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For Fans Who Should Know Better

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Mudville: April 11, 2021 8:26 am PDT
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Baseball never disappoints. Nerds always disappoint.

The people who run baseball disappoint us at every turn, but the game never disappoints. I am sensing pushback by fans and players this first week of action. They will not let the nerds totally destroy the game. They will not go down without a fight.

Kudos to the Angel fan or fans who brought an inflatable garbage can to the Big A, followed by a real garbage can being dropped on the field to remind the Astros of their cheating ways. Fans deserve a voice and so much of the game is being taken away from them, they are fighting back any way they can these days.

Don’t stop fighting.

And credit to former Angels manager Mike Scioscia, always one of my favorites. He was named the manager of Team USA this week and when asked about the garbage can dropout, said, “I think they’re voicing their opinion as we all have a right to do.’’

Indeed. So are some players. They’re rebelling against the #overnerding of the game. They are rebelling against trying to tamp down the physical and emotional aspect of baseball. This is a spirited game. Things happen. Nick Castellanos’ headfirst slide into home plate and in his in-your-face celebration was proof of that.

For his hustle play against the Cardinals, a play that should be celebrated by baseball, Castellanos was suspended two games because the people who rule baseball don’t understand the emotion of the game or the game itself.

Did anyone notice the pitcher dropped his right knee on the back of the sliding Castellanos?

In previous baseball generations that maneuver, intentional or not, would have started a Pier 6 Brawl. And kudos to the Dodgers’ Trevor Bauer for having Castellanos’ back after being kneed in the back.

Bauer tweeted: “MLB’s note to players. Don’t get excited about big moments or play with intensity, we will fine you and suspend you if you do … #FreeNickCastellanos’’

This is what it is going to take, folks, pushback for the game to be saved.

Of course, MLB read the play all wrong and VP of on-field operations Michael Hill said Castellanos was suspended for his “aggressive actions and for instigating.’’

Castellanos was aggressive coming home. That’s his job and when he was safe and the pitcher – who had put him on base by hitting him with a pitch – landed on him, Castellanos had a few choice words. This was a great baseball play, the kind of play fans love to see. Benches emptied but no fists were thrown. I think Castellanos actually showed restraint in his actions. It was funny to read descriptions of the play that said runner and pitcher “collided.’’

No, they didn’t collide. The pitcher landed on the diving runner’s back.

MLB, in its failed wisdom believes it’s all about speeding up the game to attract more fans, especially younger fans. No. It’s about regional rivalries and this is another example. The Reds and Cardinals will be must-see action this year.

Did anyone from MLB remember what made the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry so great going back to the late 70’s? Both teams were good and both teams wanted to beat the living crap out of each other. It is not about ridiculous rule changes, it’s about rivalries. It’s always been about rivalries.

Do you think anyone is excited about Obese bases, limiting throws to first base, the Three Batter Rule or some of the other terrible rules baseball is trying to put in the game? No they get excited when it is in your face baseball rivalries, so of course, MLB tries to cut that out of the game.

Clueless elites running the game are ruining the game at every turn trying to tell the players what is best for them.

The Reds and Cardinals have something going. Let it roll. The game is so much more fun when competition is the name of the game. It is so easy to understand, except if you work for MLB. Reds pitcher Amir Garrett noted “I want everybody to think that the Cincinnati Reds are, like, the cockiest team ever. We’re some bat flippin’, show beatin’ son of guns and I want everybody to know that.’’

That comment is on the @Reds Twitter page, good for the Reds, who are off to a 5-1 start with Castellanos hitting .435.

“That is how players can fight back. Stop giving in to the nerds and the back pocket cards.”

Nick Castellanos was taking exactly zero shit..

That is how rivalries prosper. That is how you engage the fans. Baseball needs to celebrate that, not squelch it with suspensions for a guy who was excited about creating a run after getting hit by a pitch. And please stop with the HBP “was not intentional.’’ It doesn’t matter. It happened and then Castellanos took a knee to the back and got in the face of the pitcher who, by the way, muffed the throw from Yadier Molina.

I personally love all that. More rivalries, please.

More Shohei Ohtani, too. More of the Angels playing competitive baseball instead of that nerd-fluff they were putting out there the last few years. A new front office has certainly energized Joe Maddon, who complimented his team on putting the ball in play. Imagine that. Maddon had the guts to say this as well: “It’s a bad process to think everybody is going to hit home runs all the time. I love it when the ball is moved. When you are facing better pitchers that aren’t making mistakes, you have got to be able to do that.’’

And this bit of Maddon Genius after his team came away with a 7-6 win over the Astros and his batters struck out only three times while producing 10 hits. How the heck did that happen?

“Pitchers throw home runs more than hitters hit ‘em.’’

That is straight out of the AMBS playbook.

“So if they are making quality pitches and you are up there trying to hit the ball over the wall it is not going to happen,’’ Maddon said. “So I love it. I want us to maintain this. I want it to become part of the organizational fabric as we move forward. It’s a beautiful thing to watch and it plays every day.’’

It’s called baseball. Not Home Run Baseball. Baseball.

This is how you fight back. One game at a time. One at-bat at a time. One pitch at a time and with the Jet Ball that is still in play this year, despite what MLB says, home runs will come, but find a way to create runs. That creates fans. Fans who bring their own blow-up garbage cans to the game.

One small step at a time. Especially on the base paths. That is where the action is that the fans love to see. I witnessed great baserunning by Bryce Harper scoring from second on Luis Guillorme’s throwing error in yet another game the nerds stole a win from Jacob deGrom in the Mets opener, limiting deGrom, who was lights out, to only 77 pitches and six innings in a 5-3 loss to the Phillies.

You know it’s a fact that on Pitch No. 90, a pitcher’s arm might fall off. That’s on Page 90 of the Nerd Handbook.

And how about this: If you had Toronto’s Steven Matz pitching longer into the game than his good buddy deGrom in their first outings, and getting the win while deGrom got another no decision, than cash that bet.

What they don’t understand about the game is that Moments Matter.

Fans live for special moments. That is why they spend their money and overpay to go to these games.

They want to see a play at the plate where a runner scores and shows emotion to the opponent that he just beat. They want to see Harper hustle from second to home, and not just hit home runs. They want to see contact by the hitter like the amazing Yermin Mercedes, who finally figured out a two-strike approach to hitting for the White Sox. They want action. They want to razz the opposing team, especially if that team cheated to win a World Series. They want to see deGrom pitch through the seventh inning. Mets fans long for that but Mets over-protective management will not give the fans what they want.

There is much too much protectionism in baseball. This has to be the most scared of its shadow rulers of the game we have ever seen. It is always about what could happen instead of what is happening right in front of their eyes.

At some point players have to become tired of being forced what to do every step of the way.

Same for fans. They want to live the fan’s life and if baseball does not allow that to happen, baseball will destroy itself from within. More good news, tailgating is back in Milwaukee. Go have a brat and a beer.

Fans want to see pitchers have a shot at a no-hitter. Jose Berrios was pulled after 84 pitches by the Twins with a no-hitter while striking out 12 Brewers. Would he have gotten there? I don’t know, but it is one of the aspects of the game that draws the fans to the game.

“Today we might see a no-hitter,’’ is a thought that crosses every fan’s mind when they go to a game.

That has been replaced by: “Our guy is throwing a no hitter, but his pitch count is too high. We gotta get him out or he might get hurt.’’

Players change but the over-protective mindset remains.

It is not just the Mets or Twins. It’s everywhere. It is something I call the 5 o’clock shadow. That’s the time of day the front office meets with the manager and goes over the game plan. If we get to this point in the game, do this. Orders are given and there are only 30 major league managerial jobs, so orders are obeyed.

It doesn’t matter what the manager sees in front of him. Everything is scripted and those five o’clock meetings have lost more games at 9:30 at night than you can imagine.

A scout at the Mets-Phillies game told me deGrom was firing easy gas all day and easily could have gotten through one more inning. The scout also pointed out that throughout spring training Miguel Castro was the Mets best reliever, but Mets management wanted to make sure newcomer Trevor May pitched the eighth. Well, they got their wish. Castro blew through the seventh inning and it all fell apart in the eighth. it was symbolic, too, that Mets new lefty reliever Aaron Loup hit Harper with a pitch on the ass that set up the downfall.

Of deGrom’s 77 pitches, 50 were strikes.

In many ways, baseball is starting off just as it left off with Kevin Cash the manager doing something Kevin Cash the catcher never would have allowed to happen, take out Blake Snell in Game 6 of the World Series while the lefty was pitching the game of his life.

We have been told so often by the nerds that they are only trying to protect their pitchers.

Stuff it. Protect your pitchers by making sure their mechanics are the best they can be – and in deGrom’s case his mechanics are nearly perfect.

Play the game. Let the game dictate moves. Let the game dictate the action. Let the fans enjoy moments.

Maybe someday there will be something called Real Baseball League (RBL) where they play baseball, but for now we have to live with this version of MLB. The players have to realize they are the show, not the nerds.

They need to take charge every way they can.

For example, what was Gerrit Cole thinking throwing a lazy slider that was hit for a tying home run in his first start of the year on April Fool’s Day? As Buck Martinez said of the pitch: “This was a big time hanger.’’

Cole’s fastball was incredible. His changeup, too. Throw the slider away. Don’t let them convince you it is all about sequencing, sometimes you are just better than the hitter and don’t give in. Throw your best pitch. I was certain next time Cole was in such a spot there would not be a lazy slider thrown, there would be gas.

That is how players can fight back. Stop giving in to the nerds and the back pocket cards.

And that is exactly what happened. In Cole’s next start against the AAA Orioles he struck out 13 batters, keeping the slider down and away and the fastball up. He learned his lesson. He was not going to let sequencing talk affect his pitching.

Players have to be smarter. Fernando Tatis, Jr. was coming off a shoulder injury yet there he was swinging from his heels with such force he blew out his left shoulder again. When he returns, here is hoping that Tatis focuses on more of a contact approach. It’s more important to be out there than to do something dangerous.

Let common sense rule the day, not algorithms.

Over-managing used to be a problem only on occasion. Now there is over-managing every night by the front office and sequence-dominated pitching coaches. You don’t get more points for outsmarting the opponent. It’s about beating the opponent. That aspect of the game has been lost.

It also needs to be noted that Loup and the Mets fell victim to the Three-Batter Rule, another stroke of genius by Rob Manfred & Co.

I would love to see them try to take out Bob Gibson back in the day if he was firing a shutout after only 77 pitches on his Opening Day. Pitchers need to stand up for themselves and deGrom needs to push back a little on the quick hooks.

Then there are the Braves fans. Not only did they have to endure a terrible start by the defending NL East Champions, who lost to the Dodgers in the playoffs because of bad base-running, but they also had the All-Star Game taken away from them in a political move.

I feel sorry for Braves fans. Whenever I went to a game there the last few years, there was a young family in the seats right next to the far-left side of the press box. They were there every game I was at and I can only imagine how excited that family would be to have the All-Star Game in their ballpark. Checking the messages from fans on some of the Braves fans Facebook pages showed how furious those fans are with the decision and with MLB.

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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