Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com has a really good article today about Chipper Jones’ comeback from the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee that ended his season in mid-August and attaches plenty of question marks to how he’ll fare returning from the injury (and previous talk of retirement) at age 39.
Jones told Crasnick some interesting stuff about how he views the Phillies’ rotation, how he regrets not being able to held send manager Bobby Cox off a winner, and what type of production he expects out of himself in 2011.
All of that was good, but here’s my favorite part:
Come January, Jones will head to his hitting facility in the Atlanta suburb of Suwanee and begin taking batting practice with Brian McCann, Mark DeRosa, Jeff Francoeur, Andruw Jones and his other winter workout buddies. At the moment, he’s focused on lifting weights at the gym and running the hills in his subdivision.
“I actually have a funny story about that,” Jones said. “I’m so out of shape, one of my neighbors caught me dry-heaving on his lawn. We had a nice little chuckle out of it. I grabbed his phone to make sure he didn’t take any video and people would see it on YouTube.”
Being a Braves fan is Craig’s territory, but Jones has always been one of my favorite players and I’m glad he’s coming back at age 39 even after the injury. Much has been made of his decreased production, but Jones has topped an .800 OPS in each of the past two seasons and hit .307 with a .924 OPS in the second half before tearing his ACL.
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.
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: