What they're saying about A-Rod's 600th bomb

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Initial reactions to A-Rod’s milestone from the columnists and bloggers who make your life such a fulfilling experience.

  • Joel Sherman: “Alex Rodriguez never is going to be fully a Yankee. He never is going
    to be fully appreciated as a clean homer giant. He never is going to be
    beloved in a Hank Aaron kind of way. Too much exists in his past that never goes away. Messy departures in Seattle and Texas. A steroid admission. More cleat-in-the-mouth comments and actions than hits and homers combined. That is all part of his personal record, permanent and resistant to an eraser.”
  • Rob Neyer: “In 2010, 600 home runs just isn’t a particularly thrilling
    accomplishment. And it’s even less thrilling when it’s Rodriguez, who
    seems both joyless and unable to inspire joy.”
  • Stephen R. at The Yankee U: “I’ve covered my feelings on Alex Rodriguez and 600 before and I continue to tip my proverbial cap.  He’s one of the greatest
    players to ever play the game of baseball.  It’s been a pleasure
    watching him play for the Yankees for the past seven years, and I’m
    looking forward to the next seven years with the hopeful anticipation of
    seeing him break Barry Bonds’ record and win a few (read: many) more
    rings in the process.  Congrats, Alex.”
  • George Vecsey: “This numerical milestone, making him the seventh major league slugger to reach 600, is no guarantee Rodriguez will gain automatic acceptance into the Baseball Hall of Fame when he becomes eligible five years after retirement.”
  • Ian O’Connor: “Rodriguez’s admitted actions challenge the credibility of every swing
    he’s taken. How many of his 600 homers were the product of some
    underground potion or pill? Two hundred? Four hundred? Six hundred? When
    a ballplayer admits he was a cheat for three full seasons, and only
    admits it after he’s been outed by a media outlet (in this case, Sports
    Illustrated), everything out of his mouth sounds like the old Bob Arum
    line: Yesterday, I was lying. Today, I’m telling the truth.
  • Mike Lupica: “Somehow, after everything, history is still history in baseball. Even
    stained. Even when the record book is filled with so many stains you
    think somebody has been spitting tobacco juice at it. Juice being the operative word.”
  • Bob Klapisch: “Rodriguez only wishes home runs would come as easily to him in 2010 as
    they did in his juicing days. The leap from 599 took forever, all of 46
    at-bats, each one of them revealing why A-Rod, minus the enhancers, will
    struggle to get to Ruth’s 714 Hrs, let alone Bonds’ 762 . . . When it was over, after all the man-hugs, high-fives and curtain calls, the past was still lurking. Some stains never wash off.”
  • Steve Politi: “This was the first major milestone for Rodriguez since admitting he used
    steroids during three seasons in Texas, and the moment confirmed what
    we suspected: It is possible to be disgusted by the shortcut he used to
    reach this plateau and still find his slow ascent into history
    compelling and exciting.”

Of all of those I probably fall in line most closely with Politi’s comments. “Disgusted” is far too strong a word for my tastes, but there is certainly an understandable ambivalence to the milestone.

Neyer is right too: 600 homers these days aren’t as special as they used to be, and A-Rod is a hard figure to like. Sherman — in another, better piece, not the one linked above — is right too: 600 is a round and arbitrary number that doesn’t mean as much as we’ve all been pretending it to mean.

Any you know what? Even the Lupicas and O’Connors are right insofar as we must acknowledge that A-Rod’s accomplishments do come with a taint (even if reasonable people don’t cast the taint in as stark and moralistic terms as they do).

But Stephen R. — admittedly a Yankees fan — is right too: there is room to celebrate this milestone on a purely baseball level, and I would hope that in the rush to make the point about just how tainted and un-true-Yankee-like Rodriguez is, we don’t lose sight of that fact.

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: