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For Fans Who Should Know Better

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Mudville: July 29, 2021 8:40 am PDT
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Remember this: the same MLB people who rubber stamped those hideous All-Star uniforms are running baseball into the ground with the decisions they are making about the game.

When you look at it from that perspective, it’s a lot easier to understand the troubles ahead for baseball. The greed never stops. One of the most enjoyable aspects of the Summer Classic was the thrill of seeing all those different National League and American League uniforms on the same field together at the All-Star Game.

Your team pride was on display.

It was a painting more than a baseball game. But that beautiful painting was destroyed in the effort to sell cheesy All-Star uniforms. Could you imagine the Great Roberto Clemente, Willie Mays, Henry Aaron, Babe Ruth (it would not be flattering) – or if Pete Rose ran over Ray Fosse while both men were wearing those pajamas the top stars in the game had to wear Tuesday night at Coors Field?

It would not have been pretty. And 50 years ago in Detroit, Reggie Jackson was wearing the Kelly green of the A’s with the gold helmet when he hit his titanic blast. It would not have looked the same with the current AL All-Star garb. It used to be that if the game was in an AL park, the AL teams wore their home uniforms while the NL dressed in road uniforms. If the game took place at an NL park like Tuesday night’s All-Star Game in Denver that MLB, in a politically charged move, took away from Atlanta’s Truist Park, the NL would be wearing home uniforms while the AL would be wearing road uniforms.

“That’s baseball. That’s the connections of the game on display. Those are the wonderful stories the game can give us. Give us those stories, not the bad uniforms.”

A sight to behold. There would be the A’s in all their golden glory alongside the Yankee pinstripes. That is what I always liked to see. It was just such a beautiful contrast and spoke so much about the game and the fans and the difference in teams and players, now it is all sameness, the order of the day with these uniforms.

Teams and fans came together for that one night, AL fans vs. NL fans and before Interleague play came along, this was the night to watch the leagues compete against one another. Seeing the different uniforms was all part of the bigger experience.

I remember in the 1970s being down the Jersey Shore during the night of the All-Star Game. The summer cottages were grouped closely together and as you walked down the street to the boardwalk you could keep up with the game just hearing and seeing the game inside each cottage.

Everyone watched the All-Star Game.

For one night, Yankees and Red Sox could be teammates, but the uniforms gave you a gentle reminder, this is only for one night. There was a wonderful sense of pride when you got to see your favorite team’s uniform on the same field with hated rivals.

It was the same way for the players for decades, as ex-Padres star Andy Benes mentioned to me in a tweet Wednesday: “Was an honor to represent @Padres with the great Tony Gwynn and wear my road uniform. Was so very special. Faced 7 HOF’ers in game. Amazing experience. #’93AllStarGameBaltimore.’’ Benes, the No. 1 pick of the 1988 draft and an All Star in 1993, pitched 14 years in the majors, compiling a 155-139 record with a 3.97 ERA, and he was speaking from the player’s point of view. I’ve always tried to get the player’s POV in stories, it’s important. It’s their game.

The 1979 NL All-Stars: Polyester Colors in all their glory.

I’ve been to so many different All-Star Games through the years and it was always a joy to see that baseball painting below me on the field or during batting practice, walking amongst the All-Stars and seeing all those uniforms mixed together.

It was the perfect baseball party.

There was a good reason why there have not been phony uniforms in the All-Star Game before 2021; fans and players were there to represent their team and see all the All-Stars come together on the same field.

No more. Gone.

At Coors Field on Tuesday night, you could not tell if that was the MLB All-Star Game or another Perfect Game Showcase with the so-called uniforms the AL and the NL were wearing. In a way it was sad, because no one in baseball had the good sense to say, “This is not a good look.’’

Imagine when this idea was first proposed. Didn’t anyone have the guts to stand up to Rob Manfred and say, “Commish, you are making a big mistake. Not a good look. Trying to save you some embarrassment here.’’

Evidently not.

Even if the uniforms were not hideous, it still would have been the wrong move. But nothing is sacred in baseball in Rob Manfred’s world. Follow the money and you will find the game selling out at every opportunity. Get your bets in when you can and then there will be something else to bet on next inning – and it is only going to get worse.

Without a doubt, the AMBS’ MVP Award goes to the Denver fans who showed up for the MLB draft and relentlessly booed Manfred as he came to the podium each time. We are used to this with the NFL draft and Roger Goodell, but this was Next Level booing. This almost seemed personal. And who can blame the fans?

Goodell appears to get booed on general principles. Manfred, I believe, was booed because of the wholesale changes he is making to the time-tested, time-honored game from the changing of the baseballs to his made-up rules.

This was the fans only way of saying, “Enough.’’ Even I was surprised at the tenacity the fans showed getting on Manfred every single time he sidled up to the podium.

“Stop wrecking the game,’’ was the not-so-subtle message. “We like baseball the way it is or the way it used to be.’’

And isn’t it interesting that two days later Manfred basically said his Fake Runner and his seven-inning doubleheaders, even if they were day-night split doubleheaders, would be no more after this season?

Regular readers of Baseball or Bust know how much I despise the Fake Runner rule. It is everything wrong about the game today. Forget about earning second base. Forget about working to get to second base to lead off the inning. Here is a free ride to second base. You are getting rewarded because you have shown you can’t score in extra innings without a little help, and you made the last out last inning so here is a reward for you, go to second. Sorry, pitcher.

Forget about being better than your opponent. Not in this world. You get second for free. You didn’t earn it. But here it is. Here is a gift but we are not going to call it a “gift”? Manfred loves his gimmicks, including mic’d up pitchers cursing on the mound. Social media was all over that and that’s what he wanted.

God forbid you have to learn baseball things and score on your own in extra innings. Here is the path of least resistance. Here is a shortcut to success. We know it is so hard to win a game the proper way, here is a little help. And we will give the same help to the other team so it’s fair.

It’s not fair, MLB.

It’s lowering the bar. That is exactly what baseball has done time and again in Manfred’s World. The bar is lowered. Try raising the bar. It’s the major leagues. It’s okay to present challenges. Let the players figure it out, have faith in the players, don’t legislate the game, play the game.

But that is not the way of MLB 2021.

Reggie Jackson's mammoth 539-foot home run in the 1971 All Star Game at Tiger Stadium almost landed in Kalamazoo.

As for the seven-inning games, it was never a good idea. A regulation game is nine innings. Taking two innings away cheats the fan, who is paying way too high a price to attend these games, anyway. It is such a bad idea that Manfred League Baseball does not even recognize a seven-inning no hitter as a legitimate no hitter.

If seven innings is not a no hitter even though the other team has no hits, how can seven innings be a game? It’s that simple.

As for the reasoning of lessening the strain on the players, it’s Major League Baseball. games are nine innings long unless Mother Nature gets involved.

What’s next? Fake umpires. Fake strike zones. Lengthening the distances from the mound to the plate. Bigger bases. Maybe even a wider strike zone from what I’m hearing in an effort to have hitters put the ball in play more. No pickoffs.

How about getting real baseball people back in the game to teach the tools of the game and not just the measurements of the game. The over fascination with exit velocity and playing with the rules of the game is not healthy for the game – and take a look at what the fans are saying.

Early numbers show that this may be the lowest-rated MLB All-Star Game.

Gee, I wonder why?

To me, another highlight was watching the Mets Pete Alonso win the Home Run Derby. I am against making baseball solely a home run sport, but I am not against the Home Run Derby. It’s fun – and you have to love the way Alonso took the mindset “I am the best power-hitter in the game and I am going to kick butt.’’

The kid from Tampa stole the spotlight from Shohei Ohtani, the kid from Japan.

Alonso settled it on the field with his impressive display of home runs – and here is a plug too for baseball lifer, a coach I have known for decades, Dave Jauss. He was the perfect batting practice pitcher for Alonso, feeding the big man the pitches he needed in just the right spot to get his home run swing in Amazin’ rhythm. That was fun to see.

Dave Jauss (right) was instrumental in Pete Alonso's second Home Run Derby victory this year at Coors Field.

To put it all in perspective, Alonso, 26, was born Dec. 7, 1994. It was just about that time that Dave Jauss, 64, was named the Manager of the Year in the Eastern League for Harrisburg, an Expos farm team. The Expos are long gone, but Jauss, a devout Christian, continues to work in the game and was even a college coach before he entered the pro game. He started his college coaching career in 1982 at Westfield State College. He got hired by the Expos in 1988 and was a coach on Felipe Alou’s West Palm Beach Expos team. One of Felipe’s sons, Luis Rojas was running around the clubhouse in those days. Luis Rojas is the Mets manager now. Jauss, the son of famous Chicago sportswriter Bill Jauss, became Luis’ bench coach this season and on Monday night he wound up in the national stage pitching to the Polar Bear.

He was originally brought into pro ball in 1988 by Dan Duquette, the Expos director of player development and a teammate of Jauss at Amherst College. In 1994, when Jauss was managing in the Expos system, the Gulf Coast Expos had a 19-year-old future star named Vladimir Guerrero. His son Vlad Jr. was named MVP of Tuesday night’s All-Star Game.

That’s baseball. That’s the connections of the game on display. Those are the wonderful stories the game can give us. Give us those stories, not the bad uniforms.

It was with that West Palm Beach Expos team that Luis Rojas learned a great lesson from his dad, Felipe. “I was young, like about eight years old,’’ Rojas once told me. “I remember one time I was yelling at the players because they were striking out. My dad sent me to the office for the rest of the game. So I learned my lesson that day.’’

Luis Rojas learned the game is much more difficult than it looks. It is something he has taken with him to the Mets. Dave Jauss is there to remind him as well.

2021 ASG MVP Vlad Guerrero, Jr. - seen here with Vlad Sr. on the field for Vlad Sr.'s final game in Montreal - is one of the amazing stories that makes baseball, baseball.

Alonso made hitting home runs look easy. It’s not. Even BP home runs.

Baseball is difficult. It should be. There should be no free passes to second base in extra innings. Games should be scheduled for nine innings, not seven.

And now the easy part of the schedule is complete. The first half, basically, there is no pressure. Now the pressure mounts post All-Star Game. It is a little too early to come to conclusions simply because there is expected to be an active trade market.

The star power of the AL East was on display in the All-Star Game with Vlad Jr. winning MVP honors with a titanic home run and then a ground ball RBI out, all the different ways to score on display. It’s interesting that the Yankees and Vlad’s Blue Jays are both looking for left-handed power and the Rangers have pretty made it clear that Joey Gallo will be traded.

The Blue Jays and Yankees are eight games back of the Red Sox in the AL East with the Rays 1.5 games back of Boston. Who will wind up with Gallo? The Yankees need to get on a roll quickly and Thursday night host the Red Sox, who have won all six games this year against the Yankees.

That is the start of four straight against the Red Sox. The 13 games immediately after the break will determine the Yankees season; those 13 games will come against the Red Sox, Phillies and Rays. The Yankees are currently 5-16 against those teams. The Yankees need to have a huge 13-game run and go something like 9-4 to really get involved in the race, as they are currently 4 1/2 back in the Wild Card.

The Yankees ended the break losing a ninth-inning, 7-2 lead against the Astros in a game Aaron Boone had everyone available to pitch – except for Gerrit Cole – and still blew the big lead. If that loss carries over into this stretch, the Yankees might as well start looking ahead to 2022.

Just like those hideous uniforms, after the All-Star break, there is nowhere to hide.

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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