Albert Pujols

Cardinals met with Pujols’ agent again on Wednesday

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The Cardinals opened this week’s Winter Meetings by meeting with Dan Lozano, the agent for All-World slugger Albert Pujols.  According to B.J. Rains of FOX Sports Midwest, the Cards met with Lozano again on Wednesday.

Lozano is not talking to the media and Cardinals GM John Mozeliak was not willing to divulge any details about the two meetings when asked Wednesday, but it’s safe to assume that loose terms have been exchanged and that both sides have a good idea of what’s going to take place in the coming weeks.

SI.com’s Jon Heyman reported Tuesday that Pujols is seeking “A-Rod money.”  But it’s not exactly clear what that means.  Does he want a 10-year contract worth $275 million — the exact deal that Alex Rodriguez signed in December of 2007 with the Yankees?  Or is he simply requesting a similar average annual salary?

The Cardinals certainly don’t want to shell out a 10-year contract to Pujols, who turns 31 in January, but they should be more than willing to make a seven-year pitch with a $27.5 million annual salary.  That comes out to a seven-year, $192.5 million commitment, which is plenty reasonable for a guy with a 1050 career OPS and three MVPs.  Pujols still has a ways to go before his playing career is through, but only Barry Bonds, Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth and Ted Williams have better career marks in the OPS department to this point.

Pujols has expressed a desire to put negotiations to a halt once spring training begins in order to avoid an ongoing distraction, so the Cards have until now and late February to put a serious package together.  Otherwise, the 21st Century’s best hitter is going to get a whiff of free agency.

And he might really like what he smells.

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)
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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: