For Fans Who Should Know Better

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Mudville: June 22, 2024 7:00 am PDT

Exit Velocity rules the day. That’s all we hear or see when we watch a game. It’s everywhere.

Well, there is a downside to exit velocity too.

Like zero exit velocity.

Think of it as 000.0 mph since we are so enamored with a ground ball out to the shortstop that registers 101.7.

Often, these days, there is No Exit.

No team is caught in the spider web of Exit Velocity more than the Yankees. It’s as if they think they get runs for hitting a baseball a certain speed with no attention to the fact that it is base hits and contact that should rule the day.

Yankees key hitters strike out way too much, Joey Gallo I’m looking at you, and some of the others just do exactly what pitchers want them to do in times of trouble. They hit into double plays. A nice exit velocity grounder to third for that 5-4-3 double play. The Yankees lead all of baseball having hit into 131 double plays. The team with the fewest? Do you really need to ask?

The Rays with 61. The Rays lead the AL East by nine games because they know how to make the most of a situation. The Yankees make the least of the situation. Giancarlo Stanton is a walking double play and I do mean walking. He never runs hard out of the box so any ground ball to infielder is gold, an easy DP.

Let the kids play. Ice cream and pool party for everyone after the game at Bryce’s house.

The Yankees can’t even smell the Rays at this point, trailing them by 10 games.

Yankee fans need to accept some reality here that this team, the way the Nerds have constructed it, cannot play consistent winning baseball and cannot win in postseason.

Brian Cashman & Co. also pushed the self-destruct button by limiting the playing time of Luke Voit after he won Player of the Week honors and increasing the playing time of Gleyber Torres after it was shown having a defensive-minded shortstop with some speed in Andrew Velazquez was helping them win along with Tyler Wade.

It’s as if the Analytics Department and their toadies were more interested in proving a point instead of winning games. Hard to fathom, actually.

Here are some frightening numbers. Gallo was supposed to add left-handed balance to the lineup, but you can’t balance if you can’t hit the baseball. For the season Gallo has an astounding 191 Ks and only 87 hits while batting .197, the second lowest mark in baseball behind Cincinnati’s Eugenio Suarez, who is hitting .177.

The numbers since becoming a Yankee, really spell doom for Gallo. In 38 games he is batting .136 with a stunning 66 strikeouts and only 18 hits.

Exit Velocity is Gallo’s calling card even when there is 000.0 exit velocity with all those Ks. What a strange baseball world we are living in these days, especially if you had the pleasure of watching true sluggers like Frank Robinson and Willie Mays play the game.

Sure, Mickey Mantle struck out a ton, averaging 115 Ks per 162 games but he also hit .298 over his career with a .421 on base percentage. Gallo seems to have that same kind of grooved swing as Stanton and pitchers are taking advantage.

“When you add all the swings and misses, when you swing from your ass, that exit velocity comes down into the 30s,’’ one top evaluator told BallNine. “Make a freaking adjustment.’’

Joey Gallo has a swing and miss problem.

With the Blue Jays sweeping the Yankees at Yankee Stadium in a four-game series this week where the Yankees never had the lead for even one inning, it was a drastic difference between the likes of Gallo and Stanton and Vlad Guerrero Jr. Vlad has the most hits in baseball with 166 and uses the entire field to hit. Trea Turner is next in hits with 164, such a smart addition for the Dodgers and a telling comment on the Nationals ownership to trade such a player in his prime.

Who doesn’t want a middle infielder who hits? Geez, why do you even have a major league team?

Compare Trea Turner to Gleyber Torres. Torres’ backside collapses when he pops up so often and he has gotten complacent at shortstop, making errors on simple plays. He is not a shortstop and he shows it every day even though the Yankees Analytics Department wanted to prove he could make the jump from second base to shortstop with no problem. I said years ago it would not work.

The joke’s on you, Nerds.

“There’s a different energy when Velazquez plays shortstop,’’ the scout said. “They’re a better team with Velazquez at shortstop.’’

The Yankees pretty much have managed to ruin Torres. The Yankees seem to be in need of some type of leadership that holds the team accountable.

Aaron Boone is their buddy and chief excuse maker.

The Yankees could use in their organization what I call a “get your head out of your ass’’ coach, you know, a guy who won’t let you get away with stuff and will call you on it. A coach or a manager who holds the players accountable. A lot of teams could use such a coach. Development is too much about a players’ feelings now and not leadership. Accountability matters.

One of the best things I loved about Derek Jeter’s Hall of Fame speech was when he talked about being surrounded by teammates just like him, where the only thing that mattered was winning.

First baseman Anthony Rizzo seems to be a winning player and gave the Yankees an immediate lift. The Yankees did go on that 13-game winning streak but then started to make the same mistakes they have been making most of the season and went back to playing the wrong players.

Anthony Rizzo has not had the same swing and miss problem.

One of my favorite books in my baseball library is Classic Baseball, the photographs of Walter Iooss Jr. There are dramatic photos of Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and their swings. There is a chapter called Faces with Mike Piazza, an aged Bob Feller and a comfortable Joe DiMaggio at his locker on Old Timers’ Day. And of course there is Ernie Banks, in 1964 at Wrigley Field in 2001. There is Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Johnny Bench, Reggie Jackson and Ron Guidry.  There is crew cut Pete Rose and a determined Sandy Koufax, an acrobatic Juan Marichal and a pensive Tom Seaver. And there are the Juniors, too, Cal Ripken Jr. and Ken Griffey Jr.

A classic photo is a sprinting Lou Brock, hard into the lean, with the baseball in the shot.

Those players played the game a certain way with passion. In many ways that is lost today because of the people in charge and if that doesn’t change the game will continue to suffer.

Did you look at some of the attendance figures from Friday? Does anyone even read the box scores anymore? I would love to poll current GMs, better yet, high-climbing assistant GMs to see if they even read the box scores.

But that would mean there would have to be a conversation.

There were 11,808 at beautiful PNC Park, 11,752 at Camden Yards and 7,157 at the Oakland Coliseum. That’s tickets sold, not bodies in the seats. In some places the jig is up. In places like New York the fans are faithful especially during a Subway Series 9-11 weekend, but a storm is coming.

Yankee fans seem to be more frustrated this year than in years past. Mets fans remain in a post-Wilpon honeymoon, but another year of no postseason is not going to make it easy to sell the Cohen Doctrine, which has been filled with GM mistakes, a bad trade deadline and other failures in Year One.

For all these teams, a little contact will make things better like Jeff McNeil’s bases-loaded bunt single Friday night.

“I loved that bases loaded bunt, that was priceless,’’ said one longtime scout.

The scout doesn’t get excited about exit velocity, he gets excited about base hits.

“I don’t care how far it goes,’’ the scout said, speaking for a generation of baseball people. “I’m much more concerned about contact and using the whole field. The idea in baseball is to get on base, score runs and knock runs in. The name of the game is knocking runs in.’’

It’s not popping up or flying out with runners in scoring position.

“Hit line drives,’’ another scout said. “That’s what matters.’’

Vlad Guerrero, Jr has been putting on a clinic in 2021.

The Blue Jays are fighting for a wild card and Vlad Jr. owns 100 RBIs. The Blue Jays could wind up with four players with 100 RBIs. The Yankees will not have anyone with 100. The other Jays closing in on 100 ribbies are Teoscar Hernandez with 94, Marcus Semien with 91 and Bo Bichette with 85.

The Blue Jays are following Guerrero’s lead.

“When your best hitter cuts down his swing,’’ said a scout at the series, “and he is not afraid to use the whole field and works his ass off to improve, that is contagious. I would not want to play Toronto in any playoff series.’’

It should be noted that at the trade deadline the Blue Jays beefed up their rotation adding Jose Berrios while the Yankees added Andrew Heaney.

Judge leads the Yankees with 79 RBI and is batting .294. Stanton has 73 RBI. Gary Sanchez, who was supposed to be a run producer has only 50 RBIs and is batting .210.The Yankees have been a streaky team and it is a scout’s adage that streaky teams are not good teams. Too many ups and downs. “And the Yankees defense is not very good right now, either,’’ the scout said. “You can’t trust (Aroldis) Chapman, I love Chad Green but when the inning switches from eight to nine, not the same guy.’’

The scout also said Semien has done a great job shortening and quickening his swing. “He’s short and quick and he’s got 38 home runs,’’ the scout said. “(Gerrit) Cole tried to pound him inside and he got his hands inside the ball, kept it fair down the left field line for a double and then against Chapman he hit a home on a 98-mph fastball, same exact thing. Don’t even think you can throw a fastball by him. He’s short and quick and he’s got 38 home runs, they use super balls now.’’

And 36 doubles, too.

“It’s what you teach that is so important,’’ the scout said of front offices. “Are you making a priority of home runs, swinging out of your ass, but also, the way we pay players has created the monster.’’

Home run hitters get paid. Strikeouts don’t matter … until they do.

Another scout, speaking of the Yankees and baseball, noted, “People don’t understand the damage the analytics people have done to pitchers and players. Baseball, as an industry, got rid of more guys who were in player development than they got rid of scouts.’’

Baseball has re-imagined player development, using fewer former players and using gurus from the private baseball industry.

“They’ve ruined development,’’ the scout said.

“It’s embarrassing,’’ another scout offered. “Play the game the right way and you know what, you end up being pretty bleeping good.’’

Like the Rays.

The Rays, according to baseball insiders, still have the best player development and it shows. They have become the assembly line of talent that everyone promises and few deliver.

“It’s amazing,’’ the scout said of the damage done by analytics, “that the owners buy into this shit.’’

The owners have, hook, line and sinker and the game is so mediocre across the board. “The number of bad teams in the National League is unbelievable,’’ the scout said. The Mets and Phillies are .500 teams.

The Braves deserve praise for building a team that is 10 games over .500 despite losing an MVP in Ronald Acuna Jr. They would have to have a complete collapse for the Mets or Phillies to overtake them.

The Phillies have had an astounding 30 blown saves this season, testing Joe Girardi’s patience. My favorite highlight Friday night, and I had to go back to check the tape to believe my eyes, was the Phillies were losing 11-0 at home when Didi Gregorius homered in the ninth. As he came into the dugout Bryce Harper put the home run straw hat on his head in celebration.

I’m sure Girardi was thrilled.

Let the kids play. Ice cream and pool party for everyone after the game at Bryce’s house.

Another trend I have noticed is the amount of sliders that have been hit for home runs, and this is just me watching a ton of games, and how many times pitchers blow fastballs by hitters for an 0-2 count and then try to trick ‘em and give up a hit on a sloppy pitch. Sequencing. I’m not the only one to notice. “It drives me crazy to see how many pitchers go up 0-1, 0-2 with fastballs but the sequence says I have to throw a breaking ball,’’ a scout said. “Why? Why can’t a pitcher put a guy away with what got him there?’’

Great question. One of many.

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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