The former Astros’ third baseman has a blog and some pretty interesting insights about Barry Zito plunking Prince Fielder — Ensberg lists his own rules for hitting a guy — as well as the strike zone. Here’s Ensberg after noting that Bud Selig is against automating the calling of balls and strikes because he likes “the human element”:
Yeah whatever dude. Getting booed sucks. It ripped my heart in
half to hear the fans in Houston boo me. As a result I no longer
concentrated on the game and instead concentrated on not getting
booed. That was too much heat for me and I buckled. The same thing
will happen to the umpires.
Umpires have a really difficult job. You may think it is easy to
call a ball or a strike, but you don’t see what Major League pitchers
can do with the ball. Major League catchers can frame a ball that
makes an umpire look like they missed it. You don’t probably consider
that the camera is “off-set”. But in the end, it is the heat of the
fans, managers, and players that causes that strike zone to expand.
Prediction: Technology will cause the strike zone to shrink at first and we may see
an increase in offensive production. After a year of that, the strike
zone will expand to its intended definition and pitchers will finally
get to throw a high strike.
I think what he means by the zone shrinking if things get automated is that pitchers will not get the corner calls they’re used to, while simultaneously being afraid to throw what is a textbook — and presumably computer-judged high strike — at first, but that they’ll soon adjust and start working up the ladder the way your old man’s favorite pitchers used to do in the 60s and 70s. Interesting thought, and something I’d like to see.
More generally, I like to see ballplayers and former ballplayers like Ensberg speaking directly to the public like this. As I’ll note later this morning, there is something deeply artificial and unilluminating about the reporter-ballplayer dynamic, what with all the cliches and mistrust and everything. I don’t figure we’ll see a lot of ballplayers saying “whatever, dude” to Bud Selig, but the more of these guys who let loose in the blogosphere and on Twitter, the more we’ll learn so much more about this here game we love.
Steve Gilbert of MLB.com reports that the Diamondbacks and outfielder A.J. Pollock have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year extension. The deal is worth $10.25 million, per ESPN’s Buster Olney.
Pollock was arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter. The 28-year-old requested $3.9 million and was offered $3.65 million by the Diamondbacks when figures were exchanged on January 15. It wasn’t much of a gap, but the two sides were ultimately able to find common ground on a multi-year deal. Pollock will still be under team control for one more year after this new deal expires.
Pollock is coming off a breakout 2015 where he batted .315/.367/.498 with 20 home runs, 76 RBI, and 39 stolen bases over 157 games. He ranked sixth among position players with 7.4 WAR (Wins Above Replacement), according to Baseball Reference.
The Blue Jays and 2015 American League Most Valuable Player Josh Donaldson have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year, $29 million contract, reports Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca.
Donaldson was arbitration-eligible for the second time this winter. He filed for $11.8 million and was offered $11.35 million by the Blue Jays when figures were exchanged last month. It wasn’t a big gap, but since the Blue Jays are a “file and trial” team, they bring these cases to an arbitration hearing unless a multi-year deal can be worked out. As opposed to last winter, they were able to avoid a hearing this time around. Donaldson was originally a Super Two player, so he’ll still have one year of arbitration-eligibility once this two-year deal is completed.
The 30-year-old Donaldson is coming off a monster first season in Toronto where he batted .297/.371/.568 with 41 homers while leading the American League with 123 RBI.
Brandon Belt filed for $7.5 million and was offered $5.3 million by the Giants when arbitration figures were exchanged last month. That’s a pretty sizable gap. While there’s still a chance that an agreement will be worked out at the last minute, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that an arbitration hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.
The Giants haven’t gone to an arbitration hearing since 2004, when they lost to catcher A.J. Pierzynski. Schulman hears from one person involved that because of the gap between Belt and the Giants, there’s a real chance this will break that string and require a hearing.
Belt batted .280/.356/.478 with 18 home runs and 68 RBI over 137 games in 2015, but he dealt with concussion symptoms for the second straight season. An arbitration hearing could bring some unpleasant conversation to the surface.
The Padres have inked veteran utility player Skip Schumaker to a minor league contract, per FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.
Schumaker, who turned 36 last week, has spent the last two seasons with the Reds. He batted .242/.306/.336 with one home run and 21 RBI over 131 games last season while making starts between all three outfield spots and second base. Cincinnati cut ties with him in November after declining a $2.5 million club option for 2016.
While Schumaker had to settle for a non-guaranteed deal here, it would be no surprise to see him land a bench job with the Padres come Opening Day.