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Mudville: July 23, 2024 9:45 am PDT

Being Authentic


The word of the day is authentic.

This is actually the word of the year, as declared by Merriam-Webster. Major League Baseball could learn the true meaning of the word because so many things in the game these days are inauthentic.

Starting with the inauthentic front offices, who often say one thing, but do something completely different. How many teams are actually trying to win it all?

Then there is the Fake Runner, the Pitch Clock, exploding elbows, the no shift rule, instant and constant replay. Teams being run into the ground by analytics yet no one from the analytics department ever is held accountable. Fake statistics like the one we addressed Sunday in The Story­ –  xwOBA – and BABIP and so many more.

Batting average, RBIs and runs scored, you know, the back of the old baseball cards used to be a pretty good measuring stick. The pat on the back and then the knife in the back offered by so many POBOs  (President of Baseball Operations) must change too. The terrible treatment of scouts – this week I heard of one team cutting three more scouts – including one who was going into his 30th season.

More things to ponder: The promise of a World Series victory in three to five years. Monster payrolls and only one World Series victory since 2001. Guess the team? The 2020 spring training season Dodgers World Championship. The 2017 Cheatin’ Astros World Championship.

Post-season press conferences by POBOs where a new seven-year plan is put forward. Small market teams constantly trading away top talent, yet fans are supposed to devote their energy, time and money to those teams. Home team blackouts on the MLB TV app. The merry go round of finding the streaming service that your favorite team’s game is being shown on that night. Taking away the All-Star Game from Atlanta. The inability to run 90 feet at a time. Overall defense. Bunting. Strikeouts don’t matter. Not hitting behind the runner. Putting the ball in play when a runner is at third base and less than two outs. Pre-game infield. Pre-game outfield. Outfielders practicing their throws or taking balls off the wall at a ballpark to learn how the ball bounces.

The promise to sign meaningful free agents and make trades that improve the team.

You get the picture.

I could go on and on. So could you. Feel free to X me any of your favorite non-authentic-isms relating to baseball.

A top talent evaluator weighed in on how ironic it is that “authentic’’ is the word of the year when I asked him what’s authentic in baseball now?

“Nothing,’’ he told BallNine on Wednesday. “We live in this world where talk is cheap. There is no authenticity. Authenticity sticks out like a sore thumb and it succeeds.’’

Authenticity can win a World Series. The Texas Rangers certainly were authentic. Chris Young and Bruce Bochy are authentic. Corey Seager did what he set out to do with signing with the Rangers and capturing World Series MVP honors.

“They’re real,’’ the evaluator said of Young and Bochy. Bochy now has four, count ‘em four, World Series titles since 2010. He has entered Joe Torre territory. “There is a sense of calm in that Rangers dugout because Boch is in control of everything, because he has the experience to be in control of everything.’’

Yes, there are some warning signs with Soto but he is worth the one-year gamble because the Yankees really have nowhere else to turn.

Authenticity is not found in a notebook or an iPad.  It is not found in an algorithm or a pitching lab or a mindless indoor batting cage sprint and throw to hit a magic number on the radar gun.

“Bochy never panicked,’’ the evaluator said. “The Rangers just did things right, there was a sense of accountability.’’

Chris Young established accountability when in 2022 he told his players they were going to take infield three or four times a week to improve their defensive play; it got much better and improved even more under Bochy as the Rangers defense excelled. Starter Nate Eovaldi was the real deal, too. Marcus Semien was signed to lead and lead he did, playing in all 162 games and all of the postseason. He was authentic.

The question is why don’t more teams try to be authentic in their actions, their play and in the players they sign?

This may be too simple an answer but perhaps those in charge of these teams wouldn’t know authenticity if they tripped over it. The game is overrun with inauthentic people in charge.

The Rangers signed Jacob deGrom and he went down with Tommy John surgery, his second.

“When deGrom went down in the beginning of the year,’’ the evaluator said, “I wonder what the odds were in Las Vegas at that point in the Rangers winning the whole thing.’’

Some teams were complete failures. Take for example the Yankees, it is in the Steinbrenner DNA to spend money to be great and perhaps Hal Steinbrenner finally tripped over that fact this offseason. He certainly wasn’t aware earlier in the year when he mocked Yankee fans for being upset with plenty of season to go. The Yankees need to buy big talent to be successful.

With the Winter Meetings coming up next week in Nashville it’s all about the Yankees adding big ticket items and making a trade for Juan Soto, a deal that must be done. Yes, there are some warning signs with Soto but he is worth the one-year gamble because the Yankees really have nowhere else to turn.

Juan Soto is worth the gamble for the 2024 season, according to AMBS. (Getty)

The Red Sox are in the same boat as the Yankees, two teams that finished out of the watered down playoffs. They need to do something big. The Cardinals, another team used to playing in October have added pitchers Sonny Gray, Kyle Gibson and Lance Lynn. There is still more work to be done but they are at least trying in a division where it seems no one tries to really win – the NL Central. The Cubs really need to get their act together. The same goes for the AL Central. The Twins are cutting back on payroll. The Guardians are cutting back. The Tigers are a lost franchise.

For a team that hasn’t won a championship since 1948 when the Indians won the World Series, there are no excuses. The Mariners have never won a World Series and they are throwing out numbers about 54 percent which makes no sense; go out and sign some hitters.

T-MobilePark should be more than a Beer Garden.

The Orioles are talented and young but need to add a top pitcher. The Reds highest paid player is a reliever they just signed in Emilio Pagan, yet the dedicated Cincinnati fans come to the games. You can go up and down the list of teams just showing up and not really trying to win it all.

You think Manny Machado is going to be happy about the Padres cutting back? If I’m the Yankees I go big or go home and try to land Machado in a trade. Same thing up in Minnesota, you think Carlos Correa is going to be happy with the Twins cutting back?

A lot of teams will use the Regional Sports Network mess as a reason why they must cut payroll. Don’t let a good crisis go to waste.

There are not a lot of authentic teams out there.

“They’re authentically phony,’’ the evaluator said. “The whole industry is not in a good place.’’

Nailed it again.

Don’t buy the BS.

Carlos Correa looks on during the UFC 295 event at Madison Square Garden on November 11, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

And just wait until expansion hits and the level of play drops even more. Teams have money. Just look at the increase in the gambling market.

This is the time of year where teams can put their money where their mouth is – and we are looking at you, Mets. This is a huge off-season for the Mets. They need to earn back the trust of their devoted fans and really need to make a splash. The pressure is on David Stearns. Stearns and Steve Cohen handed ex-Yankee Luis Severino $13 million on Wednesday for a one-year deal, according to reports. Severino pitched to a 6.65 ERA last season, but the Mets are counting on a bounce back year.

One scout mentioned that the first thing Severino has to do is get in much better shape than this past season with the Yankees.

Starting pitching is at a premium because those in charge of baseball have created a starting pitching shortage with the way they are “developing’’ starters.

There are so many desperate teams and another one of those teams are the Blue Jays. Their upper management is under the gun. The most desperate team is the Giants. They separated themselves from Gabe Kapler and are trying to build a more authentic team. And I’m guessing Bob Melvin is not going to pump some iron before meeting with the media, something I was told that Big Gabe used to do.

I expect the Winter Meetings to be a hotbed of activity and I still think Shohei Ohtani will sign with the Dodgers. There is too much of a need in LA for the Dodgers not to make that move. Yes, the Dodgers have won the NL West 10 times in the last 11 seasons but they were knocked out and embarrassed by the Diamondbacks a year after being knocked out and being embarrassed by the Padres, eliminated in the first round two straight seasons by an NL West opponent.

What does Andrew Friedman, President of Baseball Operations of the Los Angeles Dodgers have up his sleeve for the upcoming Winter Meetings? (Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)

Dodger POBO Andrew Friedman said the Dodgers will show up in spring training loaded for success. “We’re going to have a team that has very, very legit championship aspirations,’’ he promised.

The Dodgers should go out and sign pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Ohtani.

As for the overall level of talent on the market, one scout told BallNine, “It’s certainly not a banner year but there are some guys who will make a difference in the right places.’’

And that’s the key, there are positive changes to be made if the money is spent in the right places as the Rangers did. It is two years to the day that the Rangers signed Corey Seager. It can be done. A team can go from inauthentic to authentic almost overnight with the right moves.

Teams must have a higher standard. It’s that simple. Alabama football coach Nick Saban once explained it this way and I think all teams, all POBOs, could learn from these words.

“My dad taught me life’s lessons in everything that I did,’’ Saban began, dropping 43 seconds of wisdom that works for every sport, not just college football. “He was my coach every day, whether it was football, working at the service station, how I cut the grass, how I cleaned the mower. There was a standard for everything that we did. And if you didn’t meet the standard you had to do it over. There was a reckoning every day about how you did what you were supposed to do.

“I think that created a tremendous amount of accountability for me in terms of how I grew up but it also taught me the importance of a partnership in terms of working with people who had a high standard for what you did, how you did it and why it was important to do it that way.’’

Do all that and you will succeed. Find that trust with people and you will succeed together.

There is nothing more authentic that cutting the grass and cleaning the lawn mower. The feedback is immediate and if you take shortcuts, it will be obvious to all.

Live an authentic life. And for baseball teams that means stop with all the nonsense, the made-up terms, the short cuts, creating an image – create a team instead.

If your system fails, don’t defend it, try a proven system and rely on people who have done it before and have had success. It’s not about creating a vision, it’s about having a vision and demanding excellence.

Trust will follow. Authenticity will follow.

There is no better week on the baseball calendar than the week of Winter Meetings to really be authentic, realize your teams shortcomings and begin to make those changes and if your team has the money, spend it in all the right places. Happy hunting.

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.

  • Alec Peter Stais

    well said Kevin!

    November 30, 2023
  • daniel Radison

    Anaytics over estimate their info and underestimate relationships

    November 30, 2023
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