Josh Byrnes' track record warranted dismissal from Diamondbacks

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According to AOL Fanhouse’s Ed Price, it was his refusal to fire manager A.J. Hinch that cost Josh Byrnes his job as Arizona’s general manager on Thursday. In truth, he deserved to lose it regardless and it probably would have happened earlier if the Diamondbacks hadn’t had him under contract through 2015.
Yes, 2015. Byrnes, who was pretty successful initially after taking over the Diamondbacks in 2005, even had a small stake in ownership under the terms of an eight-year deal he was given in 2008.
How poor of a job Byrnes had done since a strong first two years can’t truly be judged without some inside knowledge. It largely hinges on whether Byrnes was the driving force behind the three-year, $30 million extension to Eric Byrnes in 2007 or if he was forced to stand aside as ownership spent to lock perhaps the franchise’s most popular player. The common belief is that the latter version is the truth.
The move was obviously bad at the time, though it took some dreadful luck for it to work out as poorly as it did. Eric Byrnes went from being an above average corner outfielder to an injury-prone liability in record time. And his return resulted in Carlos Quentin being traded away for first base prospect Chris Carter over the following winter.
Those weren’t the only poor moves, though. A couple of dirt-cheap potential regulars, Scott Hairston and Alberto Callaspo, were given away for middle-relief fodder in 2007.
Prior to the 2008 season, Byrnes surrendered Carter, Brett Anderson, Carlos Gonzalez, Aaron Cunningham and more to Oakland for Dan Haren. If Haren was the final piece, it might have been justified. However, the Diamondbacks finished the season just 82-80 and their farm system, which had been one of the strongest in the game during the middle of the decade, was suddenly barren.
Byrnes’ big moves going into the 2009 season were to sign Jon Garland and Felipe Lopez. After a poor start, he made the very surprising call to replace manager Bob Melvin with Hinch. Hinch, who had been working in the front office, never appeared to prove himself in the clubhouse and the team went just 58-75 under him.
The Diamondbacks were 31-48 to open this year. Byrnes actually appeared to have his best offseason in years, having snatched up Kelly Johnson and Adam LaRoche at very modest prices. The jury is definitely still out on whether it was worth giving up Max Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth for Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy, but the move hadn’t really had any negative ramifications so far.
One does have to admire Byrnes’ guts. His contract and apparent job security probably had something to do with it, but Byrnes took more risks than any GM in the league during his tenure. Hinch was the big one that backfired. Not only the did the Haren trade involve a huge amount of talent, but Byrnes traded his sure-thing closer, Jose Valverde, on the same day just to create the budget room to pull it off. The Scherzer-Schlereth deal was largely panned, but Byrnes essentially made the bet that Scherzer would never manage to stay healthy and fulfill his potential.
I don’t doubt that Byrnes will have a job again quickly. He’s probably an ideal No. 2 man in a major league front office, and there’s a better than even chance that he’ll return to the GM role someday. Still, the Diamondbacks were right to move on. Byrnes’ teams had underachieved, and he hadn’t put the franchise in a great position going forward. It was time to wipe the slate clean.

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: