Archive

Archive for August, 2013

Kudos to MLB for Expanding Instant Replay

August 20, 2013 Leave a comment

Major League Baseball announced last week that the 2014 season would see significant expansion of their instant replay rules. Managers would receive 1 “challenge,” much like an NFL coach’s challenge, in the first six innings, and then 2 in the final three. Umpires will consult with a crew in New York City, much like the NHL’s system of calling Toronto, and would relay the decision from New York to the playing field.

It marks a massive breakthrough in the debate that has swirled around baseball for years now–how much instant replay should be allowed in the game, and how should it be done if implemented?

At first, I sided with the traditionalists about instant replay. Umpires are human, humans make mistakes, and it’s all part of the game. Such a drastic change to the oldest U.S. major sport–America’s Pastime–just isn’t natural. How would the greats like Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Babe Ruth, etc. feel about this?

Writer’s Note: Prior to writing this, I looked in my “All Posts” section on WordPress, and found a draft from two summers ago about how instant replay would be bad for baseball. Interesting how times change.

Over time, though, more and more games were decided by an umpire’s blown call, some more crucial than others. Take the Jerry Meals call that started the Pirates’ freefall a couple of years ago. The Atlanta runner, Julio Lugo, was CLEARLY out, which in the 2nd inning wouldn’t be a huge deal. However, this run won the game for the Braves. It was over–the blown call directly impacted the outcome of the game. This isn’t to say that Jerry Meals is directly responsible for the Pirates’ entire faceplant–the Pirates played terrible baseball down the stretch–but maybe the Pirates get a huge extra-inning win on the road and use it to build some momentum if the correct call is made.

Yes, games in the 20’s were also decided by incorrect calls. But if we have the technology to get these games as properly called as possible, especially when the game is on the line, then why shouldn’t we use it?

Critics point out that already-long games would take even longer. And while this is true, I would much rather attend a game that lasts 3:30 and is properly called than a 3:00 game that analysts talk about for weeks after a blown call that directly costs a team a game.

It also needs to be repeated that managers can’t challenge any and every call on the field. Managers also cannot challenge balls and strikes, which is the high majority of any player or manager’s beef with the umpires.

In reality, I really don’t see many challenges being used over the course of a game, if any at all. Watch a MLB game closely, and excluding balls and strikes, count how many plays would likely be challenged in a normal game.

– Fair/foul home runs and hits down the lines

– Outs at bases

– Trapped balls in the outfield

– Plays at the plate

Probably more, but that will be the high majority, and how often do we see arguments about these plays? For your favorite team, probably once every few games.

Just think, if this system were put in place from the beginning, these famous blown calls may never have happened. Fun to think about how these games would have actually ended had the correct call been made.

– Armando Galarraga’s “perfect” game in 2010

– The Cardinals would have had the first out in the 9th inning of Game 6 of the 1985 World Series. Maybe they get the last two and win the Series?

– Derek Jeter’s famous home run–with a little help from Jeffrey Maier–would have been a double. Would the Orioles keep Jeter from scoring?

We have the technology to make the game as close to perfect as possible when it comes to umpiring. Umpires are on the field to make calls, not single-handedly decide the outcome of a game. In the rare instances in which an umpire’s decision directly affects the outcome, those calls need to be correct. This new challenge system should go a long way toward accomplishing that goal.

Advertisements

What a Second Triple Crown Would Mean for Miguel Cabrera

August 12, 2013 Leave a comment

After hitting three home runs in Yankee Stadium over the weekend (including two off of Mariano Rivera, the best closer of all time), Detroit Tigers’ third baseman Miguel Cabrera upped his home run total for 2013 to 36. As of the morning of August 12, Cabrera sits six long balls behind the Orioles’ Chris Davis for the American League lead. With a commanding lead in batting average (.365–Mike Trout is next at .330), and the slimmest of leads in RBI (110 to Davis’ 109), Cabrera has a legitimate chance to capture his second consecutive Triple Crown–a first in Major League Baseball.

Let’s put this in a bit of perspective. According to Baseball-Reference.com, 89,929 batters have played Major League ball since 1871. Of those nearly 90,000, only 14 players have led their respective league in batting average, home runs, and RBI in the same season. Of those 14, two have accomplished the feat twice (Rogers Hornsby in 1922, 1925 and Ted Williams in 1942, 1947). With a second Triple Crown win this season, Cabrera would become the first do ever do so in consecutive seasons, capping off two of the best offensive seasons in baseball history. And as it turns out, this season’s Triple Crown would be one of the best ever.

ESPN projects that based on Cabrera’s current stats and averages, the Tigers’ third baseman would complete the season with a .365 batting average, 50 home runs, and 154 RBI. If Cabrera were to overtake Davis for the home run lead, and claim his second consecutive Triple Crown, here is where those numbers would rank among all Triple Crown-winning seasons:

.365 BA: 8th of 17. While the number appears to be middle-of-the-road, keep in mind that four Triple Crowns were won with a batting average above .400, and Cabrera’s 2013 mark would be the highest AL Triple Crown-winning batting average since Ty Cobb’s mark of .377 in 1909.

50 HR: 2nd of 17. Only three players have hit more than 44 HR in a TC-winning season, and only Mickey Mantle of the 1956 Yankees topped 50, swatting 52 in his Triple Crown campaign. Cabrera would sit in second place, one ahead of Lou Gehrig in 1934, two ahead of Jimmie Foxx in 1933, and six ahead of his own mark in 2012.

154 RBI: T-3rd of 17. Only four Triple Crown seasons have hit 150 RBI as the high-water mark, and none have done so since Joe Medwick for the 1937 St. Louis Cardinals had 154 to lead the National League. Cabrera’s pace would put him in a tie with Medwick for 3rd place, 11 RBI behind Lou Gehrig’s 165 in 1934 for best all time.

Even though Cabrera is on pace for one of the greatest offensive seasons in baseball history, it is worth noting that Triple Crowns don’t always translate into World Series rings. In the 13 seasons in which a player won a Triple Crown in the World Series era, only Mickey Mantle with the 1956 Yankees and Frank Robinson with the 1966 Baltimore Orioles have gone on to win it all. That said, it never hurts to have the Triple Crown winner in the middle of the lineup.

Miguel Cabrera is already the best hitter on the planet right now. Winning a second consecutive Triple Crown would cement his legacy as one of the greatest of all time.

There’s No Place in Baseball for Alex Rodriguez

Enough with the New York Yankees-MLB-Alex Rodriguez soap opera.

I’ll be the first to say, I loved Alex Rodriguez for a long time. That Mariners team of Griffey, Rodriguez, Buhner, Randy Johnson, etc. was so much fun to follow. He was one of my favorite players for a while.

But then steroids happened. And a massive contract happened. And the first New York/A-Rod soap opera happened. Fast forward all these years, and I just want him to shut up.

Funny thing is, that as much as I hate to admit it, I really feel bad for the Yankees right now. They traded for Rodriguez at the prime of his career, and have dealt with his ego, attitude, and (more recently) injuries the entire time. He has under-performed in the playoffs, only helped them win one ring (2009), and has been a constant distraction for years.

That said, the Yankees are not innocent victims here. Far from it. The “Evil Empire” made the choice to extend Rodriguez and make his deal worth an insane 10 years and $275 million (plus another $30M of potential performance bonuses), when the guy was already 32 years old! It’s clear that the organization wants to be rid of Rodriguez and his contract, but that’s what happens with this mega-contracts.

But the way that Rodriguez has treated the Yankees of late, and the media frenzy he has caused, has been disgusting. He admitted to using steroids from 2001-2003 in a 2009 interview, and now is facing suspension for being involved in the Biogenesis scandal hitting the MLB. His hip injuries are his own thing, but calling in his own doctor for a second opinion without team approval is just childish. Going to the media about how the Yankees are out to get him, and won’t let him play even though his quad strain isn’t an issue, is unnecessary.

The worst part about all of this for the Yankees, though, is if all of this Biogenesis stuff is true. Reports indicate that the MLB wants to ban Rodriguez for life based on tampering with the investigation against him, as well as other labor violations in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). If it’s true, Rodriguez will have lied to both the MLB and the Yankees about his performance-enhancing drug (PED) use, meaning the Yankees will have paid millions of dollars for a fraud.

Void his contract and kick him out of the game.

Is what Pete Rose did really worse than this? Rodriguez knowingly cheated, lied about it repeatedly, then continued his involvement with the Biogenesis clinic, and allegedly “coerced” a witness during MLB’s investigation into the matter. This guy clearly thinks he’s above the game, and continues making these terrible choices even after being caught.

The MLB needs to send a message with this: no one is above the game. Cheat and you will be caught. Continue and your punishment will increase. Go as far as to tamper with MLB operations, and you’re out.

Sadly, this may not happen. Rodriguez’s reps are hammering out a settlement to avoid arbitration and a fight from the players’ union. A message will still be sent, but not to the extent that it should.