1970s Steinbrenner

Watergate investigators had “extreme interest” in going after George Steinbrenner

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Anyone who has read a bit about George Steinbrenner knows that, in the 70s, he pleaded guilty to making illegal campaign contributions to the Dick Nixon and got a little slap on the wrist and a 15-month suspension from baseball because of it.  Some documents were just released, however, that elaborates on just how hot Watergate investigators were to investigate Big Stein:

Newly released documents show Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox expressed “extreme interest” in a 1970s criminal investigation of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner for illegal campaign contributions.

Then-FBI Director Clarence M. Kelley echoed Cox’s concern in an Aug. 16, 1973 memo to the bureau’s Cleveland office, saying agents needed to make sure the probe received “the same, immediate and preferred handling” as other criminal cases then growing from the Watergate scandal.

If Steinbrenner hadn’t pleaded guilty to the counts he pleaded guilty to and, instead, tried to fight the case hard, he could have faced six years in prison. I had a client get two years in federal prison (well, a minimum security camp) for similar charges a couple of years ago.

But one thing I learned in that case: the election law charges are relatively simple. The ugly part of that is that, while the feds are trying to make their campaign finance case, they’re looking at all of the target’s financials, talking to friends, enemies and all of that.  And if you’re the kind of guy who will engage in easy-to-catch campaign violations, you’re probably up to your neck in other bad stuff too.  Just ask my client. As the feds were investigating him for the small potatoes finance case, they stumbled upon a $50 million theft of public funds!  He’s doing 18-20 in state prison for that now. Oops.

Anyway, good move pleading out on that election law charge, George. Saved you a lot of hassle.  Oh, and you were pure money in the 70s, man. Love the collar.

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)
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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)
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: