The other day Bud Selig was on Mike Lupica’s radio show* and, when asked about how Frank McCourt got the Dodgers in the first place, said that he was really the only viable bidder. That may be technically true given Selig’s definition of viable bidder, but Buster Olney makes a damn fine point about that in his column today:
I’d bet there would be more bidders if baseball worried less about picking potential owners that fit into a certain personality box, and worried more about deep pockets. If you can find aggressive bidders for the Texas Rangers, you should be able to draw interest in the Dodgers.
The defining feature of baseball’s ownership group — at least those who bought in after 1993 or so — is fealty to Bud Selig. There may be some very good features to such a clubby system. That consensus we spoke of this morning is often a good way for complex organizations to operate, and you don’t get that unless you have owners around who are willing to let the Commissioner lead. But you also wind up with the Frank McCourts of the world. A guy who, while he’s in pitched battle with Selig now, probably never would have gotten hold of the team if he had not been a favored candidate then.
I have made no secret of the fact that I am rooting for Major League Baseball to squash Frank McCourt like a grape. But don’t confuse this rooting interest with an approval of MLB’s handling of baseball ownership writ large. We are damn lucky that, so far anyway, we only have two or three teams in financial distress. Because when your primary criteria for ownership approval is how friendly they’ll be to the league office as opposed to how deep their pockets and how sharp their financial savvy is, you’re bound to run into trouble.
*I know, right? Wow.
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.
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: