John Farrell, Dan BEllion

The Red Sox are four-deep on the manager depth chart against the Rays

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On Sunday, the benches cleared in a game between the Red Sox and Rays in Florida. The Red Sox weren’t happy that Yunel Escobar stole third base with a five-run lead in the bottom of the seventh inning. The bad blood continued on Friday night’s game between the two teams, this time in Boston.

In the first inning, Rays starter David Price hit Red Sox DH David Ortiz, prompting home plate umpire Dan Bellino to issue warnings to both benches. This didn’t sit well with Red Sox manager John Farrell, so he came out to argue with Bellino. It’s understandable — the Rays got their chance to throw at someone, while the Red Sox would not be afforded such an opportunity. Farrell was ejected.

Bench coach Torey Lovullo took over for Farrell. Price hit Mike Carp with a pitch in the bottom of the fourth inning, prompting both dugouts to empty. Bellino concluded that Price did not intentionally hit Carp, so he did not eject Price. Lovullo spoke his mind to Bellino before being ejected. Third base coach Brian Butterfield took Lovullo’s spot in the dugout as manager of the Red Sox.

In the top of the sixth, Sox starter Brandon Workman threw behind Rays third baseman Evan Longoria. Bellino ejected Workman for intentionally throwing at a batter, and Butterfield was automatically ejected as well. Hitting coach Greg Colbrunn became the latest acting manager, and Burke Badenhop replaced Workman on the mound.

For those keeping score at home, here are the managers the Red Sox have gone through tonight:

  • John Farrell
  • Torey Luvullo
  • Brian Butterfield
  • Greg Colbrunn

If Colbrunn is ejected, the Red Sox may have to bring back Bobby Valentine. (I shamelessly stole this joke from D.J. Short on Twitter.)

Also of note: the Rays have hit two Red Sox with pitches, and no one has been ejected. The Red Sox have hit no one (but intentionally threw at Longoria, of course) and have had four members ejected. To be fair, however, they did start the whole shebang by getting upset over a very questionable reading of baseball’s unwritten rules.

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: