Joyce blown call

We don’t care about umpire development. We just want the right calls made.

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There was an essay in the New York Times over the weekend about the state of umpiring. The author, Bruce Weber, who wrote a book about umpiring in 2009, says that replay would be bad a thing. Why? Well, human element and Alexander Cartwright and all of that.  What does Weber think is preferable? Better training:

But instead of reducing the role of umpires by expanding replay, why not help them improve?

The way to do this is for baseball to begin thinking of umpires as they do players, as assets to be maximized.

Players, as they develop in the minor leagues, are overseen by major league clubs, but Major League Baseball plays a minimal role in the development of umpires. In fact, the system that feeds umpires to the big leagues is meant to encourage them to quit before they get there.

Weber suggests intensive, year-round training for umpires. Better pay when they’re in the minors. Recruitment of better candidates. Allowing umpires to make “subtle adjustments” in their technique in an effort to do better on close calls, what with how it’s almost impossible, Weber writes, for umps to be in the right position a lot of the time given that players are moving and jumping and that there are so many variables in play.

Interesting ideas, I guess, but at the end of the day I don’t see how any of that is preferable to simply letting a guy look at a screen and say seven words on a walkie talkie down to the field once or twice a game when there’s a close, blown call.

Indeed, the only argument Weber seems to have in opposition to that is that umpires are “part of the fabric of the game.”  While I’m sure they’re a lot of nice umpires who take their craft seriously, the fans simply don’t care. We don’t want them gone — that would be weird — but at the same time, we don’t care about “encouraging them” or what have you. We want the calls right. That’s really the beginning and the end of it.  If we’re going to spend time working on umpires, let’s work on their attitude and demeanor and keep ugly scenes between players and umps from happening.  But as far as a the calls are concerned, let the umpires continue to make them all. Just let someone with a better, video-enhanced view correct the small handful of mistakes that happen during a game.

President Obama Welcomes the Cubs to the White House

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As we noted last week, The Chicago Cubs took the unusual step of not waiting until the summer after winning the World Series to make their customary White House visit to meet the president. They did it today, seeing President Obama a few short days before he leaves office.

Despite the fact that Obama is a White Sox fan, he met the Cubs with diplomacy and grace. It’s almost as if he’s been in that business for the past eight years. In return, he was given some gifts by the Cubs: Theo Epstein presented Obama with a No. 44 Cubs jersey, a tile from the center field scoreboard at Wrigley Field, and a lifetime pass to Wrigley as well.

Obama is staying in D.C. after he leaves office this week, hanging around so his daughter can finish high school in the same place she started. Even so, he’s likely going to be back to Chicago a good bit over the rest of his life, so he’ll likely be able to put the free pass to work. Assuming it comes with, like, six companion passes for his Secret Service detail.

Royals sign Danny Duffy to a five-year, $65 million contract extension

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 02:  Starting pitcher Danny Duffy #41 of the Kansas City Royals pitches during the game against the Detroit Tigers at Kauffman Stadium on September 2, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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The Kansas City Royals have signed starter Danny Duffy to a five-year, $65 million contract extension.

Duffy was arbitration eligible this offseason and would’ve been a free agent next winter if he hadn’t signed the deal. Given his stuff he might’ve made a mint as a free agent, but he’s also been inconsistent at times and any pitcher is an injury away from losing a payday, making this a nice, lucrative bet for the lefty.

Duffy, 28, posted a 3.51 ERA and a 188/42 K/BB ratio across 179.2 innings in 2016.