Ray Chapman

Is the Dodgers’ bankruptcy one of the worst moments in baseball history?

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Interesting idea floated in Buster Olney’s column this morning. It’s behind the ESPN paywall, but the gist is that, according to Olney, the Dodgers’ bankruptcy has to be one of the “10 worst chapters in Major League Baseball history.”

He doesn’t do a formal list or order them, but he throws out several potential top-10  (or bottom 10, depending on your point of view) moments.  The ones he names: segregation (which he says would be the worst, and I agree, even if it wasn’t specific to baseball), the Black Sox scandal, the Pete Rose gambling thing, steroids, collusion in the 1980s and the 1994-95 strike.

That’s six.  He says the Dodgers thing is the ninth or tenth worst.  For that to be true, there can’t be four worse moments in baseball history. I’m, not criticizing Buster’s list here — he’s making a bigger point in all of this — but for fun, let’s see if we can find four!

  • The cocaine scourge of the 70s and 80s has to be on that list.  People died. People’s lives and careers were ruined and the game was clearly impacted, both competitively and culturally.
  • Ray Chapman getting killed with a pitched baseball has to count, right? I mean this is a ballgame we’re playing here. If it freaking kills someone, that has to be a dark chapter.  And it can’t be dismissed as a freak thing, because it was the direct result of baseball’s general indifference to player safety in the name of saving some money by leaving dirty baseballs in the game longer, not suspending games due to darkness, etc.
  • Some may argue that this isn’t even the darkest chapter in Dodgers’ history, citing the move of the team from Brooklyn to Los Angeles. Not sure how I feel about that. Everyone wants to paint Walter O’Malley and/or Robert Moses as villains in the go-west drama, but there were multiple historical, financial and political factors in play there. And of course, baseball was going to go to California eventually. And let us not forget, it’s arrival there could be painted as a bright chapter depending on whether you lived in Los Angeles or Brooklyn. Or whether you were a baseball fan or one of the poor Mexicans who were kicked out of their homes under dubious circumstances to make room for Dodger Stadium. But that’s another story.
  • It’s hard to make this an actual “chapter” because it involves distinct incidents in time and space, but the untimely deaths of ballplayers like Lou Gehirg or Roberto Clemente — or the accident that ended Roy Campanella’s career — seem like far darker things than the Dodgers’ bankruptcy. Maybe that counts. Maybe not. I’m not sure.
  • Maybe this goes together with collusion or can be classified in a general chapter entitled “the owners’ exploitation of ballplayers over time,”  but I think the existence of the reserve system until the 1970s was simply awful and, unlike the Dodgers’ bankruptcy which is going to murder Frank McCourt’s balance sheet, the reserve system cost a lot of money to people who didn’t have it coming.

Maybe some of those don’t rate.  And of course I’m sure we could come up with more.  Either way, I like morose topics so I’m glad that Buster introduced it this morning.

As I sit here right now, though, I’m not going to put the Dodgers’ woes into the top 10.  Although feel free to convince me otherwise in the comments.

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)
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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: