TT Roadhoue

Scenes from Spring Training: The Most Interesting Man in the World

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After I left the ballpark yesterday afternoon I came back to my hotel and placed my health first among all other things. First, I moved into my new non-smoking room, which was good for my lungs. Then I went to the fitness center and ran on a treadmill for 45 minutes which was good for my heart, body and soul.

Then I went to In-n-Out Burger and ate this followed by a trip to a dive bar called TT Roadhouse where I hoisted the moist with a friend of mine. No, I don’t think it’s safe to say that I’m in the best shape of my life after all of that. Hell, I’m not even in the best shape of the bloggers on this site.

The friend of mine was a former sportswriter and former blogger named Connor Doyle who I met back in the Shysterball days.  When I was here last year, as some of you may remember, I had beers with him and DIPS legend Voros McCracken and nearly started a race riot. Last night wasn’t quite as scary, but it definitely turned strange.

We had been there a little over an hour or so when a man with a gigantic head wound came up and sat down at our table and began talking to us. He began in mid-sentence as if he had been with us all night, and took up the political conversation Connor and I were having. Well, OK then. He did pause long enough for Connor to ask him what happened to his head. Seems he was walking with a girl last week when a man ran him over with a car and then drove away. He treated the explanation as though it was bothersome and unimportant and continued on with his political monologue. Well, OK again.

The substance of the monologue: if he had a time machine and could go back and change one historical event, it would be to prevent women getting the right to vote. Really: that’s when he believes all of our country’s problems began.

“The 50s were great,” he said. “Everything was going just fine until women got the vote.”

“You realize that by the 50s women had been voting for over 30 years,” I said.

He just kind of stopped for a second, considered the thought, ignored it and moved on. And to be fair to him, he did expand the point: it wasn’t just women voting that was the problem. It was all racial minorities, homosexuals and “children.”  I thought I’d comfort him by telling him that children still don’t have the right to vote, but I couldn’t really get a word in.

From there we moved on to evolution (“So you believe we came from monkeys? That it went ooze-fish-monkeys-man? Really?”) and then on to religion (“I’m not one of those crazy people, but religion has done more to disprove science than science has to prove evolution”).  He noted at one point that he got a concussion in that hit-and-run last week. I nodded.

Eventually our friend — who would not let me take his picture sadly, because I believe that by that time he realized (a) I was a writer; and (b) I was taking mental notes — mentioned that three women were coming to meet him there and implied that, if we played our cards right, maybe  Connor and I could get lucky.

I figured that was his tallest tale of the evening but I’ll be damned if three women didn’t eventually show up. One had a boyfriend with her. None of them seemed like people who would hang out with our friend, here. Indeed, when he went to use the restroom, one of the women said that she didn’t know the guy’s name and that they just call him “the guy who got hit by the car.”  I am still unclear on why they would all meet him out at a bar.

I was likewise unclear why I was still talking to him, but eventually he disappeared into the night.  I’m still not 100% certain that he existed. It’s possible someone spiked my Double-Double animal style or slipped a mickey into Moose Drool brown ale.  But if he did exist, just know that people like him walk the Earth. Well, sort of stagger the Earth, but still.

Freakin’ Arizona. Drink here at your peril.  Or maybe just don’t go out with Connor Doyle, because for as great a guy as he is, he seems to attract the weird ones.

Back to baseball this morning. I’m heading to the Peoria Sports Complex where I will witness the debut of Yu Darvish.  A man who, until last night, I figured would be the most interesting person I’d meet in Spring Training.

Reports from the ballpark later, my friends.

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: