Boston Red Sox v New York Yankees

Random Opening Day Thoughts while watching the Yankees and Red Sox

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I turned the Red Sox-Yankees game on at 1pm. There are other games, but the TV with cable next to my desk doesn’t have the Roku player on it, so this one was just easier to do while still actually pretending to work.

We’re not live blogging or anything, but I will be chiming in with some random thoughts on this and other games throughout the afternoon. Some random thoughts:

  • Joba Chamberlain kept the awful mustache out of camp. Brave choice.
  • Lou Piniella threw out the first pitch. He bounced it. Surprised he didn’t then argue with it and get thrown out.
  • CC Sabathia started the actual game off with a fastball to Jacoby Ellsbury. I’ve now seen three Opening Day first pitches counting last night and they were all fastballs down the middle. No one ever starts the season out with some offspeed junk in the dirt. I feel like there are opportunities being lost here. UPDATE: OK, it’s now 4-0 in the second. Maybe Sabathia doesn’t look as good now as he did in the first.
  • That said, Sabathia struck out two of three while giving up a meaningless single to Pedroia. He looks like he could pitch for 50 more years. It’s weird given that he’s the ace of the Yankees, but he may be one of the more underrated pitchers in the game.
  • Heck, the Yankees of all teams may be underrated this year. How we got to this point I have no idea, but there has been more unwarranted hype thrown at a half dozen other teams in the past three years than the Yankees ever got.
  • Robinson Cano reached on a strikeout/passed ball thing. I always like that. Free David Ross.
  • Listening to Rick Sutcliffe and Aaron Boone do color commentary — and listening to Orel Hershiser and John Kruk during last night’s game — and I renew my loathe affair with ex-jock analysts. Baseball is a pretty simple game. There’s nothing wrong with pointing out simple things like “the good player is good” and “scoring runs is how you win.” Yet so many of these guys feel like they have to come up with counterintuitive or obscure points of analysis as a means of justifying themselves and their expertise. They analyze the hell out of everything when life would be so much better if they just let us watch.  Oh well, this is a battle I’ve been resigned to lose for many years now, so I probably shouldn’t complain.

Not that it’s too deep a complaint. I have the sound down low. I may or may not be enjoying a cold one. Baseball is on. It didn’t feel totally right last night, but this afternoon it feels good. The structure of my life is back.

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)
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: