a long break isn’t necessarily an indicator of anything. More
recently, the 2006 Tigers sat for seven days and were defeated in five games by the
Cardinals, while the 2007 Rockies went nine days between games before
getting swept by the Red Sox. However, the 1995 Braves or 1996 Yankees
didn’t complain, as they both went on to win the World Series with
Imagine for second if the Yankees actually won Game 5 on Thursday. It would have been a whole six days before Game 1 of the World Series. What a joke. Again, MLB and FOX have the Yankees to thank for making things interesting and safeguarding them from a real P.R. nightmare.
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.
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: