New York Yankees v Texas Rangers, Game 6

New Book coming out portraying Derek Jeter as less-than-Captainy

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Derek Jeter has been pretty much untouchable from a P.R. perspective for his entire career. Rarely have there been stories portraying him in a bad light and, even when there was something to chew on, it was never anything that stuck to him (quick: if A-Rod had issues with his taxes like Jeter did, how many stories would have been written about it?).

That has changed somewhat since last year. Part of it was because of his surprisingly contentious contract negotiation with the Yankees. A lot of it has simply been a function of him not being the same player he was in his prime.  Even the most seemingly bullet proof public figures take some shots eventually, because that’s just how it works.  It’s simply Jeter’s turn, I suppose.

The biggest shot is coming next month. ESPN New York’s Ian O’Connor has written a book about him called “The Captain.” It focuses on Jeter’s relationship with Alex Rodriguez and, if the teaser in yesterday’s New York Post is any indication, it will not be a flattering portrayal:

“The Captain,” by sportswriter Ian O’Connor, out next month, chronicles the bond between the Yankee stars — a soap-opera saga filled with power and betrayal — from their days as rookies playing for different teams but as close as brothers, to their icy co-existence in The Bronx. Jeter’s unyielding insistence on loyalty and his dislike for A-Rod during the third baseman’s early years in pinstripes was so legendary that one Yankee official admitted he was too scared to talk to Jeter about making amends with his teammate.

According to O’Connor’s account, Jeter seemingly went out of his way to maintain his grudge against Alex Rodriguez over the latter’s less-than-flattering comments about Jeter back when he played in Texas (that whole “he’s never had to lead” stuff from a GQ article). That, rather than swallow his ego and lead, he was actually a primary reason why the Yankees’ clubhouse was so dysfunctional for so long after A-Rod arrived. He could have been the bigger man, set an example for his teammates and helped A-Rod assimilate better but … he didn’t.

I have no idea what to make of this. I’m always wary when unauthorized biographies go too deeply into psychology because, really, if you haven’t at least spoken with the subject about it all, how can you know if what you’re hearing is reliable? And of course, O’Connor has a bit of a history in being a bit heavy handed when it comes to drawing moral and ethical conclusions involving ballplayers. Perhaps like that “The Yankees are better off without A-Rod” story he wrote in the Bergen Record a couple of years ago, O’Connor will disavow and delete this book too. But then again, this may be a case of the Post making the book sound more of a Jeter indictment than it really is. Perhaps it’s just a compilation of clubhouse gossip.

Today Jeter is quoted in the post: “Make sure everyone knows it’s not mine,” Jeter said. “I had nothing to do with that book.”  I suppose that this won’t be the last statement someone affiliated with the Yankees makes about 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)
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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: