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Mudville: June 17, 2024 4:00 am PDT

More Cowbell


Let’s get something straight.

It’s up to the Blue Jays to protect their signs, protect their pitchers from tipping pitches, and, while they are at it, protect the signage at Rogers Centre from Aaron Judge.

Also, that competitiveness the Blue Jays showed being upset with where the Yankee first and third base coaches positioned themselves and that sideways glance from Judge before homering on Monday night? All that is good for the baseball.

Yes, good for baseball.

Aaron Boone loves to yell at umpires. I think it’s a bit much, and so did Judge; perhaps poor Boonie is transferring his anger because he has no control over the analytic warlords the Yankees and Brian Cashman employ.

Monday night’s extracurricular activities spilled into Tuesday night, making the four-game series between the AL East opponents extra interesting for May.

Baseball is supposed to have some blood rivals. That’s what went on between the Yankees and the Red Sox all those years, the years before players wore Betty Crocker oven mitts while running the bases. As they put on the oven mitt now, it becomes a coffeehouse conversation between opponents; the same thing after a double – and the runner and the shortstop exchange pleasantries.

More rivalries, more cowbell please. “I could have used a little more cowbell,” as SNL’s Bruce Dickinson once said. Rivalries are good for the game, which gets me to my next point in the never ending list of things Rob Manfred has messed up as commissioner.

There’s been so much talk this year about everybody loving this new balanced schedule. “Oh it’s great. Teams get to play different opponents!”

Not here, not at Baseball or Bust. This balanced schedule is just another way to water down rivalries, something baseball has going for it. Piece by piece the game that people loved is being chiseled away.

Can’t get enough of Pirates vs. Tigers or Twins vs. Dodgers, you say? Then this new schedule is for you.

Hey, you may want to see the Yankees play the Nationals, Reds, or Brewers more – I don’t. I want to see more of the division rivalries, more of Yankees vs. Blue Jays, more of the growing rivalry between the Yankees and the upstart Rays, more of the good old Yankees-Red Sox war, and even the Orioles-Yankees. Right now this Yankees-Blue Jays battle is especially fun. But get this: After Thursday, the Yankees and Blue Jays, in just another example of Manfred and Manfred Minion Morgan Sword’s inability to connect with the fans, yes, after Thursday, the Yankees and Blue Jays do not meet again until September 19th.

That’s right. They don’t play each other again for four months after a highly emotional four-game series!

Are you kidding me?

Is this smart marketing?

Thanks again, M&M Boys, Manfred and Morgan.

I’ve been saying it for years, base-running is the new steroid and teams that run the bases well will be in much better shape than their opponents.

This is all part, too, of the master plan, I believe, of getting rid of the American League and the National League; yet another baseball tradition lost to Manfred’s New World Order. The All-Star Game used to mean something when the AL and NL were rivalries. The World Series was something unique. One league had the DH, the other didn’t. The leagues used to have their separate identities, but that’s all been lost; the only difference now between leagues and teams, it seems, is the poorly choreographed cheesy home run celebrations.

After Judge’s tape measure home run Tuesday night that broke the Maple Leaf sign and the spirit of the Blue Jays, there was real home run emotion in the Yankee dugout displayed by Judge and his teammates; and it was a pleasure to see. It wasn’t some fake put on a goofy hat or a goofy helmet or a goofy fishing vest, playing Major League dress-up and showing a make-believe display of emotion.

At least the Blue Jays are taking baby steps to try to become a more competitive organization by dumping their silly home run stanky jacket celebration from a year ago.

If Blue Jays pitchers continue to tip their pitches (and by the way, reliever Jay Jackson admitted that he tipped his pitches on Monday), it really didn’t matter since he was throwing the same pitch, slider after slider, until he put a cement mixer on a tee for Judge and Judge crushed it.

Once again, All Rise.

All rivalries are good. Coaches and managers barking at each other is a time honored tradition, as my friend David Cone noted on the YES broadcast. Manfred should know that too, but he doesn’t. Just as the hard slide at home and the hard slide at second base have been eliminated (some view it as too much testosterone), here at BOB, we’re for more testosterone on the baseball field.

* * *

Judge’s All Rise Foundation kicked off its webstore this week; and what’s great about this is that 100 percent of profits will drive the All Rise mission by directly benefitting children through their Aspiring Leader programs that focus on inspiring children and youth to become responsible citizens. Here is the web address: https://aaron-judge-all-rise-foundation.myshopify.com/collections/all

Maybe some Blue Jays fans will want to get involved.

* * *

When the Mets hired Billy Eppler as GM in November of 2021, here at BallNine I wrote that it would be a chance at redemption for Eppler after his failed leadership with the Angels. It’s not going so well for Billy. The Mets won 101 games last season but were bounced in the first round – even though they had the CitiField advantage.

“Eppler could be in trouble,’’ one talent evaluator told me this week.

This year has been Met ugly on so many levels. The Mets and Padres are both huge disappointments. Eppler finally did what I called for him to do two weeks ago and called up Mark Vientos on Wednesday, but he should have made it a package deal with Ronny Mauricio. The Mets are playing uninspired baseball and their starting pitching is letting them down. Steve Cohen thought he could march in with big money and be on top of the baseball world. Not so fast Uncle Steve. The organization has holes that scouts have been telling me about for quite a while. There are obvious shortcomings, too, in the majors beyond the starting pitching, such as shortstop Francisco Lindor hitting .224. Closer Edwin Diaz is dearly missed but bizarre injuries sometimes happen. DH Daniel Vogelbach (.369 slugging percentage) has been terrible and it is beyond me what the Mets and Eppler saw in Big Daniel to begin with, other than falling in love with on-base percentage. But the position is called Designated Hitter, not Designated On-Base Percentage.

Daniel Vogelbach #32 of the New York Mets reacts after striking out during the sixth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Citi Field on May 17, 2023 in Flushing, Queens, NY. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Mark Canha (.377 slugging percentage) seems to be working to get back his old swing after someone convinced him it would be better to try lift the ball every swing. Young catcher Francisco Alvarez is talented but still has much to learn, including not to get picked off at first base with the bases loaded and two outs. That had to be a first for a Buck Showalter managed team.

I’ve been saying it for years, base-running is the new steroid and teams that run the bases well will be in much better shape than their opponents. It’s something that should be taught in the minors. No excuses.

Mets starters own a 5.46 ERA, 26th in the league. Only the Royals (5.65), Red Sox (5.84), Reds (6.05), and A’s (7.62) are worse. The team with the best starters’ ERA is the Rays, who sit at 3.00. Now their starters just have to find a way to survive the season. Justin Verlander (40) and Max Scherzer (38) have combined for four wins. That’s the same number of wins as 43-year-old Rich Hill has for the Pirates.  Hill is costing $80.6 million less than Scherzer and Verlander this season.

I checked with scouts covering the Mets’ minor league teams and they say their pitching prospects have “either plateaued or gone backwards in every case.’’ Not good.

David Peterson is evidence of that at the Major League level.

* * *

The pitcher to keep a close eye on when he returns to the Yankees on Sunday vs. the Reds is Luis Severino, who struggled in a AA rehab assignment Tuesday for the Somerset Patriots against the Phillies’ Reading team. “He couldn’t get through four innings,’’ said a scout in attendance. It appears the Yankees are tinkering with Severino’s motion to make him less athletic and to deliver the ball more overhand. “He used to be a three-quarters delivery and the ball jumped out of his hand,’’ the scout said. “He got hit hard.’’ Severino has been out all season as a result of a spring training lat strain. With Domingo German being ejected Tuesday night and facing a suspension over sticky stuff, Severino is needed more than ever.

Luis Severino #40 of the New York Yankees poses for a portrait during media day at George M. Steinbrenner Field on February 22, 2023 in Tampa, Florida. Severino will make his first start of the season on Sunday against the Cincinnati Reds. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

* * *

As for the never ending pitching injuries, the Yankees lost Ian Hamilton to a groin injury on Tuesday. Those in charge of teams have yet to figure out that pitchers would be better served doing more conditioning drills. “Pitchers don’t run anymore,’’ noted one talent evaluator, who has seen enough. “And they get to the big leagues and if they do well the manager gives them four-five days a week. They lived their whole lives in this pretend minor league thing where they throw one or two innings a week.’’

That is such a great point.

Mechanics are dreadful, too, as I pointed out in a column several weeks ago with Jim Curnal, pitching mechanic. Dustin May, who has already had Tommy John surgery, left after one inning in his Dodgers start Wednesday because of an elbow strain.

* * *

Heard this week that many organizations are giving their minor leaguers time off for family events. Interesting. Phillies pitchers gave up 14 runs to Somerset on Tuesday. “It is what it is,’’ said one scout. A number of scouts have told me that the teaching at the minor league level has never been worse. “These people are smart,’’ he said of the new age instructors. “They sound like they know what they are talking about, but they don’t. They don’t know how to coach and they don’t have the wisdom of playing the game and the patience that it takes to develop a player. They are always tinkering and doing stuff that just doesn’t work. They always have their iPads out.’’

Less iPad, more practice.

New York Yankees Outfielder Jasson Dominguez (89) drives a pitch over the fence during the spring training game against the Philadelphia Phillies on February 25, 2023 at BayCare Ballpark in Clearwater, Florida. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

* * *

Jasson Dominguez, the Yankees 20-year-old prized prospect, has 100 at-bats under his belt at AA now and is hitting .210 with five home runs and 31 Ks in those 100 at-bats. He got off to a cold start with the bad weather but is looking better. “I think he is going to be fine,’’ said one scout. Catcher Austin Wells has been impressive with the bat but is struggling with his throws. Scouts believe that it will be difficult for him to catch in the Majors when more of an emphasis is on throwing the ball with the easier stolen base rules in play. One scout said Wells is a bit like Kyle Schwarber, who was a college catcher but moved to outfield in the majors. The Yankees would be happy to have that kind of bat in Wells. On one steal Tuesday, Wells’ throw took three hops to reach second base. “You need to get him out from behind the plate,’’ the scout said.

Here is your minor league stat of the week. The Somerset Patriots managed to strike out 19 times Wednesday against Reading, 19.

A big change is coming to the Majors with the “everyone gets to steal rules’’ and lack of disengagements by the pitchers. Catchers need to throw again and with the automated ball-strike system right around the corner the value of “framing’’ will be obsolete. “If catchers can’t throw as the game evolves into more stolen bases, they’re not worth having on your team,’’ one scout noted. “They put such a premium on framing the last seven or eight years to try and steal strikes, but if you have an automated strike zone, what are you stealing?’’

Great question.

“You can’t make a ball in the automated strike zone a strike by framing it,’’ he added, displaying more common sense.

* * *

What is the secret sauce to the Rays’ best record in baseball success?

One talent evaluator offered this to BallNine: “I’m sure their analytics department is good, but that organization lets baseball men teach baseball.’’

Wow, what a concept.

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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