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For Fans Who Should Know Better

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Mudville: September 29, 2022 12:55 am PDT
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BY KEVIN KERNAN

This was a big week for Major League Baseball as it moves towards the Nerds’ goal of becoming slow pitch softball or better yet, kickball.

Congratulations on the new rule changes that were announced Friday like the pitch timer and shift restrictions that were not voted for by any of the four players on the rules committee. The MLB Competition Committee is made up of six Manfred management men, four players and an umpire.

The players on the committee did okay the bigger bases as a safety issue.

Why not stick that orange slow pitch softball base at first while they are at it?

The Pitch Clock or Pitch Timer is being pointed to by many as such a positive move for the game. I disagree vehemently. There should not be any clocks in baseball.

“We have to get the pitchers in rhythm and not waiting so much time between pitches,’’ is one of the common complaints of the need for a pitch timer.

Excuse me baseball, excuse me Nerds, but you guys are in charge.

Why did this have to be legislated?

Couldn’t you have just taught your pitchers to get a faster rhythm going to the plate?

Why does this have to be a rule? Why can’t you make it an everyday thing to have your pitchers work quickly and speed up the game that way? You know, coaching.

Play the game right, take what the defense gives you, play solid fundamental defense, run the bases well, don’t dry hump your bullpen and your team may have success.

And there should be times when a pitcher or a batter can take a few extra seconds to set himself and take a few deep breaths. Anyone who has played the game knows that.

This game is played by humans not robots, Nerds.

You are also happy now that hitters can’t waste time in the box, the constant velcroing of the batting gloves, the staring at the barrel of bat to get the mind right – stuff, by the way, you have added to the game with the legion of Mental Skills coaches added to every team – including every minor league team.

You’ve created the mess, now you are solving it through legislation that will take place in 2023.

AMBS cannot wait for the first called strike on a hitter because he was not in the box ready to hit at the allotted time. These hitters are so whiney now that when a pitch is a fraction off the plate and is called a strike they melt down, imagine their displeasure when the strike is called and the baseball is still 60 feet and six inches from home plate. By the way, the hitter receives one timeout per plate appearance. Isn’t that special.

I can’t wait. And if it happens in a vital part of the game – you know, like when the fake runner is on second base in extra innings because hitters no longer know how to just hit to get on base – they don’t want to take the chance of just punching the ball for a hit because they will affect their average Exit Velo and we all know it is all about Exit Velo. I even heard a Major League announcer announce the Exit Velo of a foul ball this week, not just any foul ball, say a long drive down the line that went foul, that would be bearable, but this foul ball was over the dugout. I prefer to think of that foul ball as a strike, not a ball hit with Exit Velo.

And just imagine when a ball or strike is called because of a timing violation in the postseason.

This is just another example of how far the game continues to falter as MLB hands over the audience to the NFL.

Have you noticed all the people saying the game has to speed up, not that the action has to speed up; the game has to speed up. That, after all, was the silly reasoning for adding the Rob Manfred Fake Runner, one of the worst things to ever happen to the game. They didn’t want the poor players to have to play extra innings. They might get tired. And bullpens might get all used up. They wanted the game to end rapidly. That always seems to be a key part of their motivation, they want the game over more quickly.

That’s not improving the game, that is getting you back home faster so you can scroll Twitter endlessly. That’s not motivation to make the game better, it’s motivation to get the hell done with the game.

That is the mindset of the Commissioner of Baseball and his henchmen, people like Morgan Sword, his right-hand man.

They don’t love baseball.

They love when baseball is over.

That is some motivation.

And for those crowing about the end of the shift, that isn’t a rule change, this is the waving of the white flag. This is the Nerds saying, “We’ve ruined the art of hitting a baseball to such a degree, we need rule changes to help the poor Launch Angle hitters who are giving it all to strike out at record paces.’’

That is supposed to be an improvement?

In deference to Bill Maher, New Rules: Just as Maher recently made fun of the New Rule regarding Fat Acceptance “Everybody is letting themselves go all year round now … doing the Thanksgiving pants thing every day. They actually sell a business suit now with draw-string pants.’’

That’s what MLB is doing now, too.

Morgan Sword, Executive VP of Baseball Operations at MLB, speaks during a press conference at MLB Headquarters on September 09, 2022 in New York City. Major League Baseball announced today a set of rule changes that will change the way the game is played. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Every batter is letting themselves go in the swing for the home run. There is no strategy, no athleticism. So in its wisdom baseball has banned shifts because those poor left-handed and right-handed batters were hitting the ball right where the fielders were positioned and some of those nasty fielders moved from the infield to the outfield.

The horror of it all. Of course that was when they actually hit the ball and did not whiff.

Instead of taking advantage of the shift, and all that wonderful green grass for a hitter, baseball has banned the shift, but there still will be shift stuff in the future. Mark my words, some Nerd is going to come up with the idea of putting those two infielders who are on either side of second base, they will put them in motion so they are running toward a spot. MLB will look like the Canadian Football League with players in motion. And even though the New Rules say you can’t put infielders in the outfield, it didn’t say anything about outfielders in the outfield. You can be sure that there will be times where one of the outfielders shifts to a short-fielder position, especially against lefty pull hitters, so baseball really mimics slow pitch softball.

And it will be hailed as a brilliant move.

In essence, by getting rid of the shift, MLB just rewarded more bad behavior. One of the constant themes here at Baseball or Bust is that baseball continues to Lower the Bar, instead of Raising the Bar.

This move lowers the bar yet again.

Because you continue to hit into the shift on those rare occasions when you make contact, now they are going to make it easier for you by removing the shift. So swing harder. Miss more. Try to hit the ball over the fence every swing. We don’t need no stinkin’ two-strike approach in the game. We need more swings and misses and more Exit Velo moments and home runs.

Theo Epstein, MLB consultant, (L) speaks during a press conference at MLB Headquarters on September 09, 2022 in New York City. Major League Baseball announced today a set of rule changes that will include a pitch clock and a ban on defensive shifts in 2023 that will allegedly speed up the game's pace and increase action. An expansion of the size of bases were also implemented. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

So what if your team is losing 14-0 and a cookie is thrown over the plate and you hit it 122 miles per hour off the wall for a single in a game your team is losing by two touchdowns, we are going to celebrate that – not the fact that some opponent is embarrassing you by 14 runs. We are going to have our people talk and write about that 122 mph Exit Velo. No one will notice your team is an embarrassment to the game.

You get the picture.

Every one of these new rules goes against baseball basics, starting with that ridiculous Fake Runner.

Oh, by the way, a pitcher is allowed to disengage from the rubber twice per plate appearance and that will open a whole new can of worms.

Did I mention the revolutionary bigger bases?

Instead of teaching better base-running, they are making bases bigger.

Base-running has never been worse. I watched on Tuesday as the Reds Jonathan India lined a ball to the right of the centerfielder with a runner on second base. This is the Reds so you have to assume everything will be screwed up – and the Reds did not disappoint. The runner on second did not bother to read where the outfielders were positioned before the pitch, so as soon as the ball was hit, even though everyone watching on TV – and those few dozens of people in the ballpark for the Pirates and Reds tilt – knew it was going to drop in for a hit, the base-runner at second froze.

He should have scored easily but only made it to third. But his blunder was nothing compared to India’s blunder. With the play directly in front of him, India came out of the box watching the baseball and not running full speed until down the first base line. He then ran to second. The first baseman Michael Chavis did the right thing, moving to the middle of the diamond to be a cutoff man for the throw home. India kept running to second. He rounded first and never got close to second. The throw came in and the second baseman appeared startled that India ran directly into him for the out even though he was 10 feet from the bag. India could have stopped and ran back to first but could not be bothered, there was no one there. He ran into the out.

And here was the best part, no accountability, not one Reds coach or manager David Bell said a word. India went back to the bench and looked at his iPad. This was T-ball baseball only T-ballers don’t have iPads in the dugout.

Not yet anyway.

T-ballers and all sorts of travel team players now have walk-up songs though.

My question is does the clock start running on the hitter before his walk-up song starts? Will there be instant replay to see if the clock started too early? Pandora’s Box is opened every year by Manfred and his right-hand man and no one seems to notice, except the fans, who continue to leave the game in droves.

The big selling point is that games were 24 minutes shorter in the minors with the pitch clock, but the minors don’t have the extra-long commercial breaks between innings like the majors.

Being a Nerd means you never have to admit you are wrong. It’s always someone else’s fault. The players continue to allow themselves to be manipulated by the Nerds, robotically looking in their caps to pull out a chart to see where they must play the next player after they had just run 200 feet to try to catch a foul pop that lands harmlessly in the third base coaching box, a pop-up that was an easy out for more than 100 years.

Nerd GMs will continue to take the game away from the managers and continue to foist players who can’t perform or who are not ready to perform at this level.

I don’t know this to be true, this is an educated guess on my part regarding what Alex Cora did in the 10th inning Tuesday night in a loss to the Yankees. He allowed Jeurys Familia to self-destruct on the mound. Familia walked pinch-hitter Aaron Hicks – of all people – to start the inning. The Yankees have not lost since Aaron Boone benched Hicks after Hicks went into his woe is me act and did not run down a fair ball against the Rays. Tuesday night’s game was over at that moment, and it became apparent to all when Gleyber Torres soon hit a bases-clearing double on a rare strike from Familia. The Yankees nearly gave it away themselves but hung on for the 7-6 win and Familia was released after the game. He was recently released by the Phillies as well.

It was as if Cora left him out there for the 10th to show Chaim Bloom “This is what you are giving me for my bullpen. Enough with the dumpster diving acquisitions.’’

Jeurys Familia #31 of the Boston Red Sox walks to the dugout after pitching during the tenth inning against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park on September 13, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

All the Nerds in and out the game loved the San Francisco Giants last year when they won 107 games but did not advance in the post-season, losing to the Dodgers. Buster Posey had a lot to do with that regular season success but all the credit went to the Nerds. This season the Giants, with no Posey, but with the same Nerds in the front office and in the dugout with Gabe Kapler, are a train wreck. Even though the Giants walk barefoot in the grass before games they still have fallen apart.

It’s not about gimmicks people; it’s about talent and getting the most out of that talent and when mistakes are made, learn from those mistakes. Kapler seems to be having the same bullpen issues that he had in Philadelphia.

Play the game right, take what the defense gives you, play solid fundamental defense, run the bases well, don’t dry hump your bullpen and your team may have success.

Or you can do it the easy way and just sign free agent Aaron Judge.

You can have all your New Rules.

It seems like the main thrust of many of the New Rules is that the Nerds saying, “We know our game sucks the way it is now, but we want it to suck faster so the games can end and we can go back to our computers and spreadsheets and come up with new ways to make the game suck even worse.’’

Hey, but all is right in the game in 2023 with the new changes including the fact that with the bigger bases the distance between first and second and second and third has been reduced by 4.5 inches and the distance between home and first and third and home has been reduced by 3 inches.

Considering that catchers can’t block home plate anymore, another bad new rule, but infielders can still block second base, runs may be a little bit easier to come by for the batting average challenged players.

The trick is how do they get to first base and beyond, you can’t steal first base… yet.

Once they get to first base they may just run into an out like the confused Jonathan India did  – but let’s take it one small step, one rule change at a time.

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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