NLDS Braves Giants Baseball

Baseball says the challenge system will foster baseball’s “uniqueness and charm.” Baloney.

75 Comments

Baseball officials announced their expanded replay plan a little while ago. There was no formal vote on it today. Owners will vote on that come November. It will have to be approved by the players and the umpires unions as well.

The upshot: Managers will have one challenge each in the first six innings of each game. They will be given two more from inning seven until the end of the game.  If they use a challenge in the first six innings and they’re successful, they retain the right to challenge. If they are wrong, they’ve burnt it. It is unclear if an unused challenge in innings one through six carries over to give a manager three challenges in the final three. It is also unclear what happens if a game goes 18 innings or something. Guess it’s tough luck?

As for the breakdown of challenges: it makes total sense once you realize that bad calls in games all cluster toward the end rather than toward the beginning, by definition. And that games can truly only be decided on bad calls at the end rather than early on. And that managers should be penalized by losing challenge rights if they make a challenge on a close play they legitimately thought was wrong early on but were mistaken. This is a clearly and scientifically thought out process, you see.

But it’s not just for the science. The owners truly have baseball’s flavor and history in mind:

In the event that you didn’t catch my sarcasm above, do know that I am convinced that a challenge system is a bad idea. I’ve felt this way for a long time. But what I didn’t know until a few minutes ago is that it is being promoted by clearly delusional people who are either unwilling or incapable of providing a real reason why a challenge system is the best system rather than peddle this obvious nonsense.

There is nothing “unique” here as the NFL has a challenge system that baseball is just trying to graft on to its own sport regardless of the differences in pace of play, time stoppages and nature of the game. And it’s not like “uniqueness” should be in the top ten of all reasons to do replay. Indeed, the only point of replay is to make sure calls that are wrong are corrected. If your plan has an aim or effect that strays from that point — like, say, it only allows a certain number of calls to be corrected in certain random situations — you have created a system that misses the bleedin’ point.

As for “charm,” well, I personally find nothing more charming than a manager who is up to his neck in stress over the matchups and bullpen situation of a close game trying to quickly ascertain (a) whether a call is right or wrong; (b) what the relevant rule is for the given call; (c) whether he should challenge it or not; and (d) whether, even if doesn’t think it was wrong, if there are ulterior motives for challenging it. All this is going on while Joe Buck and Tim McCarver are talking about the challenge choices and comparing it to the NFL. Boy, that’d be as charming as a kindly old grandfather with a Georgia accent sipping lemonade on a front porch under decorative bunting.

I want ALL calls that are missed being corrected, not just some. I want baseball and its umpires working to make sure the calls are correct — not managers — because it is their responsibility to get calls right in the first place. I want a fifth ump in the booth who can watch plays on video in real time and call down to his crew-mates if a mistake is made. Short of that I want a guy in a control center in New York who can, effectively, do the same thing. The key is for umpires to get collaborative, constructive assistance in getting things right, not to be challenged — literally challenged — when they make a mistake.

Listen to your former boss, Mike Port, umpires, and vote this down. Save yourself from being stuck in the clubhouse watching on TV so you can alert your skipper when a call is blown, players, and vote this down too. Owners and Bud Selig? Drop this pure baloney about “uniqueness and charm” and either provide an actual, adult reason why this is the best system you could come up with or else drop it and go with something that isn’t so manifestly flawed.

Don Mattingly thinks pace of play can be improved by changing views on strikeouts

Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly sits in the dugout prior to a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Los Angeles, Monday, April 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)
AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo
3 Comments

Marlins manager Don Mattingly has one potential solution to the pace of play issue: change the way people value strikeouts, the Associated Press reports.

Strikeouts have been rising steadily since 2005. Then, a typical game averaged 6.30 strikeouts. In 2016, there were 8.03 strikeouts per game. There are many explanations for this phenomenon. For one, teams are searching specifically for young pitchers who can throw hard — like triple-digits hard. They figure they can teach them the other pertinent skills in the minors. Second, Sabermetrics has shown that a strikeout is only marginally worse than an out made on a ball put in play. Sometimes, the strikeout is preferable, especially if there’s a runner on first base with less than two outs and a weak hitter at the plate. Sabermetrics has also shown home runs to be the best and most efficient way to contribute on offense. Furthermore, younger players tend to focus more on power in order to get noticed by scouts. Unless it’s paired with other elite skills, a scout isn’t going to remember a player who hit the ball into the hole on the right side, but he will remember the kid who blasted a 450-foot homer.

Here’s what Mattingly had to say:

Analytically, a few years back nobody cared about the strikeout, so it’s OK to strike out 150, 160, 170 times, and that guy’s still valued in a big way. Well, as soon as we start causing that to be a bad value — the strikeouts — guys will put the ball in play more. So once we say strikeouts are bad and it’s going to cost you money the more you strike out, then the strikeouts will go away. Guys will start making adjustments and putting the ball in play more.

[…]

If our game values [say that] strikeouts don’t matter, they are going to keep striking out, hitting homers, trying to hit home runs and striking out.

Simply believing strikeouts are bad won’t magically change its value. However, creating social pressure regarding striking out can change it. Theoretically, anyway. Creating that social pressure is easier said than done.

There is a dichotomy here as well. Home runs are exciting. Strikeouts and walks are not. Often, though, the three go hand-in-hand-in-hand. A player actively trying to cut down on his strikeouts by putting the ball in play will also likely cut down on his strikeout and walk rates. There doesn’t seem to be an elegant solution here. Wishing for fewer strikeouts, walks, and homers doesn’t really seem to give way to a more exciting game.

Sean Doolittle: “Refugees aren’t stealing a slice of the pie from Americans.”

ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 25:  Sean Doolittle #62 of the Oakland Athletics pitches during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on June 25, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
30 Comments

In the past, we’ve commented on Athletics reliever Sean Doolittle and his girlfriend Eireann Dolan’s community service. In 2015, the pair hosted Syrian refugee families for Thanksgiving and their other charitable efforts have included LGBTQ outreach and help for veterans.

Athletes and their significant others have typically avoided stepping into political waters, but Doolittle and Dolan have shown that it’s clearly no concern to them. In the time since, the Syrian refugee issue has become even more of a hot-button issue and Doolittle recently discussed it with Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.

I think America is the best country in the world because we’ve been able to attract the best and brightest people from all over the world. We have the smartest doctors and scientists, the most creative and innovative thinkers. A travel ban like this puts that in serious jeopardy.

I’ve always thought that all boats rise with the tide. Refugees aren’t stealing a slice of the pie from Americans. But if we include them, we can make the pie that much bigger, thus ensuring more opportunities for everyone.

Doolittle, of course, is referring to Executive Order 13769 signed by President Trump which sought to limit incoming travel to the United States from seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. A temporary restraining order on the executive order was placed on February 3, a result of State of Washington v. Trump.

Doolittle spoke more about the plight refugees face:

These are people fleeing civil wars, violence and oppression that we can’t even begin to relate to. I think people think refugees just kind of decide to come over. They might not realize it takes 18-24 months while they wait in a refugee camp. They go through more than 20 background checks and meetings with immigration officers. They are being vetted.

They come here, and they want to contribute to society. They’re so grateful to be out of a war zone or whatever they were running from in their country that they get jobs, their kids go to our schools, they’re paying taxes, and in a lot of cases, they join our military.

Around this time last year, Craig wrote about Doolittle and Dolan not sticking to baseball. They’re still not, nor should they be. Hopefully, the duo’s outspokenness inspires other players and their loved ones to speak up for what’s right.

[Hat tip: Deadspin’s Hannah Keyser]