Justin Upton AP

Luis Gonzalez says that Justin Upton didn’t provide leadership to the Diamondbacks

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People affiliated with the Diamondbacks continue to throw Justin Upton under the bus and play the grit-grit-grit card. The latest: Luis Gonzalez, who spoke to Arizona Sports 620’s Doug & Wolf:

“What we’ve gained now, is a couple of blue collar guys that are going to play the D-back way. Which means they’ll go out there and play hard, give everything they’ve got … There were times when Justin was on, he was a superstar. But when he was off, he would get in his shell and would have those slumps and those streaks.”

Hey, at least he has those superstar moments.

In other news, many folks have said that maybe race has impacted the way in which the Dbacks have talked about Justin Upton recently. The argument: only white guys are ever described as “gritty” and often black stars are accused of dogging it if they play smoothly rather than with dirt in their teeth, etc.  I am aware of that general phenomenon, but I don’t really buy it here.

For one thing, the guy being called “gritty” in all of this is Latino.  For another, more important thing, I think that the use of racial code words to describe players is more of a jackass fan thing, and occasionally a media thing, rather than something real baseball professionals do these days, even if they used to do it a lot. I find it hard to believe, frankly, that a modern front office is trafficking in that noise and I tend not to buy such explanations unless and until there is a reason to do so, and here there is really no reason for it. They sent out Trevor Bauer for the same reasons they sent out Upton, and last I checked he wasn’t black.

What I think is really going on here is just some fetishization of hard-nosed play at the expense of actual talent, and one can make that mistake regardless of their racial attitudes.

That said, this passage from the article is the best typo/Freudian slip ever:

Gonzalez, having been part of the D-backs’ lone World Series team back in 2001, says that while Justin Upton is a great player, the organization had a desire to add more lunch pale-type assets in the offseason.

Not that actually saying “lunch pail” would turn that into some deep and meaningful point of analysis.

 

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)
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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: