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Scenes from Spring Training: A photo tour of the Royals camp

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George:  “Kevin, you and I are pretty awesome, aren’t we?”

Kevin: “Yes, George. Yes we are. We could probably make this team if we tried, couldn’t we?”

George: “Yes, Kevin, we could.  Oh, Kevin: did I ever tell you about that night I had in Vegas?”

Kevin: “I swear, George, if you tell that story again I am going to have you barred from the facility.  I’m dead serious.”

My morning with Francoeur took a lot out of me so I decided to wander and snap photos rather than think anymore deep thoughts.

This place is pretty wander-worthy. Like the Reds and Indians, the Royals do their pregame warmups and BP on the practice fields, but unlike the Reds and Indians the practice fields are right behind the main park, not a mile down the road.  At the risk of giving that poor woman down in the office a heart attack, I walked it.

That, quite obviously, is Royals legend Frank White.  He is watching batting practice as it takes place on Frank White Field.  I find that to be great fun. I also found it great fun that coach Rusty Kuntz walked by right after this. I could not take a picture, though, because I was snickering.

That is grass painted with stripes like a football field.  I suppose it’s possible other teams have such fields out in the uncharted backwaters of the western spiral arms of their practice facilities, but I hadn’t seen one.  Just before I snapped this I saw a Royals trainer making a Royals player do one of those high-jump drills where the jumper tries to smack those pegs on the top of a pole around.  So basically, it’s like the NFL combine here.

Those are the parking spaces reserved for David and Dan Glass, owners of the Royals.  They are empty.  Those who follow the Royals closely and are aware of just how absent the Glass family tends to be will not be at all surprised by this.

I went back and watched BP after I took that. I stalked Francoeur a little more. Of the five BP pitches I saw him take, he hit three over the fence.  Then Kila Ka’aihue stepped in and murdered baseballs. I think they’re still flying as I type this. They have their own FAA call signs at this point. What I’m saying is that he hit the balls really, really hard and that they flew a long, long way.  For those still not getting what I’m saying: BOOM.

I’m going to eat something.  Ballgame in an hour.

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: