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Mudville: March 2, 2024 10:22 pm PDT

Off To See The Wizard

BY KEVIN KERNAN

Perhaps the most maddening aspect of the Yankees’ top to bottom deterioration is the lack of accountability. And just to be clear, the Yankees are not alone.

Accountability throughout MLB is an endangered species. It’s time every team starts being more accountable to fans – and that means let’s start hearing from the people who are really running most teams, the analytical experts behind the curtain.

Let’s mic them up during a game.

Let’s hear what they have to say about why moves are made. In the Yankees’ case this is really necessary.

From non-Boss Hal Steinbrenner to GM for Life Brian Cashman to Manager Who Doesn’t Manage Aaron Boone to players like Lost Luis Severino, no one seems overly upset over the 2023 collapse.

The Yankees act like there is nothing wrong. No one is ever mad about anything in Yankee World.

Just the other day while the Yankees were getting embarrassed by the Braves after getting embarrassed over the weekend by the Marlins, the Yankees, who have won only one of their last 11 series, announced a partnership with something called A1 Padel.

Yankee fans would love for the team to be A1 again.

After every loss platitudes come from the mouths of those in charge of the pinstripes. The Yankees act like they have won five championships since 2001, not one championship, in 2009, when the Yankees went out and spent money on the free agent market and Joe Girardi held players accountable.

The Yankees have been overrun with analytics during the Cashman regime and since the Nerds are totally in charge of seemingly every aspect of the team, it’s time for the Nerds to face the music.

Here is a suggestion for all teams moving forward, not just the Yankees.

It’s past time for Nerd Accountability.

In postgame press conferences sitting alongside the manager, the chief Nerd or the Nerd of the Day should be forced to take questions as well.

One really smart generational baseball man put it best, telling BallNine, “There is an infallibility behind their numbers and they can hide.

“When are the people that are making out the lineups, and putting together the rosters, and forcing the hand of the baseball people going to be answering the questions every day from the writers and fans who want to know why Player A came into Situation B. Let them explain it. “Here’s what happened … Who are the people making the analytical decisions that form roster management and roster construction, who are the analytically driven people who are forcing the instruction of the game this way, which creates the three-outcome game – and where is their accountability?

“If it works, like Atlanta, give them credit,’’ the baseball man added. “But for a team like the Yankees where they have gotten away from baseball players and have gotten into falling in love with whatever it is they are falling in love with, say, what are we doing?”

Great points all. I’m calling this movement MNA – Make Nerds Accountable.

Teams need to bring the Analytic Gurus out in front of the curtain. Let them explain, good or bad, the reasoning for how they handled the team, the lineup, batting order, the shifts, the pitching, the relievers, and everything else.

In the NFL, offensive and defensive coordinators and position coaches have to face the music during the week. Baseball should do the same for those behind the curtain.

How is that launch angle and those strange drills you are making hitters do working?

Why did you have the relief pitcher removed after a six-pitch inning and the next reliever gave it up? What was your thought process, Mr. Nerd?

If nothing else these sessions would make for interesting viewing and as you see in every game, every broadcast, more betting possibilities. That seems to be the bottom line as far as MLB is concerned.

As it stands now the manager has to take the heat because for instance when a bullpen move blows up, he was told who is available that night and who is not, what the matchups are, what the numbers say. It’s the Nerds pulling the strings.

Let them sit there and explain.

That would make for some good TV. Better ratings.

The manager postgame interview used to be the key interview because he explained why he made the decisions he made. And not too long ago, ask a question that ticked off the manager and you got your share of curses thrown your way. I have been on the receiving end of some of those, but that was part of the job.

Dig deep enough and you got your answer. Now you rarely get real answers because most times the manager is just following orders. He follows the script.

Let the Nerds answer. The fans deserve to hear the reasoning behind decisions. After all, the Nerds have all the answers. It’s all about probability, not results anymore.

Add an ounce of Nerd accountability and you may get different results with these terrible teams and terrible decisions and terrible play littered throughout the MLB landscape.

Much like in the classic The Wizard of Oz where Oz, from behind the curtain, declares “Do not arouse the wrath of the great and powerful Oz. I said come back tomorrow! Do you presume to criticize the great Oz?’’

Then the green curtain is pulled back and Oz proclaims to Dorothy & Co.: “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.’’

Ever so slowly the curtain is beginning to be pulled back on the Oz-like proclamations of the analytical wizards in every major league front office.

“Strikeouts don’t matter!’’

Well, if that’s the case, how do you explain that the Braves have drastically lowered their strikeouts as they have become the cream of the crop in MLB? Last year their hitters had the most strikeouts in the NL and the second most overall in baseball; only the Angels were worse. Now, 22 teams have more strikeouts than the Braves, who have become focused on putting the ball in play. And yet, they are still hitting home runs galore.

The Braves went into action on Wednesday with 231 home runs, the most in baseball; no other team has come close to the 200 mark yet.

From behind the curtain the Nerds also scream:

“Batting average doesn’t matter!”

And the clueless owners all nod their heads in agreement.

Well, if that’s the case how can you explain the Braves having the best batting average in all of baseball at .275? The only team close to them is the Rangers, who have gone Old School this year with Bruce Bochy at the helm. The Rangers are hitting .273.

Batting average matters. I would love to hear from the Braves’ Nerds on their approach to the game and why it’s working so well for them.

No one else is close to those two teams when it comes to batting average. Manager Brian Snitker has been in the Braves organization forever and has a coaching staff filled with major league men, who know how to coach and make the most of the numbers. Not every team has that. I have to laugh when I hear people say the Yankees should just copy the Braves’ plan of success.

Who in the Yankees organization is a Ron Washington?

I could go on and on, but let’s just say the Braves develop their players. A lot of people who developed the core position players like Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies, and Austin Riley when they were in the minors are no longer with the Braves; but the Braves have a way of churning out big talent and then are not afraid to let some of that talent leave – as in the case of shortstop Dansby Swanson – because they know how to fill holes.

And what about the Yankees, you ask, a team that has one of the deepest analytical benches and biggest payrolls in baseball. They are next to last with a .232 average, trailing only the A’s who are a major league team in name only – and may I add, the proud creators of the Moneyball Revolution.

This .232 batting average is not about new hitting coach Sean Casey, it is about the approach the Yankee Nerds want their hitters to take and have passed along to coaching staffs throughout the organization and the hitters they have selected to be Yankees.

May I also add the Yankees are next to last in runs scored (only the A’s are worse), and the Yankees are dead last in doubles, with 154. The team above them, the next to last team, is fittingly the Mets, with 162 doubles. Bochy’s Rangers lead in doubles with 263.

That’s why I say teams need to bring the Analytic Gurus out in front of the curtain. Let them explain, good or bad, the reasoning for how they handled the team, the lineup, batting order, the shifts, the pitching, the relievers, and everything else.

Put them in the spotlight, baseball. Tell the fans the real story.

The Baltimore Orioles recent escapade of shutting down their own broadcaster for merely stating facts gives you an indication that these teams, these clueless owners, don’t want the truth getting out there.

They have put their teams, also your team as a fan, in the hands of analytic masters – so let them tell their story to the public after games when things go right or wrong.

It also would make for some must see in-game coverage.

No longer must Boone half-explain why he played Russian Roulette with the bullpen, let the Nerd explain. When a hot-hitting player is suddenly given a day off in a must-win situation, let the Nerd explain the reasoning behind the move. Since the Nerds make out most lineups anyway, let them explain, in detail, why the lineup is crafted the way it was on this day.

On Friday it was David Peralta who ruined Suarez and the Padres’ night. Peralta’s double past third (they never guard the lines anymore late in the game) tied the score. After Melvin ordered an intentional walk to load the bases, on his 33rd pitch of the inning, Suarez walked Chris Taylor to force in the go-ahead run. It was 7-3 before the bleeding stopped in the inning, and the Padres lost, 10-5.

The Padres bounced back to win Saturday, 8-3, but trade deadline addition Rich Hill was the loser Sunday in an 8-2 loss; then on Monday Seth Lugo blew a 5-0 lead, surrendering eight runs in the fourth inning, including a Mookie Betts grand slam, on the way to a 13-7 Dodgers win.

The Dodgers scored 34 runs in the four games, and going back to the eighth inning of that first game with a 3-2 lead and two out and laboring relief pitcher, the Padres let it get away with Josh Hader relaxing in the bullpen. That loss set the tone for the series.

What’s going on here?

Lugo, a smart pitcher I know well, whined the Dodgers baserunners were seeing what he was throwing from second base, that he was tipping his pitches. Too bad. Fix it.

Then on Tuesday, the Mariners beat the Padres 2-0 when Logan Gilbert shut them down. Andres Munoz got the save. Gilbert was a first round draft pick of the Mariners in 2018, the 14th pick overall. Seven picks earlier, Preller, who is always heavily involved in the draft, and the Padres made Ryan Weathers their pitching first rounder. He was recently traded to the Marlins. Munoz, who got the save, came over to the Mariners from the Padres along with first baseman Ty France in the Austin Nola trade of 2020. Nola is in the minors.

The National League third wild card remains up in the air and the “contending’’ teams all have many flaws, including the young Reds, who did nothing of substance at the trade deadline and blew a 4-1 eighth-inning lead to the Marlins on Wednesday. Josh Bell, acquired at the deadline, hit a three-run home run in the eighth, his second homer of the day, to tie the game as the Marlins went on to win.

How come there’s no real left-handed power in Yankee Stadium with the short right field porch?

And this shouldn’t just be postgame, this can be during in-game experiences as well.

Television is always looking for the next interview, the next mic’d up player.

Imagine having the gurus of analytics mic’d up in crucial situations.

That might be the perfect guest for ESPN Sunday Night Baseball or the companion KayRodCast. I can just hear Michael Kay introduce a guest like Michael Fishman, who started with the Yankees in 2005 as a baseball operations analyst and is now an assistant GM.

Ask the questions that need to be asked of the Analytics Squad, like what is wrong with Luis Severino and how come you have not been able to fix it?

Did you recommend re-signing Severino to that four year $40 million contract?

Severino has been crushed in the first inning, tagged for 23 earned runs in the opening inning of his 14 starts, which figures out to a 14.79 ERA. What, if any, adjustments have been made to his routine to fix that? What mechanical adjustments have you recommended to pitching guru Matt Blake? What’s with his slider?

That would be an interesting interview.

And I am not just pointing toward Michael Fishman. Every team has a deep analytics bench so you could have someone different from the analytics department every game explaining why this or that was decided.

As it stands now, it’s useless to send Boone out after games with his “compete” word salad.

Same with Sevy, who clearly is so perplexed by his failings that he doesn’t even know what he is saying anymore.

After surrendering a three-run home run to the Braves’ Marcell Ozuna Tuesday night and later in the game a two-run blast to Ronald Acuna Jr. to dead center, this was Severino’s self-diagnosis. “I feel happy the way I felt on the mound, the way I competed. I feel like I’m improving. A lot of swings and misses, I haven’t done that in a long time. I feel like I was in command of all my pitches, a couple of mistakes.’’

And that right there folks is what I’m talking about.

Imagine Bob Gibson losing 5-0, with a 14.79 ERA in the first inning, saying that.

Imagine CC Sabathia saying that.

Imagine Roger Clemens saying that.

This is the modern baseball player who probably had a heart-to-heart talk with the Yankees’ deep bench of mental skills coaches, because it’s all about your feelings that day, not results.

To Severino’s credit, however, he recently said after another putrid performance: “Right now, I feel like the worst pitcher in the game. Nothing that I do is working.’’

At least he was honest. What about the thoughts of those in the Yankee organization guiding him? Instead of questioning Severino, I would like to question those who decided it was best for Severino to go up against the Mighty Braves.

Inquiring minds would like to know.

Make Nerds Accountable.

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.

Comments
  • Well done, Kevin. The Yanks are being run like the U.S. Govt. No accountability. At least the Yanks are in the black.

    August 17, 2023
  • mp13

    Kevin, you always get right to the core issues! GMS always held people accountable – we all miss him. Keep up the good work.

    August 27, 2023
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