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Sports Then and Now



Umpire Big Egos are a Bad Thing for Baseball 0

Posted on April 18, 2015 by Dean Hybl
Jordan Baker added himself to the list of awful ego-driven umpires by ejecting Ubaldo Jimenez during the Orioles-Red Sox game on April 17, 2015

Jordan Baker added himself to the list of awful ego-driven umpires by ejecting Ubaldo Jimenez during the Orioles-Red Sox game on April 17, 2015

Umpires who think they are bigger than the game has been a thorn in the side of baseball for generations. With Bud Selig, who seemed unwilling or incapable of addressing the problem, now out of the way, it is time for his replacement, Rob Manfred, to address this critical issue.

The problem was amplified last night when umpire Jordan Baker, who first umpired in the majors in 2012, made a ridiculous call that has the potential to impact one of the teams involved for days.

It is one thing when umpires make the wrong call on a close play and hold their ground. While you would hope they would be most concerned about getting plays right, part of being good at your job is feeling you are correct. Fortunately, the addition of replay as an opportunity to correct umpire mistakes has helped this phase of the game.

However, the bigger problem, and the one that Baker exemplified last night is when an umpire makes a horrible judgement call that cannot be altered by replay.

With the Baltimore Orioles clinging to a 1-0 lead with two outs and no one on base in the fourth inning, pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez was working on a no-hitter when Boston Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval came to the plate. Considering that Jimenez was horrible in 2014 and fortunate to even make the starting rotation this season, you can guarantee that his focus was to continue the scoreless streak he has had to start the season and to keep getting players out.

So when his first pitch to Sandoval, who as a left-handed hitter with a large figure is known for setting up close to the plate, sailed in and hit Sandoval below the shoulder with a slider, you can bet that he disappointed to have added a base runner, but ready to move on to the next batter, Mike Napoli.

Watching the game live, there seemed to be nothing out of the normal until suddenly Baker came out from behind home plate and immediately threw Jimenez out of the game. There had been no warning or any previous close pitches by either team.

According to crew chief Jerry Meals, who of course is going to defend his fellow umpire, Baker felt that Jimenez was retaliating for a hard slide Sandoval had made into second base earlier in the game.

First, even if the hit-by-pitch was done in retaliation, that is part of the game and has been for generations. However, there is no evidence that the errant pitch was related to any previous action. It was just a bad pitch. Read the rest of this entry →

Will Rob Manfred Make Baseball Better? 2

Posted on January 25, 2015 by Dean Hybl
On his first day as commissioner, Rob Manfred sent a letter to baseball fans outlining his immediate areas of focus.

On his first day as commissioner, Rob Manfred sent a letter to baseball fans outlining his immediate areas of focus.

Today is the beginning of a new era in Major League Baseball. After more than 20 years, Bud Selig has finally relinquished control of “America’s Pastime.” His replacement, Rob Manfred, will have a hard time being as bad for the game as Selig, so hopefully he will be a refreshing change for the sport and help return it to previous glory as one of America’s treasures.

Manfred’s first action was to write a letter to baseball fans telling them of his desire to grow the game among youth and within urban areas.

It is a nice thought, but based just on the language of his letter, I have a feeling he has a different strategy for how to achieve that growth than I do.

As a life-long baseball lover and the father of a nine-year-old son who enjoys baseball, but has many other sports, activities and technology tugging at his time and interest, here are three things that I think would help achieve his goal to strengthen the sport for generations to come.

1.Make Watching and Enjoying Baseball Affordable – I understand that baseball is a business and one of the goals is to make money, but as the middle class continues to struggle in a country where the gap between income levels is continuing to widen, all entertainment options must recognize that continuing to increase prices will ultimately reduce the number of people interested in their product. Last year my family spent a day in Baltimore that culminated with attending an Orioles game. The combined cost for tickets (we sat in the lower deck along the first baseline), parking, food and merchandise was quite hefty. For a one-time thing, it was something we could budget for and afford. However, going to a game would not be something we could afford on a regular basis. When the Orioles were contending in the early 1990s, tickets to games at Camden Yards were tough to find and the Birds often led the league in attendance. Though they have been successful again over the last three seasons, there seems to still be a lot of empty seats even for big games. I can’t help but believe that the fact that it is just really expensive to go to a game is one reason. I know even the new Yankee Stadium is rarely completely full and with tickets for their games higher than anywhere else you can understand why.

If Manfred wants the next generation of fans to continue attending games, then he better make sure that the game experience doesn’t become so expensive that their parents can’t afford to take them to games in person or to buy a hat, jersey and other merchandise without taking out a loan. I know that like the NFL, MLB is looking to continue increasing their revenue, but if going to major league games ever gets to the point that the only people attending are the wealthy and the inner-city poor who receive tickets through charity organizations supported by the team, it will not help grow the overall love for the game. Read the rest of this entry →

How to Improve the Game of Baseball in an Instant 0

Posted on November 25, 2012 by Rick Swanson

 

Executive VP of Baseball Operations argues that instant replay would slow down the game of baseball.

Joe Torre was recently quoted saying this about instant replay: “The thing is our game is a little unique. There’s not a lot of time stoppage, so to make sure that if we do implement replay … you’re [not] going to slow this game down and you’re going to upset the rhythm of the game.”

The only way for instant replay to work if it is done in an instant.

Baseball has never used a clock in the game but if they use it for instant replay, it would really speed up the game.

If each replay was limited to 30 seconds and if each team only had two challenges per game, the game would only be increased by a minute or two at the most.

No more arguing with the umpire. If the manager has to toss out a red ball across the foul line to signify a challenge he won’t waste time getting all upset with any umpire again.

The way to make this work, is to only give the manager five seconds to decide if he wants to use up a challenge.

After five seconds if the red ball is not tossed across the white lines, then everyone gets to see all the replays.

There is no need to stop showing them in the park, because the manager did not object, so why should fans be upset if the call was bad or not?

The burden now lies with each team, to decide if they want to dispute any call.

If each team has only two challenges a game only two minutes would be added to the game. (If the team wins both challenges they would continue until getting one wrong.)

This only works if the umpires stay on the field, and watch the giant screen with all in the park at the same time.

After 30 seconds all four umpires would give their decision one at a time. If the verdict is tied two and two, then the one who made the original call gets to decide.

The technology is available on every big screen in every park in MLB.

Why can’t everyone look at the same play again?

Why is baseball afraid to show replays on big screens in every park?

Fans would be able to watch along on the big screen while umpires decided the fate of their call.

All every fan wants to see every call be correct. Nobody wants to see a perfect game erased, because of a bad call by an umpire.

Baseball and instant replay were meant for each other, but as stated earlier the key word is instant.

Next we need to show every pitch to everyone in the park, to make the umpires follow the rules of the sport.

Baseball: The Timeless Sport With A Clock 0

Posted on November 24, 2012 by Rick Swanson

If baseball is going to use a challenge rule with instant replay, the best place to find guidelines is with tennis.

Since 2006 the electric line call, known as the “Chase Review” has been used at the US Open.

Tennis has tried electronic line calling since 1974, but since 2006 the technology has been created by a system known in tennis as the hawk eye system.

Each player is allowed three incorrect challenges per set.

The average length of a challenge is about ten seconds.

In tennis, everyone in the stands is allowed to see the review and then the call stands.

In baseball we should use the hawkeye cameras to follow the ball at all times.

We also need to let everyone in the park see the hawkeye instant replays.

The amount of challenges is something that baseball is going to need to decide.

If we put it at three wrong challenges per game, will teams use it too often?

Since you have only five seconds to decide whether to challenge a call, then we need an official clock in each park.

If baseball started using a clock, we could also shorten the length of the games.

If we had a clock for replays, then we would have a clock to follow MLB rule 8.04, which reads:

Rule 8.04  When the bases are unoccupied, the pitcher shall deliver the ball to the batter within 12 seconds after he receives the ball. Each time the pitcher delays the game by violating this rule, the umpire shall call “Ball.” The 12-second timing starts when the pitcher is in possession of the ball and the batter is in the box, alert to the pitcher. The timing stops when the pitcher releases the ball.

The intent of this rule is to avoid unnecessary delays.

A clock would be used for replays set at 30 seconds. A clock would be used for challenges at five seconds, and a clock would be used for pitchers rule 8.04 at 12 seconds.

We could even use the clock for the time spent between innings. Cut it down to 90 seconds, and we could cut another 18 minutes off the entire length of a game.

Baseball has prided itself as a timeless sport, but as we move into the future, a clock will be the new innovation we will use for the good of the game.

Remembering the 1914 “Miracle Braves” 3

Posted on June 23, 2012 by Dan Flaherty

(Editor’s Note: This story was originally printed on Boston Sports Then and Now)

The “Miracle Braves” of 1914 shocked the baseball world and made history when they won the franchise’s only World Series title in Boston.

The Atlanta Braves come back to their roots this weekend, as they come to their original home in Boston for a weekend series in Fenway Park with the Red Sox as interleague play continues. It’s been a long time since the Braves graced the sports world of the Hub, having relocated first to Milwaukee in 1953 and then to Atlanta in 1965. The fact the franchise left a baseball-crazed town tells you they never rose above playing second fiddle to the Red Sox. But in one glorious year the Braves gave the city a season to remember, one that still lives in on baseball lore for its miraculous turnaround and shocking World Series upset. With the franchise back visiting this weekend, BST&N looks back on 1914 and the year that belonged to Boston’s “Miracle Braves.”

Boston’s NL team was managed by George Stallings, on his third team in six years and looking for his first pennant. It was Stallings’ second year in Boston and his best player was second baseman Johnny Evers, closely followed by outfielder Joe Connelly. The latter led the team in most key offensive categories, while the former had such an exquisite balance of offensive and defensive prowess, that he won the American League MVP in the award’s fourth year of existence. The pitching staff was top-heavy, as most were in those days. Three pitchers—Dick Rudolph, Bill James and Lefty Tyler—combined to make 107 of the team’s 154 starts, and averaged over 310 innings apiece.

This talent alone wasn’t enough to make Boston a contender coming out of the gate though, and after the season started in mid-April, the Braves promptly lost 18 of their first 22. On June 8, they had fallen 13.5 games back of the pace being set by the New York Giants and the Cincinnati Reds. Lest you think the turnaround was imminent, the Fourth of July saw the Braves get swept in a doubleheader by the Brooklyn Dodgers, leaving them at 26-40, a good fifteen games back of the Giants and firmly buried in the cellar, with five games separating them from even reaching seventh in the eight-team National League.

It was the offense and winning close games that would key the dramatic turnaround about to start. The Braves would finish second in the National League in runs scored, while the pitching was in the middle of the league. They were third in home runs—back in this era, 62 led the league, so no one was making a living going deep. The Braves, showing they were firmly in line with what would become Boston sports tradition, were slow as molasses—at least relative to the competition. They stole 139 bases, last in the NL. This speed-oriented era saw 239 steals lead the league. There’s nothing in the overall statistical numbers that suggest a pennant-winning team, but one number does stand out. It’s the 33-20 record the Braves posted in one-run games, something that would ultimately give them a huge advantage over the Giants, who languished at 18-25.

Fate was not only smiling on the Braves, but by August, Fenway Park would be too. The old South End Grounds, the team’s regular home had been torn down and it wouldn’t be until the start of the 1915 season that Braves Field would be set to open. So at a time when Boston was closing the gap—they got the margin to nine games by the end of July and moved up to fourth place, and then swept three from the Giants in the Polo Grounds on August 13-15 to move within 3.5—they’d also be sharing space with their American League counterpart, who’d won the World Series just two years prior.

Read the rest of this entry →

Is the “Oriole Magic” Back To Stay? 6

Posted on June 10, 2012 by Dean Hybl

Late game celebrations have been a regular occurrence for the Baltimore Orioles is 2012.

If you are under the age of 35 you may find it hard to believe, but for nearly two decades, the Baltimore Orioles were the class of Major League Baseball and terms such as “The Oriole Way” and “Oriole Magic” were just as familiar to baseball fans as “Red Sox Nation” is today.

With the 2012 season now nearly a third of the way complete, it is way too early to declare Baltimore “back” among the upper echelon teams in baseball, but for the first time in quite a while the future in Baltimore does appear to be promising.

Following back-to-back extra inning victories over the Philadelphia Phillies, the Orioles sport an impressive 34-26 record and are right in the mix of the highly competitive American League East.

The hot early start is definitely a reason for fans of a franchise that hasn’t posted a winning record since 1997 to be excited, but this is not the first time in the last 15 years that Baltimore has teased fans into June.

In 2005 the Orioles had a 42-28 record on June 21st and a two game lead in the AL East. A 3-2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays the next day started a stretch in which Baltimore lost 11 of 14 games and 60 of their final 92 games to end with a 74-88 record and 21 games out in the standings. Read the rest of this entry →

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      Horton Smith

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