Francisco Rodriguez

K-Rod is poised to get expensive. What should the Mets do?

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A reminder in the Wall Street Journal this morning that the Mets — playing solid enough baseball that talk of the wild card is not delusional — have some hard decisions to make.  And not just with Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes.  That’s because, as all Mets fans know, if Francisco Rodriguez finishes 55 games this year, his $17.5 million contract option for 2012 is triggered. And right now he’s on pace to finish 61.

On some level you have to think that Sandy Alderson was hoping that events would take care of themselves, and that either the Mets’ competitive situation would be such that there wouldn’t be as many save opportunities and/or meaningful games — or that K-Rod wouldn’t be effective enough — to where it would make baseball sense for him to finish 55.  But that hasn’t been the case, and as of now there is no plausible reason to change his usage pattern.

So absent a serious July swoon, the Mets are kind of damned if they do, damned if they don’t.  If they keep him, they’re on the hook for an intolerably large financial commitment to K-Rod next year (or a union grievance if they alter his usage pattern for purely financial reasons).  If they shop him — again, assuming they’re still playing good baseball — they’re basically saying that 2011 doesn’t matter and will be accused by some of waving a white flag due to their serious lack of green.

I would still think the latter problem would be the better one to have. Haters (i.e. the talk radio and tabloid crowd) are gonna hate anyway. You gotta think long term and you can’t worry too much if someone gets some short term mileage off of some disingenuous white flag talk (disingenuous because the same ones who would offer it would go crazy if commitments to K-Rod prevent the Mets from making an offer to Reyes).

But that doesn’t make the short term any easier. And I’m kind of glad I’m not in Sandy Alderson’s shoes and don’t have to deal with the contractual mess that was left for him to clean up.

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: