Bobby Valentine would welcome automated ball and strike calls

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Bobby Valentine got ejected arguing balls and strikes on Sunday. Yesterday he was asked about it and went on for some time about how insufficient human umpires are when it comes to calling the balls and the strikes.

He didn’t quite call for robot umpires at first. After talking about how bad it was that umpires can’t get the calls right and after decrying  the “human element,” he said “let the humans do it somehow.”  But then he was pushed a bit:

Reminded that humans are bound to make mistakes in whatever job, Valentine responded: “Don’t make it their job, then. The rule book doesn’t say that the game will be played and arbitrarily ruled.”  Valentine said umpires are “well-trained and very good at what they do. But I think it’s almost impossible to do what they do. So why do we ask them to do the impossible?

He went on to note how these days pitchers throw stuff that has all kinds of crazy late movement that is often invisible from an umpire’s point of view, adding “They can’t see it. They’re humans. We’re asking humans to do a feat that a human can’t do.”

This is probably the closest I’ve heard any active umpire call for automated umpiring of any kind. Indeed, most even stop short of calling for more replay, even right after their teams are boned by a bad call and they all but implore the league to do something about it.  It’s almost as if there is some diktat imposed on managers by the league to avoid talking about such things.

If there is one, though, Valentine certainly ignored it here, even as he tried not to. He’s one guy who would welcome automated ball-and-strike calls. I bet he won’t be the last.

There was another miscommunication between the Phillies and Pat Neshek

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Back in June 2017, then-manager of the Phillies Pete Mackanin and reliever Pat Neshek had some miscommunication. In a series against the Cardinals, Neshek worked a five-pitch eighth inning and it was believed he would come back out for the ninth inning, but he never did. Mackanin said Neshek said he didn’t want to pitch another inning. Neshek said he was never asked. There was also some miscommunication the game prior. Neshek thought he had the day off; Mackanin said Neshek said he wasn’t available to pitch.

Mackanin is no longer the Phillies’ manager, but the miscommunication between Neshek and the team apparently persist. Neshek was notably absent during the Phillies’ hard-fought 5-4 win over the Cubs on Monday night. The game featured a struggling Seranthony Domínguez pitching two innings, yielding three crucial runs in his second inning of work.

Manager Gabe Kapler called the bullpen and instructed Neshek to begin warming up to prepare to face Albert Almora, Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Kapler rang the bullpen after Domínguez walked Jason Heyward, who batted ahead of Almora. Neshek wasn’t warmed up yet. Domínguez was able to retire Almora on a sacrifice bunt, which was reviewed and gave Neshek some extra time to get ready. He was ready for the next batter, Daniel Descalso, but at this point Kapler no longer wanted to bring Neshek into the game. Descalso lined a triple to left-center field, scoring two runs and came home himself when shortstop Jean Segura‘s throw caromed off of his foot out of play.

Recounting the situation, Neshek said, “I got on the mound and threw two pitches. [Kapler] said, ‘Is he ready?’ And I said, ‘No. I’m not ready yet. I’ve thrown two pitches.” Neshek was asked how long it takes him to get ready. The veteran said, “A minute. Not 20 seconds. I’m, like, the best in the league at getting ready. My whole career has been coming in like that.”

The Phillies were able to eke out a 5-4 win. Had they lost the game, Kapler and Neshek would likely have been under the microscope for the awkward situation leading to a crushing defeat. Kapler drew plenty of criticism over his bullpen management last year in his rookie managerial season. That included bringing in lefty reliever Hoby Milner into a game in which he hadn’t yet warmed up.

Maybe it’s just a coincidence that the manager who struggled with bullpen management last year nearly mucked up a win last night, and maybe it’s just a coincidence that a reliever who’s had prior issues with communication had another communication mix-up. Maybe it’s not. It’s worth noting that the Phillies needed three innings from the bullpen to protect a 2-1 lead over the Cubs on Tuesday. Kapler called on rookie Edgar Garcia for two outs, lefty José Álvarez for four, and then brought in Juan Nicasio to close things out in the ninth. No Neshek, even as Nicasio got into trouble. Nicasio would surrender the tying and go-ahead runs, resulting in a deflating 3-2 loss.