Which isn’t to say he was a fraud or anything like that. The man who sang “God Bless America” during last night’s game was a Marine and he had permission from the Marines to wear the uniform. And, based on his back story — he’s a former state trooper who served with distinction — he seems like a fine man.
But as Deadspin reports today, he was not a “retired” Marine as that term is typically employed. And, all things being equal, he should not have been permitted to wear his Marine uniform due to the regulations which attach to Marines who have separated from service. It’s an interesting read, so go check it out.
My view: this is the result, I think, of the extreme level of militarism and patriotism to the point of jingoism that has come to characterize Major League Baseball’s big events. It’s become such an imperative in the minds of the league that they — or whoever allowed this — is now willing to risk skirting the normal rules of military decorum in order to have a guy in uniform on the field snapping a salute in dress blues. As if it would be awful to not have a uniformed serviceman sing a song. As Deadspin’s story makes clear, though, the league does so at the cost of ticking off some Marine veterans, and at some point we have to ask ourselves if we’ve gone overboard with this stuff.
Tonight: The Anthem and “America the Beautiful” (which should be the Anthem in my view and is way better than “God Bless America”) will be sung by James Taylor. Let me preempt all of tomorrow’s controversy, though, by getting it out there: though he will likely be described as a “singer/songwriter” tonight, two of his biggest hits were written by Carole King and the Holland, Dozier, Holland songwriting team, respectively.
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: