For Fans Who Should Know Better

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Mudville: July 23, 2024 9:48 am PDT

Baseball wisdom can come from many places. You just have to keep both ears open. There is a reason God gave you one mouth and two ears.

You must listen.

Tom Watson, golfer supreme, was discussing his longtime friendship with George Brett, two heartland Hall of Famers.

“George Brett is my hero,’’ Watson told Dan Hesse, the former chief executive officer of the Sprint Corporation in a television interview. “We kind of came up together in the early 1970s. I was on the tour, he was with the Royals. He shined and there were all those great years in the late ‘70s and then in ’80 the World Series. I went to every game and then in ’85 winning the World Series it was really special being a George Brett fan back then.

“I got to know him a lot more after his career was over,’’ Watson noted. “One of the things that I always stress is trying to stretch a single into a double. That extra base can mean the difference between winning and losing. He knows that. Every edge was George Brett. That’s what I admire about him.’’

What a great lesson for baseball and life, stretch a single into a double, the extra base can mean the difference between winning and losing.

Have that mindset to put the pressure on the opponent. That once was a baseball mantra.

The game though has lost its way. How often do you actually see that approach in today’s game, stretching a single into a double.?

You know the answer. It rarely happens.

Par for the course.

Once baseball comes back from its labor dispute, and it could be awhile, the players are going to have to work extra hard to bring fans back to the game.

Fans have no interactions with owners. They see the players every day, and right now, even though it is the owners locking out the players, this will fall on the players and, of course, Rob Manfred, who seems focused on destroying the game.

Manfred will address the media on Thursday about the lockout.

What he should say is “Baseball has come to its senses. I have come to my senses. This is tough time in America and we want to keep the game going for the fans so we will negotiate in good faith with the players. Let’s get this thing fixed, let’s put aside our differences so we can play ball.’’

That would be Manfred’s version of turning a single into a double. If he just went in with that mindset, even if he is thrown out at second base, progress will have been made.

Instead he will say nothing of the kind.

On Thursday the puppet for the owners will probably announce that “Spring Training is officially delayed.’’

That means the season will be in jeopardy.

Par for the course.

Once again, brick by brick things continue to fall apart in baseball under Manfred.

Manfred fiddles. Owners watch. Players stew. Fans suffer.

The game burns.

For months I have been saying spring training will be delayed and don’t expect the season to start until after Memorial Day.

I was hoping I would be wrong but I know players and once this became a spring training mess, the players would dig in, creating more of a mess and more of a delay.

Manfred, a genius at turning doubles into singles and even outs, is at it again. He is doing all the dirty work for his bosses. The players will dig in and the fans will once again get their hearts torn out by baseball, a game they desperately want to love. As I pointed out in my last column, the fans can find other ways to love baseball, go to a college game, watch high school baseball or Little League. Read more baseball books, watch YouTube baseball. Focus on such shows as When It Was a Game.

Don’t let them destroy your game.

You can turn a single into a double by turning your back on what both sides are doing, especially the owners. When they do settle, don’t go to games, don’t pay for games in any fashion. Hit them where it hurts in the pocket book and in Crypto Land. Enough is enough.

The media needs to ask Manfred this as well on Thursday: Why are you so intent on destroying baseball in so many different ways?

Nothing elaborate, just that simple question to Rob, who has the appropriate first name.

Put him on the spot, let him defend himself and not just on the labor problems, bring up the slashing of the minor leagues, the game-changing rules like the Manfred Runner and bring up the Manfred Ball, you know the two balls that were put in play last season. Bring up all of that and more.

Turn a single into a double.

Baseball needs saving from the idiocy that is all around it. Care just a little about the fans and not just about turning every ballpark into a casino, will you?

Tom Watson. Simply.

Spring training was on tap for Feb. 16 with pitchers and catchers reporting. It is the best time of the year for the Major League Baseball fan. For many years I would travel early to spring training, before pitchers and catchers reported, because the players would show up about 10 days before that to work out. Not this year. Major League players have had the gates to the complexes locked on them.

This should be the time when hope springs eternal for nearly every team, except for the tanking front offices. The best time of year will now become another downer. The Super Bowl is Sunday. Come Monday after the Super Bowl, that is the time that baseball should be front and center. Baseball is already late to their own party because the Super Bowl is later this year with the week of regular season added to the NFL schedule.

Baseball did not stretch the single into a double.

The mindset has been lost by so many players, a disclaimer here why we are at it. Scouts I have talked to and player personnel people tell me that Yankees prospect Anthony Volpe is one of the best current examples of how the game should be played. He goes hard on every play. His mindset is to stretch a single into a double.

As one scout told BallNine, “Volpe is always doing something that most don’t do to give his team an advantage and to win a game. Those are difference-makers. It’s like DJ LeMahieu. The more you watch him, you realize all the little things he’s doing to help his team to win.’’

It’s amazing that so few players do that these days. Even playing hurt last year LeMahieu tried his best.

A baseball man I respect made this observation about the current baseball world that leans heavily on technology and not baseball wisdom.

“Nobody is teaching anybody those things because the people who are now teaching don’t know any of those things.’’

The truest statements are the hardest to hear sometimes but remember, God gave you two ears and that statement is true, The lack of fundamental teaching now compared to previous generations is scary to behold. Those in charge, and I’m talking about the new wave front office, don’t value those teachings like they once did and many simply don’t recognize it. That’s why so many good baseball people have been eliminated.

Some still teach. Ron Washington is the greatest example of that and lo and behold, his pupils won the World Series last year. All that early glove work paid off for the Braves. Maybe a team in the Braves division will finally learn to teach more baseball and that is the Mets under Buck Showalter.

I’m proposing a new coaching position for every team because every team is so loaded down with technicians and machine readers and could use some real coaching. I think it would make a difference.

Dansby Swanson #7 of the Atlanta Braves receives a low five from coach Ron Washington after hitting a grand slam during the Saturday evening MLB game between the Atlanta Braves and the Milwaukee Brewers on July 31, 2021 at Truist Park in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

I would call my coach Hardcore Baseball Coach or HBC.

HBC’s job is to teach hardcore baseball. All the little things that need to be said and learned, feelings be damned. Since he already is named the Hardcore Coach, it’s understood and he is not there to make you feel good about yourself or the 1,000 swings you took that morning and the readout of those swings or the same for the pitchers. He doesn’t care about the horizontal break of your slider or any other numbers. He is there to teach you some hardcore baseball.

Imagine those lessons.

I was speaking to a former longtime pitching coach this week and he told me he once had Roger Clemens speak to his young pitchers one day in spring training. Clemens was enthusiastic and told the young pitchers something he learned from Don Drysdale.

The question came up: What is the most important pitch? Clemens gave that Clemens look and then told the young pitchers what Drysdale once told him is the most important pitch.

“The second knockdown pitch.’’

Not the first brushback. The second.

Here at Baseball Or Bust we love our baseball history. That is something Drysdale learned from Sal the Barber Magile. So I looked it up and In a 1979 interview with the New York Times, Drysdale recalled: “The thing that Sal always told me about the knockdown pitch was, ‘’It’s not the first one, it’s the second one.’ ’’

And why is that Big D?

“The second one makes the hitter know you meant the first one.’’

Hardcore Baseball.

Maglie started his major league career in 1945. The game has changed a lot since Maglie, the game has changed a lot since Drysdale and the game has changed a lot since Clemens, but having a pitcher command a certain part of the plate is still important. It’s just how you do it.

Too often I am seeing now when a pitcher is trying to climb the ladder on the 0-2 fastball he will leave that fastball out over the heart of the plate because of a lack of command because these days it is all about power and not command.

That is where the HBC comes in again.

This coach is not about being warm and fuzzy, leave that to the pitching coach, when the HBC is done talking the player, that player can then go to the mental skills coach and cry on his shoulder but next time he won’t leave the 0-2 or 1-2 pitch right down Broadway.

I understand there are some coaches still trying to teach and are giving it their all, but they may not have the same type of support as Ron Washington. They also may not have the same kind of currency as Washington.

Atlanta Braves third baseman Pablo Sandoval (48) high fives Atlanta Braves third base coach Ron Washington (37) as he rounds the bases after he hits a 2 run home run during the Major League Baseball game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Atlanta Braves on April 1, 2021 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

They may not be allowed by their front office to, you know, really coach.

Maybe the players are not listening or are just simply confused by what they are hearing.

Look at the Yankees for two examples of players who could use proper guidance. Infielder Gleyber Torres has gone sideways and catcher Gary Sanchez has gone backwards in the Yankees analytics driven world.

They could use an HBC.

Certainly, players will be even more disillusioned after Manfred speaks to the media on Thursday.

Scouts who would be in Florida and Arizona this coming Tuesday in preparation for pitchers and catchers arriving are already in the process of rearranging their schedules and hotel reservations.

“Everything is up in the air,’’ one scout told me.

Some scouts may show up to look closely at the minor leaguers in camp, but not many.

Once again, brick by brick things continue to fall apart in baseball under Manfred.

Manfred fiddles. Owners watch. Players stew. Fans suffer.

The game burns.

What a business model of success we have here MLB. Congratulations.

Fans make sure you know the best college baseball networks while you have this time on your hands.

Tom Watson is not only a fan, he owes his golf career to baseball.

“I love baseball,’’  said Watson, six times named the PGA Player of the Year. “Baseball has always been my No. 1 sport. The reality of the story is baseball got me involved with golf. When I was eight years old I played for a team called the Hen House Chicks. I was centerfield. I played that season and the next year, because all my grade school friends were playing on another team, I tried out for that other team. I got cut. I wasn’t good enough. I’m nine years I got cut from a baseball team. I couldn’t play baseball. My dad was a member of the Kansas City Country Club so I came out here and started playing more golf.’’

The rest is history. Par for the course.

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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