Internet Tough

The guy Jeff Pearlman called responds

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You’ll recall the thing on Friday afternoon in which Jeff Pearlman wrote a column at CNN about confronting “online haters” who have made Pearlman and other online writers “targets for abuse,” aided by the anonymity of the Internet. One of the guys Pearlman tracked down and called was Andrew Tworischuk. Yesterday Andrew gave his side of the story. I don’t endorse a lot of what Andrew says — like Pearlman, I agree that the lack of civility on the Internet is not cool — but I found this part of it rather interesting:

A few weeks later, [Pearlman’s] article comes out. It’s not bad (and not as nasty as I expected) but it’s of course not exactly a full portrayal of what happened. First of all, both me and Matt’s twitter names are our full names. I have an extremely uncommon last name so all he had to do was plug it into yellow pages. It wasn’t hardcore undercover detective work like he made it out to be. Secondly, the article makes it sound like I was harassing him. I said something dumb in passing and when challenged didn’t back down. It wasn’t like I was inundating him with hate mail.

Having read this and having gone back and checked out Pearlman’s blog posts from the relevant period, I do think that Pearlman is skewing things a bit in his CNN post.  Anonymity may or may not be a problem on the Internet, but the guys he took issue with were not at all anonymous.  And at least in Andrew’s case, he wasn’t even bothering Pearlman over at his blog. He was merely tweeting something about him. Pearlman had to search for his own name in order to find the the stuff with which he took issue. Andrew wasn’t seeking Pearlman out and attacking him.  Maybe he wasn’t polite, but I suspect that if anyone Googles themselves they’ll find that people are saying bad things about them.  Tracking down and confronting such people, however, is not the kind of thing that a confident and healthy person should spend a lot of time doing.

This just ties back in with my observations from Friday. There may or may not be a problem with the way people interact on the Internet, but to the extent there is, it’s not a function of anonymity and the rude nature of the medium of blogging in and of itself.  Immediacy has way more to do with it. To spout off at a writer 20 years ago you had to write a letter, and by the time you do that the moment has passed. Now you can click before you think.

But is there something else going on here than merely anonymity and immediacy?  In the past, Jeff Pearlman has called a subject of his writing “evil.”  He called someone “a truly pathetic human being” and a “punk.” These aren’t isolated incidents. It’s fairly par for the course for him to make stark moral judgments about people and to say things about them that he would never, ever say to their face.

And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it, because it is his blog and his voice. You can say a lot of things about Jeff Pearlman, but he is a passionate writer who never hesitates to speak his mind. I wouldn’t dare propose that he censor himself and if someone tried to censor him, I’d defend his right to say what he wants to the death, even if I disagree with it.

But there’s no escaping the fact that a writer ultimately sets the tone for his blog.  As such, he should not be surprised when he reaps what he sows.

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)
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: