The Athletics had their FanFest over the weekend. As we mentioned the other day, owner Lew Wolff met fans and heard complaints. Said complaints were lodged in one-on-one sessions with said fans, so we didn’t get to hear them, but based on the article at MLB.com about it, it sounds like Wolff met with some displeasure but nothing notable. Not terribly surprising. I suppose that if you’re THAT angry at the A’s you’re not gonna bother showing up to FanFest to begin with.
Also of note: Wolff thinks the A’s target date for opening in a new ballpark is 2016. He’s also pretty open to Manny Ramirez joining the team.
The quote of the day, however, didn’t come from Wolff. It came from the Athletics’ number one starter Brandon McCarthy:
“I know there are a lot of people who have had questions about the moves that have been made, but I do like the front office stepping up, answering questions and showing that there is a path that we’re taking and there’s reasons for all of this. It’s not just drunk monkeys throwing at a dartboard. People have a plan, and they’re trying to do something.”
I was a big fan of “Moneyball,” both the book/movie and the concept. But I think I’d be even more excited if the new inefficiency in building a ballclub was drunk monkeys throwing things. And the best part: I bet that stuff would actually work in the playoffs.
NOTE: In the off chance that my undergraduate primatology Professor Lori Sheerhan is reading this, yes, I am quite aware that the picture accompanying this article is a drunk ape, not a drunk monkey. Also know that, over the past 20 years, I have had far more occasion to use all of the anthropology stuff you taught me when picking up my minor than I have any of the political science stuff I learned in my major, so thanks.
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.
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: