I had a good conversation with my friend Norm Wamer of 106.5 The Ticket in Toledo yesterday. We talked about how, as a fan, it’s OK to feel anger and resentment any any other number of complicated emotions about baseball players who cheat. Because as a fan you’re allowed to feel emotions. Indeed, as a fan you should feel emotions. There’s nothing wrong with sports moving you on all levels as long as you don’t go crazy with it.
But I told Norm that baseball historians — like historians in every field — have to have a bit of an emotional separation in order to do their job properly. You can’t tell an objective historical story if you’re so emotionally invested that you’re creating good guys and bad guys and punishing them in your historical assessment based on your anger or sadness.
I don’t know if I’m totally right about that, but if I am, I think it means that Ken Burns, for all of the history he’s done, is no historian. Because check out this interview he gave to The Hollywood Reporter:
The Hollywood Reporter: Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and Mike Piazza are all on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot. Would you vote for them?
Ken Burns: No.
Ken Burns: I want them to suffer for a while … We know some pitchers extended their playing careers, we know some people hit the ball farther, but nobody hit .406, nobody had a 56-game hitting streak, no pitcher won 30 games, no pitcher won 35 games, no pitcher won 25 games. Maybe that helps you make it less onerous, but at the same time, those motherf—ers should suffer for a while.
Sorry, I can’t get on board with anyone who thinks that a legitimate use of their Hall of Fame vote, real or hypothetical, is to make “motherf—ers suffer.” And I don’t care how cute or boyish they are.
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: