John Farrell

Red Sox banking on John Farrell becoming a better manager in Boston

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There’s simply no way the Red Sox could have looked at John Farrell’s work in Toronto and came away with the idea that he was a great manager. The Blue Jays were a horrible baserunning team, they had Omar Vizquel questioning their clubhouse leadership and their win total decreased in both of his years at the helm.

It was Farrell’s success with pitchers in Boston that played a huge role in getting him the Blue Jays gig. Yet Farrell could do nothing to aid Ricky Romero and Brett Cecil as they regressed. The only Toronto starter to break through under his tutelage was Brandon Morrow and then only for 21 starts.

And yet the Red Sox wanted Farrell back. Badly enough to surrender compensation to Toronto to get him, though the price (infielder Mike Aviles and perhaps taking on first baseman Adam Lind’s salary) wasn’t as high as many speculated.

Three guesses as to why they chose him:

1. There’s simply no one better equipped to help Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Daniel Bard overcome their struggles. All three had their best seasons in 2010 immediately before Farrell departed. And while the collapses for all three came this year, it’s worth noting that all took steps backwards in 2011 first.

2. Farrell already has the respect of the clubhouse. And unlike the team’s 2012 bench coach Tim Bogar and former bench coach DeMarlo Hale, he doesn’t carry the stink of the 2011 collapse around with him, since he left after the 2010 season.

3. The Red Sox are probably assuming that improvement will come with experience. Terry Francona was a dreadful manager, far worse than Farrell, when he was in Philadelphia. I thought Bob Melvin was brutal in Seattle. Look at him now in Oakland.

As I made clear a couple of weeks ago, I’m not particularly impressed with the choice. Brad Ausmus, Dave Martinez and Sandy Alomar Jr. are candidates to become the next great manager, and the Red Sox bypassed them all in favor of a guy whose first gig ended in failure. That said, if Farrell can get better results from Lester and Buchholz and maybe even get Bard turned around, it’ll more than make up for whatever in-game strategy mistakes he makes.

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)
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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: