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Mudville: May 28, 2024 8:44 am PDT

More Quality Control

BY KEVIN KERNAN

There is a major loss of control in baseball.

Not just with the pitchers, quality control.

Time to bring back some quality control to Major League Baseball. On all levels. From the cheap uniforms (check out Riley Greene’s ripped pants on Saturday in the Tigers 5-3 loss to Yankees) to the overall play on the field.

“It’s a joke,’’ one top evaluator told BallNine of watching what is happening on a daily basis in the pro game. “I feel like a comedian. New material is out there every day.’’

In some ways the game has simply lost its mind.

A scout told me this week that in a minor league game he saw the starting pitcher between innings using a Bodyblade and weighted balls. Exercise equipment between innings of a start? What’s going on?

I had to look up a Bodyblade. I’ve seen them but never before being used by a pitcher between innings. The Bodyblade is a training tool that uses rapid contraction technology (RCT) to contract muscles up to 270 times per minute. Okay. And why would you want to do that in the middle of a game?

Common sense, please.

“The pitcher is doing the Bodyblade exercises like a fiend in the dugout and in the next inning he is doing pushbacks with the weighted ball,’’ the scout said of the incredulous scene he witnessed. “And his velocity went down five miles per hour from the first to the fifth inning.’’

No wonder these guys can’t go five innings on a good day.

How about working on your mental game between innings? Or regroup physically?

Where is the quality control? Teams have more coaches and specialists than ever, yet no one is minding the baseball store.

“Nobody says a word,’’ the scout said. “If I’m the pitching coach and I turn around and my starting pitcher is doing exercise drills I’m saying, ‘What the f— you doing?’ Take that energy out to the f-ing field.’ ’’

I could only imagine what my old friend pitching coach Pat Dobson would say about such a situation.

One of the big issues is that wins have been devalued by everyone, including teams in the molding of their players. A scout observed a minor league game this week where the pitcher had thrown 71 pitches, had not allowed a run and was taken out at 4 2/3 innings. “He got two quick outs and nobody was on base,’’ the scout said.

Clearly a message is being sent throughout baseball that devalues the importance of the win.

I get it, that it’s all about the process, but sometimes it’s about the win, too. Pitchers used to like having a “W’’ next to their name. There is so much emphasis on max velocity and spin rate that learning and appreciating the value of a “W’’ is being pushed aside. That has to change.

Watch ex-Met Seth Lugo out there dealing for the Royals this year. He is there to get the win, that was a smart free agent signing by the Royals. The crafty Lugo is 5-1 with a 1.60 ERA but all we hear about is pitchers hitting the 100 mph mark.

There is value in learning how to win. For everyone.

The Nerds are not going away. Just yet. So baseball people have to take matters into their own hands and go from there.

To their credit, some teams are making little adjustments like the Orioles, Yankees and Royals to name a few in the American League. Over in the National League the Phillies and Braves are trying their best. Same with the Dodgers.

There is a genuine state of confusion in the game.

The solution is to let the teams that are already too far gone continue to fall into the abyss, teams like the Marlins. We looked at the Marlins in Baseball or Bust on Tuesday.

Same goes for the Pirates. Please, no more stories from the national media on how the Pirates are poised to win a championship in the next three to five years.

Enough. I’m tired of reading that only to see the Pirates, once such a proud National League franchise, back in last place again. There is no mystery to why the Pirates struggle year after year, they got rid of so many good baseball development people. They are not developing their young talent.

It’s time to recognize the teams that have tried their best to get back to baseball to a degree and doing some little things right. That leads to big things, of course.

MLB has dropped the ball in so many ways we have pointed out here at BallNine – but what is becoming increasingly clear this season is that this game is now so over-regulated with chippy and confusing rules that no one seems to know what is right or wrong anymore. There is a genuine state of confusion in the game.

Even the umpires are confused. Situations are arising where they should know better but let it slide; and I am not just talking about a lack of focus on calling balls and strikes. At this rate, bring on the automated strike zone.

One of those confusing instances happened earlier this week against the Mets, a lot of stuff happens against the Mets. No, not the play at the plate where Pete Alonso was called out, the league has made plays at home so ridiculously overregulated it’s like reading one of the bills that passes through Congress.

In this Mets game, the Cubs’ Pete Crow-Armstrong slid into second base and then used his helmet, holding it in his right hand and holding it on the bag as Jeff McNeil applied the tag. That’s not allowed and should have been recognized at the time, but nobody seemed to notice. Not the umpires, not McNeil nor any of the Mets.

That is no different than a catcher using his mask to corral a loose baseball. Can’t do it. Pete Crow-Armstrong did it and got away with it. You can’t use equipment to gain an advantage. Which begs the question what about the ridiculous elongated oven mitts that baserunners put on as if they were going to play out in the snow all day? What about that equipment?

Aaron Judge used the mitt to knock down a throw from second base. Where is the quality control? Make it make sense.

Pete Crow-Armstrong #52 of the Chicago Cubs is called safe at second base against the New York Mets as he drove in a run in the sixth inning during their game at Citi Field on May 02, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

If your team stinks, really stinks, and everybody knows they stink, and they happen to win a game, that is not a time to sing from the mountaintops about sticking it to the “haters.’’

White Sox young play-by-play man John Schriffen got carried away with a rare walk-off home run by Andrew Benintendi screaming, “Say it with me, say it proud, for all the haters, Southside, stand up!’’

Haters?

The White Sox are off to a historically bad start. These are not haters. These are people who happen to know the standings. They are called fans.

Hey, it’s one thing to be a homer, I get it, “The Yankees Win!’’ but come on, at least be somewhat of a realistic homer. Have some quality control in your own voice. Stuff like that does not make it seem that Chicago is home to pro sports. Let’s not make baseball Arena Football.

Tap the brakes.

Which brings us back to the poor Marlins fans who officially are going through a rebuild, again.  By trading Luis Arraez the first week of May to the Padres and A.J. Preller, who is always hooked on a trade feeling, the Marlins made it official, and you know what’s great about a rebuild, it guarantees at least five more years of the current leadership, in this case, that spellbinding orator Peter Bendix, it guarantees five years he’ll be around. Good luck Marlins fans.

One of my new favorite X follows is the cleverly named “Bitching Ninja.’’

Not Pitching Ninja, Bitching Ninja. As for this Marlins trade, Bitching Ninja stated: “Glad to see that @Marlins chief exec traded #Arraez and upgrades the catching situation with the following:

HS centerfielder

Utility outfielder

Corner outfielder/1B

RH relief pitcher’’

The Marlins have historically bad catching, but you have to start somewhere in a rebuild and the Bendix Rebuild is off and flying. It will be interesting to see if Arraez’ ability to hit for batting average and make contact can help the Padres’ dysfunctional play.

MLB could have done a little better job bringing Marlins owner Bruce Sherman into its ownership family but that gets us back to quality control. Why wouldn’t MLB have such owners as Bruce Sherman and the guy who runs the A’s John Fisher, running them right out of Oakland.

At least A’s manager Mark Kotsay, a baseball man I knew as a player, is trying his best with his own form of quality control on the field and the A’s are playing better than anyone expected.

Kudos to Kotsay.

Just an aside here, but during the baseball season on Sunday mornings in major league ballparks there is a Catholic Mass and I vaguely remember seeing Kotsay on occasion at such a Mass. Back in the day, at the old Yankee Stadium, they used to offer a Sunday Mass in the extra clubhouse they would use for Old Timers Day. The highlight to me was when legendary public address announcer Bob Sheppard would do the readings.

Mr. Sheppard would start by saying, “Some people say I have the Voice of God, today I am the Voice of God.’’\

Just a marvelous memory. Again, kudos to Kotsay and hopefully the A’s continue to do better than expected, until they start with yet another firesale.

Watch any game and your head spins. I was watching the Yankees-Tigers Saturday and Anthony Rizzo was caught off second base on a line drive to right field, but instead of simply taking the throw and stepping on the base, the infielder went for the tag of Rizzo, giving Rizzo time to get back.

Baserunning continues to be baffling, especially plays at home – and granted a big part of that is no one knows what the heck is going on with the catcher anymore. Poor secondary leads are a plague on the game, if you care about the little things, and here at BallNine we care about the little things.

The other day against the Mets, the Cubs Nick Madrigal was at second base when Mike Tauchman, a pro’s pro, hit a ground ball single to right field. Madrigal had a bad secondary lead. But that was just the start. Instead of sliding directly into the plate feet first, Madrigal tried one of those wild slap tags of the plate, which I am not a fan of, and he missed the plate entirely with his left-hand slap. The catcher missed the tag.

Madrigal, though, did not go directly back to the plate but started vehemently signaling to the umpire that he was safe. He wasn’t. The umpire played it right and did not make any call because the tag was missed. In the time Madrigal went to demonstrate to the umpire that he was safe, again, he wasn’t, that gave the hustling catcher enough time to regroup and tag Madrigal out before he could dive back into the plate. If Madrigal had gone directly back to the plate he would have been safe but he had to do a stop and argue, much like a stop and chat. I always told young players you are not the umpire, you are the player, let the umpire ump and let the player play.

I wonder if the Cubs $40 million manager said anything to Madrigal?

Quality control is key.

In the ninth inning of a 4-4 game against the Marlins on Thursday the Rockies’ Brendan Rodgers was on second base. A bunt was put down and the throw to third from the pitcher went past the third baseman and down the left field line, yet somehow Rodgers did not score. In that situation he must pop up on the slide and cruise home with what would have been the potential winning run. Instead the runner who was at first was caught in a rundown between second and third because he thought Rodgers, who was anchored at third, should have been going home. Bad play by Rodgers.

And how about this statistic? Over the last five seasons, the Tigers’ Javy Baez has walked 90 times and struck out 553 times. He has a .279 on-base percentage. Are the Tigers really serious about winning?

Quality control with your lineup, please, A.J. Hinch, who can’t wait to bring in a reliever at any given moment. Speaking of former Astros managers, you think the Astros might be missing Dusty Baker, who was named Baseball Digest’s fourth annual Lifetime Achievement Award winner this month? Dusty believes in quality control.

I believe bringing back sliding practice might be a good thing for spring training with some of the terrible slides I am seeing in the majors this season.

All the rule changes have cheapened the game. It’s never been easier to steal a base, the bar is lowered but players don’t work on perfecting technique. The bar was lowered most of all by adding the ridiculous fake runner. That run should be a given every extra inning, get him over and get him in, but so often teams can’t get ‘em over or in as they swing from their ass, always trying to do too much.

I want to credit the Yankees’ Alex Verdugo who executed a perfect push bunt single in the Yankees ninth inning on Friday night as they scored twice to beat the young, inexperienced Tigers, 2-1.

It is plays like that by Verdugo that give me some hope all is not lost in the game. That was a quality control moment for the Yankees and it showed that despite all the changes to the game, a baseball player can make a baseball play at any given time that helps win a game.

There is hope. If there is more quality control.

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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