Stephen Drew Getty

There are unwritten rules for front offices too

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Yesterday, when the Red Sox signed Stephen Drew, they said that they’d send him down to the minors to get game-ready for seven to ten days. The problem? He’s long since out of minor league options and since he’s not on the disabled list it’s not like the Sox could just send him on a rehab assignment. The solution: optional waivers, which allow the Sox to get him off the 25-man roster for a few days, replace him with someone else and allow him to get game-ready.

A problem with that? Like all waivers, other teams could claim Drew when the Sox do that. Now, they’re revocable waivers so it’s not like the Sox would actually lose him, but if he were claimed and the Sox pulled him back he’d be stuck on the big league roster and the Sox would either have to use him now or play a man short until he’s ready.

As Ken Rosenthal of Fox explains today, however, that’s not going to happen. Why? A gentlemen’s agreement:

Why wouldn’t an AL East competitor such as the Yankees claim Drew and force the Red Sox to keep him in the majors and play one man short until he is game ready? Because, rival executives said, such a violation of protocol would invite retribution, prompting the Red Sox to respond by claiming players from the offending club . . .

. . . “If you start a war like that, they will get you later,” the exec said. “The tit-for-tat is not really worth it.”

I totally get that, even if I generally disdain gentlemen’s agreements on the grounds that, inevitably, you encounter people who are less-than-gentlemen who ruin it for everyone else. Better bet is to have rules in place the avoid the need for such arrangements. At the end of the column Rosenthal makes much the same point.

Of course, this is baseball. And if streamlined efficiency was an important consideration, lots of rules would need to be changed, the game would probably be unrecognizable and Josh Beckett would be out of a job. So what I’m saying is that it’s a mixed bag.

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)
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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)
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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: