We talked about this some in the offseason when J.J. Putz revealed that the Mets didn’t look at his bone spurs after trading for him last year, but here it is again: a team that didn’t give a physical to a player with an injury history at the time they traded for him.
The team is the Pirates. The player was Aki Iwamura, whom the Pirates snagged from the Rays last year. Iwamura had previously undergone major knee surgery. You’d think such a thing would be the primary issue in the trade. If Iwamura was healthy, he could be a serviceable player for the Pirates. If not, you have given up a player of your own for a valueless guy.
But the Pirates didn’t check. According to team President Frank Coonelly the team didn’t even ask for a physical. Instead, they relied on scouting reports. Of course, Iwamura was just DFA’d because he’s been awful, and he’s been awful in large part because his knee still bothers him immensely. Maybe they need to give their scouts portable MRI machines.
Coonelly says it’s uncommon for teams to request physicals for players for whom they trade. Why? Especially when the trade involves players coming off major surgery. Free agent signings are usually accompanied by physicals, so why not trades? This isn’t a timing thing either, as Iwamura was traded during the offseason. There is no reason why doctors couldn’t have taken a gander at his knee.
Sometimes I accuse baseball teams of being pennywise and pound foolish. Not checking out the players you trade for isn’t even pennywise. What gives?
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: