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For Fans Who Should Know Better

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Mudville: July 5, 2022 10:47 am PDT
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My sympathy supply is a little short right now.

For both baseball owners and players. They’ve broken my supply chain.

At least Rob Manfred will have plenty of time to work on his golf swing now and when that telling Associated Press photo of Manfred practicing his swing surfaced on Tuesday, I immediately retweeted it with my thoughts: Double Bogey.

Same goes for the owners and players and these negotiations: Double Bogey.

The players were locked out by the owners and Smiling Rob Manfred clearly wanted to put the players back in their place, so this was bound to happen. I said it for months in numerous podcasts and radio interviews and here at Baseball or Bust. The owners do not care about April baseball because there is not a lot of money to be made there.

I also said the owners would push the players to the wall, the players – being the competitors they are, and I know that from being around them all these decades – will dig in at this point and April will be lost… and maybe May, too.

I was saying that in November and when some “positive’’ news was coming out of the negotiations on Monday night I continued to say it. I was not about to carry water for MLB, making fans believe a deal was near. I happened to be on JT the Brick’s show on Mad Dog Sports Radio and insisted there will be no agreement. Things, indeed, were not trending in the way some wanted you to believe.

“The hard truth is that no one cares about your love of the game, your love for the hometown players. Ownership only views you as revenue.”

The owners know the players about as well as the Nerds know what makes a player tick. This was a no-brainer.

And now I only have sympathy for the fans, but even that is waning.

How many times do you have to get kicked in the backside before you remove the “Kick me’’ sign that is taped to your rear end?

Do you really think Rob Manfred cares about you?

Do you really think the owners care about you?

Do you really think the players care about you?

Hey, you were the “greatest fans in the world’’ after that walkoff win when the hero was interviewed on the field by the sideline reporter but now, not so much. The two sides could not come to any agreement even though both sides pretty much have more money than they could ever imagine; and the minimum salary was going to be set at $700,000.

Neither side wanted to give in to have baseball in April.

As a result, the fans are collateral damage. The hard truth is that no one cares about your love of the game, your love for the hometown players. Ownership only views you as revenue. Players could have gained such high ground if they could have come to some sort of an agreement Tuesday and said, “This is not exactly what we wanted, the owners are getting the better of the deal, but we can live with this for now because we wanted to come back for the fans. America needs baseball right now.’’

America could use some help. A gallon of gas might be more expensive than a ballpark beer soon. The world is on fire. Inflation is cutting into every household income.

We are all just trying to hold on and baseball would not send us a lifeline.

I get it, owners are owners and they always are going to suck and squeeze every penny out of the fan and will try to take advantage of the system over the players. Make no mistake, I am not saying they were right in these negotiations. The bottom line will always be the bottom line for the owners. That’s who they are. But for me now, the greed on both sides is just too much.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred practices his golf swing before announcing the cancellation of MLB games on Tuesday, March 1, 2022, at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, FL. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

And it is becoming overbearing. I made sure to cancel my MLB.TV subscription before March 1 rolled around just so baseball couldn’t sit on my money without offering a service. It’s time to re-evaluate the game on every level and every dollar you spend.

Is it worth it? We’ve gone from lockdowns to lockouts. This is not good.

Here’s the thing, though, the fans are waking up to the deficiencies in the game created by Nerds and owners who don’t look at players as players but only as “cost certainty.’’ That is a hell of a way to run baseball and just another reason to dislike Manfred and the owners.

Going forward I would advise players to play the human card as much as possible in the future. If that’s possible. And that doesn’t just mean signing autographs. That means playing the game with more heart and more soul. If you don’t like the way management is going about something, speak up. If you are a pitcher who is tired of losing games because you get taken out too early or there is no one on the left side of the infield when a hit sneaks through, speak up.

The players need to fight for more than money. Here is the thing that kills me about shifts. A player will once in a while drop down a bunt, but because he has not practiced bunting he thinks he did a good job. Meanwhile, the ball will go foul or he will miss the bunt entirely. That’s not a good job.

Spend time on practicing your bunts. Take 10 minutes a day instead of looking at another 50 of your swings on video, take that time to actually practice bunting and learn from someone who knows the skill of bunting.

Do more of the little things to try to bring some equilibrium to the game. I watched UCLA win a game the other day on a walkoff push bunt and the team went crazy as if it were a walkoff home run. Learn to do more baseball things, and that goes for pitchers too. Take a break from spin rate and work on Command Rate, that’s a stat I just invented. It’s not a strikeout to walk ratio, it’s a command ratio.

And command is not just throwing strikes, it’s throwing strikes exactly where you want them -and sometimes throwing a ball exactly where you want to be as well.

Hey, you guys have some extra time now to get it in gear.

UCLA baseball freshman center fielder Malakhi Knight anticipates a pitch in the batter’s box. Knight crossed home plate as UCLA’s winning run in its walk-off victory against UC Riverside at home Sunday. (Jenny Xu/Daily Bruin)

Slowly but surely try to bring the soul of the game back to the game in so many ways. The game lost its soul a long time ago.

The game has drummed out longtime baseball men no matter how loyal they were to the game.

The game has changed the game.

I am not about to break down all the particulars of these contract issues, there are others who live for that, let them do it. I am just going to look at it from afar.

Having said that, there is plenty of money to go around for both sides to be happy, yet they could not get there. The players are still hurting from the last “beating’’ they took in the CBA so they were looking for new gains instead of just taking this one CBA at a time, you know, kind of like taking it one game at a time.

Manfred has done such a terrific job at destroying the game on so many levels that you have to think this is all part of their plan. Look at the minor leagues, look at the draft. Look at the length of games, the lack of action, the boringness of it all when baseball used to be such an athletic sport, not just a game of three flies up. The players bought into all of this and refused to make adjustments to make the game better. They went along for the financial ride.

If everyone is on one side of the infield and outfield, hit the ball or bunt the ball the other way.

The Shift would have been taken care of in no time but instead the players continued to try to hit the ball over everyone and not caring one bit as their strikeout totals rose to new heights and baseball tried to sneak in legislation to ban the shift, a problem they created.

Common sense left baseball a while back. Teams tanked, thanks to Jeff Luhnow and Theo Epstein, and that was rewarded by baseball.

The stolen base, the first to third play, hustle doubles were all pushed out of the game by the Ivy Leaguers that have swamped the front offices. They once sat on the bench for Harvard, now they are sitting in the assistant GM chair or a higher chair; or should I say, riding the Peloton bike

Strikeouts were normalized, batting average was deemed not important. RBIs just happened. They were the luck of the lineup draw. Zone defense took over for the Ozzie Smiths of the world. Managers arguing with umpires were eliminated because the game became replay-centric. And, by the way, there is no such thing as Instant Replay.

So much excitement and yes, fun, was taken away by the Fun Police masquerading as those assistant GM’s and GMs and presidents of baseball operations. Managers became obsolete. Pitching decisions were made hours before the game. Pitchers were told to pitch less to make themselves better pitchers, and everybody bought it. Imagine that.

Even long toss was changed. I recently talked to a successful former pitching coach who was a long toss disciple and did some research on why, for the most part, rehabbing pitchers’ long toss was 120 feet. You know what he found out? Again, I haven’t done the research, so you have to take his word for it. But he said 120 feet became the standard because that was the distance most trainers working rehab could throw the baseball.

Sounds crazy, but he insists it is true.

Infielders and outfielders were told not to take infield or outfield to make themselves better players, so players used that time “more wisely’’ looking at a screen, and everybody bought it.

Salt of the earth baseball men were told your opinion, your “expertise’’ is not important and we have the numbers to back it up and everybody bought it. Bunting, forever a staple in the game, was useless and everybody bought it.

Some teams still have great scouting and development systems like the Rays. The Astros did too for a while. But for the most part, development has slipped because the coaches who knew how to develop were replaced by newer less expensive more Nerd-driven coaches. Many scouting positions were eliminated.

Velocity, not command, became the God of Pitching and everybody bought it. Gee, I wonder why there are so many arm injuries?

The more baseball changed, the more it changed for the worse, just look at the rash of injuries with all those injury protections in place, the more everybody bought it. The complete game became obsolete too. Watching the pitcher navigate through a lineup didn’t matter anymore even though it was one of the great joys of the game and everybody bought in on the death of the complete game.

Trying to get the automaton pitcher of today out of his rhythm with a bunt, a stolen base, a hit and run, is considered old school and not worthy of the Ivy League minds running the game, and everybody bought it.

This is not baseball. This is the sport they created where essentially there were 59,939 plate appearances last season where absolutely nothing happened but a strikeout or a walk, 42,145 Ks to be exact and another 15,794 walks.

When an agreement comes, probably sometime in April, none of this will be fixed. Players will rush through a short spring training and there will be more injuries. Or some teams will take the slow route and get off to a slow start because they are being overprotective of their players.

Here’s another thought, the players have lost all trust in ownership and no matter how this plays out in a final CBA, there will be bad feelings. How will that bleed over into the game? How will the fans react too?

Nobody really cares about the fans, so I guess that doesn’t matter one bit.

Play ball!

Better yet: Fore!

I’m just wondering if Smiling Rob Manfred is going to show up when there is an Opening Day or will he be too busy playing a round of golf that day. His swing should be much better by then.

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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