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Mudville: December 3, 2022 6:45 pm PDT
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Where’s My Bat?

BY KEVIN KERNAN

Prepare to have feathers ruffled with this Sunday Sermon.

The No. 1 problem in baseball at all levels is selfishness, and no one is addressing it. They just let it happen. Baseball used to be a team game. Baseball used to be about character. Things used to be settled on the field and now it is mostly about self and lack of character and lack of class.

Over the past week three viral videos struck me.

The first was Tennessee’s Jordan Beck giving the finger to Georgia Tech as he ran around first base as Tennessee scored the tying run and was on its way to winning the Knoxville Regional to go to the Super Regionals.

The “let the kids have fun’’ crowd was in its glory, but the University of Tennessee dropped a notch in my book. In their Super Regional opener against Notre Dame Friday night, centerfielder Drew Gilbert was ejected by the home plate umpire for saying the magic word to the ump as in “F—— terrible’’ caught on camera. To his credit, ESPN analyst Kyle Peterson immediately corrected his previous statement that the umpire was too harsh ejecting the outfielder … once he saw the replay.

The worst part of this was the player was dumbfounded he was ejected. Really. Dropping F-bombs on umpires on camera and you’re shocked you got tossed?

The Tennessee pitching coach Frank Anderson was ejected too in the 8-6 loss to Notre Dame. Some trash was thrown on the field by Tennessee fans, who could not understand their player was out of order. Tennessee crushed Notre Dame the next day even without Gilbert. The Vols are a powerhouse, but this is about more than the final score and winning the College World Series.

“When I have a bat in my hands it reminds me of all the things you can do, move the runner over with no outs used to be at the top of the list.’’

The Bat Flip enablers just don’t understand what the game is supposed to be about besides winning and losing and we are all poorer for it. I’m not an old man yelling at clouds, I am a veteran baseball lover who is yelling at the thunderstorm raging above the game and if you don’t like it, that’s life.

The third video that I want to mention was a walk-off hit in a high school game but the catcher on the losing team immediately went to shake hands with the umpire. The umpire wisely waited until the run scored and then shook the young catcher’s hand.

That sign of sportsmanship gives me hope.

There was a lot happening in the video and if you hung with it, the ump then walked in front of the plate and pulled the extra baseballs from his pouch and dropped them on the ground. A longtime baseball man, scout and former umpire told me that was code for the umpire being really displeased. “There must have been a lot of chirping going on that entire game,’’ the baseball man told BallNine.

Here at The Story, we dig deeper on everything. Remember, it was a long time ago that I wrote the San Francisco Giants were going to be a team the Yankees need to be concerned about in the Aaron Judge free agent market. Mainstream media is now catching up to that fact.

We try to be out front here, and this time we are so far out front on where the game is going it is sad. Baseball is losing everything that once made it great and sportsmanship is near the top of the list.

The players are so into themselves because of the Showcase mentality and Nerds advocating the wrong things about the game, it may never come back from the precipice.

I’m okay with that.

If players want to act that way and want the game to continue to erode and no one in the game has the guts to say, “Grow up’’ so be it. We move on.

Boxing used to be one of the biggest sports in America. Times change.

For the most part I have hope for the college game. I have been at college games this year where before the game a player from each team reads a statement about sportsmanship and gives a reminder to the fans that there is a certain degree of civility expected.

That’s a good thing and we need more of that at the biggest schools.

I’m all about competition so I get the heat of the moment outbursts. It happens but it should not be tolerated.

That high school catcher gives me hope for the future. But the overall attitude that you can’t spell team without the letters “ME’’ is concerning.

The lack of team discipline is appalling.

The lack of understanding of how to push a run across for your team is lost to this generation and it is at every level. MLB makes it worse, starting at the minor league level by totally neglecting teaching players how to win anymore. It is all about measurements and nothing about winning.

A friend of mine recently went to a AA game and came back with this report: “I used to love minor league games but everything now is about the individual player, not the team.’’

Welcome to Nerd World, my friend.

That is what the Nerds preach. That is what the Nerds reward, individual over team.

The Yankees have gotten a ton of praise in this column this year, but a 2-1 win over the Cubs Friday night may have exposed their Achilles heel. They had to go 13 innings to push across a run to beat the 23-34 Cubs, even with given the advantage of a fake runner on second base. And I am not talking about lack of execution here, we all know the game is hard, I am talking about a lack of intent to do the winning thing.

A scout at that game, part of the growing AMBS Network, sent me a text. Read his words carefully. I know I did.

“Not even a slight sign of a hitter trying to hit the ball to the right side of the infield with fake runner on 2B,’’ he texted. “The inability to execute has always been part of our game. It’s not an easy game. But the lack of INTENT to execute is embarrassing. Shameful. It’s like teams aren’t even trying to win anymore.’’

In my last BallNIne column I highlighted that at one point last week 19 teams were under .500.

Shameful really is the word and credit the scout for calling it out.

I also heard an interview this week with a GM of a Nerd team. He was asked about watching the away games and he said he sometimes listens to the other team’s broadcasters to hear what they have to say, which is good, but then he also said he is on the computer, multi-tasking, another word for OverNerding, and that has long been my problem with this brand of GM today.

They don’t watch the games like they should and learn. That’s part of the problem. They don’t focus on the games. The scouts focus on the games but most of their content is dismissed in favor of data so essentially you have those in power positions making decisions based solely on data and not watching the game and reacting to what the game tells them.

And you wonder why 19 teams were under .500 and why the Cubs are 6-14 in one-run games this season.

One other vital point from the scout.

He noted that the Cubs pitcher in the 11th was throwing breaking balls and fastballs away … “Exactly what you’d want as a hitter with fake runner on 2B and no outs. And the hitter still managed to get around the baseball and pop up to shortstop.’’

That scout was intently watching the game.

I believe the multi-tasking front office Nerd does not pick up on the little things and as a result, big things escape them.

Sometimes, just to remind myself how hard hitting is I will pick up a bat out of my at-home bat rack, yes I have a bat-rack under the breakfast (and evening) bar, just to remind myself how hard hitting is and to have the feel of the bat in my hands again, kind of like Tom Cruise in “A Few Good Men.’’

“I need my bat,’’ Cruise said as Lt. Daniel Kaffee. “I think better with my bat. Where’s my bat?’’

When I have a bat in my hands it reminds me of all the things you can do, move the runner over with no outs used to be at the top of the list.

No more.

Many announcers are so conditioned now to go all in on exit velo. After Willson Contreras grounded to shortstop with no outs, not advancing the runner, the announcers could not wait to tell the viewers that ball was scorched at 112.5 mph.

Yeah, but he didn’t get the runner over.

Give me a 60 mph grounder to second base that gets the runner over so the go-ahead run is at third base with one out and then get him home a multitude of ways, do that in the 10th, 11th or 12th innings and the Cubs would have had a victory.

Don’t give me that garbage that they have to play for two runs.

Players have been conditioned to think: I did my job, I put a good swing on the ball and hit it hard, it was just bad luck that a fielder was there. That is how losing is tolerated and accepted these days, just one of many small examples that Nerds overlook because to be honest, most of them don’t understand the nuances of the game. They just happened to be pushed by the “right’’ people to be the next GM or assistant GM job and they are set for years.

Selfishness is tolerated and accepted.

Not everywhere. Buck Showalter is teaching team values from Day 1. He’s not a perfect manager but he does have a pretty good team approach and the Mets are reaping the awards.

The Breakfast / Evening Bar Bat Rack. (Photo by Kevin Kernan)

Never forget that this game rewards unselfish play. Always has and always will. Maybe not in dollar signs but in Ws. The Yankees ineptitude was also a result of having Joey Gallo batting behind Anthony Rizzo because he came in as a pinch-runner in the eighth.

Even more reason for David Ross and the Cubs to understand the value of getting one run across by only having to move the fake runner up two bargain bases forward in extra innings instead of having to touch all four bases, which was the standard in the game forever until Rob Manfred mucked it up and the players willfully accepted because they don’t like working overtime for no extra pay.

Mike Port, former longtime GM and executive in MLB offices, wisely asks: “What would Major League Baseball be if players could handle the bat to the extent that they could bunt or defeat a shift by ‘going the other way.’ ”

Great question.

We have our titanic bat flips, our bird flip offs as in giving the bird to the opponent, even our bat spikes now, the selfish launch angle swings and misses, pop ups and rollovers because these players are focused on the individual most of the time.

Did you see the exit velo on that out?

Let me praise the Cubs for one move, intentionally walking Aaron Judge who is hitting .308 and plays the Team Game. That is a template for how to beat the Yankees in close games, don’t let Judge beat you because he hits the ball to all fields with power.

Aaron Judge understands what he has to do as a hitter for his team to win.

The Yankees finished the game 1-for-19 with runners in scoring position. The Cubs finished the game 0-for-18 with RISP. Multiple people at the game told me how frustrating it was to watch that kind of baseball. It was a 4 hour and 16-minute slog over 13 innings.

Never forget that this game rewards unselfish play. Always has and always will. Maybe not in dollar signs but in Ws. The Yankees ineptitude was also a result of having Joey Gallo batting behind Anthony Rizzo because he came in as a pinch-runner in the eighth.

Even more reason for David Ross and the Cubs to understand the value of getting one run across by only having to move the fake runner up two bargain bases forward in extra innings instead of having to touch all four bases, which was the standard in the game forever until Rob Manfred mucked it up and the players willfully accepted because they don’t like working overtime for no extra pay.

Mike Port, former longtime GM and executive in MLB offices, wisely asks: “What would Major League Baseball be if players could handle the bat to the extent that they could bunt or defeat a shift by ‘going the other way.’ ”

Great question.

We have our titanic bat flips, our bird flip offs as in giving the bird to the opponent, even our bat spikes now, the selfish launch angle swings and misses, pop ups and rollovers because these players are focused on the individual most of the time.

Did you see the exit velo on that out?

Let me praise the Cubs for one move, intentionally walking Aaron Judge who is hitting .308 and plays the Team Game. That is a template for how to beat the Yankees in close games, don’t let Judge beat you because he hits the ball to all fields with power.

Aaron Judge understands what he has to do as a hitter for his team to win.

The Yankees finished the game 1-for-19 with runners in scoring position. The Cubs finished the game 0-for-18 with RISP. Multiple people at the game told me how frustrating it was to watch that kind of baseball. It was a 4 hour and 16-minute slog over 13 innings.

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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