Apple Citi Field

Bye-bye All-Star Game, bye-bye New York

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I was at Citi Field until way after midnight last night then it took a good hour to make it back to my hotel. Then I was wired from my first All-Star experience and didn’t get to bed until it was way closer to my usual wakeup time than it was my usual bedtime. Waking up at, like, 9AM is insanity. I don’t know how you lazy people do it.

I’m getting ready to head out of New York, having taken in my first All-Star Game. Gotta say, the entire experience exceeded my expectations.  Some random observations as I prepare to book it back to America’s Heartland:

  • The Futures Game was more fun than I figured it would be. I touched on it a bit on Monday morning, but there is a lot of fun to be had seeing players you’ve never seen before. Sadly, however, way fewer people see the Futures Game than really should. Note to Major League Baseball: do not schedule the Futures Game opposite actual Major League action on Sunday. Give it its own day on Monday, move the Home Run Derby to Tuesday and the All-Star Game to Wednesday. You’d get yourself three days of feature programming and way more people could enjoy the Futures Game.
  • The Home Run Derby is probably the least interesting of the three main on-field events during All-Star Week. I don’t know how to spice it up. Maybe make a baseball triathlon of sorts, with a skills competition. Something involving running, throws from the outfield, precision bunting, whatever. I don’t know. The Derby just gets so tedious after a while, and I feel like the only reason it’s as long as it is is to justify a block of three hours of programming on ESPN. A baseball game is worth that. Batting practice isn’t.
  • Some people are saying last night’s game was uneventful. I don’t care. It felt way more like a real baseball game than a lot of recent All-Star Games. Good defense and some fun running and things. It put me in mind of 1988 baseball. And I really love 1988-style baseball. Except defense is way better now than it was in 1988.
  • I was happy this morning to wake up and read that the bulk of the commentary about last night’s game focused on Mariano Rivera being wonderful rather than “why didn’t Jim Leyland let him get the save?!” arglebargle. I’m sure some of that exists, of course. And if you think that you probably need to re-examine your priorities.
  • I rode the media bus back to Manhattan with former Royals/Rangers/Yankees/Pirates catcher Don Slaught last night. Slaught owns a company called RightViewPro which does video imaging of ballplayers for scouting and training purposes. He has come to nine straight All-Star Games where he sets up cameras to capture the swings of players, which he then breaks down, compares to others, uses for scouting and training and stuff.  Sounds like a neat operation, and not just because he claims that, if you do a video comparison, Ichiro and Mickey Mantle essentially have the same mechanics at the point of contact. Smart guy and a nice guy. And he’s fully aware that his 1990 and 1992 Strat-o-Matic cards are wonderful.
  • I’m not sure how it happened, but there are a lot of you in comments and on Twitter who got it in their head that I hate New York. Nothing could be further from the truth. New York is wonderful and amazing. To visit. Which is what I am doing, so this has been a fantastic few days. To the extent I’ve been critical or complainy it’s way more about me and my sensibilities not being all that compatible with life in a giant city for more than a few days, not a criticism of the city itself. In other words, it’s not you, New York, it’s me. And I know that. Besides, this place is beautiful. Even at 1AM:

source:

Thanks for everything New York. Hope Minneapolis is just as much fun for next year’s All-Star Game.

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)
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: