Once the Padres traded Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox with one season remaining on his contract the assumption has been that fellow impending free agent Heath Bell isn’t long for San Diego either, but yesterday the closer told Bill Center of the San Diego Union Tribune that signing a long-term extension “would be my dream.”
Whether or not the Padres have room in their budget for a $10 million-per-season closer or are even interested in making a multi-year commitment to a 33-year-old reliever is unclear, but Bell left no doubt that he wants to remain in San Diego:
This next contract is going to be very important to my family. I’m not 27 or 28 when I become eligible for free agency like Adrian. I have to think about this contract. But I also want to stay in San Diego. My family loves it here. I love it here. I’d love to get something done with the Padres that benefits everyone. Right now, I honestly don’t know what I am asking or what the Padres are offering. I don’t know the numbers, but I know I want to stay with the Padres.
Bell is set to make around $7 million this season via the arbitration process, and Center speculates that an extension “would easily top $20 million” for three years. General manager Jed Hoyer indicated that he’s had some discussions with Bell’s agent, but the talks don’t sound very far along.
Since joining the Padres in 2007 Bell has a 2.54 ERA and 338 strikeouts in 311 innings, including 89 saves in two seasons since replacing Trevor Hoffman as closer. If the Padres fall out of contention, expect Bell to be among the most sought after players at the trading deadline.
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: