Derek Jeter's defensive improvement is bad news for the Yankees? Really?

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I wrote yesterday that tons of ink will be spilled over Derek Jeter’s extension despite the fact that it’s probably going to all go down rather quickly and painlessly after the season is over.  As if on cue, Joel Sherman of the Post chimes in, showing just how hard the tabloids are going to work in order to turn this into some big controversial issue.  After relating the story of how Jeter has worked hard over the past couple of years to improve his defense, Sherman says:

. . . the good news for the Yanks is that Jeter is a competent shortstop again; the bad news is he is a competent shortstop again . . . He is in the same training regimen for the third straight offseason
and if 2010 resembles 2009, the Yanks will be very pleased, well, until
negotiations begin.

This would have been a different
negotiation if Jeter was holding on as a left fielder or DH, being kept
around mostly for emeritus reasons. Now the Yanks almost certainly will
have to treat Jeter as the current and future shortstop of the team,
and not the kind of defensive liability that enabled them to play
hardball in pushing Williams and Damon off the roster.

Call me crazy, but despite what Sherman says I can’t help but think that the Yankees would much prefer to enter into negotiations with Derek Jeter: competent shortstop as opposed to Derek Jeter: DH. I mean, sure, the latter may have given them a modicum of additional leverage, but it also would have meant that they would be about to pay a way less useful player $60 million+. Unless of course you think the Yankees would push Jeter out the way they did Bernie and Damon.  Which is never, ever going to happen.

The only way Jeter’s contract extension is going to get complicated is if he puts up a truly wretched season at the plate. I’m talking, like, .269/.331/.380 + a ton of high profile errors or something, with no corresponding injury to use as an excuse. Yes, I suppose it could happen, but it’s not damn likely.  

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
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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: