Buck Showalter was one of the first few names listed by fans and the media to take over the Orioles’ managerial job when it became apparent that Dave Trembley was going to get fired. Now the Orioles are doing the logical thing and interviewing him, reports Tim Kurkjian of ESPN.
I assume this is a sign that Davey Johnson — who was interviewed last week — didn’t really impress anyone. Unless of course Showalter is some token minority candidate (minority: guys who did not win a World Series while managing Derek Jeter).
I’m less taken with Showalter than a lot of people. I think his primary appeal is to those who think that he’ll do for Baltimore what he did for New York, which is to bring them to the brink of contention via his brains and obvious organizational skills, preparation, etc. I continue to contend, however, that a lot of guys could have done what he did, mostly because the story of the Yankees’ turnaround in the early-to-mid 90s was primarily a front office story, not an on-the-field story. Nothing wrong with Showalter, mind you. He’s just not my cup of tea.
How about Wally Backman? I plugged him on HBT Extra yesterday. Before that segment I read a lot about him and his history since being unceremoniously fired by the Diamondbacks five days after taking the job there. He sounds like a hell of a lot of fun in the Billy Martin-Ozzie Guillen mold.
There’s a lot of talent in Baltimore. It just needs a kick in the ass to get moving. Wally Backman kicks some ass, so why not give him a whirl?
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.
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: