Red Sox can't re-sign Martinez just yet

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The Red Sox may well want Victor Martinez as their catcher beyond 2010. He’s not much defensively and he never will be, but he doesn’t embarrass himself and it could be a long time before a real upgrade is available. Still, despite Martinez’s obvious eagerness to get a deal done now, nothing figures to happen for two very big reasons.
1. Joe Mauer still hasn’t reupped with the Twins.
Mauer would likely spur the biggest bidding war yet between the Yankees and Red Sox if the Twins fail to sign him to an extension past 2010. As is, Mauer and Martinez are far and away the top catchers set to be available next winter. A.J. Pierzynski, Gerald Laird and Bengie Molina are the best of the rest. Things don’t look any better two years down the line. Yadier Molina has a 2012 option that’s sure to be picked up. Jorge Posada will be a free agent, but it’s doubtful that he’ll be a catcher in 2012. Brian McCann and Russell Martin are still three years away from free agency (four for McCann if his option is picked up).
Odds are that a Mauer deal will get done, and that could spur the Red Sox into action with Martinez. However, there’s another factor that weighs heavily that will be overlooked by some:
2. Martinez’s current contract is extremely friendly for luxury-tax purposes.
I touched on this subject back in December.
With all of their recent moves, the Red Sox are in danger of having to pay the luxury tax for the first time since 2004. An extension for Martinez wouldn’t necessarily add anything to the team’s 2010 payroll, but it would immediately raise Martinez’s luxury tax figure from $7.68 million and replace it with his new average annual salary (with the 2010 salary still factoring into the mix). Since it would likely take at least $12 million per year to sign Martinez, the jump could push the Red Sox over the top.
So, even if it costs a few extra million dollars then, the Red Sox would likely be better off waiting until next winter to re-sign Martinez.

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: