jim thome indians

Last time the Orioles were in the playoffs …

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OK, so by now we’ve all heard plenty about how the Orioles are back in the playoffs for the first time since 1997. October 15, 1997 to be exact, when they lost 1-0 to the Indians in Game 6 of the ALCS on a Tony Fernandez homer off Armando Benitez in the 11th inning.

I thought it would be interesting to take a look back at the boxscore from that game. First of all, the starting pitchers were Mike Mussina for the Orioles and Charles Nagy for the Indians, which is more than enough to get a kid who grew up watching baseball in the 1990s giddy.

And here are the lineups:

   CLEVELAND INDIANS               BALTIMORE ORIOLES
1. Omar Vizquel, SS             1. Brady Anderson, CF
2. Tony Fernandez, 2B           2. Roberto Alomar, 2B
3. Manny Ramirez, RF            3. Geronimo Berroa, RF
4. David Justice, DH            4. Harold Baines, DH
5. Matt Williams, 3B            5. Rafael Palmeiro, 1B
6. Jim Thome, 1B                6. Cal Ripken Jr., 3B
7. Sandy Alomar, C              7. B.J. Surhoff, LF
8. Brian Giles, LF              8. Chris Hoiles, C
9. Marquis Grissom, CF          9. Mike Bordick, SS

I mean, where to even start?

Well, first of all Jim Thome batted sixth and played first base for the Indians that day. And tonight, 15 years later, he’ll play for the Orioles.

Omar Vizquel, who led off for the Indians then, just played his final game Wednesday. Sandy Alomar, who caught for the Indians then, just interviewed this week to be the Indians’ new manager. And his brother, Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar, played second base for the Orioles then.

Brian Giles, who hit eighth for Cleveland, later went on to be one of the elite hitters in the NL for the Pirates. Brady Anderson, who had 50 homers the previous year, batted leadoff in a Davey Johnson-managed Baltimore lineup that had Rafael Palmeiro fifth and Cal Ripken Jr. sixth.

Oh, and here’s a list of some players who appeared off the bench or out of the bullpen: Eric Davis, Jeffrey Hammonds, Jerome Walton, Lenny Webster, Jose Mesa, Randy Myers, Paul Assenmacher, Mike Jackson.

I’m going to force myself to stop now because I could seriously just stare at the boxscore from now until the Cardinals-Braves game starts tonight and be perfectly happy.

UPDATE: MLB.com has video of Fernandez’s game-winning homer off Benitez:

Thanks to Jake Silver for digging up the video.

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: