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For Fans Who Should Know Better

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Mudville: November 29, 2022 4:47 am PDT
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Aaron Judge is not only the AL MVP at this moment in time, he also is MVP at showing up the Nerds.

Never underestimate how nerdy Nerds can be in baseball. Especially when there’s no quality control over them and they are left to their own devices.

The latest example happened Tuesday night at Camden (“Create Your Own Park”) Yards. And AMBS gives credit where credit is due. That was a great line by Aaron Boone commenting on Camden (Big) Yards. That sounded like the Aaron Boone I once knew.

The Orioles, in all their wisdom, decided to drastically change the dimensions of their hitter-friendly ballpark. You know, the ballpark where Cal Ripken Jr. starred. Left field went from hitter friendly to Death Valley; that’s their prerogative, it’s their ballpark, but this is where Nerds get themselves in trouble.

The move was made to attract free agent pitchers to Baltimore.

But excuse me, what about hitters?

They just forgot one thing, you also need hitters — and if right-handed hitters are going to find your ballpark an impossible park in which to hit home runs then you will be left holding the empty bag.

The Orioles forgot that top of the line free agent pitchers want to go to teams who can actually win, too. And it doesn’t hurt to have a hitter-friendly park if you can win. Pitchers like being on teams that score runs.

Make your team better. Make your players better. Don’t make your ballpark bigger. But in the Nerd World they think they have all the quick answers, and so that’s what the Nerds in charge of the Orioles actually did, they made the ballpark too big for right-handed hitters.

A wall that was 7’ 4” high and 364 feet away from home plate in left center and 382 in deep left center was blown up for $3.5 million and a new 13’ high wall was built that is 400 feet away from home in left center and 410 feet in deep left center. This is the closest thing to Old Yankee Stadium out there; and believe me, I used to go to Old Yankee Stadium, it was incredibly deep back in the day when players could not become free agents.

Those players simply had to deal with the Yankee Stadium dimensions and at least had the right field short porch.

No talented right-hand hitter in his right mind is going to sign with these Orioles if that hitter has other options, not to mention you just destroyed the confidence of your own young right-handed hitters in your organization.

But Nerds know best, they always know best and obviously there was no one in the Orioles organization that stood up to this goofy plan. Now the Orioles are so thrilled they are not losing by as much at home. Success!

Last I looked, though, the New Wall Orioles were still in last place, playing .378 baseball and trailed the Yankees by 13 1-2 games.

And here is where it is gets even better.

Aaron Judge hits a screamer off the deep left field wall on Tuesday night in the first inning, scoring DJ LeMahieu, who was hit by a pitch. Never a good idea to hit the leadoff hitter with a pitch, especially with that deep wall in left.

The blast by Judge does not go out and Judge gets an RBI double and is tagged out when he over-slides the bag at third base — or else he would have had a rare triple.

Judge was already upset that he was rested the game before and now he was really mad.

At that point, I guarantee you, the deep dive Oriole Nerds were congratulating themselves, saying, “See, we saved a run by moving the wall back.’’

“It’s a travesty, man. I’m pretty upset. It looks like a create-a-park now,” Judge told reporters in Baltimore.

I also guarantee that none of the Nerds noticed that the poor left-fielder Austin Hays not only had to race all the way to the wall to not make the leaping catch, he then bounced off the wall like the baseball — but then had to run all the way back to nearly behind shortstop to retrieve the baseball, because evidently the centerfielder Cedric Mullins was too busy watching the play and did not back up and help Hays.

Baseball is not a stand and watch game. It is a game of movement.

Judge learned his lesson from that at-bat and set his sights on centerfield, blasting two home runs to right-center and center later in the game.

Make an adjustment. Even if you hit the ball that would have been out in 29 other ballparks.

That’s what baseball is all about and Judge did just that, showing again his true worth to the Yankees that cannot just be measured in dollars, something I’ve been harping on for a long time.

“This game is always about making adjustments,’’ a top MLB talent evaluator told Baseball or Bust. “There is a reason why kids come to the big leagues and hit .300 and then the next year they can’t hit. The league adjusts to you and it is up to you to adjust to the league. They are attacking the holes in your swing.’’

Did the Orioles pitchers make an adjustment to Judge?

No they didn’t. They kept feeding Judge pitches out over the plate, playing right into Judge’s hands. So just to recap: The Orioles’ Nerds changed the whole essence of Camden Yards by relocating the left field wall to the Inner Harbor but they did not make any adjustment with the pitchers on how they pitched to Judge.

“Have a feel for the game,’’ the evaluator said.

For his part, this is what Judge had to say about the new wall.

“It’s a travesty, man. I’m pretty upset. It looks like a create-a-park now,” Judge told reporters in Baltimore. “I didn’t like it, because I always liked coming here and playing here. Hopefully, in a couple of years, they can move it back in. We’ll see.”

There goes the Orioles chances of landing Judge who will be a free agent after the season.

Not that he would ever go to an organization that lost 110 games last season, 108 games in the previous full season and 115 games in 2018.

All those losses, all of that in front of their eyes, and the Nerds are changing walls instead of changing how they teach and coach.

Priorities.

Judge leads baseball in total bases (90) and home runs (14). He is batting .315 with a 1.076 OPS. I think he’s doing okay betting on himself in the free agent market like he said he would do once he turned down the Yankees big offer.

Any decent right-handed hitter will not go to Baltimore unless it is his only financial option, and pitchers will not be knocking down the doors to go to such a losing franchise, either.

Cal Ripken Jr. blasted 431 home runs during his Hall of Fame career and he played at Camden Yards from 1992-2001. In April he told Glenn Clark Radio of the new dimensions: “I hope it doesn’t play like the Grand Canyon.’’

Cal instinctively knew what was coming.

Cal is no Nerd. He knows baseball and he nailed it. Camden Yards is playing like the Grand Canyon. And, by the way, the 400th home run seat, the place where Ripken’s 400th home run landed, is no longer there because that seat was taken away to push back the new wall.

It’s not rocket science. It’s baseball and this current crop of numbers-loving owners are making the game much too difficult for their teams because they are being led by Nerds, not baseball people who know what’s up with the game.

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - MAY 17: Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees reacts against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on May 17, 2022 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

My guess is Mike Elias, the Orioles GM, was on his computer back in the day when the 1999 classic “Chicks dig the long ball’’ commercial from Nike was aired all the time.

“Hey, we got Cy Young winners over here,’’ the Braves’ Greg Maddux yelled with Tom Glavine standing at his side as Mark McGwire crashed batting practice home runs.

Chicks are not digging the long ball in Baltimore this season as attendance continues to plunge. I could see moving back the wall a little bit, but this was total Nerd overkill.

As for Judge, I said it in a Judgment Day column on April 9 for BallNine that he would only get more money from the Yankees, not less money — and that the Yankees miscalculated by not signing him long term before the season, something they have miscalculated for years.

Going back to June of 2020 this is what I said on WFAN about Judge and the Yankees: “The future should’ve been locked up already, in my opinion. The Yankees have the money, and there’s no downside to signing him long-term. I asked him last year if the team had approached him and he said no, but this is what the Yankees do, they don’t go out on a limb and do this. I think it would be the greatest loss ever for the Yankees if he gets to free agency and goes somewhere else – maybe goes home to Northern California to play for the Giants or the A’s. My advice to the Yankees would be to get this kid signed ASAP, no matter what, or at least start talks to get that relationship going.”

Not surprisingly the Yankees didn’t listen to me.

But I also was the one shouting from the rooftops to improve the defense and get a real shortstop and get a real catcher and they finally did do that this year and they are coasting along with the best record in baseball. It also was important to get Giancarlo Stanton back into the outfield. Since 2021 Stanton is hitting .264 with a .492 slugging percentage as a DH and .318 with a .630 slugging percentage as a full-time baseball player.

I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had through the years with good hitters who hated being designated hitters. There is too much time on their hands and they think themselves into trouble. It takes a special player to handle the unique pressure of being a designated hitter and not a full-time ballplayer.

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - MAY 17: Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees looks on against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on May 17, 2022 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Again Nerds think anybody can play anywhere and they also don’t realize the difficulty of just being a DH when you’ve been in the field as well your whole career. Stanton is back in the outfield a lot now and that is a good thing; and certainly when the postseason starts Stanton must be in right and Judge must be in center and let it roll.

* * * * *

While the Yankees roll, the Red Sox are floundering, a bad team playing bad defense with some huge offensive holes and there is something about the Red Sox that is not right, you can just see it. Their ace Nathan Eovaldi surrendered five home runs in the second inning Tuesday in a blowout loss to the Astros. The Red Sox are reeling, but that’s not surprising considering GM Chaim Bloom is trying to make the Red Sox into Tampa Bay North (but without the same concentration on experienced development people and coaching that the Rays have had at their disposal for years. I have long said that is the secret sauce to the Rays success.)

In that second inning against the Astros first baseman Franchy Cordero made a critical error that contributed to the home run barrage. First base is a mess for the Red Sox. Bobby Dalbec is hitting .165.

It was an embarrassing night at Fenway Park and there have been quite a few of them. The biggest mistake Bloom made was constructing a brutal bullpen, which made no sense. He took away the best bullpen arm from Alex Cora in Garrett Whitlock to make him a starter and weakened the bullpen tremendously.

The Yankees have a huge advantage over the Red Sox in three vital areas: (a) Judge is so much better than any Red Sox star; (b) the Yankee defense is so much stronger, now that they have a true shortstop and two true catchers, put Gleyber Torres back where he belongs, and have Anthony Rizzo controlling the infield (something the Red Sox could have done if they’d spent money on Rizzo); and (c) the Yankee bullpen is by far better than that of the Red Sox and is the best bullpen in the game right now.

“The Yankees bullpen is devastatingly good,’’ one longtime MLB talent evaluator told me. That gives the Yankees a monster advantage over every other team in the AL East and as long as that pen is not overworked come October, should be a difference maker; especially with the development of right-hander Michael King.

King came over from the Marlins on Nov. 20, 2017 in exchange for Garrett Cooper and Caleb Smith, a great piece of scouting by the Yankees to envision what King could become. It also helped that King was coached up by Corey Kluber with his curve ball and other pitches in the time they spent together in 2021.

That Yankee bullpen also comes at you from many different arm angles, stealing a page from the Rays and how they build bullpens.

* * * * *

Tip of the day: Learn to pitch inside. So many MLB teams are pitching away, away, away. React to the hitter. If you don’t adjust, hitters like Judge will beat you. After the double off the massive wall, Judge said, “I learned my lesson. I decided to go to right-center.’’

* * * * *

While the Yankees are mashing the baseball, the A-ball Tampa team is not connecting lately and over last 13 games has had double figure strikeouts each game, including two 16-K performances, a 19-K game, and a 24-K game against Dunedin. Over that span the young, young Yankees have struck out 186 times, averaging 14 a game. Strikeouts are not looked upon as they once were but this is one major strikeout slump.

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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