Fenway

Deep Thought: remember when Frank McCourt tried to buy the Red Sox?

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Frank McCourt’s turmoil has contributed to a state of affairs in which a team that should have a tremendous financial advantage over all of its competitors has basically punted that advantage. Given their attendance, market size and revenue — as cash cow regional sports network would make perfect sense for them — the Dodgers truly could be the Yankees or the Red Sox of the West if run properly. Now? Receivership.

And I’m reminded that McCourt could have been the actual owner of the Red Sox. He grew up a Red Sox fan. The basis of his recent fortune was South Boston waterfront property that once was thought to be the perfect home for a New Fenway Park. He was in the bidding to buy the Red Sox when they were sold to John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino. We’ve seen how fragile baseball ownership groups and their bids can be. It wouldn’t have taken much to throw that out of whack and have given the Red Sox to McCourt.

What happens if Frank McCourt takes over the Red Sox in 2002? Here’s a few ideas that spring to mind:

  • Given how quickly he dispatched Paul DePodesta in L.A., I’d guess he doesn’t hire a young, stat-savvy GM like Theo Epstein in Boston (and certainly not Epstein himself given that the basis for his hiring was his experience with Larry Luchino in San Diego).
  • Given McCourt’s demonstrated penchant for choosing leverage in the interests of short term cash flow as opposed to investment for longterm stability, you figure that he doesn’t create a beast like Fenway Sports Group to expand and enrich the team’s power and holdings.
  • Given his ownership of that waterfront property, he doesn’t invest in the renovation of Fenway Park, instead choosing to build a new ballpark. A new ballpark that could very well have taken years to build if it ever did get built, and in the meantime would mean that Fenway would fall into disrepair or something close to it. Best case scenario, the Red Sox are playing in a new retropark now and Fenway is rubble.

Maybe McCourt’s vision, such as it was, would have worked better in Boston than it did in L.A. Maybe the Red Sox would have still won two World Series on his watch and served as profound competitive threat to the Yankees, thereby causing them to increase their payroll as they did.  Maybe, with McCourt driving the bus in Boston, Red Sox Nation explodes in the way it did over the past decade and still helps create the Yankees-Red Sox hegemony with which we are familiar.

I just kinda doubt it.

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: