Rob Neyer wrote a whole book once fact-checking and, in many cases, debunking long-told tales of Major League Baseball. You really should own it, even if you don’t care much about the particular baseball legends he debunks. The process of doing it — of taking on baseball’s exceptionally weighty folklore — is worth it in its own right. Some may say part of baseball’s charm is that it lends itself to myth-making and tale-telling, but it’s also the reason why there is so much damn misinformation and misunderstanding floating around.
Today Rob takes a look at “42” and at Jackie Robinson in general and asks whether the facts on the ground about Robinson’s base running match his reputation as a speedy, disruptive terror on the base paths. Short answer: nope. Not particularly.
Go read it to see why that it is. And why — and this one may ruffle more feathers than merely taking on Robinson’s base running might — go see why Neyer thinks it’s entirely possible that Robinson — purely on the baseball merits — may not have been the most deserving candidate for Rookie of the Year in 1947.
Taking on stuff like this doesn’t make Rob too many friends. That would bother me if I thought he cared all that much about such things. But regardless of how that all breaks out, stuff like this is among my favorite kind of baseball writing.
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: