Meals blown call

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.”

Mariners sign reliever Joel Peralta

Joel Peralta
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Right-hander Joel Peralta has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Mariners that includes an invitation to spring training.

Peralta spent last season with the Dodgers and was limited to 29 innings by neck and back problems, posting a 4.34 ERA and 24/8 K/BB ratio. Los Angeles declined his $2.5 million option, making him a free agent.

He was one of the most underrated relievers in baseball from 2010-2014, logging a total of 318 innings with a 3.34 ERA and 342 strikeouts, but at age 40 he’s shown signs of decline. Still, for a minor-league deal and no real commitment Peralta has a chance to be a nice pickup for Seattle’s bullpen.

White Sox sign Mat Latos

Mat Latos
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Jerry Crasnick reports that the Chicago White Sox have signed Mat Latos.

Latos was pretty spiffy between 2010-2014, posting sub-3.50 ERAs each year.  Then the injuries came and he fell apart. He pitched for three teams in 2015 — the Dodgers, Angels, and Marlins — with a combined 4.95 ERA in 113 innings. And he didn’t make friends on those clubs either, with reports of clubhouse strife left in his wake.

In Chicago he gets a fresh start. It doesn’t come in a park that will do him any favors — Latos and U.S. Cellular Field don’t seem like a great match — but at this point beggars can’t be choosers.

 

Jason Castro loses arbitration hearing against Astros

Jason Castro
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Veteran catcher Jason Castro and the Astros went through with an arbitration hearing over a difference of $250,000 and the three-person panel ruled in favor of the team.

That means Castro will make $5 million this season rather than his requested amount of $5.25 million. This is his final year of arbitration eligibility, so the 29-year-old catcher will be a free agent after the season.

Castro showed a lot of promise early on, including making the All-Star team at age 26 in 2013, but since then he’s hit just .217 with a .650 OPS in 230 games. His power and pitch-framing skills are a valuable combination even within sub par overall production, so 2016 will be a key year for the former first-round draft pick.

Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Eminent Domain and the history of the Rangers Ballpark

Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump addresses supporters at a campaign rally, Monday, Dec. 21, 2015, in Grand Rapids, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
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Eminent Domain — the right of a government to take/buy private property for public use — and its implications has always been a controversial topic. It became far more controversial in the 1990s and early 2000s, however,  as the practice, which is intended for public projects like roads and stuff, was increasingly used in ways to help developers and businesses.

The controversy came to a head in the 2005 case Kelo v. City of New London in which the Supreme Court held that general benefits a community enjoyed from economic growth — not just direct public works — qualified as a “public use” under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. The upshot: if someone had a good argument that a shopping mall would benefit the community, Mr. Developer and the government can force you to sell them their house.

This led to a HUGE backlash, with property rights people freaking out about what seemed like a pretty clear abuse of governmental power serving the interests of developers. Some 44 states have since passed laws outlawing the use of Eminent Domain for purely economic development. Some of that backlash has gone too far in the other direction, with some laws getting passed which not only required compensation to landowners if land was taken, but merely if land was diminished in value.  Like, if the government passes an environmental regulation which makes your private, for-profit toxic waste dump less lucrative than it was, the government has to pay you. It’s crazy stuff, really. And all of those laws notwithstanding, the topic continues to be a controversial one, with battles over what, exactly, is “public” what is a “public good” and all of that raging on. It’s rather fascinating. At least for boring nerfherders like me.

In the recent GOP presidential debate Donald Trump and Jeb Bush got into it on the topic, with Trump — a real estate developer, or course — defending the use of Eminent Domain to take land for economic development and Bush — a really desperate dude who at this point will take ANY position he can if it’ll give him traction — opposing it. In the days since they’ve continued to fight about it, with Trump charging Bush with hypocrisy since his brother, George W., was an owner of the Texas Rangers when they built their new ballpark with the help of Eminent Domain.

Ahh, yes. We finally get to baseball.

Today Nathaniel Rakich of Baseballot digs into that project and looks at how it all played out against the Eminent Domain debate. It touches on stuff we talk about a lot around here: are ballparks engines of economic development or merely for the enrichment of ballclubs? If they are built by a municipality, are they public goods? Wait, how can they be public goods if you can’t just walk into them for free? And the arguments go on.

It’s fascinating stuff showing, once again, that the real world and baseball intersect all the dang time and it’s handy to have a handle on just how, exactly, it does so.