GM Meetings Review

The General Managers meeting concluded yesterday in Naples Florida. Each year shortly after the World Series, the General Managers from each of the 30 Major League Baseball franchises get together to discuss several topics and receive guidance from the commissioner’s office. This meeting also marks the official beginning of the free agent feeding frenzy as agents and player representatives show up to sell the services of their clients to the highest bidders. There are also assorted trades that are made but normally the blockbuster variety are saved until the owner’s meetings in December. I was interested to see what if anything the Diamondbacks would do at the meetings. They are in desparate need of starting pitching but so are the other 29 clubs so with demand greatly out distancing supply the cost of pitchers will climb faster than Barry Bond’s hat size after a dose of the “cream”. Arizona has roughly $10 million to sign a free agent if they wish to maintain the stated payroll that management has given. With the market going the way it is, that may not even buy a case of rosen bags for the pitcher’s mound. I would therefore anticipate that any changes that are going to be made will be first through the trade market with likely candidates being some of the young talent that labored in Tucson and Tennessee last season and Johnny Estrada the disgruntled starting catcher who made his feelings known on his way out of town that he didn’t want to be here. The meetings were not just about player movement though.

There was the documented discussion surrounding the use of humidors for storing baseballs in all 30 Major League Stadiums. More detail on that subject can be found in the entry I Find No Humidor in That that was posted last week. The outcome of this is further study will be done to determine whether the use of a humidor should be expanded beyond Coors Field. The first order of business with this subject will be to standardize the process for storing baseballs in each stadium. It appears that each team and stadium handle this differently making it possible for mishandling of game balls prior to use.

The General Managers also discussed the use of instant replay within baseball. This subject is politically charged and everyone has an opinion especially Commissioner Bud Selig. Selig has made it known on numerous occasions that he dislikes replay in sports and therefore would not support the notion of its use within games. Presently the teams are mostly interested in exploring its use for determining whether a baseball was a home run. No one has suggested that its use be expanded beyond that and would never include reviewing balls and strikes. Given the commissioner’s strong stance against the use of instant replay, no action was taken by the General Managers other than to suggest further discussion be held at a future date.

While on the subject of umpiring, the General Managers received a report on the QuesTek system that tracks balls and strikes to grade the umpires. The results were interesting. The system found that Major League Umpires are accurate 94.91 percent of the time when calling pitches. This goes against what every New York fan argues after each Mets or Yankees pitch. Ejection of players and managers were down 4 percent as compared to 2005 so either umpires are mellowing or coaches are. The 2006 season also marked the first time in 5 years that no games were played under protest so it would appear that all parties involved in a game are getting along better.

Finally there are the strange and unusual things that General Managers decide at these meetings. Take for example the final day when the GMs were asked to weigh in on the time slots that are used before games for infield practice versus home team batting practice. It was decided that not many teams actually use the time allotted to practicing infield leaving a dead space in the pre-game ritual. The GMs decided to allow the home team to use this free time for batting practice unless the opposing team calls ahead and reserves the infield for practice. I don’t know about you but this sounds an awful lot like trying to find time to coach your son’s Little League team. And then there is the rule change the GMs were asked to vote on where a game can’t end in a tie even when shortened by a rain delay. That just seems kind of obvious that you would not have expected these guys to be voting on that. So as the meetings ended and the General Managers left to return to their respective teams, we can all feel safer knowing we won’t be forced to watch a shortened game while soaking wet end in a tie. Instead they will resume the game and complete it from that point forward. I know I feel better.

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