He returns to the organization that he started his professional baseball career with. From AP-
Ken Griffey Jr. has decided to return to the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners announced the move Wednesday night. The 39-year-old star’s contract is for one year and believed to be worth $2 million in base salary, plus incentives.
Earlier in the day, a person with knowledge of the negotiations told The Associated Press that an apparent agreement with the Atlanta Braves had fallen through. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the Mariners had yet to announce the deal.
Griffey is fifth on baseball’s career home run list with 611.
Atlanta appeared to be Griffey’s choice on Tuesday for the same reason the former Mariners star left Seattle in 2000: geography. The Braves’ spring training camp is about a 20-minute drive from the Griffey family home in Orlando, Fla., and Atlanta is about an hour away by plane.
Griffey asked for a trade from the Mariners in 1999 to be closer to home. He eventually got one just before the 2000 season, to Cincinnati.
Griffey has been increasingly injury prone, but his batting stats remain good. He can draw a walk and hits for power. His batting averages have slipped but the other two compensate. Overall he can help a team, but Seattle is so rotten right now, that Griffey isn’t likely to turn things around He will probably bring some fans to the ballpark though.
I remember Uhlaender both from my extensive baseball watching as a youth, and later through the playing of past seasons of Strat-O-Matic. He was a very good defensive center fielder but offensively he wasn’t all that good. After his playing career was over, Uhlaender remained in baseball working as a scout and coach. RIP.
Former major league outfielder Ted Uhlaender, whose daughter races for the U.S. skeleton team and is eyeing her second Olympic berth, has died. He was 68.
Uhlaender died Thursday after a heart attack, the San Francisco Giants said. He had worked as a scout for the team since 2002, and was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer last year.
He spoke with his daughter, Katie Uhlaender, by phone Thursday morning, shortly before she ended the World Cup skeleton sliding season with a silver medal in Park City, Utah. On the awards podium following the race, Katie Uhlaender said she raced that day to give her family a needed emotional boost.
At the time, she didn’t know her father had already died.
Ted Uhlaender played in the majors from 1965-72 with Minnesota, Cleveland and Cincinnati. A sure-handed, fleet center fielder, he hit .263 with 36 home runs and 285 RBIs.
His health was failing for months, and Katie Uhlaender — who competed in the 2006 Turin Olympics and is a favorite to lead the U.S. team into Vancouver next year — said it affected her focus on sliding.
“All year I was feeling like my priorities were messed up, and I felt like I should be with my family instead of sledding,” she said shortly before learning her father died.
Ted Uhlaender had been hospitalized for another round of chemotherapy, and doctors found a blood clot Thursday morning.
His daughter has since returned to Lake Placid, N.Y., where the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation is based, and is training for the world championships to be held there later this month.
“She’ll slide because she knows her father would have wanted her to slide,” USBSF spokeswoman Amanda Bird said Saturday night.
Katie Uhlaender will leave Lake Placid on Monday to join her family for the funeral, which has been scheduled for Thursday.
Ted Uhlaender started out with the Twins, joining them too late in the 1965 season to be eligible for the World Series that October. He played five years on a team more noted for big hitters such as Harmon Killebrew and Tony Oliva.
Uhlaender was traded with Graig Nettles and Dean Chance to Cleveland in a package for Luis Tiant after the 1969 season. He was traded to Cincinnati for his final year, and ended his career with a pinch-hitting appearance in a Game 7 loss to Oakland in the 1972 World Series.
In later years, he worked for the Arizona Diamondbacks and New York Yankees. He spent two years with the Giants, became Cleveland’s first base coach in 2000-01 and then returned to San Francisco.
Monday, Griffey became the sixth player in major league history to hit 600 home runs. He deposited a Mark Hendrickson first-inning pitch about a dozen rows up into Section 130 of the right-field bleachers as part of a 9-4 Reds win at Dolphin Stadium. Stuck on 599 since May 31, Griffey is 10 shy of eclipsing Sammy Sosa for fifth on the all-time list.
Just 10 of Griffey’s 600 homers have come against the Marlins, a team he did not face until 2000. Five of those have come at Dolphin Stadium, where he hadn’t hit one since June 1, 2004.
Here’s the video.
So far as I know, no one has mentioned Griffey as a user of steroids. Griffey, who began his career with the Seattle Mariners, will make the Hall of Fame. Abusers like Sammy Sosa will have a long wait if they ever do get voted in. As Mark McGwire is presently finding out.
A journeyman pitcher with a career record of 39-38, his career spanned sixteen years, with a 6 year span in the middle where Ridzik pitched 29 innings or less of ML ball or was out of the league entirely. He was a VERY small part of the 1950 pennant winning Philadelphia Phillies known aka The Whiz Kids. Being a fan and player of Strat-O-Matic’s past seasons, I was somewhat familiar with Ridzik’s accomplishments. RIP
BRADENTON — Former professional baseball player Steve Ridzik never forgot the fans who helped him fulfill his dream for more than a decade.
The former pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies, the New York Giants and several other teams, who died Jan. 8 of heart disease at 78, helped create a players’ alumni association that raises money for charity.
Ridzik helped organize a Bradenton golf tournament with former baseball players that raised more than $50,000 for Manatee Memorial Hospital in the early 1990s, said his wife, Nancy Ridzik of Bradenton. The ex-ballplayer had undergone open-heart surgery there for a triple bypass a couple of years earlier, she said.
In addition to taking part in several other fundraisers over the years, Ridzik also regularly granted fans’ requests for autographs by signing baseball cards and blank cards that arrived by mail on almost a daily basis, his wife said.
“We’ve even had baseball bats and baseballs sent here” and he obliged, she said.
Born April 29, 1929, in Yonkers, N.Y., Ridzik was signed by the Phillies’ in 1945 at age 16 and pitched his first major league game in 1950, the same year the Phillies went on to win the National League pennant for the first time in 35 years.
Nicknamed “The Whiz Kids” that year because their average age was 26, the Phillies were the youngest team to ever reach the World Series, which they lost to the New York Yankees.
Ridzik subsequently played for the Cincinnati Redlegs, the Giants, the Cleveland Indians and the Washington Senators before retiring from baseball in 1966. He later worked for a food distributor in the Washington, D.C., area before retiring and moving to Bradenton in 1988.
He helped former Senators teammate Chuck Hinton establish the nonprofit Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association in 1982 for former players to serve as goodwill ambassadors of the sport.
Ridzik returned to Philadelphia in 2000 for a 50th anniversary reunion of his pennant-winning team before a crowd of 40,000 in Veterans Stadium.
“He wouldn’t have missed it for the world,” his wife said. “I think there were 13 of the original ‘Whiz Kids’ still around back then, and now there are only about six left.”
In retirement, he enjoyed golfing and watching horse and dog racing.
Baseball’s hot stove season keeps crackling along with a firesale beginning in Baltimore, a strange signing in San Francisco and the effective release of a phenomenal talent with an arm that was abused.
Dead Team, Dead Team Swapping
Let’s start with the Orioles.
Andy MacPhail is the new head honcho in Baltimore and his primary job is turning around a moribund franchise. It is about time. The Orioles recently woes have resulted in poor showings, fan protests and the dreadful overreach that typifies teams just beyond terrible, but nowhere near good.
Move number one in the now ongoing firesale:
SS Miguel Tejada
OF Luke Scott
P Matt Albers
P Troy Patton
P Dennis Sarfate
3B Michael Costanzo
It’s an okay haul. Scott compares rather favorably with Trot Nixon at the same ages, giving the Orioles a competent outfielder, who will inexpensively complement and Nick Markakis. Costanzo may end up in the big leagues. He is on his third team this offseason, and is blocked by Melvin Mora. However if Mora is shopped, the Orioles could do worse than the 24 year old with good pop in his bat. Albers and Patton were the top pitchers in Houston’s farm system entering 2007. Neither pitched well with Houston, and both have iffy K rates. But both get groundballs and with a good infield defense have the potential to be respectable at the back of the rotation.
Houston meanwhile adds a slugging shortstop whose defense is declining and who, as an added bonus, has been linked to steroid allegations. For Baltimore, moving him prior to this afternoon’s release of the Mitchell report was an obvious priority. Even if not named, Tejada is tainted by association, possibly unfair.
Other Orioles likely to get moved before the end of this offseason: P Erik Bedard, 3B Melvin Mora, 2B Brian Roberts, OF Jay Payton, and Ramon Hernandez.
Currently, the Orioles need help at shortstop, centerfield and on the mound. Making more moves will yield more potential solutions, while opening more holes. This is the beginning of an about to be gutted franchise.
The Old and the Rested
The San Francisco Giants don’t seem too interested in younger talent. Their starting position players wheezed in with an average age of 36.25 last year. They will be around 34 years old on average next season, unless Giants GM Brian Sabean can find some geezer to play at either the hot or cool corner and thus spare fans the disgrace of having a 26 year old regular (Kevin Frandse) in the starting lineup.
To that mix, the Giants made a big splash yesterday inking centerfielder Aaron Rowand to a five year, $60 Million contract. Rowand will be thirty next year, which makes him the young whippersnapper of the Giant lineup. He also has the job of replacing Barry Bonds in the lineup. But Rowand is not a slugging outfielder like Bonds. Nor is he a prolific on base machine. Aaron Rowand is an outfielder who enjoyed an outstanding season in his walk year.
Let’s go to the numbers
Aaron Rowand ’07
Aaron Rowand car
Not familiar with BABIP? Some folks aren’t. It is a very useful statistic to get a gauge on luck. The statistic measures Batting Average on Balls in Play. As a formula:
Your league-wide BABIP is typically around .300. Rowand’s career is an exercise in better than average BABIP. It’s less than 10% over league average, but when he is closer to lerague average, as he was in 2005 with the ChiSox and 2006 with the Phillies, almost all of his offensive value vanishes.
Aaron Rowand ’05
Aaron Rowand ’06
See what I mean? Further, Rowand has always benefited from playing in Homerun helping Parks. Moving to San Francisco may cause his power surge to vanish, as well. But hey, it’s only five years and $12 Million per year. That’s nothing. Which unfortunately for Giants fans will describe what the Giants have for the better part of the next decade. Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum are nice young pitchers. Noah Lowry is a healthier version of better than league average Aaron Cook, and Barry Zito, is an overrated league average innings muncher. They will have the pitching, but they still will struggle to win seventy games likely for the next five or six years.
Mark Prior will be 27 next season. He put up remarkable numbers as a 22 year old in 2003. His 18-6 record in 211.1 innings pitched was worthy of acclaim, and we now know a dead canary in a coal mine.
Indians Executive Keith Woolner in his previous line of work at Baseball Prospectus developed a metric for measuring the abuse a starting pitcher takes from being overpitched. This was an expansion of the original Pitcher Abuse Points system introduced by Rany Jazayerli in 1998. Keith’s expansion focused more on egregious abuse of pitchers, instead of the minor tweaking of a young arm by exceeding 100 pitches.
For perspective, Daisuke Matsuzaka led the majors in PAP^3 last season with 116,740 followed by Carlos Zambrano (114,011) and AJ Burnett (97,899).
Mark Prior’s PAP^3 scores
Including a 54,872 PAP^3 138 pitch outing
Started the season on the DL and did not pitch until June.
with a 25 day stint on the DL mid season
But PAP^3 is not the only measure of risk to a young arm. The rule of thirty is a way of measuring the damage done to a young arm year by year rather than start by start.
Beginning with his Age 19 season at USC Prior pitched the following innings.
Prior’s buildup with the Cubs went from a reasonable 140 or so college innings to an equally reasonable 170 professional innings from one season to the next. At the young age of 21, that is a little excessive, but, it was also consistent with advancing by 30 innings or less from year to year. The Cubs exceeded that rule of thirty by 15 or so innings in 2003, the year where as a 22 year old, he took almost twice as much abuse as any pitcher in 2007 did. In 2003, however, he
was fourth on in the majors behind Javier Vasquez, teammate Kerry Wood and Livan Hernandez. Another Cub starter (Carlos Zambrano) checked in at 11 on that list. The manager of that team got a new job recently to manage the Cincinnati Reds. Homer Bailey, Bronson Arroyo, Aaron Harang, consider yourselves warned!
I am of the mindset that pitcher abuse disproportionately impacts arms outside of the 26-34 age range. Keeping young arms on a strict pitch and inning count is an investment in the future, by giving a young arm time to develop properly. As pitcher’s age, they are less reliable because they push themselves to the extremes that their bodies no longer are capable of achieving. The job of a good manager is to recognize when his older pitchers need a month’s vacation and sending
them off to rest and keep their arm fresh for the stretch drive. This essentially is what the Red Sox did with Curt Schilling this past season.
In addition to maximizing the effectiveness of an older arm, it also creates an opportunity for game level mentoring of young arms, removed from the stretch drive. Would giving a younger pitcher with some upside a showcase against major league teams, again strictly monitoring his pitch and inning counts, both groom him for an eventual job and give him the exposure that could potentially lead to a trade for a spare part? Certainly. It also provides an opportunity for
reclamation projects to get a full speed test int he fires of major league competition.
Speaking of salvage jobs, all this is prologue for the question out there, how many clubs will be pursuing Prior? The answer is all fo them. Prior represents the wonderful confluence of high upside and minimal risk. It’s a long shot, on par with the reclamation project called Kerry Wood but with longer odds and more upside. But it is worth investigating, offering and developing a program to ensure the soundness of his arm and the realization of his tremendous potential.
Now the more fact based (will it work) question has no answer. Probably not is the most I will venture. But nothing ventured, nothing gained.
The Sun quotes Andy MacPhail saying that his priority is not to trade Bedard. At the same time he has to listen to offers.
The Dodgers and Orioles have been talking about Bedard for several weeks, with outfielder Matt Kemp, reliever Jonathan Broxton and pitching prospect Clayton Kershaw among the names discussed.
The Orioles also met with the New York Mets this morning, but one club source said today that the Mets, who had been reluctant in previous discussions to move their top prospect, outfielder Fernando Martinez, aren’t considered a top contender for Bedard.
MacPhail was also expected today to meet with the Seattle Mariners, who have long coveted Bedard and would certainly get the Orioles’ attention with an offer headed by outfielder Adam Jones and pitcher Brandon Morrow. The Cincinnati Reds are also in the mix for Bedard, though one team source said on Monday that they aren’t willing to include top prospect Jay Bruce in the deal. The Toronto Blue Jays have also expressed interest, but it remains unlikely the club would trade him within the American League East.
I don’t think that any Orioles fan wants to see Bedard go elsewhere. Still there’s a feeling expressed on the Orioles’ mailing list (and I’m sure elsewhere) that the Orioles have precious little talent in their system and that the only way they can hope to contend is to rebuild. Given that Bedard is one of the few talents the Orioles have, trading him is one way to (hopefully) speed up the rebuilding process.
Based on his statements, it seems that MacPhail feels the same way. He’s in no rush to trade Bedard, even if the Orioles can’t convince him to sign an extension, the team still controls him for another two seasons. That gives the Orioles some leverage. This does too.
In fact, Bedard is so attractive the Tigers and Phillies – clubs initially told by Baltimore they do not match up – were still pressing to try to find ways to get involved on the talented lefty.
. . .
One NL talent evaluator who loves Bedard said, “Bedard is closer in talent to Santana than Haren is to Bedard. In fact, it is not impossible to believe that in a year, we will all think Bedard is better than Santana.” An AL executive said, “Here is what impresses me about Bedard, he pitches in the AL East against the Yankees and Red Sox. So, to me, he can pitch anywhere and excel.”
It’s clear that the Orioles could get the most talent in return for Bedard. If they choose to trade him they have no excuses for failing to get a great return of talent on the deal.
If published reports are to be believed, the Kansas City Royals have decided to continue the fine pharmaceutical heritage that began with Ewing Kauffman by signing outfielder Jose Guillen to a 3-year, $36 million deal on Tuesday.
The potential steroid suspension aside, are the Royals spending David Glass’s new found money wisely? How about some charts!
Below are two charts showing Guillen’s On-Base Percentage (OBP) and Slugging Average (SLG) by age. The difference between the top chart and the bottom chart is that Guillen’s partial years have been removed (in ’99, ’01, ’02 and ’06, Jose appeared in fewer than 100 games for the season).
By removing the partial seasons, we can see that the Dominican fellow has followed a pretty standard career path, peaking at age 27-28 in the power department while maintaining some positive growth in the ability to get on base.
Walks as a percentage of plate appearances:
Again, Guillen has shown an improved eye at the plate over the course of his career.
Extra base hits as a percentage of hits and plate appearances:
Here is where it gets sketchy for the Royals. At first glance, Guillen appears to have a somewhat erratic ability to hit the ball hard when he makes contact, but overall looks like he is trending upward.
However, when you remove the years most likely to be affected by small sample size blips, he begins to look like any typical player. In terms of full-season ability, Guillen’s power potential seems to have peaked when he was 27.
The Royals have just “fixed” their middle order power problem with a guy who looks to be on the decline in terms of hurting the baseball over the next three years.
The good news is that while Guillen now becomes the highest-paid player in team history, his contract is not exorbitant in the current market. Three years is a short enough time frame that Kansas City can cut their losses if Guillen fails to find rejuvenation in the fountains at Kauffman stadium.
That said, I’d still rather see them go after Miguel Cabrera.
He won 135 games in MLB career that spanned over 20 years. After his ballplaying career was over, Joe spent 30 years in the broadcast booth. He died yesterday after being hospitalized for pneumonia. RIP.
CINCINNATI – Joe Nuxhall, the youngest major leaguer at age 15 and later a beloved broadcaster as “the ol’ left-hander” in Cincinnati, has died. He was 79. Nuxhall died Thursday night while hospitalized for treatment of pneumonia, the team said. He was awaiting surgery to insert a pacemaker, and had been slowed by a recurrence of cancer since September.
Brought up by Cincinnati to pitch during World War II â€” just out of junior high classes, he unraveled at the sight of Stan Musial in the on-deck circle â€” Nuxhall worked more than six decades for the Reds. He continued to pitch batting practice into the 1980s and was a member of the team’s Hall of Fame.
While he won 135 games, it was on the radio where he became best known. On a franchise filled with Hall of Fame players and big personalities, Nuxhall might have been the most popular of all.
“This is a sad day for everyone in the Reds organization,” outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. said in a statement. “He did so many great things for so many people. You never heard anyone ever say a bad word about him. We’re all going to miss him.”
Reds owner Bob Castellini said Friday that “Joe exemplified everything baseball’s all about, from the mound to the broadcast booth.”
Great American Ball Park was to be dark Friday night in Nuxhall’s honor, except for spotlights shining on his statue outside the main gate. Also to be illuminated were the big red words of his radio signoff, emblazoned outside the stadium: “… rounding third and heading for home.”
“Summer nights in Cincinnati will never be the same again without the voice of the ol’ left-hander crackling over the airwaves,” U.S. Rep. John Boehner of Ohio said in a statement. “To millions, even those who never met Joe in person, his voice was the voice of a good friend.”
Nuxhall’s son, Kim, released a statement thanking the public for the many cards and messages sent to his father.
“Dad felt that he truly had three extended families during his career â€” the great City of Hamilton, where he grew up; Fairfield, where he raised his children; and Cincinnati, where he was able to play and broadcast the great game of baseball with the Cincinnati Reds,” Kim Nuxhall said.
“We will be eternally grateful to the Cincinnati Reds organization and the fans who provided us with experiences and memories of a lifetime. Dad truly loved you all,” he said.
Nuxhall’s place in baseball lore was secured the moment he stepped onto a big league field. With major league rosters depleted during World War II, he got a chance to pitch in relief for the Reds on June 10, 1944.
At 15 years, 10 months, 11 days old, Nuxhall was big for his age. He was 6-foot-3 and his parents let him join the Reds when school let out.
Nuxhall spent most of the time watching from the bench, assuming he’d never get into a game. The Reds were trailing the St. Louis Cardinals 13-0 after eight innings when manager Bill McKechnie decided to give the kid a chance.
Nuxhall was so rattled when summoned to warm up that he tripped on the top step of the dugout and fell on his face in front of 3,510 fans at Crosley Field. He was terrified when it came time to walk to the mound.
“Probably two weeks prior to that, I was pitching against seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders, kids 13 and 14 years old,” he recalled. “All of a sudden, I look up and there’s Stan Musial and the likes. It was a very scary situation.”
Nuxhall walked one and retired two batters before glancing at the on-deck circle and seeing Musial. Nuxhall unraveled â€” Musial hit a line-drive single, and the Cardinals scored five runs as the young pitcher lost his ability to throw a strike and failed to get another out. In all, he walked five and threw a wild pitch in two-thirds of an inning.
“Those people that were at Crosley Field that afternoon probably said, ‘Well, that’s the last we’ll see of that kid,’” Nuxhall said.
The Reds sent him to the minors, but eight years later he was back with the Reds. Nuxhall spent 15 of his 16 big league seasons with the Reds, going 135-117 before his retirement in 1966.
A year later, Nuxhall started doing radio broadcasts, describing games in a slow-paced, down-home manner that caught on with listeners. Marty Brennaman became the play-by-play announcer in 1974, and the “Marty and Joe” tandem spent the next 28 seasons chatting about their golf games, their gardens and some of the biggest moments in franchise history.
Nuxhall retired as a full-time radio broadcaster after the 2004 season, the 60th anniversary of his historic pitching debut. Since then, he was heavily involved in charity work, especially his scholarship and character education programs.
He had surgery for prostate cancer in 1992, followed by a mild heart attack in 2001. The cancer returned last February, when he was preparing for spring training in Sarasota, Fla.
Nuxhall called some games last season even though his left leg was swollen by tumors. He was hospitalized again this week.
Thirty seven years later – also 23 years since the Colts left and 22 since the Orioles ceased their run of 19 winning consecutive winning season – it’s hard to remember that there was time like this, but the Baltimore Sun’s Mike Klingaman does.
The Orioles (108-54) won their division by 15 games, then took four of five from the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series. Three months later, the Colts answered by defeating the Dallas Cowboys in the Super Bowl.
On their heels came the Bullets, the city’s basketball entry, who reached the NBA Finals before losing to the Milwaukee Bucks.
“That was a magical year, though people didn’t realize it,” said Sam Havrilak, then a Colts running back. “It wasn’t such a big deal until [years later] when the media built it up.”
In 1970 Baltimore, the stars were all aligned. The Orioles had Jim Palmer, Boog Powell and Robinson; the Colts had John Unitas, John Mackey and Ted Hendricks. Even the Bullets seemed destined for success behind Earl Monroe, Wes Unseld and Gus Johnson.
I was a 10 year old, who had moved to Baltimore 2 years earlier. It was a great time to be a sports fan in Baltimore. (My children came of sports fan age during hte 90′s when their grandfather’s team, the Yankees were dominant and their father’s team stunk. Guess who they root for.)
But there was a cloud attached to that silver lining.
Yet the Orioles struggled at the turnstiles. Crowds averaged 13,000 during the season, and even the final game of the Series at Memorial Stadium fell far short of a sellout.
Players still are irked by that.
“We were a damn good team, and we knew it,” said Powell, the American League’s Most Valuable Player in 1970. “We were disappointed that there weren’t more people in the ballpark.
“When we got so far in front during the season, people said, ‘We know you’re not going to lose [the pennant], so we’ll save our money for the World Series.’
“But, deep down, you knew Baltimore at that time was just not a baseball town.”
It wasn’t just that Baltimore was a football, WBAL, the one time flagship station of the Orioles saw baseball games as nothing more than programming. It wasn’t until WFBR took over the broadcasts in 1979 that rooting for the Orioles became fashionable.
The reason for this discussion, is that,with the Patriots going strong, Boston may again (repeating 2004) be a city of champions. But what the article reminded me of was a cartoon that the Sun (possibly the Evening Sun) reprinted from a New York paper at that time. (It might have been the Daily News, but I’m uncertain.) It depicted a number of individuals discussing Baltimore’s sports dominance at the time. The punchline was something like “But they don’t have a hockey team.” (Well Baltimore had a hockey team, the Clippers, but they were part of the now-defunct AHL, not the NHL.) Maybe Bill Ordine or someone around the Sun could dig up that cartoon, and republish it, if the paper has the rights to it.
One other thing I remember is that given how good the Oriole were for the first 15 years we lived in Baltimore, I never really developed a sense that it was possible that the team could deteriorate or ever be bad. I was in my mid-20′s when that realization hit. 19 years is a long run of success. To the best of my knowledge it is the second longest streak or winning seasons in North American sports history. (First place belongs to the Yankees.) But it’s long over now and the question is whether or how long it will be before the Orioles get it back.
(One final irony: we moved to Baltimore from Springfield Massachusetts. When I learned we’d be moving I wondered if I’d still be allowed to root for the Red Sox. The Orioles success from 1969 and on made that question moot very quickly.)
As I’ve said before, umpires need help. And I refer you to a piece I wrote over a year ago on this very same subject. Baseball (and sports in general) is far behind the times in utilizing modern technology where it can, specifically to improve officiating.
I’ve thought about this topic for a long time. I think Questec is a good thing. (For those who dont know, it’s a computerized system that measures ball & strikes, and compares it to what the umpire actually called.)
One of the biggest and most frustrating problems in pro sports are bad calls by umps/refs. What I’d like to see is the steady removal of the so-called ‘human error’ from sports; I’ll talk specifically about baseball:
When umps are unsure when a ball is fair or foul down the line, why can’t a system be installed like they use in tennis? They could use technology to determine whether balls are just that, fair or foul.
Also, on disputed HRs, they must use instant replay. There’s no other fair way. An ump should be stationed in the park somewhere near a TV, like in the NHL. He should have the final word, since he’ll have access to the replay.
On balls and strikes, why not use Questec or ESPN’s ‘K-Zone’ (for example) to actually call the strikes? The only problem is that strike zone height is different for every hitter, but width is exactly the same, 17 inches (the width of homeplate). Rickey Henderson had a smaller up/down zone because he was short and crouched, and Richie Sexson’s up/down zone is bigger because he’s 6’8″. But their side-to-side zone is exactly the same. Therefore, computers/technology should be used to tell an umpire when a ball hits the plate or just misses. For the time being, umps will still need to call the up/down pitches (because every hitter is different), but will know for sure when a pitch crosses the corner or not. Or an ump could be assigned to determine the upper limit of each hitter’s strike zone dependent on his stance.
It also sucks when a pitcher throws a strike, but it’s not where he meant to throw it, the catcher has to reach for it, so the ump automatically calls it a ball. It doesn’t matter where the pitcher MEANT to throw the ball, it only matters whether it’s a strike or a ball.
For out/safe calls, when the closest ump feels the play is too close to call, he could send it to the ‘booth ump.’ TV technology is such today that it could be done in 30-60 seconds. Or (ala the NFL) managers should have two replays to use per game.
These steps would help legitimize the officiating and would make for fewer arguments from players and managers. You can’t argue with Questec strikes – it’s 100% consistent and 0% prejudiced (for veterans, or against rookies). Instant replay would also ensure the right call, and isn’t that worth waiting (at most) 60 seconds for – especially in close and/or playoff games?