There’s a story about Raul Ibanez in the News-Tribune. The upshot: Ibanez brings veteran presence. By the truckload.
Here’s the story’s author, after noting that Ibanez is still supposed to contribute with his bat:
But, yes, Ibañez’s most substantial gift could be the gab he brings to a clubhouse craving for older players able and willing to share insights with those still learning the nuances of a frustrating game.
“First thing that popped into my mind when we signed Raul was remembering when I was in the lower ranks of the minor leagues and he was still a Mariner. Every spring training he’d come over and talk to us for a few hours. The stories he told us … he’s been through it all. People told him he’d never play in the big leagues, and 17 years later, he’s proven all the doubters wrong. He brings a lot of life stories to our team and a phenomenal veteran presence.”
Jack Z, who noted that the team lacked veteran presence before:
“You’ve got a young kid sitting in the on-deck circle,” Zduriencik said, “and someone like Raul Ibañez gets up and puts his arm around the kid and says, ‘I’ve been in this situation before.’ That’s a whole lot different than coming from the hitting coach, or the manager.”
“You can make an argument,” Wedge continued, “that Raul Ibañez is as good as anybody in the game in regard to performing and playing. That’s why you sign him, to be a baseball player.
Well, you could make that argument. It’d just be a bad one. He goes on:
But beyond that, there are the intangibles he brings as a guy who has been part of championship clubs and really done everything in the game.”
That’s all great. And yes, I appreciate that teams value this stuff way more than fans and analysts do. But Ibanez is either going to mash righties or he won’t. If he doesn’t, his veteran presence will be meaningless — maybe Jason Bay or Kendrys Morales can provide some in his stead — and his next job in baseball will be as a coach.
If you don’t believe me, ask the last guy who the Mariners brought in to be “veteran presence” after his productive years were over.
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: