For a guy who has been in and around the majors for 20 years, most of us know very little about Buck Showalter. Britt Ghiroli of MLB.com has a profile of the Orioles manager that focuses on his father. The father who — in addition to storming the beaches of Normandy and desegregating a Florida high school that the white people in the community did not want desegregated — taught Buck about humility and character:
Buck Showalter is facing the biggest uphill battle in his career. It’s a reclamation project extended family members and close friends advised him against, a post that became official with Aug. 2’s press conference in Baltimore.
“You can’t win there,” they told Showalter of a downtrodden franchise in the middle of its 13th consecutive losing season. “It’s impossible.”
But nothing was impossible in the Showalter household, no matter how unpopular the decision was.
Talent will ultimately decide if the Orioles win or lose. But it’s also the case that, since Davy Johnson left town, they’ve been managed by guys who probably felt that they needed to prove themselves and probably felt pressure because of it. Showalter has been around the block. And more importantly, he was brought up by a guy who placed more value on what a person actually did than what everyone else thought about it. That can’t hurt as he embarks on his first full season with a team that everyone thinks is destined to be stuck in the cellar forever.
*I mistakenly wrote “phased” in the headline when it was first posted. Yes, accuracy is important, but it’s probably also true that Showalter will not be carried out systematically as if by phases either, so I wasn’t 100% wrong. Right? Anyone?
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: