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For Fans Who Should Know Better

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Mudville: December 3, 2022 2:45 pm PDT
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Broken Trust

In the end baseball is all about trust. Or the lack of trust.

On the field it’s about having trust in your teammates. Can a manager trust his bullpen to hold the lead? As a hitter you must trust the next guy to come through.

Can you trust your starting pitcher to go three times through the lineup?

The trust factor is everywhere.

And the sad truth is baseball is losing that trust factor with the fans and within its own game.

In the future it could be much, much worse.

Perhaps the biggest nightmare scenario of them all.

Every day trust is eroded a little bit more in ways past generations never could have imagined.

Juiced players.

Juiced baseballs.

Deadened baseballs.

Even filling out my Hall of Fame ballot the trust factor is center stage because of PEDs.

If the game didn’t bother to clean itself up, how can my ballot clean it up?

The list goes on and on and the funny thing is it all starts at the top with this commissioner Rob Manfred.

The latest example of broken trust comes from Business Insider and writer Bradford William Davis who noted in a series of tweets @BWDBWDBWD promoting his story on baseball’s use of two different baseballs: “I enjoyed exploring @Bbl_Astrophyscs two baseball research because it provokes more questions than answers like:

Manfred has been playing god with the baseball and went too far.

1)  How did the two designs she found perform in the real world? (MLB said they performed “as expected” and wouldn’t elaborate any further)

2) Were ball A and B distributed disproportionately on a team, date, league, player or game basis?

3) if MLBPA was notified then why do players claim, usually emphatically, that they were unaware? Yes, even the ones engaged in union affairs.

4) How could a two ball league impact a team’s scouting, player development, and roster construction?

This wasn’t universal, but multiple execs and FO workers from different teams told me that what they expect from the ball definitely influences their plans for the season.’’

And as Dr. Meredith Wills the @Bbl_Astrophyscs wrote in her own pinned tweet:

 

MLB and Manfred jumped the Trust Shark with this one, that’s for sure. Manfred is in charge of the game even though the owners are in charge of him.

The game is failing. He is failing at an alarming rate.

Trust is lost.

Jeff Frye, an eight-year MLB player with a lifetime batting average of .290, was stunned by the MLB’s use of two different baseballs, and was notified of the story from a current Major League Player.

“I was astounded,’’ Frye told BallNine of this latest baseball caper. “So here we are within 24 hours of the first work stoppage in 27 years and then we find out we used two different baseballs for whatever reason last year and then gambling comes on the scene at the same time.”

“The stuff that ran through my mind about the possibilities of corruption, I couldn’t believe it,’’ Frye said. “Take home runs per game. Just use a dead ball and it is so sad that we would even consider that this is a possibility that these things would be taken into account but that is where we are because of this commissioner.”

“The all-time hit leader in the history of the game, Pete Rose, isn’t allowed to be in the Hall of Fame because of gambling, yet here we got gambling on the television during World Series games,’’ Frye noted. “What are we doing?’’

Indeed.

Yes, MLB said there were two different balls in play in 2021 because of production delays related to the pandemic.

Right.

Jeff Frye

Other former players I communicated Wednesday with were incensed as well. This gets to the heart of the game, the trust of the game.

Noted one: ”I just wanna know who threw a no-hitter w/ the juiced ball, and who threw one w/the ‘dead’ one.’’

Good question.

No matter the situation, trust has been eroded in the game and those who run the game. And why is baseball even bothering to use two different baseballs.

Also, why did baseball go to different baseballs to begin with under Manfred.

In the minors there used to be one standard baseball throughout the minor leagues and then suddenly AAA went to the more juiced baseball under Manfred.

“The ball they used to use at AAA that is used in A-ball and AA now has more traditional seams, and doesn’t carry the same way as the ball in the big leagues and AAA,’’ one former pitcher told me. “Can you tell me why you are just not using the same standard ball from top to bottom.”

“They instituted that two years ago.’’

Just use the former fair ball.

“Why are we using different specs on baseballs,’’ he added. “Professional baseball encompasses from the minor leagues to the big leagues. Why not just use the same ball with the same specs, the same seams, the same windings and grindings inside, I don’t get it.’’

He knows the answer, though.

“They are trying to create more offense in the big leagues because guys strike out,’’ he said.

Plain and simple that’s the plan.

Manfred has been playing God with the baseball and went too far.

And guess what, to have baseball betting on every aspect of the game is eroding the trust factor to a degree, no matter the many come-ons from the betting companies that are delivered during the broadcast of a game.

Can you trust the players to be at their best? While betting the multiple layers of over/under is this one of those games with the live ball or the dead ball will be in play?

 Is it a high seams game or low seams game?

SUN VALLEY, IDAHO - JULY 08: Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred walks to a session at the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference on July 08, 2021 in Sun Valley, Idaho. After a year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the world’s most wealthy and powerful businesspeople from the media, finance, and technology worlds will converge at the Sun Valley Resort for the exclusive week-long conference. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

 The greatest thing about baseball is that you could trust the game to be played fairly, uniformly. Different baseballs create much different outcomes.

Baseball lost trust a long time ago. That’s what the Black Sox Scandal was all about. Baseball lost the trust of its fans and it had to be regained over time. And that was a challenge. Now here we are a 100 years later and trust, more appropriately lack of trust, is again center stage.

Then there is the trust in your own team.

Can Yankee fans honestly say they trust Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman to give them the best team they can possibly give the fans. Those fans now have to trust that Gary Sanchez is finally going to understand how to catch and play baseball … again this year.

Pity the poor Pirate fan who has lost all trust and hope in that team years ago and there are so many teams like that. Look at the D-Backs. You mean to tell me the same guys are in charge after all that losing?

What are we doing here?

And as one of my most trusted baseball people told BallNine about how the baseball reacted in 2021: “You’d be watching games and some balls would just take off and others wouldn’t and you’d say, ‘What the hell happened there?’ ’’

Exactly, what the hell happened there?

Maybe that should be MLB’s new slogan:

“What the hell happened there?’’

All this takes us home, and baseball is always about coming home, to the trust factor. This most wise baseball man then added: “Kevin, is there any trust factor in the world?’’

He has a point.

All this baseball broken trust and we haven’t even gotten to The Lockout yet.

As of 12:01AM ET on December 2, 2021, MLB owners voted unanimously to enact a lockout upon the expiration of the 2016 collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players' union. First time since the 1994-1995 seasons.

How long will it take to hammer out a new deal? Fans continue to leave the game in droves for many reasons and here is baseball taking another pound of flesh from the fans, threatening to harm the 2022 season. And when they do get back to playing Manfred wants to add even more playoff teams to an already watered down postseason.

More games, more TV money, more betting, too.

More juiced balls when requested.

The owners can’t wait to make even more money on the gambling aspect of the game. Say It Ain’t So Rob, but Manfred is leading the Ballpark to Casino charge.

Can baseball screw itself up any worse than it is doing daily?

I really don’t think so. Here at BallNine we love to tell glorious stories about those who play the game or once played the game, but every day Manfred and his Clones, or Clowns, you pick the term, get in the way.

At some point it all becomes too much for the fan.

In many ways it has already become too much for baseball people who spent their life in the game, gave their life to the game, and don’t want to have anything to do with the way this game is being run and played these days. So many of those baseball people have told me emphatically that they don’t even watch the game anymore. They have had enough.

You can’t blame them.

The great thing about baseball is the consistency of the game through the ages. Players change but the game is still the game.

Until now.

Perhaps my favorite thing happening in baseball at this moment is the financial run on starting pitching when all through the year, and recent years, the Nerds have done their best to destroy starting pitching, going back to their mindless pitch limits in the minors for young pitchers that would not let them develop. You don’t want to go crazy with the number of pitches a young pitcher throws but you have to have enough work in enough games to learn to how to navigate issues you will face in the Major Leagues.

Maybe lay off the gas a little bit, throwers, and learn to pitch.

It’s all power and spin rate, not the art of pitching.

Now the Nerds and Nerd Owners are tripping all over themselves handing out monster contracts to good pitchers and many mediocre pitchers. Clearly there is plenty of money in the game to spread around yet so many teams have taken the cheapest route on cutting back on the number of scouts and the number of talented player development people.

It is the most shortsighted of business plans.

Then when your team does not develop enough starting pitching like the Mets you must go out and spend $43.3 million a year on Max Scherzer, which is higher than the Cleveland Guardians entire payroll. Good for Mad Max. Good for the Mets fans.

By the way, what exactly are the Guardians guarding?

Cleveland Indians Officially Become Cleveland ``Guardians``<br /> CLEVELAND, OHIO - NOVEMBER 19: Staff members put up Cleveland ``Guardians`` signage on the side of the stadium at Progressive Field on November 19, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Cleveland Indians officially changed their name to the Cleveland ``Guardians`` on Friday. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)

The Dolan War Chest.

It’s almost as if the Nerds had a Nerd Summit and said, “Let’s do everything in our power to throttle the development of starting pitching, and then overpay tremendously for starting pitching.’’

Absolutely brilliant in its total absurdity. MLB has become a Seinfeld episode.

And wouldn’t you know it, the team that won the World Series, the Braves developed a lot of its own starting pitching. No team has won back to back World Series since the Yankees won three in a row: 1998, ’99 and 2000.

“You know what,’’ said a top evaluator who has watched team after team get rid of talented scouts and development people, “there is no strive for excellence. If you really want to be excellent, build it the right way with a foundation. There’s no foundations any more. Every strong edifice has a strong foundation. We are decimating the foundation of scouting and player development which truly builds a championship team.”

Bob Watson<br /> 26 Oct 1996: General manger Bob Watson of the New York Yankees holds trophy after winning game six of the World Series against the Atlanta Braves at Yankee Stadium in Bronx, New York. The Yankees won the game 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Al Bello /Allsport

The Dolan War Chest.

It’s almost as if the Nerds had a Nerd Summit and said, “Let’s do everything in our power to throttle the development of starting pitching, and then overpay tremendously for starting pitching.’’

Absolutely brilliant in its total absurdity. MLB has become a Seinfeld episode.

And wouldn’t you know it, the team that won the World Series, the Braves developed a lot of its own starting pitching. No team has won back to back World Series since the Yankees won three in a row: 1998, ’99 and 2000.

“You know what,’’ said a top evaluator who has watched team after team get rid of talented scouts and development people, “there is no strive for excellence. If you really want to be excellent, build it the right way with a foundation. There’s no foundations any more. Every strong edifice has a strong foundation. We are decimating the foundation of scouting and player development which truly builds a championship team.”

“Look at what the Yankees built under Bob Watson, Gene Michael, Stump Merrill, Buck Showalter and Bill Livesey and the scouting departments that were all in place that put that team together. That’s foundation baseball. Foundation baseball is what was built in Cleveland that ran all through the 90s. Foundation baseball is what John Schuerholz and the scouting director and Bobby Cox built in Atlanta. It’s what was built in Toronto with Pat Gillick for those years in the 90s.

“That’s foundation baseball like back in the day with the Baltimore Orioles.’’

“What they are doing now is all so short-sighted,’’ he added. “For every penny you don’t want to spend on scouting and development it causes you to be Texas where you have to write checks for $400 million in the off-season. Just to be competitive. It is not going to guarantee that Texas is going to surpass Houston.’’

Foundation baseball is built on trust.

“Where’s the plan to just do it bleeping right,’’ the evaluator added. “To have good scouts. To have a good player development system, work harder, to teach your guys how to play the game the right way, to have the right kind of people in the clubhouse. To have the right kind of leadership in your dugout and the rest takes care of itself.’’

Exactly. What are we doing here MLB?

Screwing with the baseballs in the Manfred era instead of building a foundation of strength for the game.

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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