Philosophy change could push BoSox over tax threshold

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WEEI’s Alex Speier has a great look at Boston’s new payroll in light of the Marco Scutaro, John Lackey and Mike Cameron signings and how the team might join the Yankees in paying the luxury tax in 2010.
According to Speier’s figures, the Red Sox have a projected luxury-tax payroll of $168.07 million, barely short of the $170 million threshold. That’s even taking into account the Mike Lowell trade, which would add an additional $3 million to the payroll if it falls through.
It wouldn’t be a huge deal if the Red Sox did surpass the threshold for a year — they’d simply be taxed at 22.5 percent of whatever they spent above $170 million — but the simple fact that they’re threatening it after years of staying clear is interesting. The last time they were taxed was 2004, when they paid around $6 million after winning their first World Series in 86 years (a fair trade in the opinion of most).
Of course, the Boston payroll still wouldn’t be $170 million. The payroll as calculated for tax purposes uses average annual salaries and also includes a uniform $10.5 million hit for player benefits.
And it’s the average annual salaries that would bite the Red Sox here. Prior to last year, the team was so conscious of its position straddling the luxury tax that it avoided signing young players to long-term deals. That changed as Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis and Jon Lester all received extensions that kept them into their free agent years.
And it’s those contracts that could put the Red Sox over the top. In reality, those three players, all of whom signed extensions last winter, will earn $16.375 million next season. However, for tax purposes, they’re valued at $23.03 million.
Those deals still figure to pay off big in the long run. And come 2012, the Red Sox will actually be making out for luxury tax purposes, since the players will be earning more than the average value of their deals. But for 2010, it could mean that the Boston coffers will take a modest hit.

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: