Turner Field

Georgia Court of Appeals declines to dismiss foul ball lawsuit against Braves

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It was reported back in 2012 that the Braves were sued by the family of a six-year-old girl whose skull was fractured by a foul ball during a game at Turner Field on August 30, 2010. The case is moving forward for now.

According to Bill Rankin of the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, the Georgia Court of Appeals has declined to dismiss the lawsuit against the team. In addition, they will not adopt “The Baseball Rule,” which is potentially significant.

The rule, already in force in other states, says if a stadium operator provides screening behind home plate — the most dangerous place in the stands — and enough seats for spectators who want to sit there, it cannot be held liable for balls and bats that enter the stands and cause injuries.

The Braves, joined by the office of Major League Baseball’s Commissioner, Bud Selig, had asked the court to impose the rule, which would have essentially rendered the father’s lawsuit null and void.

The appeals court upheld a ruling by Fulton County State Court Judge Patsy Porter who declined to declare the “Baseball Rule” is Georgia law.

“At this stage of this litigation, we find no error in the trial court’s refusal to make such a declaration of law,” wrote Judge Elizabeth Branch for a unanimous three-judge appeals court panel.

The child was struck by a foul ball off the bat of then-Braves outfielder Melky Cabrera while sitting behind the third base dugout. As a result, she fractured her skull in 40 places and suffered a traumatic brain injury. The family believes that the netting should be extended at MLB stadiums due to the danger of batted balls.

Lawsuits such as this one are rarely successful. Still, there has been some momentum against “The Baseball Rule” of late, as the Idaho Supreme Court ruled last year that a man could seek damages after he was hit with a foul ball during a minor league game in 2008 and lost his eye.

When you buy a ticket, you are warned about the dangers of potential batted and thrown balls or broken or thrown bats, but whether children are truly capable of protecting themselves is an important question. Extending the screens along the baselines likely won’t happen, but MLB and teams should do more to warn people about how dangerous it is to sit in these specific areas, especially with how many distractions there are in ballparks these days.

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: