Lou Brock

News flash: old ex-ballplayer does not engage in revisionist history

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Yesterday I quoted that Bill White interview by the RetroSimba blog.  It continues today, and White said two pretty neat things.

First, when asked if the Cardinals infield of White, Ken Boyer, Dick Groat and Julian Javier was the best infield he’d ever seen, he said no, cited Javier’s shortcomings as a defender and opined that, while good, it wasn’t the best.  How often do you hear an old retired ballplayer pass up the opportunity to say otherwise? Especially when all it would require is agreeing with the questioner? Hell, half of the members of the Hall of Fame are there because old ballplayers convinced themselves that their teammates were the greatest. It’s nice to see White not fall into that trap.

Second, White is asked about the Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio trade. That trade has come to be synonymous with lopsided trades, but White is very clear-eyed about it when asked if, at the time, the Cardinals thought they’d come out so well on it:

None of us did. We all thought it was nuts. Lou was a raw talent. At that point, he didn’t really understand baseball. He might try to steal while 10 runs up or 10 runs down. When he got to St. Louis, Johnny Keane told him what he expected of him, and he turned him loose. I think Lou relaxed in St. Louis. Now he’s in the Hall of Fame. Without Brock, we would not have won.

As the commenters over at this Baseball Think Factory thread discussing the interview noted, however, at the time most savvy observers felt that the Cubs had actually won the trade and won it handily. Brock was already 25 years-old, still raw, and played extremely poor defense. No one at the time felt that at his age he’d blossom into a Hall of Famer. Meanwhile, Broglio was thought of as a solid pitcher who, though today we’d likely worry about due to his workload, wasn’t thought of as a risk then.  Finally, the lesser players heading to Chicago with Broglio in the trade were far better than those accompanying Brock down to St. Louis. The Cards got Paul Toth and Jack Spring. Chicago got Doug Clemens, and Bobby Shantz.

Which, of course, underlines the notion we all know: that trades have to be judged twice: both on what is known or suspected at the time they are made and judged again later, from a “so, how did they do?” perspective.  The Brock trade was pro-Chicago by the former measure and obviously pro-St. Louis on the latter.  Only no one seems to remember or care about the former.

But Bill White remembers. And that, combined with his comments about his infield, make him the rare old timer who views his time in the game objectively and doesn’t seem to tell tall tales as time goes on.

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)
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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: