Brian McCann is the last 'Baby Brave' standing

Leave a comment

David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution points out that the Braves last won a divisional title in 2005 while using 18 different rookies, yet with Kelly Johnson getting non-tendered over the weekend only one of those guys remains on the team: Brian McCann.
O’Brien notes that the “Baby Braves” were “celebrated for their energy, for the ‘fire’ they brought to a big-league team that had become viewed by some as being too button-downed and stoic for its own good.” Of course, that season marked their 14th straight division title, so it was easy to attach positive traits to the newcomers and assume that their development would allow the winning machine to keep chugging along.
In reality McCann proved to be an All-Star catcher, Johnson proved to be a solid everyday second baseman when healthy, and … well, that’s about it. Jeff Francoeuer, Joey Devine, Chuck James, and Wilson Betemit have had their moments, though not always in Atlanta, and Blaine Boyer, Frank Brooks, Matt Childers, Roman Colon, Kyle Davies, Chuck James, Ryan Langerhans, Anthony Lerew, Andy Marte, Macay McBride, Pete Orr, Brayan Pena, and Jorge Vasquez have mostly been flat-out busts. Seriously, read that list again.
While winning 14 straight division titles the Braves seemingly churned out a young player or two capable of making a long-term impact every season, so looking over that list of the 18 rookies from 2005 goes a long way toward explaining how Atlanta has gone just 321-327 while finishing no higher than third place in the four seasons since. Fortunately it looks like 2008 rookie Jair Jurrjens and 2009 rookie Tommy Hanson will be in the rotation for the long haul and uber prospect Jason Heyward is on the way 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
11 Comments

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
24 Comments

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: