Report: MLB to seize Rangers, complete sale, get sued

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That’s the logical conclusion if what Sports Business Journal’s Daniel Kaplan is reporting is true:

MLB as soon as this week plans to dramatically alter the
course of the standoff between creditors and the owner of the Texas
Rangers,
multiple sources said last week, a development that could include the
league
seizing the franchise.

Were the league to seize the team under its “best interests of
baseball”rule, MLB could sell the club to the group led by Chuck
Greenberg and
Nolan Ryan without, the league believes, the creditors blocking the
deal, these
sources said. But were MLB to choose that course — and late last week,
the
situation was still fluid — financial sources predicted a furious
legal
response from the creditors that could involve an involuntary
bankruptcy petition
on behalf of the baseball team.

I get the reasoning: the creditors are owed money by Hicks Sports Group, the debt is not secured with a lien on the baseball team itself (MLB does not allow this) and Major League Baseball can kick Hicks Sports Group out of the ownership club if it wants to, leaving the creditors to fight with Hicks after the sale is done.

But such a move is almost certain to throw the whole matter into court, with the creditors almost certainly filing to get an injunction stopping the sale, because without the sale of the team at issue, the creditors lose all their leverage. Maybe they don’t get an injunction — if your beef is ultimately over money, you’re not supposed to be able to enjoin a business deal; rather, you’re supposed to let it all play out and get your money later — but depending on the court and the way the complaint is written and a bunch of other factors, it could happen. If so, and the Rangers are placed in legal limbo during the pendency of the lawsuit, the nightmare scenario that was described last week — indefinite MLB stewardship, no money for the draft, etc. — comes to pass.

But even if the sale is not enjoined, Major League Baseball is still stuck in a multimillion dollar lawsuit (and even if the sale is not held up over it all, you can bet that MLB will be named a party in the suit).  The calculation, one presumes, is that baseball is better off having the Rangers in Greenberg’s hands while fighting a lawsuit than it is to remain in the current stalemate.

If so, it tells you how ugly the stalemate is, because lawsuits like this are never fun, especially if they have the potential to have outsiders probe specific-team finances, which Major League Baseball is historically loathe to allow.

Popcorn anyone?

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)
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: