I’ve seen some random writing on the Internet and heard some random chatter on talk radio about the possibility of Bud Selig stepping in and blocking the Marlins-Blue Jays trade on some “best interests of baseball” grounds. But let’s be clear about this: he won’t do it, and he probably shouldn’t.
Let’s take the “shouldn’t” first: He shouldn’t because there are situations where a trade that looks exactly like this one from a baseball perspective — a massive payroll dump for some young cheap talent — is legitimate for a team that wants to jump-start a rebuilding project. If you have expensive veterans and you’re not going anyplace, the best way to deal with it is to get rid of the expensive veterans. Cut ’em if you have no other choice, but if you can get a return for them, go for it, start fresh and move on.
The thing that makes this particular trade odious cannot be seen on the paper setting forth the terms of the transaction. The deal itself is not so unorthodox or insane that it requires intervention. Rather, it is the background of Jeff Loria and the Marlins and the b.s. and baloney he has dumped on Marlins fans and the city of Miami for a decade that makes this all so vile, and that’s all outside of the terms of the deal.
That leads to the reason why Bud Selig won’t block this trade, even if there were other good reasons to do it. He won’t do it because Selig stepping into this mess would represent rank hypocrisy. Baseball rewarded Loria for killing a franchise in Montreal. Baseball for years allowed Loria to pocket revenue sharing money rather than use it on his team to make them better and, if their financial documents hadn’t been leaked to Deadspin, likely still would allow it. Baseball has strongly encouraged owners to blackmail cities into building them publicly-funded stadiums. Indeed, it has actively discouraged efforts by owners to pay for their own ballparks.
Baseball will not block or, I presume, even criticize this trade because it is the logical product of the incentive system it itself has created. The way Loria has built up hope, taken taxpayer money and then trashed his team and crapped on his fan base may be rather extreme and possibly even disturbing for the people in the Commissioner’s Office, but given the way Loria has been incentivized for the past 10-15 years, it should not be shocking to them. And for Major League Baseball to now, after all of this time, step in and object to the way Jeff Loria is mismanaging his franchise, would be a repudiation of policies that it has long encouraged among the ownership class, and if there is one thing that Bud Selig doesn’t do it’s reverse himself when it comes to this kind of stuff.
I was on NBC SportsTalk with Erik Kuselias last night and we talked about this a bit:
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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.
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: