Joe Torre, Major League Baseball tell us all to embrace “the human element”

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Major League Baseball just released its official statement on the blown call in last night’s Pirates-Braves game.  It’s from Joe Torre — Executive Vice President for Baseball Operations — and it’s reproduced in its entirety below.  Here’s the short version, though:

“Blahblahblah we don’t care at all if games are blown because of crappy umpiring and we’re never going to give you a good reason why.”

OK, that may be a rather loose summary of it, but really, that’s the substance.

Fine, Torre admits the mistake and notes that Jerry Meals both admitted it and feels bad about it.  Which I’m sure he does.  People screw up from time to time and Meals did too.  He should be faulted for that, but not ostracized for it (and especially not threatened for it).  The real fault here is a system that has the ability to easily correct these very human mistakes and chooses not to.

But Torre and Major League Baseball claim that people love that system, and that “most in the game recognize that the human element always will be part of baseball and instant replay can never replace all judgment calls by umpires.”

What kind of baloney is that?  Who are these deluded and easily-manipulated people? Who blithely accepts that easily-corrected bad calls will always be a part of the game and dares not question why? Torre and Bud Selig have the ability to change these rules in less time than it takes for you to say “boo,” but people — most people, if you believe Torre — believe it’s inevitable that that never happen?  What’s next, baseball? Will Oceania always be at war with Eastasia?

This is unacceptable.  These kinds of calls can and should be corrected via instant replay. Torre provides no rational reason, let alone a compelling reason why that can’t be so.  Just because we can’t obtain perfection doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t strive for improvement.

This is a cop out, pure and simple. Just ridiculous.  Here’s the statement.

Major League Baseball Executive Vice President for Baseball Operations Joe Torre issued the following statement today regarding the game-ending play in the 19th inning of last night’s game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field:

“Unfortunately, it appears that the call was missed, as Jerry Meals acknowledged after the game.  Many swipe tags are not applied to the runner with solid contact, but the tag was applied and the game should have remained tied.  I have spoken with Jerry, who is a hard-working, respected umpire, and no one feels worse than him.  We know that this is not a product of a lack of effort.

“Having been the beneficiary of calls like this and having been on the other end in my experience as a player and as a manager, I have felt that this has always been a part of our game.  As a member of the Commissioner’s Special Committee for On-Field Matters, I have heard many discussions on umpiring and technology over the past two years, including both the pros and the cons of expanding replay.  However, most in the game recognize that the human element always will be part of baseball and instant replay can never replace all judgment calls by umpires. Obviously, a play like this is going to spark a lot of conversation, and we will continue to consider all viewpoints in our ongoing discussions regarding officiating in baseball.

“We expect the best from our umpires, and an umpire would tell you he expects the best of himself.  We have to continue to strive for accuracy, consistency and professionalism day in and day out.”

Unprecedented sanctions: MLB bans former Braves GM for life, makes 12 signees free agents

Associated Press
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Major League Baseball has slammed the hammer down on the Atlanta Braves as the result of their violations of rules on the international free agent market.

Former Braves General Manager John Coppolella has been placed on the permanently ineligible list — the same list Pete Rose is on — banning him from a job in baseball forever. His assistant, Gordon Blakeley, will be suspended for a period of one year. Each had already been dismissed by the Braves. Other Braves’ international baseball operations employees who participated in the misconduct could still be suspended as the league finishes its investigation.

As reported earlier, 12 of the clubs’ international signees are now free agents. The Braves will lose the following players, signed during the 2015-17 international free agent signing periods:

  • Juan Contreras;
  • Yefri del Rosario;
  • Abrahan Gutierrez;
  • Kevin Maitan;
  • Juan Carlos Negret;
  • Yenci Peña;
  • Yunior Severino;
  • Livan Soto;
  • Guillermo Zuniga;
  • Brandol Mezquita;
  • Angel Rojas; and
  • Antonio Sucre

As reported earlier, Maitan was the number one overall international prospect in 2016. The Braves have, for a few years now, had among the top international signee classes. Obviously that came by virtue of cheating the system, and obviously that will lead to a reevaluation of where the clubs’ minor league system stands, talent-wise.

The penalties are not limited to the loss of those players. Commissioner Manfred is imposing what amounts to punitive damages going forward. From Commissioner Manfred’s statement:

“While the remedies discussed above will deprive the Braves of the benefits of their circumvention, I believe that additional sanctions are warranted to penalize the Club for the violations committed by its employees. Accordingly, the Braves will be prohibited from signing any international player for more than $10,000 during the 2019-20 signing period, which is the first signing period in which the Braves are not subject to any signing restrictions under our rules; and the Braves’ international signing bonus pool for the 2020-21 signing period will be reduced by 50 percent.”

There was also what appears to be an unrelated draft violation, imposing penalties along those lines as well:

“The investigation also determined that the Braves offered impermissible benefits, which were never provided, to a player they selected in the First-Year Player Draft in an attempt to convince him to sign for a lower bonus. As a penalty for the Club’s attempted circumvention involving a draft selection, the Braves will forfeit their third-round selection in the 2018 First-Year Player Draft.

The gist of the violations against the Braves involves the bundling of signing bonuses, in which the Braves got players — through their representatives in Latin America — to take lower than the amount typically allotted in one year in order to use the money to sign other, highly rated players in subsequent years, with money they wouldn’t have otherwise had. MLB’s statement describes the scheme thusly:

“The investigation established that the Braves circumvented international signing rules from 2015 through 2017. During the 2015-16 international signing period, the Braves signed five players subject to the Club’s signing bonus pool to contracts containing signing bonuses lower than the bonuses the Club had agreed to provide the players. The Club provided the additional bonus money to those players by inflating the signing bonus to another player who was exempt from their signing pool because he qualified as a ‘foreign professional’ under MLB rules.

“Consistent with the rules, the Braves could have signed all of the 2015-16 players for the full, actual signing bonus amounts. Had the Club signed the five players to contracts containing their actual bonuses, however, the Braves would have exceeded their signing bonus pool by more than five percent and would have been, under MLB rules, restricted from signing any players during the next two signing periods for contracts with bonuses greater than $300,000.

“As a result of the 2015-16 circumvention, the Braves were able to sign nine high-value players during the 2016-17 signing period who would have been unavailable to them had the Club accurately accounted for its signings during the 2015-16 signing period.”

The scheme continued like this:

“The investigation also determined that the Braves: (i) agreed to sign six players to inflated signing bonuses pursuant to an agreement with prospect Robert Puason’s agent in exchange for a commitment that Puason would sign with the Club in the 2019-20 signing period; and (ii) offered prospect Ji-Hwan Bae extra-contractual compensation. In order to remedy these violations, I am prohibiting the Club from signing Robert Puason when he becomes eligible to sign, and disapproving the contract between Bae and the Braves, which has not yet become effective.”

This is, by far, the most serious set of scouting, drafting and signing penalties ever imposed by Major League Baseball. It speaks to the sheer audacity of the Braves’ scheme to circumvent signing rules. It also sends a loud and clear signal to other teams — many who have been rumored to have engaged in similar conduct on a smaller scale — that MLB will not tolerate it.

The Braves lower minor league system has been decimated. It stands, essentially, as the head on the pike outside of the castle.