Our friend Old Gator has made a disturbing (or refereshing, depending on your point of view) transition into lucidity since the season started. This morning he had some interesting things to say about the whole replay thing. The upshot: bad calls by umpires are plays that happen in games just like groundouts and unassisted triple plays. And that baseball is better for it:
In short, the blown call transforms the game from some boring and invariable Newtonian process to a Heisenbergian quantum universe wherein anything can and does happen, sometimes simultaneously. God doesn’t play dice with the universe? Well, it’s been proven that he does. Umpires should inflect our cutting edge knowledge of the universe and play dice with the game.
That quote is a bit cute, sure, but I think Gator is serious in his umpires-are-part-of-the-fabric-of-the-game argument and the couple of paragraphs before the blockquote actually make a pretty good case for it. Not sure if I buy it, but I think what Gator is on about is what people are really referring to when they talk about “the human element.” I usually dismiss that argument, but I think I do that mostly because it’s not a typically well-constructed argument. Gator does better with it.
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times unloaded a lot of interesting news items about the Rays last night, including a report that the Rays might have “mutual interest” in a deal with free agent first baseman/DH Mike Napoli. The Rangers declined Napoli’s $11 million option earlier this month and owe the veteran infielder a $2.5 million buyout.
Napoli, 36, had a strange year in Texas. He turned in 29 home runs, good for 11th-most among AL hitters, but finished the year batting just .193/.285/.428 over 485 plate appearances. According to FanGraphs, his -0.5 fWAR was the worst mark of his career to date, but on the bright side, he should come cheap for a team looking to swap out their veterans come spring.
Of course, the specifics of the Rays’ offseason plan have yet to be divulged — or, by all accounts from Topkin, even decided on. The club could go the refurbishment route, changing out some of their higher-paid veterans for a mix of prospects and cheaper aging players; or they could opt for a full rebuild, which Topkin cautions against as it could have a negative effect on the financing of a new ballpark. Either way, the Rays figure to offload some of their bigger contracts this winter, and will need to decide if they want to retain Alex Colome, Chris Archer, Wilson Ramos, Evan Longoria and others before pursuing any other major free agents.