The Rule 5 draft took place this morning. It’s traditionally the last thing that happens at the Winter Meetings, so there’s a bittersweet element to it I suppose. We all have to go home today. We all get to go home today. It’s like any vacation story I suppose.
It’s not a terribly interesting event in and of itself, however. It moves quickly. Most “rounds” as it were involve teams passing on a selection. As it is limited to players who (a) have a good amount of minor league service time; but (b) are still not on their club’s 40-man roster, the vast majority of names of available and selected players are anonymous to all but the most hardcore fans and/or prospect watchers.
Of course there are some notable historical exceptions. Johan Santana was a Rule 5 guy once upon a time. As was Josh Hamilton and Shane Victorino and Dan Uggla. But finding good major league regulars in the Rule 5 is pretty rare. And they have to be good enough to be major leaguers at least, because anyone who selects a player in the major league portion of the Rule 5 draft has to keep them on their big league roster — the 25-man roster, not the 40-man — all year or else he is returned to his original club. Of course teams can and often do DL Rule 5 guys with dubious injuries in order to stash them, but that’s another topic altogether.
In any event, 45 guys were selected in the Rule 5 draft this morning. Only nine of those were in the major league portion:
- The Astros drafted lefty Patrick Schuster from the Diamondbacks;
- The White Sox drafted catcher Adrian Nieto from the Nationals;
- The Phillies drafted righty Kevin Munson from the Diamondbacks;
- The Rockies drafted righty Tommy Kahnle from the Yankees;
- The Blue Jays drafted lefty Brian Moran from the Phillies;
- The Brewers drafted lefty Wei-Chung Wang from the Pirates;
- The Diamondbacks drafted righty Marcos Mateo from the Cubs; and
- The Orioles drafted third baseman Michael Almanzar from the Red Sox
Beyond that? a lot of minor league selections of no real note. Save one: Russell Wilson. Yes, the Seattle Seahawks QB. He was a second baseman in the Rockies system once upon a time. And though his baseball days are clearly over, the Texas Rangers selected him. Why? According go Ken Rosenthal of Fox, the Rangers want him in-house, in effect, to give motivational speeches and stuff next spring. For real.
Which, when you look at the value of most of the Rule 5 picks, you realize is not all that bad use of these particular resources.
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: