Atlanta Braves v Washington Nationals

Ryan Zimmerman and Nationals still discussing contract extension

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UPDATE: Rizzo told Zuckerman that “enough progress has been made” to where there’s a belief that a deal will be finalized at some point Saturday night or early Sunday morning.

10:57 PM: Zimmerman said in an emailed statement late Saturday night that he’s “confident” about reaching an agreement with the Nationals. It’s not known whether that means the deadline has been extended.

1:16 PM: According to Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com, Ryan Zimmerman just said that negotiations with the Nationals are ongoing. His camp proposed a “creative” solution to help bridge the gap and Zimmerman expects resolution “one way or the other” by the end of today. He also indicated that a no-trade clause remains one of the sticking points.

12:05 PM: Ryan Zimmerman hoped to have a contract extension wrapped up with the Nationals before the team’s first full-squad workout at 10 a.m. this morning, but his self-imposed deadline has passed without news of a deal.

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said “no,” in response to Pete Kerzel of MASNSports.com earlier this morning when asked if there was anything new to report in regards to an extension. Meanwhile, Zimmerman told Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post that he had heard no update.

Zimmerman is due to make $12 million this season and $14 million in 2013 before hitting free agency. He said yesterday that he is willing to sign a “team-friendly” deal, but reportedly wants a no-trade clause included in the contract.

Zimmerman has indicated that he would like to cut talks off today so that his situation doesn’t become a distraction, but Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com suggests that something could still get done in the near future, even if there’s no announcement of a deal today. As Zuckerman notes, the 27-year-old third baseman signed a five-year, $45 million extension in April of 2009 just weeks after saying he would hold off on talks until after the season.

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: