k-rod running in from bullpen

The Union has no concerns about the Mets. For now.

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Michael Weiner’s spring training tour took him to Port St. Lucie today, where he met the Mets. Adam Rubin reports on the  two Met-specific issues that are likely on Weiner’s radar screen:

  • Weiner said he has been assured by the commissioner’s office that players’ guaranteed contracts will not be affected by the Wilpons’ legal issues; and
  • He has “every expectation” that the Mets aren’t going to mess around with Francisco Rodriguez’s playing time this year in an effort to keep his $17.5 million option from vesting.

It’s not likely that Weiner would have any worries about the guaranteed contracts. Major League Baseball showed with the Rangers last year that it will step in with a line of credit of that’s threatened.  Players are going to be paid.

Weiner was more interested, it seems, talking about the Mets as players in the free agency market.  He probably realizes, though, that even if the Mets didn’t have Madoff problems, they’re not exactly in a position — competitively speaking — to be leading the market right this moment, so there would be no upside to him complaining about it now. The union wants the Mets as big bidders for players, but it’s not like the union can do anything about it at the moment.

As for the K-Rod option, the Mets know that the union is watching the matter closely, so there’s no need to shoot anything across the team’s bow with respect to the issue. Such a thing is not Weiner’s style anyway.  He makes references at the end of Rubin’s article to “arbitration precedent” for a team messing with playing time to save money, and that’s probably enough.  Come August, there’s a great chance that the only thing worth talking about the Mets will be K-Rod’s option, so it’s not like the issue is going to fly under the radar.  The union will be watching. As will the media.

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: