Trevor Bauer

Miguel Montero on Trevor Bauer: “He never wanted to listen”

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It was understood that the Diamondbacks trade of pitching prospect Trevor Bauer had more to do with the team’s opinion of his attitude than its opinion of his talent. Yes, he struggled during his callup last year, but he just turned 22 and struck out 11.5 batters per nine innings in two minor league seasons. A bit better control and this kid could be a star.

In light of that, unloading him for Didi Gregorius and Tony Sipp had just as much if not more to do with the Dbacks not liking the cut of Bauer’s jib than his pitching chops.

Adam Green of Arizona Sports.com spoke to Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero and Montero was unusually forthcoming about just how little Arizona cared for that jib:

“When you get a guy like that and he thinks he’s got everything figured out, it’s just tough to commence and try to get on the same page with you … Since day one in Spring Training I caught him and he killed me because he threw about 100 pitches the first day,” Montero said, adding he told Bauer he should take it a bit slower and work on locating his fastball first before working on his breaking pitches. “And he said ‘yes’, and the next time he threw I saw him doing the same thing,” Montero said. “He never wanted to listen … Good luck to Carlos Santana.”

Yikes.

It’s hard for me to not have a bit of sympathy for Bauer. Smarts + youth + confidence + stubbornness is not an easy set of attributes to carry in a lot of settings. At the risk of sounding arrogant, I will say I’m a pretty smart guy. But I am also stubborn and when I was young I didn’t just sound arrogant, I often was, and I had an unwarranted confidence in my own abilities.  When I got out of law school I got into a professional environment where there was a Way of Doing Things, and I didn’t especially cotton to it. I’d buck it and think I knew better. Sometimes, yes, I actually did. I still think a lot of things I was expected to do as a baby lawyer were dumb and unnecessary.

After a while, though, I came to realize that the Way of Doing Things was in place for a lot of good reasons. It still chafed. I still often felt that I knew better. I still had an awful time trying to conform to the Way of Doing Things. But that Way, when I gave it a chance, usually made my life easier and helped me learn and grow. I learned and grew way more slowly, however, than the people who came in with some humility, an open mind and the realization that the folks who were in charge of the Way of Doing Things had at least some method to their apparent madness.

This is not to say that Kirk Gibson, Miguel Montero and the Arizona Diamondbacks have a monopoly on wisdom when it comes to how to integrate a then-21 year-old phenom into a big league setting. To the contrary, there are a lot of ways to skin a cat. Especially when that cat is a smart, young, confident and stubborn pitcher. Indeed, because a talented pitcher is a far more rare and valuable commodity than a kid out of law school, a team can and should at least try to tailor their Way of Doing Things to the talent they have as opposed to insisting on some My Way or the Highway approach. There have been flaky pitchers in the past and there will be flaky pitchers in the future. If they’re good, they always find homes.

But if what Montero is saying is true, and Bauer was unwilling to at least try to meet him and the Diamondbacks halfway — to at least give their far more experienced Way of Doing Things a chance — it suggests that the young man is going to have more trouble than most navigating the path between phenom and ace. Maybe Terry Francona and Carlos Santana are guys who can handle Bauer and tailor a system to suit his needs. But maybe they’re not. Maybe it will take two or three more stops and contentious spring trainings before Bauer either changes or finds someone with whom he can click.

I managed to eventually make peace with the Way of Doing Things in my legal career. But it was a rough peace, it took longer than it should have and, ultimately, it probably contributed to that career not being as long or as successful as it could have been had I been on board from day one.  Here’s hoping that doesn’t happen to Trevor Bauer.

Or, if it does happen, here’s hoping he finds a place where he can work by himself all day like I did. That’s a pretty great setting for smart, overly-confident and stubborn people. We’re a very hard to work with bunch.

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: