Carlos Gomez

Why do people bother to hate professional athletes?

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Got a comment from longtime reader DelawarePhilliesFan in the Carlos Gomez video thread this morning:

There is this interesting streak in Craig….it seems to me to be part contrarian, part defense lawyer, part some sort of big brother protectorate….probably some other things too. As soon as people don’t like a player, he has falls in LOVE with that player and goes on these defense missions.

There is some truth to that, of course. I do tend to be drawn to underdogs or hated figures and I do like to mount unpopular arguments. Just part of how I roll.

However, I think there is a much more interesting question about all of this than why I defend unpopular or hated players like Carlos Gomez: Why, on Earth, do players like Carlos Gomez inspire hatred in the first place?

I get it when an athlete is truly an awful person. Like, in real life. If they’re a criminal or if they’r violent or whatever, obviously, people hating them is understandable.  But I am generally baffled at the vast majority of athletes who get placed in the villain role. It’s sports. And while, yes, sports can inspire emotion, I don’t get people who allow it to inspire negative emotion. Or, at the very least, people who hold on to that negative emotion long enough to form character judgments about athletes and to continue beating some drum against them.

Sports are great, but they pale in importance to stuff in real life. And if aspects of them are so unpleasant that they inspire you to hatred or even sustained disapproval — if an athlete angers you to the point where you feel the need to go on about it and let it color your opinions of the game — why on Earth don’t you disengage? Who wants to hate things they don’t have to?

UPDATE: A reader just sent me a link that I think goes a long way to explain all of this.

UPDATE II: This wonderful piece by John Thorn explains a lot of it too. This stuff just fascinates me.

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: