Ryan Braun AP

Ryan Braun is “MLB’s Public Enemy No.1”

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Bob Nightengale reports in USA Today about Major League Baseball’s efforts to investigate players named in the Biogenesis documents. Of somewhat surprising note: Nightengale says some 90 players appear in the records. Of less surprising note: it’s the big fish that MLB is clearly focusing on: Alex Rodriguez and, even more so, Ryan Braun:

There might be plenty of minor leaguers to go down before this is over, maybe a few major league players, too, but there are really two players who captivate MLB’s interest. New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez and Braun. And Braun happens to be MLB’s Public Enemy No.1.

His successful appeal of a positive testosterone test led to major revisions in baseball’s sample collection process last year. Baseball officials, from the top executives in New York to their field investigators, refuse to let it go. They want Braun — badly. They have been relentless in their pursuit, trying to make life as miserable as possible for him.

Nightengale describes MLB investigators “talking to his friends … talking to his peers … talking to his associates. They are scouring through paperwork. They keep digging.”

Which, hey, that’s what you do when you investigate. And with all due respect to Braun and the players under the microscope, kudos to Major League Baseball if it is, in fact, trying to actually build cases against these guys rather than do the instantaneous judge/jury/executioner thing that so many in the media decided to do a day after the Miami New Times story came out.

But there is a troubling element to it. The biggest mistake of the Mitchell Report was how it was hellbent to get a list of names and make examples/token victims out of some while failing, almost entirely, to grasp what was really going on with PEDs in baseball in such a way as to actually combat their proliferation and use.  If, in this case, baseball has a monomaniacal focus on carrying out some vendetta against Braun and, because of it, fails to undertake a systematic investigation of the Biogenesis matter, it is once again going down the road of the Mitchell Report.

If Nightengale is right and there are 90 players named, there should be interviews and investigations of 90 players. Or, at the very least, investigations of enough of them to get a full picture of what’s going on down in Miami. The point should not be to settle some score with Ryan Braun. He should be meted out justice, if justice is so justified, in the same manner and measure as any other player involved.

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: