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For Fans Who Should Know Better

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Mudville: July 29, 2021 7:55 am PDT
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An open letter to MLB owners:

Take a hard look at your game and where it is going. Are you happy with the product? Are you proud of the product on the field? Are you proud of the strikeouts, the walks, the errors, the passed balls, the sloppy play, the bad baserunning?

For supposedly, the greatest players in the world.

Owners, you have allowed this to happen by chasing baseball people away who have done nothing but teach people how to play the game the right way and allowing the new breed of GM to weaken the product across the board.

Are you proud of that MLB owners? This is really on you.

Are you proud that baseball is now Home Run Derby under Rob Manfred’s watch – and the nuances of the game are no longer important? Are you proud that batting averages, forever a marker of successful hitting, have been devalued? Are you proud RBIs have been devalued? Are you proud teamwork has been devalued? Are you proud hitting the ball the other way, making contact in an RISP situation, has been devalued? Are you proud that pitching command has been replaced by the ball might go anywhere velocity?

All of that, owners, is on you.

“If you are proud of the slop you are seeing on the field,’’ one time-tested evaluator told BallNine, “then you don’t have any intellectual honesty. What have we done to get to where we are and what are you going to do to fix it?’’

As has been proven, in Rob Manfred’s world they continuously screw around with the baseball and this baseball, pitchers have told me, the seams of the baseball are not as high as they once were.

Great question.

Players are making a lot of money and many don’t know how to play the game. Fans are shelling out hard earned money for tickets and everything else and they deserve a better game. With this new breed of leadership, what is all this time being spent on, because they are certainly not teaching them how to play the game.

And where is the accountability?

Also, are you proud there is now another major new controversy, thanks to mid-season changes with the crackdown that no foreign substances will be allowed by pitchers to be applied to the Manfred Ball? Only rosin can be used on the mound.

No more pine tar concoctions. No more advanced Next Level grip substances like Spider Tack.

By the way, in case you haven’t noticed, the Next Level substances were developed in the game because of the Nerds chasing their Holy Grail of Spin Rate, passing that demand to pitchers.

It used to be about command and controlling the baseball, not just about ultimate velocity and spin rate.

Are you proud of all that MLB owners?

With the enforced rules coming into play and suspensions imminent, the Rays’ Tyler Glasnow blamed his elbow injury on the fact that he went cold turkey on using foreign substances and how that changed his grip – and in his own words, he said, “I’m choking the shit out of all my pitches.’’ Glasnow paid the price with a partially torn ulnar nerve.

When velocity is the goal and not command, bad things can happen more frequently. Deny that if you want, but that is a baseball truth.

One former pitcher told BallNine: “The rosin bag has been on the mound for a hundred years, if you know how to use it, it gives you plenty of grip, you don’t need pine tar and you know what? Put seams back on the baseball.’’

But then again, that’s a former pitcher who used the rosin bag effectively. What does he really know. He is not the keeper of the high-speed film that each team swears allegiance to, he didn’t go to an Ivy League school, he was only a pitcher that got the most out of his talents by not using Spider Tack.

As has been proven, in Rob Manfred’s world they continuously screw around with the baseball and this baseball, pitchers have told me, the seams of the baseball are not as high as they once were.

Some have said, especially on cold days, this baseball feels like a cue ball. Locating that cue ball might be more important than just firing that cue ball at the plate.

When Home Run Derby became the law of the land with Launch Angle and Manfred’s superballs, pitchers counter-acted by going down the rabbit hole of Next Level foreign substances to gain a better grip on the baseball to get maximum velocity, a dangerous combination.

Foreign substances have been around a long time and no one complained. It was accepted. But of course, with the backing of the Nerds, many pitchers wanted to push the envelope so they looked to Strong Man competition to find Spider Tack, which was created to improve stone-loading performance. Yes, stones, Atlas Stones to be exact.

Now the pitchers will have to find a new way. While we are at it, MLB owners, let’s not forget the Astros electronic sign-stealing scandal. White Sox pitcher Carlos Rodon noticed the double standard, telling NBC Sports, “It’s hard to see this when you are giving out 10-game suspensions for (foreign substances) cheating but you gave the Astros no suspensions at all. If Rob Manfred can look himself in the mirror and say ‘Hey, I’m doing the right thing,’ that’s fine, but you can’t suspend the team that you actually knew was cheating during a playoff game, that’s on you.’’

Bullseye. All this is on the MLB owners, too.

Manfred has much more control over the game than these pitchers have control over the baseball.

The new breed of GM seems to have forgotten about baseball things and it shows up every night when teams make mind-numbing errors and baserunning mistakes, put together strikeout-laden lineups or pitchers who give out way too many free passes, hit way too many batters, yet we are to believe they need these substances to make the game safer.

Are you proud of that MLB owners?

As Jeff Francoeur rightly said on the Braves broadcast Tuesday night during a really intelligent conversation about the tacky issue: “These pitchers are using something they are not supposed to.’’

Considering the poor state of play, if teams want to turn things around, you can do it pretty quickly just by bringing in guys who know how to play baseball. To a degree, that is what the Mets have done this season with their backups who are now frontline players. Players like Kevin Pillar (ask Pillar about pitchers’ command being better) and Billy McKinney who knows how to play the game, the same for Jonathan Villar, Jose Peralta, catcher James McCann and Luis Guillorme. McCann and shortstop Francisco Lindor strengthened up the middle defense and Pillar has done the same in center

The Mets have simply gotten better at baseball things.

The Mets beat the Cubs, 3-2 on Tuesday night because heady players like Pillar, Guillorme and McCann made the play of the game with one out in the ninth inning throwing out Jake Marisnick, who was put into the game as a pinch-runner. He was thrown out at home after getting a terrible send from Cubs third base coach Willie Harris. Pillar hustled to right-center to grab the hit, threw a strike to Guillorme who threw a one-hop strike to McCann. The Mets did the little things right, hitting the cutoff man, a lost art.

Plays like that are often screwed up these days – but not this time – and Cubs manager David Ross defended his third base coach, saying, “That was a really nice relay, almost a blind turn and throw to get our fastest base-runner … I err on the side of aggressiveness.’’

Even with one out in the ninth?

But that is just one small example of how far the bar has been lowered. The Mets hit the cutoff man. The cutoff man made a perfect throw home. That used to happen all the time in the game, but as Ross’ words tell you he was fully expecting some type of screw-up by the Mets because the simple plays are no longer made on a routine basis.

I get where Ross is coming from with that statement.

As a result, the Cubs got burned in the ninth inning of a one-run game, sending a runner with only one out.

Perhaps the inability of hitters to get that runner home with one out also played into Harris’ thinking and Ross’ defense of the move.

By the way, Harris should have been down the line so once the relay was made he could have pulled the emergency brake on Marisnick. But this is Baseball 2021.

As my daughter Kelly – a softball coach, a fine player in her day, a slugger, who was also a good baserunner, and is now a math teacher, so she understands probabilities, said, “Baseball is a feel game.’’

People in charge of teams now have no “feel’’ for the game and it shows on a nightly basis.

How many times have we seen players like Gary Sanchez or Clint Frazier run into outs at third base? Every team is making baserunning mistakes that are hard to swallow. I said about six years ago baserunning would be the new steroid, run the bases better than other teams and you have a big advantage. Since then the baserunning has become atrocious – and as my friend Tim Kurkjian pointed out in his ESPN article, noting of this generation of players: “They overpower the sport with their amazing physical gifts, yet too many of them have no instincts for the game. They have less of an idea and understanding of how to play the game than any time I can remember … egregious mistakes are made on the bases, mistakes that happen in every ballpark, every night.’’

Dusty Baker, who knows the game better than anyone, admitted, “Baserunning is terrible today.’’

Dusty Baker is less than thrilled with what he's seeing on the base paths this year.

Yes it is, because they don’t work at it like they once did and no one is held accountable.

Just this week an extremely fast runner in a minor league game was clocked going to first at a snail-like 6.15 by scouts. There were no physical issues. The runner couldn’t be bothered with running hard.

Ever watch Giancarlo Stanton run to first? It’s beyond slow, my guess is that’s because the Yankees have told him not to run hard because of the threat of injury because, you know, baseball players, especially Stanton, get hurt doing baseball things.

Owners, you’ve lowered the bar across the board. Are you proud of that?

Another quick point about recent minor league play.

“The ball is not put in play and when it is put in play, especially in the infield, the infielders act surprised, infield play is horrendous,’’ said one scout who has been watching AAA ball this week.’’

Thanks Nerds, you’ve done it again. Thanks Rob Manfred, you’ve done it again.

Nerds have clear-cut the minor league baseball forest of many lifetime coaches who would pass along the George Kissell lessons of the past, pure baseball knowledge. The Nerds have replaced coaches who knew the mechanics of the game with “coaches’’ who are really good at using high speed video to talk about the measurements of the game.

“There is no teaching being done anymore,’’ I have heard time and again.

And it shows. True teachers have been forced to the back of the room or completely out of the room, except for a few organizations.

In his excellent USA Today article with former manager and pitching coach Bryan Price, Bob Nightengale had Price tell us: “There’s a lot of people in the coaching and scouting departments and front offices that are saying the right things because they can’t afford to stop receiving a paycheck and get the benefits. There’s an awful lot of people that are working and not on board with what’s going on.’’

Are you proud of that MLB owners? This is on you.

All this comes on the heels of the recent column I wrote for BallNine where baseball lifer Gary Allenson, a former major league catcher, major league coach and longtime minor league manager who was known to throw perfect batting practice, walked away from the game a few years ago. He told me why and that piece was passed along the true baseball pipeline.

After reading Price’s comments about walking away, Allenson noted to me in an email: “The revolution has begun.’’

And we haven’t even gotten to PFP, Pitchers’ Fielding Practice, yet.

On Saturday the Yankees and the Mariners both lost games in the ninth inning because their pitchers, Aroldis Chapman and Paul Sewald, could not make simple plays on balls hit back to them. Chapman’s throw to first was high and Sewald’s easy flip home was T-ball like wild.

Pitchers don’t practice their fielding like they once did, they’re too busy looking at Spin Rate with Measurement Coaches. It’s all about the RPMs, not the PFP.

Are you proud of that MLB owners? This is on you.

That is the direction the game has gone under Rob Manfred and his new breed of GMs, who are cutting costs for owners by cutting back on true scouting and true development, again, except for a couple of wise teams.

This is a big part of the reason why so many fans and people who used to be in love with the game, can’t watch the game anymore.

Are you proud of that MLB owners? This is on you.

45+ 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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