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Mudville: November 28, 2020 12:27 pm PDT
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Who Gets To Pull The Nerds?

Now you understand.

I wasn’t overreacting when I warned about the dangers of #OverNerding.

The Rays, who want to try to tell you they do analytics right, lost the World Series because of #OverNerding.

That is not an overstatement.

So intent on following their scripted plan, manager Kevin Cash refused to believe what his eyes were telling him. He refused to believe his ace lefty Blake Snell, a 2018 Cy Young winner, was in total control of the mighty Dodgers and the game with a 1-0 lead in the sixth inning of Game 6 Tuesday night.

He couldn’t wait to go to his Stable.

A mere seven pitches later after Snell was removed – and the lefty let out a loud curse to show how disgusted he was to see Captain Hook come to the mound – the Rays lead was gone, the World Series was gone.

All in a flash. The night ended at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas with the Dodgers celebrating a 3-1 victory, a World Series win in six games, their first World Series title since 1988.

Kevin Cash was their MVP.

Rob Manfred was booed by the fans during the trophy presentation or as I like to call it, “A piece of metal’’ presentation.

Under Manfred’s watch, analytics have stolen the game from the fans and the players in every way imaginable.

Take a bow, baseball. You screwed up the best game in the world and now you have to wonder if the game ever can be fixed again.

The Nerds are not only running the asylum. They have chased away so many experience-based coaches and managers; they have full control to make some of the dumbest decisions in baseball history.

With all the outrage on social media directed at the Rays and Cash, my favorite was by the greatest current athlete of them all right now.

That would be Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes II, you’ll remember his dad Pat was a major league pitcher and young Patrick used to hang around the Mets. Patrick tweeted this about Cash’s decision to remove Snell – who was dealing – having struck out nine and allowing only two hits. A one-out flare single by No. 9 hitter Austin Barnes catapulted Cash out of his dugout to make the move without even having the decency to discuss it with Snell.

Here is what Mahomes tweeted: “Crazy he gave up only his second hit of the game and got pulled! #WorldSeries”

That is one athlete standing up for another athlete, giving his all on the biggest stage. In football terms, this would be like removing Mahomes from the Super Bowl midway through the third quarter because a pass to his receiver was knocked down by a diving corner back.

Time to bring in the guy who holds the clip board. It makes no sense.

This moment though, this game could be the Nerds’ Waterloo. All we can do is hope. Or they could just continue to push their agenda forward.

This all gets back to what I have been preaching here at BallNine and on so many podcasts and radio interviews (two on Tuesday matter of fact, predicting just such a brutal situation). You could see it coming when Cash was essentially frothing at the mouth to get to his overworked, over-tired, overnerded bullpen into the game.

You see, analytics isn’t about winning the game, it’s about covering your ass. 

Snell gets the hook

October 27, 2020: Blake Snell looks on incredulously as he inexplicably gets a quick hook from manager Kevin Cash in game 6 of the 2020 World Series.

“Well, that’s how we got here, we followed the blueprint.’’

Every postseason game is different. Every game needs to be managed off what is happening in that game. We were watching a pitcher in Snell who had crossed a barrier and was figuring how not only how to pitch in the World Series but how to excel in the World Series. It was captivating to watch.

Then it was all gone.

And the Nerds had their excuses ready and their many apologists sang along with them.

Analytics is about showing you are smarter than the next guy and moving up the front office ladder. It’s about making numbers say anything you want them to say. And I’m not going to give the apologists an inch and say, “analytics play an important role and should be used.”

News flash: Numbers have always been in the game and good front offices and good managers weighed all that in their decisions for generations. Now though, analytics have become the judge and jury and if the Nerds screw up, they don’t show up at the Zoom podium.

They send the Nerd Puppet manager and he spouts the same old stuff: “I didn’t want Mookie (Betts) or (Corey) Seager seeing Blake a third time,’’ Cash said.

Save it.

The third time through the batting order excuse is the worst when a pitcher is dealing like Snell was dealing. Up until that point, Betts and Seager had seen Snell four times and struck out four times. He also struck out the No. 3 hitter Justin Turner twice. Six ABs, six Ks. Yeah, that sucks.

You wouldn’t want that to happen again.

Then excuse No. 2: “Everything we try to do is try to put our team in the best position to win,’’ Cash said.

Really. This was the best position to win. Are you serious?

Mookie Betts Scores

October 27, 2020: The Dodgers dugout celebrates as Mookie Betts comes around to score after Nick Anderson gave up the lead in Game 6.

Cash has been brainwashed like so many others to follow the script, come August against a crappy opponent or come October against the best opponent even though he made it clear to say there was no script.

Yeah, right.

Take the human element out of the game. Make it unwatchable. That is the reality of these decisions.

Now you also know why I refer to managers as Nerd Puppets, something I’ve called them all year. They are not managers. They don’t manage anything. Even the good ones aren’t allowed to manage anymore. They are conduits for the front office to run the game the way they want the game run. They are not allowed to use their gut in any decision making.

It’s the Nerd’s way or the highway. It is ruining the game in every aspect.

Bruce Bochy does not win three World Series if he does not take in what his eyes and gut tell him when the Giants won in 2010, ‘12 and ‘14.

Just think if the Nerds had such power back in the day.

Bob Gibson would have been pulled from World Series games.  And this all happened Tuesday 29 years to the day that Jack Morris threw those 10 shutout innings in a World Series Game 7. I was there and watched Morris battle and not give in and Twins manager Tom Kelly had the wisdom to let Morris get the job done at the HomerDome. That generation of Twins fans had a Forever Memory and the Twins and Morris earned themselves “a piece of metal.’’

Snell was pulled with a shutout and a man on first base with only 73 pitches and one out because the next batter, who had been struck out twice by Snell was about to get up a third time, that guy named Betts.

This was the baseball equivalent of a lockdown.

“You’re done.’’ 

“Why?’’

“Because we said so.’’

Dodgers Celebrate

October 27, 2020: The Dodgers celebrate their first World Series win in 32 years.

It is worrying about what might happen instead of having the courage to see what is happening. Let the players decide the game.

Here is what the Nerds don’t understand. They not only have taken the game away from the players and the fans. They have stolen lifetime memories. All in the name of progress.

Just think of all the gutsy World Series pitching performances that would have been different. The list is long and I don’t want to go over them all, but consider this Giants fans, there would be no Madison Bumgarner heroics. Hey Dodger fans, Johnny Podres would not have won that 1955 World Series, crafting a 2-0 win in Game 7 over the Yankees. Sandy Koufax would be a guy who never reached his zenith. Whitey Ford’s shaky velo was dipping third time around, no way we are leaving him in the game.

It goes on and on and on.

Worst of all is the matter of trust.

Cash did not trust Snell. No matter what Snell says, he will not forget. This could have repercussions across the board for the Rays.

Instead of relying on the pitchers who get paid the most money, the starters, the ones who have the most talent like Snell, the one who is dealing on the mound everyone could see, it’s about proving a point and bringing in a reliever like Nick Anderson, a righty who was running on fumes because he was overused to get past the Yankees and was starting to slow against the Astros. This was his 10th postseason appearance this year.

It’s also beyond me how the Rays lost this series when they had the greatest postseason imaginable from Randy Arozarena.

This is what I call the Keep It Simple Stupid test.

Imagine if someone had told Cash before the postseason: “You are going to get 10 home runs in the ALDS, ALCS and World Series from Randy Arozarena and a .376 postseason batting average and in the pivotal Game 6 of the World Series your ace Blake Snell will be pitching a shutout into the sixth inning, only 73 pitches, against the mighty Dodgers with a 1-0 lead, having struck out nine batters. What are you going to do?’’

The answer should be: “Ride the ace. Keep the horses in the Stable.’’

Instead the answer was “let’s go to the guy who is shot.’’

Analytics, baby.

Yep, sounds absurd. But that’s what happened. That is spreadsheet baseball and who knows when the Rays will ever get back to a World Series again.

Part of baseball is believing in your guys especially when they are at their best.

Snell was at his best and it was painful to hear him speak after the game.

“I’m definitely disappointed, upset,’’ Snell said. “I did everything I could to prove my case to stay out there.’’

Arozarena with another bomb

October 27, 2020: Randy Arozarena's post season heroics were not enough to overcome the #OverNerding shown in last night's World Series loss.

Nerds have all the answers and third time through the lineup is their go-to, but this was not an August game against the Blue Jays. This is when heart and guts rise above talent or takes your talent to a new level that could be talked about forever ie: Jack Morris, 1991.

“I get it, it’s the third time through the lineup but I think I’m going to make the adjustments I need to make as I see them a third time,’’ Snell insisted. “I don’t know man, just believe in me. I believe in my stuff. For most of that game I was dominating every outcome possible and that lineup is so talented. I scouted them. I believed a lot in myself and what I did to hopefully see them a third time through and a fourth time if needed. I wanted to go that whole game.’’

That is a valiant answer. The sad truth is his own Nerds didn’t want Snell to go the whole game, they didn’t believe in him. They worship the Bible of Analytics.

His own manager didn’t want to see him go the whole game, Cash didn’t believe in him. Snell was cheated out of the opportunity. Rays fans were cheated out of an experience that might have been something they would remember lovingly their entire life, the essence of being a fan and seeing your team overcome all odds, to watch your ace step up to another level against the Dodgers.

And you wonder why fans are leaving this game in droves? And you wonder why Manfred is booed?

Where is the loyalty? To the game. To the fans. To your players, who put it all on the line this Covid year?

Aaron Boone and the Yankees overnerded themselves with their Game 2 pitching plans that eventually cost them the ALDS against the Rays. And don’t forget the Red Sox wanted payroll flexibility so they traded Betts to the Dodgers, creating a monster team for LA and a World Series victory. Right this moment the AL East is the Nerdiest Division in baseball when you throw in the Orioles and Blue Jays.

The entire Dodgers dugout was thrilled the moment Snell came out and after Betts’ double down the left field line (by the way my pet peeve is not guarding the third base line late in games) Betts was talking to Dodgers first base coach George Lombard as he dropped off his protective hitting gear, Betts was laughing, probably something along the lines “I can’t believe they took out Snell. I couldn’t hit that guy tonight.’’

Remember, Betts faced Snell in the AL East in 2018, Cy Young time.

After the game an honest Betts said of Snell, “Had he stayed in the game, he may have pitched a complete game. Once he came out of the game, it was just a breath of fresh air.’’

A breath of fresh air for the Dodgers. The smell of sewage for the Rays.

Absurdity is the new reality in baseball. Scouts and player development wizards continue to get fired as baseball pulls away from hands-on, experienced personnel to dealing with everything in a analytical fashion. There is no ability to read what is happening in front of them on the field. You are not allowed to go with your gut in any circumstance.

Cash will have to live with this decision.

My second favorite Twitter reaction from an athlete was from my old pal with the Mets Noah Syndergaard, who offered:. “So who gets to pull the manager?’’

Let’s take that one step further, Noah, something we love to do here at BallNine.

“Who gets to pull the Nerds?’’

44+ years, columnist at NY Post for the last 23 years prior to joining BallNine. Elected to the NY Baseball Hall of Fame. Former SportsTalk Host (KFMB), ESPN’s First Take and Cold Pizza contributor. Frequent guest on radio shows and podcasts nationwide. Author of seven books. Seen in episode 10 of ESPN’s “The Last Dance” (the one with Dennis Rodman). First baseball interview he conducted was with Thurman Munson. Now you know why he is America’s Most Beloved Sportswriter.

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