Washington Post columnist defends Rob Dibble using the Howard Stern argument

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Washington Post columnist Leonard Shapiro wrote about Rob Dibble today and more or less agreed that he’s a poor announcer and deserves criticism for his recent remarks about female baseball fans and Stephen Strasburg.
Despite that Shapiro also argues that Dibble shouldn’t be fired because … well, I’ll let you read his words for yourself:

Those who love him praise Dibble for his passion for the game and the team. Those who hate him wonder what sort of outrageous comment he might unload next. But they all tune in.

There’s a scene in Howard Stern’s movie Private Parts where his bosses at the radio station are going over the ratings and find that the average Stern fan listens for about an hour per day while the average Stern hater listens for about three hours per day. The idea in the movie and the idea in Shapiro’s column about Dibble is that being outrageous and controversial and often disliked can lead to big ratings.
And there’s really no arguing that, but here’s the problem with making the Stern argument for Dibble. Stern was merely one of several dozen morning shows available to someone with a radio, so the “if you don’t like it, turn it off” argument was perfectly reasonable. That is hardly the case with Dibble, because if a Nationals fan wants to watch the team on television he’s their only choice for an announcer. The alternative is muting the television or turning it off, not simply changing the station to a different broadcast of the same game.
I don’t think Dibble should be fired for his comments about female baseball fans or Strasburg. I think he should be fired because he’s not good at being a baseball announcer and without exception every Nationals fan I know dreads having to listen to him as part of watching their favorite team. Shapiro says “they all tune in” regardless of whether they love or hate Dibble. I say “they all tune in” because they don’t have a choice.

Major League Baseball orders balls stored in climate controlled rooms for some reason

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Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated reports that Major League Baseball will mandate that teams store baseballs in “an air-conditioned and enclosed room[s]” this season. He adds that the league will install climate sensors in each room to measure temperature and humidity during the 2018 season, with such data being used to determine if humidors — like the ones being used in Colorado and Arizona — are necessary for 2019.

This move comes a year after Major League Baseball’s single season, league-wide home run record was shattered, with 6,105 dingers being hit. It also comes after a year in which two different studies — one by Ben Lindbergh and Mitchel Lichtman for The Ringer, and another by FiveThirtyEight’s Rob Arthur — found evidence that baseballs were altered at some point around the middle of the 2015 season which coincided with home run numbers spiking in the middle of that year, quite suddenly.

Also coming last year: multiple player complaints about the baseball seeming different, with pitchers blaming a rash of blister problems stemming from what they believed to be lower seams on the baseballs currently in use than those in use in previous years. Players likewise complained about unusually smooth and/or juiced baseballs during the World Series, which some believe led to a spike of home runs in the Fall Classic.

To date, Major League Baseball has steadfastly denied that the balls are a problem, first issuing blatantly disingenuous denials,  and later using carefully chosen words to claim nothing was amiss. Specifically, Major League Baseball claimed that the balls were within league specifications but failed to acknowledge that league specifications are wide enough to encompass baseballs which could have radically different flight characteristics while still, technically, being within spec.

Based on Verducci’s report, it seems that MLB is at least past the denial stage and is attempting to understand and address the issues about which many players have complained and which have, without question, impacted offense in the game:

Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday that MLB commissioned a research project after last season to study the composition, storage and handling of the baseballs. He said that investigation is not yet completed. “I’m not at the point to jump that gun right now,” he said about the findings.

The investigation is not yet completed, but the fact that the league is now ordering changes in the manner in which balls are handled before use suggests to me that the league has learned that there is at least something amiss about the composition or manufacture of the baseballs.

Major League Baseball is a lot of things, but quick to impose costs and changes of process on its clubs like this is not one of them. There is likely a good reason for it.