For Fans Who Should Know Better

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Mudville: April 22, 2024 12:26 pm PDT

Fake. Fake. Fake.

They are just pranking us now.

That’s got to be what’s really going on in baseball.

This has been the week of the Triple Crown of Stupidity with three happenings and that is the subject of this week’s The Story.

I promise also to get to my thoughts on Carlos Correa and how the Twins outsmarted the Yankees to land the shortstop. But first …

In the New Rules Department, MLB managers and players are pushing for Ye Olde Fake Runner to return in extra innings to major league games. Instead of challenging their teams to teach the game fundamentally to create a needed run in tie games, and that can be in the seventh, eighth or ninth innings, there is support to bring back the Fake Runner because it moves the extra inning games along quicker and it keeps a pitching staff from having to go into long extra inning games.

Too bad, it used to be called baseball.

In other words now, when in doubt, managers and players can take the easy way out with the Fake Runner.  Why work for something when you can take the easy way out. You don’t want the poor players to be exhausted at the end of the game and have to find a way to get it together for the next game. You can’t challenge them to dig deeper.

“The only thing wrong with baseball is that people who don’t know baseball are running baseball.’’

This is yet another example of the Everybody Gets a Cupcake World we now live in where you don’t have to work for success, just take the short cut, take the easy route because who wants to play extra innings anymore when there are Instagram posts to be made.

Instead of relying on their players to come through in the clutch, let’s create easier ways to score runs, essentially Fake Runs. Take the pressure off the players.

I say why not just have a Home Run Derby contest in extra innings?

Wherever the lineup leaves off after nine innings in a tie game you have a designated coach throw six pitches to the next hitter in the lineup and whoever hits the most home runs over that six-pitch span is declared the winning team. That’s it. Yipee-ca-yay.

Call it the Six Pitch Showdown, fans will go crazy over each pitch and now every coaching staff will be designated an extra coach known as the HR Derby Coach, who can do his analytics the first nine innings of the game. The pressure will be on that coach to throw six meatballs. If he doesn’t do his job, you can always fire him like teams do with hitting coaches now. Why stop at the Fake Runner, make the whole situation Fake Baseball!

Games will be over in a jiffy, one batter, six pitches for each side to declare the winner. If the two teams wind up tied in home runs after The Showdown Inning, you then play an “11th Inning’’ a Super Showdown Inning where you go to the next batters in each lineup, have them face off against their HR Derby Coach until there is a winner.

Even if the game goes “15 innings’’ it will be quick.

That is way better than the Fake Runner and I put a whole five minutes of thought into coming up with this absurd idea, an idea that is better than what baseball is doing in their New Rules Nerd World.

As bad as the Fake Runner is, there is nothing quite like the Fake Hit.

That monstrosity is in a League of Their Own.

That is what’s going to happen over in Rob Manfred’s Frankenstein Baseball League this year, otherwise known as the Atlantic League. They are instituting something called the Dropped Pitch Rule, where the batter can take off for first base at any time, even if first base is occupied, if the pitch is in the dirt or gets away from the catcher in any way, shape or form.

I swear I am not making this up. This is an actual rule.

Instead of the Dropped Pitch Rule, I’m calling it the You Can Steal First Base Rule.

This is lowering the bar to an unbelievable degree. But  wait – there is more. The worst part is the batter will be credited with a base hit if the batter reaches first safely even though he does not hit the baseball. That’s right, you can get a base hit in this contorted form of baseball if you make it to first base on a bad pitch.

“If you are way down in the count,’’ one scout told BallNine, “there is a strategy here, you are looking for an alternate way out where you can just take off on any pitch heading to the dirt and you can try to steal first base.’’

Man, I hope this one makes it to the major leagues someday just to screw with the record books. Someone will hit .400 if they pick up enough of these free no-hit hits. Just think, you can become a .300 hitter now without always having to hit the ball. A wild pitch can become a base hit. Yes, these are supposedly “baseball people’’ coming up with these ideas and that is the saddest part of this situation.

Every time you think Rob Manfred and his Clown Show Baseball World cannot disappoint the baseball fan anymore than he has, he outdoes himself. The Piece of Metal Commissioner is becoming the The Crazy Eddie Rules Commissioner.

That is why every time I am asked what’s wrong with baseball I offer my standard answer.

“The only thing wrong with baseball is that people who don’t know baseball are running baseball.’’

MLB baseball people are behind this wacky rule and that supposedly means Theo Epstein, whose title now evidently is VP of Throwing Crap Against the Wall to See What Sticks.

It’s Fake Baseball, folks and it is coming to a ballpark near you.

But all that is not enough.

Oh no…. not nearly enough.

Imagine sitting there in the stands with your son or daughter and explaining the great game of baseball to ‘em and telling them about Tony Gwynn and his eight batting titles or Rod Carew and his seven batting titles and suddenly the hitter takes off for an occupied first base on a pitch in the dirt and is safe and is awarded a hit?

“Dad, he didn’t hit the ball, how can that be a hit?’’

“You’re right kid, let’s go sign you up for lacrosse.’’

At its heart, there is nothing wrong with baseball if you just play the game the right way and learn the game the right way, hit the ball the other way, use all fields, work on defense and baserunning and hustle.

The decline of baseball in every way is happening one dastardly drip at a time.

And that’s okay with baseball. Flush 42 minor league teams down the toilet, it’s good for the game. Make up crazy rules as you go, it’s good for the game.

Don’t forget, baseball executives and GMs go to Ivy League Schools, they are much more elite and way more smarter than you, the fan.

It’s as if Manfred and his baseball people stay at a Holiday Inn Express every night.

“Oh, you graduated from an Ivy League school, sure go make up rules, and don’t pay any attention to all those nasty lifetime baseball people in the game who think they know the game.’’

I think there is one word for all this: Pathetic.

And this coming off a lockout, a rushed spring training and the abandonment of minor league franchises.

Here is yet another problem created by baseball, BallNine has learned. It’s not as obvious as the others but it will have an impact on players. If you want to sign an Atlantic League player to your organization, it’s going to cost you $15,000, that is a new rule instituted by MLB, the Atlantic League’s partner. There also are other Independent Leagues where it will cost a team good money to sign what in the past were organizational filler players.

In other words, if a team has a pitching-short situation in AA, in the past, the most qualified pitcher from those independent leagues could be signed by the team, but now with the price going up that player may not be signed. A cheaper warm body will be found.

Some players are getting wise to this and are not signing with those independent leagues as quickly as they did in the past because if a need comes up, they are keeping themselves available to be signed by a MLB organization at a fraction of the cost. This is another one of those think before you act situations where baseball doesn’t think out all the repercussions of New Rules whether on the field or in the front office.

I talked to a number of people in baseball on Saturday and they said in the long run this will be bad for players and the Independent Leagues are not going to get the kind of money they think they may get for their players.

It will cost $15,000 to sign a player out of the Atlantic League. It was $5,000 last year. The American Association started out at $5,000 last year, then went to $10,000 and then up to $15,000. They are projected to be at $15,000 when the season starts this year but that is to be determined. The Pioneer League and the Frontier League are $10,000. At the start of last year, I was told, no team was over $5,000. But this is all with the commissioner’s blessing, essentially a tax on his own teams.


It was the great Winston Churchill who once said: “I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.”

Same thing for baseball. Everybody pull.

I’m sure Manfred told the Independent League teams they would make money with the new deal.

As I said, some players are not as eager to sign right now with Independent League teams, they are not committing to these leagues because they know major league teams don’t want to pay these fees.

“This is a ridiculous rate that baseball came up with,’’ one baseball man told BallNine of the new fees. “There were teams that did not want to spend $5,000 on signing a player from these leagues and now this at $10,000 and $15,000. Everybody has doubled and tripled in less than a year.’’

Kind of like the price of gas.

“Players are figuring this out,’’ he added. “Do they play in a lesser league now like the Pecos League or the Empire League or the United Shore League? For a veteran-favored league like the Atlantic League, those players may just stay home or work out at nearby facilities to stay ready. These kids will say I’d rather sit around in April and wait for a team to call me than sign with an Indy team and then hope whoever has interest in me is willing to pay $10- or $15-grand.’’

When the need arrives for a filler player, a team will go the cheaper route most cases and the Atlantic League and others could be left out in the cold with these signings. Deserving players may not get signed. This will not be the revenue stream these Independent League owners think that it will become.

There is another way out, though, and sources told BallNine, that some Atlantic League teams may voluntarily drop the fee to around $5,000 to help the players out, in essence, going around Manfred. That would be the right thing to do.

As for the Twins signing Carlos Correa, how in the world can the Twins sign Correa while the Yankees don’t? This entire signing was made possible because the Twins traded Josh Donaldson and the $50 million owed to him over the next two seasons to the Yankees. With that unloading of salary they could afford Correa. Even if he stays for only a year it was worth it for the Twins to take this gamble because prospect Royce Lewis now gets a cushion season after missing two seasons. He can learn at his own pace and if Correa opts out after a year, Lewis will be that much farther along than he was at the start of this year.
The Yankees could have made a similar deal with Correa with prospect Anthony Volpe waiting in the wings but it was the Twins who got super creative because they shifted $50 million to the Yankees.

Correa signed a three-year deal for $105.3 million that includes opt outs after the first two seasons. He will make $35.1 million each season.The Yankees could have created a similar deal for Correa and then have opt outs but decided not to go the money route of getting the best free agent shortstop on the market and instead gambled on trading for an aging player.

Are you not entertained?

I’m not, and now the Yankees really, really need Donaldson, 36, to produce and stay healthy this season or else it will be an embarrassing (to say the least) trade for them.  If that happens, what will Hal Steinbrenner say to those pesky partners and banks and bondholders?

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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