Blue Jays shortstop Munenori Kawasaki hit his first career home run in the seventh inning of tonight’s game against the Orioles. It was a two-run shot to right field off of Tommy Hunter that tied the game at six apiece. After rounding the bases and getting a round of high-fives in the dugout, his teammates pushed him back out into the field so he could acknowledge a raucous Toronto crowd. Kawasaki meekly emerged and politely bowed in several directions.
You may remember Kawasaki when he gave one of the best post-game interviews in baseball history after helping the Jays walk off victorious on May 26.
Kawasaki had entered the night with baseball’s second-longest career homerless streak among active non-pitchers, having racked up 287 plate appearances without going yard. Phillies outfielder Ben Revere leads the pack, by far, with 1,315.
Here’s the full list of players with a streak of at least 100 PA:
The Jays, by the way, walked off in the ninth on an RBI single by Rajai Davis. The 7-6 victory was the Jays’ ninth in a row, bringing them to .500 as they continue to gain ground in the AL East. As recently as June 10, the Jays were 12 games behind the first-place Red Sox. After the Sox wrap up their victory over the Orioles, the Jays will be a mere seven games behind.
Update (10:45 PM) — Had to add this in here:
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: