World Series - San Francisco Giants v Detroit Tigers - Game 4

Brian Sabean has some tough calls to make this offseason

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Brian Sabean bashing is a pretty common pastime among stathead types. I’ve spent an awful lot of time doing it, I’ll admit. For what it’s worth, my bashing him has less to do with any individual moves he’s made and more to do with some poor behavior on his part, but it’s undeniable that, for whatever reason, Sabean catches a lot of flak from the so-called smart set.

But that flack pales compared to two World Series championships in three years. No, you can’t absolve Sabean of bad moves and give him all the credit for those titles — like most GMs he’s had good moments and bad — but it seems pretty damn petty to take potshots at the job he’s done, especially in recent years, in light of the undeniable success of the Giants. Ultimately the job is to win and the Brian Sabean-led Giants have won.

But baseball success is a fleeting thing, and there are a couple of decisions Sabean has to make soon that are anything but easy calls: contracts for Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro.

Pagan and Scutaro were key components for the Giants down the stretch. Indeed, despite there being little reason to assume he’d be useful, Scutaro was probably the absolute best mid-season pickup by any team. Pagan likewise was a critical cog in the machine, posting his best season in 2012, hitting .288, finding the big gaps in AT&T Park to his liking with 15 triples and playing some sweet D.

However, as Chris Haft notes at MLB.com, both of them are free agents. Today is Scutaro’s 37th birthday. Pagan will turn 32 next summer. Neither has the sort of track record that anticipated their 2012 contributions to the Giants’ World Series championship and neither can be expected to repeat that performance on a consistent basis for an extended period, but both will greet the ecstatic San Francisco fans at the victory parade tomorrow as heroes. And there will be a lot of those folks who desperately want to see Scutaro and Pagan back in Giants uniforms next year.

And each is likely the best option for the Giants too. But not at any price and not for a lengthy period of time.  And that’s Sabean’s biggest challenge this offseason. A challenge that a lot of World Series winning general managers have had to face mere days after the champagne dried: how to balance the past, the present and the future of a winning team without overpaying and without letting emotion play too large a role.

It’s a nice problem for a GM to have, but it’s certainly not an easy one to solve, even if you have a couple of World Series rings on your fingers. And no matter how much success Brian Sabean has had in recent years, he gets almost no time to rest on those laurels before being put to the test once again.

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: