Bear with me for a minute, please.
Pedro Ciriaco impressed once again Sunday, stealing two bases immediately after entering the game as a pinch-runner and then doubling in a run as part of Boston’s 5-1 win over Minnesota. He’s hitting .415/.442/.659 with seven steals in eight attempts this spring. His one homer was a walkoff job against the Marlins on March 12.
If you haven’t heard of Ciriaco, you’re hardly alone. There wasn’t much reason to know him until a couple of weeks ago, but now he seems poised to claim a spot on Boston’s bench. Ciriaco was signed to a minor league deal by the Red Sox on January 3, three weeks after he was non-tendered by the Pirates.
This is where Yamaico Navarro comes in.
The Red Sox surrendered Navarro to land Mike Aviles from the Royals at the trade deadline last year. Aviles is now Boston’s starting shortstop. The Royals, though, quickly soured on Navarro and decided he was the most expendable player on their 40-man roster when they needed to clear a spot in December. As a result, he was traded to the Pirates for two prospects who probably won’t ever make the majors, thus making Ciriaco expendable in Pittsburgh.
Of course, Ciriaco isn’t nearly this good. In fact, he was brutal in Triple-A last year, hitting .231/.243/.300 in 277 at-bats, and he’s managed a .700 OPS just once in seven minor league seasons. He is a clear step up from Aviles with the glove, though, and he could be pretty useful as a pinch-runner and late-inning defensive replacement.
Now, I wouldn’t necessarily expect either Aviles or Ciriaco to be Red Sox in 2013 and beyond, but it is pretty interesting to see Boston filling two of its 2012 roster spots with a couple of pieces they only have thanks to a guy the Royals took one look at and quickly dismissed.
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: