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.”

UPDATE: Donald Trump declines Nats offer to throw out the first pitch

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UPDATE: Welp, we wont’ get to see that:

Sad!

8:53 AM: It’s just gossip now, but Politico is hearing that Donald Trump is in talks to throw out the first pitch at Nationals Park on Opening Day. The Nats are not commenting. Neither are the Palm Beach Cardinals of the Florida State League, who no doubt feel slighted given that the president effectively is a local.

With the caveat that, on Opening Day, tickets are likely to be more expensive and thus you’re likely to have a lot more rich people and friends-of-the-owners in attendance, thereby ensuring a more conservative crowd, I’m struggling to imagine a situation in which Trump strolls on to a baseball field in a large American city and isn’t booed like crazy. He’s polling as low as 36% in some places. He’s not exactly Mr. Popular.

Oh well. I look forward to him three-bouncing one to Matt Wieters and then grabbing his phone and tweeting about how it was the best, most tremendous first pitch in baseball history. Or blaming Hillary Clinton for it in the event he admits that it was a bad pitch.

2017 Preview: Texas Rangers

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Texas Rangers.

The Rangers somehow won the AL West last year despite not being super great at any one aspect of the game. There are stars here — Adrian Beltre, Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish and Rougned Odor are all spiffy players — but the Rangers won the division by being greater than the sum of their parts. They scored a decent number of runs despite some bad collective peripheral numbers and they allowed more runs than anyone in the AL except the Twins and Athletics. Yet they had a great record in one-run games and outperformed their pythagorean record by a WHOLE lot. Luck shined brightly on the 2016 Rangers.

It’s hard to expect luck to hold in any instance, but that’s especially the case when there have been some pretty significant changes. Changes like the loss of Carlos Beltran, Ian Desmond and Mitch Moreland. In their place: A full season, the Rangers hope, from Shin-Soo Choo, a converted-to-outfield Jurickson Profar and Mike Napoli. That may wash out OK, especially if Choo is healthy, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see some regression in two of those offensive slots.

Starting pitching is also a big question mark. Cole Hamels at the top is not a problem, obviously, and if Yu Darvish is healthy and durable the Rangers have an outstanding 1-2 punch. Martin Perez in the third spot presents promise, but he’s been exactly average so far in five major league seasons. The back end of the rotation has some real problems. Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross are hurt at the moment and even if healthy, Cashner seems to be a shell of his once-promising self. A.J. Griffin is looking to pitch in his first full season since 2013. If the Rangers are strong contenders all year it’s gonna be on the “Spahn and Sain and two days of rain” model, but I have no idea what rhymes with “Darvish” and that’s sort of a problem.

The bullpen is going to look a lot like it did last year. Sam Dyson will close, but manager Jeff Banister has shown in the past that he’s not a slave to keeping guys in any one role down there. Jeremy Jeffress will likely set up but he’s closed before. Some think Matt Bush or Keone Kela could close. We’ll see Tanner Scheppers and lefty Alex Claudio. Banister has a Manager of the Year Award on his mantle and while that often doesn’t mean anything, it usually suggests that a guy knows how to deal with his pen. Banister will do OK with what he has.

Really, though, the rotation is a concern, as is hoping that a 35-year-old Mike Napoli and a soon-to-be 38-year-old Adrian Beltre can continue to be the types of players who can form the offensive core of a playoff team. There’s talent and a track record here, but there’s a lot of uncertainty. For that reason, I suspect the Rangers will fall back a smidge this year, even if they’re a playoff contender.

Prediction: Second Place, American League West.