Nationals manager Davey Johnson, responsible for the organization’s first and only post-season appearance since moving to Washington in 2005, was honored before the first of two scheduled games against the Marlins today. Johnson is retiring after the season and will act as a consultant to the team going forward.
CSN Washington’s Mark Zuckerman described the event:
A touching video tribute featuring highlights from both Johnson’s playing and managing career preceded a string of thank-yous from former teammates, current coaches and most players on the Nationals roster. Managing principal owner Ted Lerner and general manager Mike Rizzo then presented Johnson with a personalized Tiffany and Co. crystal that read: “In celebration of your decorated baseball legacy and your contributions to the Washington Nationals.”
The crystal included the date “Sept. 21, 2013,” permanent evidence that this ceremony was originally planned for Saturday night but had to be postponed one day after the Nationals’ game against the Marlins was rained out.
Johnson had been saying he didn’t want a long, elaborate ceremony, and the Nationals kept this one fairly brief.
The Nationals lost to the Marlins in the afternoon game by a 4-2 score, which clinched the NL East for the Braves. They will play again this evening. Despite a late-season surge — the Nats are 23-8 since August 20 — it has been a difficult year in Washington as many expected the team to defend last year’s NL East title and make a deep run into the playoffs.
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: