You're not alone: the players are fed up with the umps too

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This is cool: the MLBPA is trying to organize a meeting between the players, the umps and the Commissioner’s Office to discuss the state of umpiring:

What the players would like to address, two player representatives said,
is the growing concern among players about poor communication with
umpires and what players see as a failure of accountability and
transparency in the grading and evaluation of umpires. Oakland Athletics reliever Brad Ziegler,
the team’s player rep, said that because disciplinary action of umps
isn’t made public, a distrust often exists among some players . . .

. . . It’d be nice if they were rated and those who didn’t pass, they get a week vacation, they get sent down,” said Jimmy Rollins,
the Phillies’ player rep. “It’s not that they’re trying to be bad. Some
players just can’t make it; some umpires just can’t make it. That’s
just the way it is. As long as they don’t have to answer to anybody and
they have that job security, that pressure of having to be good to stay
here — they don’t have to worry about that.”

This is so manifestly reasonable that you know damn well it will never happen.  The umpires believe that there’s nothing wrong and how dare they be questioned. The Commissioner’s Office has shown time and again that they have no interest whatsoever in making sure the right calls are made, that umpires are appropriately disciplined or that, when they are, anyone knows about it so as to instill confidence in their supervision. Having some sort of sit-down is a great idea by the union. So I fully expect it to go nowhere.

Beyond the idea of the meeting, by all means, read the rest of the story. Amy Nelson of ESPN got Jimmy Rollins to say an awful lot about the state of umpire-player relations these days, and it’s great stuff. Rollins pretty much nails the state-of-play with respect to the umpires’ increasingly hostile demeanor towards players and managers. 

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.