Michael Morse

Giants’ back woes lead to flight upgrades

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PHOENIX – The Giants were concerned enough with the ergonomic health of their players that they invested in a larger chartered jet this season that features more first class seats.

And here you thought the term “wide body” only applied to Pablo Sandoval.

Well, it was a good thought, anyway.

Maybe it’s time to replace the flight attendants with chiropractors, make Barry Bonds’ old Barcalounger standard issue in the clubhouse and fit everyone for custom orthotics. Because this is officially the Year of the Bad Back.

Michael Morse could play outfield in a pinch Sunday after exiting Saturday’s game in the fifth inning because of back stiffness. That’s more than manager Bruce Bochy will get out of Angel Pagan, who hits home runs in batting practice yet remains unavailable for a sixth consecutive game because of his back discomfort.

Buster Posey has dealt with a bad back this season. And of course, Marco Scutaro hasn’t played at all.

“We’ve done things to make it more comfortable, more first class seats,” Bochy said. “We’ve done that to make the travel easier on the back.”

Morse jokingly blamed the soft beds at the Ritz Carlton for his back issues. He doesn’t believe they are significant, which is a good thing since Morse is the only backup outfielder at Bochy’s disposal behind Gregor Blanco, Tyler Colvin and Hunter Pence.

(Colvin had a bad back in the spring, by the way, and Pence has been icing his back as well.)

The disabled list isn’t out of the question for Pagan, although the Giants continue to delay the decision because their leadoff hitter still could return within a day or two. If he were to go on the DL, he’d miss the next eight games including Sunday.

“Angel’s about the same, which is good,” Bochy said. “It hasn’t gotten any worse with baseball activities. Morse is hoping to play (Monday) and we’ll have a pretty good idea on both of them by then.”

Outfielder Juan Perez, who was optioned to make room for second baseman Joe Panik on Saturday, didn’t leave to join Triple-A Fresno in Texas. Instead he’ll go back to San Francisco just in case the Giants need to bring him back to replace Pagan on the roster.

In the meantime, Panik is making his first big league start Sunday as the Giants try for a series victory behind Madison Bumgarner. They hope to follow that up with a happy – and comfortably short – flight home.

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: