Bud Selig

Winners and losers of the Alex Rodriguez arbitration decision

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This wasn’t just about A-Rod and Bud Selig going to head to head. There are a lot of winners and losers here. Some are people. Some are documents. Some are ideas and ideals. Let’s look at the immediate fallout:

Winner: Major League Baseball: The league wanted A-Rod gone through 2014 and, in all likelihood, believe that means he will be gone for good. That’s what the 211-game suspension was all about in the first place and, with the exception of those 40-some games A-Rod played last year, they’re getting what they wanted. Barring an absolute miracle, A-Rod will not see a baseball diamond until 2015.

Loser: A-Rod: Obviously. The suspension he’ll now serve is far closer to the original 211-games he was given than whatever number he either wanted or would have accepted in some sort of deal. There have been various reports regarding whether there was ever really a chance of a deal being struck, but it’s safe to say he wouldn’t have agreed to 162. He loses the 2014 season, $27.5 million and, unless he stays in great shape and convinces someone to take a chance on him in 2015, he may have played his last game as a major league baseball player.

Winner: Bud Selig: The Commissioner has tried, for many years, to declare either an end to The Steroids Era in baseball (that was the idea behind the Mitchell Report and the adoption of drug testing) or at least to put someone’s face on baseball’s performance enhancing drug problems other than his own. With nearly a year of negative headlines about A-Rod and the other Biogenesis-implicated players and now with this suspension, Alex Rodriguez will be that face. Bud Selig can and likely will declare victory here. And, deserved or not, history will agree with him.

Loser: Baseball’s Drug Testing program: At least as it was originally intended to be and as most drug testing advocates believe a good drug testing and punishment system should function. Zero tolerance. Automatic penalties. No room for human judgment or mercy or consideration. An athlete tests positive? He’s gone. For a set time that everyone knows about beforehand.  With the A-Rod decision bringing us a suspension that was clearly engineered to meet human desires (i.e. to have A-Rod gone through the end of 2014), and was clearly based on Major League Baseball’s subjective judgment of how bad A-Rod behaved as opposed to whether this was a first, second or third offense, we are in a new world. Now that baseball has seen that it can get away with suspending players longer than 50 games a long as they claim that the player was somehow uncooperative or evasive, why wouldn’t they try to do it more often?

Winner: The New York Yankees. They may not crow about it because it would look unseemly, but you can bet your life that they are jumping for joy at the Yankees offices today. That’s $27.5 million off the books for this season and, possibly, a shot at getting their payroll under $189 million, which will help them out in the luxury tax department. Even if that doesn’t happen — signing Masahiro Tanaka, for example, could kill those hopes — it’s a lot of money saved. Also: the uncertainty surrounding whether or not A-Rod can play or not is over. This is the first season in at least two, but maybe more, that the headlines shouldn’t be dominated by Alex Rodriguez.

Loser: The MLBPA: In some ways this was out of its control, as Alex Rodriguez swept aside their defense in favor of his own legal team, but this is a defeat for the union all the same. No matter how much Bud Selig denies it, there was an effort to make an example of A-Rod here, and unions exist in part to prevent that sort of thing from happening to its members. The union was basically powerless in that regard. It’s hard to see, if MLB wants to go after someone like this again, how the union can stop them.

Winner: Alex Rodriguez’s attorneys: Sure, they lost the arbitration, but they made a lot of money in the process. And got a lot of publicity. And, if A-Rod truly intends to appeal to federal court — which I believe would be foolish — they will make even more money.  Why would he do that? Because, I’m guessing, they’ve convinced a man with more money than savvy that he has a better chance than he does. Lawyers want to win, but they also want to get paid, and A-Rod money will be covering boat payments and mortgages on vacation homes for his legal team for many, many years.

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: