For Fans Who Should Know Better

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Mudville: July 19, 2024 1:47 am PDT


Anti-baseball rules still rule the day, no matter what they tell you.

With that in mind, I got a few chuckles out of the World Series State of the Game address by Rob Manfred.

Loved Manfred’s comments that they don’t want to change the rules too much in 2024 because of all the recent rule changes they have enacted.

Oh yeah, they don’t want to screw with the game. That’s all they have been doing during Manfred’s reign, screw with the game.

By the way, it was nice to see an extra innings game Friday night in which teams did not have a fake runner starting the inning at second base – absolutely the worst rule ever concocted, because that runner did not earn second base. In postseason, the fake runner is no more.

During the regular season, in a game in which you are supposed to earn everything, all of a sudden 180 feet is gifted – and you mean to tell me that’s not messing with the integrity of the game?

What a joke.

Stolen bases are a joke; and for those acting like these new stolen base numbers are totally legitimate, you are so off base.

The new stolen base is destroying the record book in that category. You don’t see the NFL knocking off five yards when a team gets into the red zone.

And let’s not forget that just about every baseball team with a pulse is invited to the postseason now, in order to create more layers of TV programming. Manfred keeps lowering the competition level, and in the process removing greatness from the game.

Invite whoever you want, but if that is the case, make the division series a seven-game series. Shorten the season to 154 games, if necessary, to avoid November baseball.

Considering all the offensive advantages that have taken over the game, a shorter season would make it more in balance with seasons of the past.

I’m so old I remember when winning the pennant meant something. This used to be a marathon; now it’s a sprint, but not a true sprint because of the bigger bases – among all the other changes.

Don’t expect to ever see a World Series shutout ever again. I was there in the Metrodome in 1991 when Jack Morris out-dueled John Smoltz and pitched 10 shutout innings in the Twins 1-0 Game 7 win over the Braves. That was greatness.

“We will never see a Smoltz-Jack Morris game ever again, we’ll never see any of that,’’ one longtime knowledgeable baseball man told BallNine on Saturday. “We’ll never see a perfect game like Don Larsen pitched in the (1956) World Series … It’s all the legislation that is ruining the game as opposed to making the game better by (actually) making the game better.’’

The thing that scares me the most about Rob (Attendance is Up 9 Percent) Manfred is that he doesn’t talk like a guy who even knows baseball. Consider this comment to reporters at Globe Life Field on Friday.

“The way that pitching is being used right now has caused a diminution in that kind of quality for some of our starters.’’

What? Diminution? Have any baseball fans ever used that word?

Why didn’t the D-Backs pitch around Garcia in that situation as Garcia homered for the fifth straight postseason game? He is quickly becoming the new Mr. October.

And, of course, Manfred followed that up with: “And I do think it’s an issue that we should talk about.’’

That sounds an awful lot like all the do-nothing politicians saying, “We need to have a serious conversation about (fill in the blank).”

Manfred actually thought going to 13 pitchers would encourage the Nerds in charge of teams to lengthen starting pitching outings. Yeah, right.

“We went to 13, I don’t think it’s had the desired effect,’’ Manfred admitted.

The new rules have not saved the game, but are changing the game. Especially in the postseason when the Fake Runner suddenly disappears. In that Rangers 6-5, 11-inning win over the Diamondbacks Friday night in Game 1 of the World Series, both teams seemed to be saying, “Hey, what happened to that fake runner on second base in extra innings? We need help to score. You don’t really expect us to get our own runner on base and then move him into scoring position and come up with a hit?

“No, no time for that – so we’ll just all swing for the fences in extra innings.’’

Manfred gets his October version of Home Run Derby.

Yes, the players have taken the easy way out with the runner on second, they don’t want to be working overtime.  And even though the Rangers got two walks and a single in the 10th inning Friday night, they could not find a way to score. In both the 10th and 11th, the Diamondbacks, a team that has been able to manufacture runs this season, went down meekly, one, two, three each inning.

There were 24 Ks in the game. Diamondback pitchers struck out 10 Rangers, but somehow managed to walk 10 Rangers … in a World Series game.

Muscle man Adolis Garcia saved the day for the Rangers with an opposite field home run on a 3-1 pitch, which begs the question why didn’t the D-Backs pitch around Garcia in that situation as Garcia homered for the fifth straight postseason game? He is quickly becoming the new Mr. October.

Manfred also admitted the automated ball-strike system (you know, robot umps), is not quite ready. The same goes for the new pre-tacked baseballs they used in some minor leagues in 2023. “We went back to the drawing board on it,’’ Manfred said.

In other words, so far, those Manfred baseball altering changes have not lived up to expectations. They are not ready to be enacted.

They are not ready to come out of Frankenstein’s baseball lab yet.

Of course, it would be too simple to just keep using the baseballs that were in use forever and having them rubbed up by clubbies with the special mud that’s been around forever, Lena Blackburn Baseball Rubbing Mud.

There is no room in Manfred’s game for tradition and history. It’s all a new betting world, and make a buck any way you can even with advertisements on uniforms, which used to be sacred.

Baseball has created the whole automated balls and strikes controversy by putting that silly little box on all HD TVs representing the alleged strike zone. That box is not close to being perfect. I have seen the ABS system at work in the minors and it still has a long way to go; but I’m rooting for baseball to put it in ASAP simply because I want to see pitchers, hitters, and managers lose their minds over the new system that is supposed to be better that the human umpire element.

What can I tell you – I miss the old umpire-manager base-throwing meltdowns.

I feel for the umpires because they have essentially been turned into human robots by Manfred’s Minions running and ruining the game. You can almost see them second guess themselves at every turn. They have had their confidence destroyed by all the slow motion instant replay second guessing and all the balls and strikes second guessing.

I also wish some TV network would have the courage to have their analyst not dwell on every single pitch that is coming, what that pitch might be; and then after it’s thrown, why do we need to hear all the explanations of why that pitch was thrown and then segue to here comes the next pitch and this is what it’s going to be and why, on an endless loop?

Atlanta Braves John Smoltz (29) in action, pitching vs Minnesota Twins at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. Game 7. Minneapolis, MN 10/27/1997 (Photo by Heinz Kluetmeier /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)

These analysts are too good to be spending all their time and wasting my time in the pitch prediction business. Tell us about the inner workings of the game. Tell us an interesting human interest story about one of the players on the field. Tell us about baseball stuff, not just measurements that anyone, even Siri, can read off an iPad or a laptop.

Be human.

It’s about more than numbers, it’s about flesh and blood and the postseason; especially the World Series is all about the human element and rising to the occasion like Corey Seager did with his game-tying, two-run home run Friday night in the ninth inning.

Noted one scout of that at-bat: “I was shocked they tried to attack him up, even though that is (Paul) Sewald’s strength, after what Seager did to the kid from Houston who has the same invisible fastball as Sewald.’’

And here is something unique: on occasion, just let the crowd tell us what is happening. Nothing against John Smoltz. I think he has a lot to offer, when he offers it, just like he did that night in 1991 against Jack Morris when he went 7 1-3 innings.

But live in the moment, don’t predict and overanalyze the moment.

As for play by play broadcasters, don’t always shout over greatness and don’t always set it up with, “ONE SWING CAN TIE THE GAME!’’

We are onto that trick. We already know that. We know the score. Let greatness flow. Let the moment speak for itself and if the manager is in a serious conversation with the pitching coach in the dugout, stick with the conversation; stop switching the shot to some fan with a small rally towel over their head. Seen it once, seen it all.

Much of all this I believe goes back to the over-fascination with “Is that a ball that was called a strike or a strike that was called a ball?”

That obsessiveness is ruining the pleasure of just watching and enjoying the game.

TV used to take you out to the ballgame, like you are one with the crowd. Now it is taking you to math class every single pitch.

Let’s get back to some of that baseball stuff.

Umpire Jim Joyce looks on before a game between the St. Louis Cardinals and Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on September 21, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

I do think the analysis of Alex Rodriguez, David Ortiz, and Derek Jeter has been excellent because Jeter brings a seriousness to that lineup, much like he did in real October baseball with the Yankees; and Kevin Burkhardt knows how to set up his stars, who clearly, especially my man A-Rod, have had it up to here with analytics.

And while I’m handing out compliments, kudos to ex-major league umpire Jim Joyce, who once had the guts to admit he blew The Call, and his recent comments on the Rob Bradford podcast. Joyce said what I believe to be true, and no one from MLB has the courage to say what he said. In case you missed it, here is what Joyce had to say about that annoying little strike zone box on your TV.

“That box on TV is not 100% accurate,’’ Joyce declared. “I can tell you that from fact. You can ask any other umpire that’s ever sat in replay. There are two feeds: a home feed and an away feed. You can, at times, look up and the pitch comes in, the away feed may have it in a certain location and the home feed is in a different location. Until they work that out, I don’t see any way you can depend and say that this is 100% accurate because it’s not. I don’t know who does the one that’s on the computer all the time but I guarantee you this: that is not even close to being accurate.”

There you have it. Not even close to being accurate.

A longtime talent evaluator, a former pitcher, agreed, telling me, “It’s not accurate and everybody sits around and pisses and moans and gets pissed off at umpires; play the bleeping game.’’

Baseball truths from people who know – and Joyce has been there on the field and in the replay center and has gotten it right and wrong in real time.

This is not a video game, people.

As much as Manfred wants to make every aspect of MLB a video game like MLB The Show 23, this game is still played by people. Every new rule that takes away personality from the game, that takes away the human element, that takes away strategy from the game, destroys baseball from within.

Love the game and the game will love you back.

They are trying to turn the game into that manufactured tacky ball with a computer strike zone, and with new rules that discourage lifelong baseball strategies – with fake runners and fake accomplishments like the new stolen base rules that erode the essence of the art of the steal.

Enjoy the actual art of October baseball.

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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