For Fans Who Should Know Better

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Mudville: April 14, 2024 11:10 pm PDT

When The Cheering Stops

No cheers here.

The billionaires and millionaires continue to be complete idiots, with talks going nowhere again on Wednesday and even more games cancelled. This is going to get much uglier. The CBA should have been settled months ago if not for the lockout, but MLB remains a disaster because the two sides can’t seem to split $11 billion dollars and also have issues with the International Draft.

And here is where I have Ray Kinsella, played by Kevin Costner from Field of Dreams join us as the everyday, average Joe Fan. Go ahead, Ray.

“I did it all. I listened to the voices. I did what they told me, and not once did I ask what’s in it for me.’’

Shoeless Joe then asks: “What are you saying, Ray?’’

“I’m saying, what’s in it for me?” And that is the question of the day regarding Major League Baseball.

What’s in it for me? What’s in it for The Fan?

How does The Fan win when baseball comes back?

First thing’s first, the baseball fan should not come racing back to the game, heart all a pitter-patter when the two sides finally reach a settlement. Hey, they screwed up spring training on you once again, your favorite time of year and they are screwing up yet another season.

Enough with them.

To top it off they are continuing to tinker with the inner workings of the game.

Most of all though, everybody gets rich, owners and players, while you, The Fan, will get poorer. That sounds pretty familiar, doesn’t it?

“When everything is about money and finding new revenue streams at the fans’ expense, and nothing is about the fan, something has to give.”

Fans should stage their own little lockout to show both sides you are not pleased with the way you have been treated.

When the cheering stops.

Both owners and players deserve this silence.

Let’s face it: Are you ready to shell out that $5 a gallon of gas just to go to the game? Can’t wait to see the bigger Manfred bases? How about the banning of shifts so guys like Joey Gallo can just continue to swing for the moon every at-bat? Bat control? No such thing.

A game of pepper to learn bat control. No way.

You are going to enjoy the advertising on the uniforms and the batting helmets, by the way. The pitch clock may help, but it is not going to help that much.

Yankee Pinstripes go well with dollar signs, don’t you think? That will be a nice change, the biggest change since they added numbers to the back of the uniforms.

I went to a baseball game and a NASCAR event broke out.

How about more expensive beer and food? Ready for that treat?

How about having to purchase streaming services if you want to see games of your favorite team? And don’t forget with the shortened spring training, there will be even more injuries, if that’s even at all possible. And more excuses.

The first order of business should be this message to owners and players: I call it when the cheering stops.

Fans should stage their own little lockout to show both sides you are not pleased with the way you have been treated.

When the cheering stops.

What’s in it for me?

If you are a fan on the Pirates, Diamondbacks, Orioles or so many others, your team is still going to stink. If you are a fan of the Yankees, they are guaranteed a playoff spot with the expanded post-season but the odds of your team winning only its second World Series in ages got longer, simply because more teams are in the tournament and more can go wrong for Hal Steinbrenner’s team.

Mets fans are sitting pretty right now because Steve Cohen has more money that anybody else and is willing to spend – but at some point it will settle in that yeah, that’s the case, but money doesn’t guarantee success. And these are the Mets who haven’t won it all since 1986.

What’s in it for me?

There will be a free agent frenzy of moves that will be incredibly exciting but then you will remember that the Padres win the off-season every year only to fall apart once again in the regular season.

The long-suffering Mariners may have some fun for a change and should be able to make the postseason for the first time since 2001, but then it will be more rain up in the Northwest.

What’s in it for me?

Here I will turn this over to the late-great Dan Jenkins who crystallized the beauty of the game to a certain segment of the fans back in the day when he wrote: “Baseball mainly attracts two demographic groups: boys under 14 and men over 60. Boys under 14 like it because their daddies make them play catch in the yard. Men over 60 like it because they have to piss a lot and they can do this while watching baseball on TV and not miss anything.’’

That is even more true today but just substitute looking at your phone instead of looking for the bathroom.

America’s Pastime is now the NFL, and the NFL had another banner week this week with superstar quarterbacks grabbing the headlines. MVP Aaron Rodgers will be heading back to Green Bay (no surprise there) while Russell Willson, who I once watched take batting practice with the Yankees with challenges from Derek Jeter one day at Safeco Field, got traded to the Denver Broncos, making the AFC West Land of the QBs.

There was once upon a time when the Commissioner of Baseball loved the game so much he wrote doting poetry about baseball.

The NFL is a marketing machine. MLB is a marketing disaster.

The NFL goes right from the playoffs and the Super Bowl to the NFL Combine to blockbuster trades to free agent time to the NFL Draft and then, before you know it, it is training camp and the extended regular season is ready to kick off. The NFL gives its fans what they want: action on the field and off while baseball gives its fans headaches on and off the field

And bizarre rule changes.

A most wise baseball man who has spent decades in the game in player development but has now left MLB for greener pastures sent me this text this week capsulizing his frustrations with the changes in the game.

“Smaller parks

Smaller zones.

Golf balls used.

Bigger/stronger weightlifters.

No shifts.

Can’t take out middle infielders.

Can’t run over catchers.

3 batter minimums

Keep lowering the bar so guys that refuse to hit so we can make this driveline farce work.’’

He then added this point:

“Also MLB won’t allow the game to manage itself so now it’s no respect of the game. Sad.’’

He nailed it and I hear that lament over and over.

Another friend sent me a letter that he had published in letters to the editor of the NY Daily News. This guy might be the biggest baseball fan I have ever met, he still plays in adult leagues and he put his frustration down with these keyboard strikes:

To Major League Baseball:

After winning us back following

the Black Sox Scandal, numerous

work stoppages, the cocaine trials,

the steroids era and the cheating

Astros, enough is enough.

I honestly feel that you lost us with

your latest slap to every fan that

you had left. Blame yourselves,

chumps.  – Aris Sakellaridis

Chumps is one of AMBS’ favorite words and I don’t think it has ever been used as masterfully as Aris used it to sign off in his letter to the editor.

The fans will be chumps, though, if they come running back to the game that keeps breaking their heart.

What rhymes with Manfred? Absolutely F'in' nothing.

When everything is about money and finding new revenue streams at the fans’ expense, and nothing is about the fan, something has to give.

The NFL makes rule changes and demands a lot from its fans, yes, but the NFL, for all the changes in the game, has not changed the essence of the game. A first down is still 10 yards. Every field is 100 yards long. If the defense crazily over-stacks to one side, the offense will take the ball the other way, even the Giants and Jets will do that. There might be a fumble, though.

In other words, in the NFL, if you have a weakness it will be exposed. In MLB if you have a weakness they will change the rules to make it easier on the hitter. Football remains a game of mind and matter. Baseball has become a game of Nerds trying to manipulate matter, anything they can do to play the percentages.

Common sense has left the yard along with that golf ball home run. Too many teams are too cheap for their own good. They think they can win with algorithms instead of athletes. In football, it’s strategy. In baseball, it’s systems and basically everyone is running the same system now – and it’s boring.

The NFL is a thunderstorm of activity. MLB is a freezing, dreary rain.

Meanwhile, players will be getting a bigger slice of the pie, but for scouts another year has come and gone with no raise at all. “We are all getting gouged,’’ one scout told BallNine.

The attitude from the elites in the front office is that scouts should be thankful they still have a job, and every scout I talk to is thankful for their job but the combination of no raises and a daily dose of less respect from the top is hard to swallow. Again, this is just one small problem the owners could fix if they cared enough to fix it.

Let’s get back to the field.

The sun sets on baseball. Will fans rise up? (Photo by Chris Vitali)

As for those rule changes, they have been toying with pitchers not being able to hold runners in the minors and want to bring that to the majors. And yet, this is what happened. “It was basically put in as a way for runners to steal more bases, but nobody still steals bleeping bases,’’ the scout said.

Even when they are there for the taking.

Not all changes are bad, and some actually make the game a little bit like it used to be and such is the case with the Pitch Clock.

“The Pitch Clock makes a ton of sense to me,’’ the scout said. Making the pitcher work faster will help the pitcher and the game. “It’s the loss of common sense that gets to me,’’ the scout told BallNine. “Work fast, throw strikes, change speeds. Teach kids to do that.’’

When he says “kids”, he means kids of all ages not just kids in pro ball.

“I watch all these drills that they have these pitchers do and they are developing bad habit after bad habit,’’ said the scout. “Do drills. But do drills with your delivery, the one you are going to use in the game. Create a repeatable, rhythmic delivery, not a bunch of drills where you are twisting your body and your head is flying all over the place, if it was a Bobblehead it would come flying off. You are doing all this other stuff trying to create velocity, create an athletic, connected delivery. That’s how you become good. You see it over and over again. A guy has a good arm who can’t throw strikes. Your head has to stay still to throw strikes, otherwise you are throwing at a moving target.’’

Jackpot. Now… if only pitchers would listen.

Pedro Martinez told me the same thing about pitching. I remember being in the Dominican Republic, having a late-night beverage with Pedro and talking to him about his delivery.

“You gotta have good balance, have a quiet landing, and a good release point so you can pick up the target,’’ Pedro said. “I want to see the ball the whole way, like a tunnel.’’

Eyes on the prize. Keep your head still. Substance over style.

The game needs to offer more of that kind of information to the fan and to the players. The fan deserves so much more than what baseball is giving.

What’s in it for me?

We know what is in it for the owners and players. Fans need their piece of the pie, too.

Don’t just run back to the game. Once again, baseball is in a place where it needs to earn back the respect of the fans. Make them earn it.

Don’t be a chump.

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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