I went on yesterday about how Commissioner Selig’s little committee was probably set up for cynical purposes. Today the Chicago Tribune’s Phil Rogers goes in a different direction, hatching the conspiracy theory that the committee was set up to ban the Designated Hitter:
be fair, it’s premature to ask such a potentially provocative question.
But thanks to Commissioner Bud Selig’s decision to turn recommendations
for on-field matters over to a newly created version of the NFL’s Competition Committee, the DH rule could face its first real threat since the American League accepted it permanently for the 1976 season . . . The commissioner did not mention the DH rule, but Cardinals manager
Tony La Russa and longtime Braves executive John Schuerholz, who joined
Selig on a conference call, both listed it as the one thing they
potentially would change if they could.
I’m no fan of the DH, so if there was even a shred of a scintilla of a hope that La Russa and the gang were going to recommend its abolition, I’d be playing it up like crazy. But there’s nothing here to suggest that the committee is even going to look at the DH rule, let alone opine on it.
La Russa doesn’t like it. Great. But that “if they could” in the last sentence of the blockquote is pretty important. Messing with rules is one thing. Abolishing the DH, however, messes with rosters. As in, the position on the AL roster that has historically had the highest average salary in baseball and is home to a lot of players who would otherwise be out of the league due to their inability to play defense. The Player’s Union would no sooner agree to getting rid of the DH than the Teamster’s Union would agree to give up seniority pay.
The DH made its debut three months before I was born. I’ve resigned myself to the DH. I’ve even prepared myself for the expansion of the DH to the NL one day, because I think that has pretty even odds of happening in my lifetime. Getting rid of it? No way. No how. The world simply isn’t that just.
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: