Baseball

I’m hardly the first or only to point this out about Cheating Scandal ’20, but it’s hard to get past the fact that no players were suspended as a result. Which makes you wonder just how much the actual players care about this sort of thing.

Yes, there are complication with the MLBPA that suspending players would come with that punting a manager and a GM don’t have. It would also have made things very awkward for at least half the Astros to be missing for a month, as well as suspending players now on other teams. It probably should have happened anyway, but I can at least see where Rob Manfred didn’t want to step into that muck.

Still, I can’t help but wonder if given the chance to do so off the record, wouldn’t players point out the following: every game, they get thorough and massive reports about what pitchers like to throw and when. About how much those pitches move both with runners on base and not. What they do various trips through a lineup. What he might do with his glove before throwing a break pitch. And that if you pick up the signs from the catcher from second base and relay that to the hitter, that’s considered the fault of the pitcher and catcher. There are 20 pairs of eyes at least in every dugout looking for tips to pitches from either the catcher or pitcher. Basically, hitters are prepped to suspect what might be coming every pitch in just about every way.

So how much farther is it to what the Astros, Red Sox, and I’m sure we’ll find out other teams, did? If everything else is right up to the line, is this so far out over the horizon? Or is it a mere few steps onto the other side?

Because if the players themselves thought this was such a huge violation of things, you’d have to believe at least one clubhouse leader–say an Altuve or Correa or Verlander or the like–would have put a stop to it. We know Hinch made some half-assed efforts to do so, and they were pretty much rebuffed. Clearly the Astros players either never thought they’d get caught, or they didn’t think it was such a big deal if they did. At least Tom Brady had the awareness to bust up a phone, and that was just over footballs.

And I’m sure what the players would tell you, at least the hitters, is that there are just as many reports and scouts on them, nailing down what they can and can’t hit and where they can and can’t get to and the defense is allowed to line up seven guys in accordance with all of that while they’re trying to hit a small rock hurled at them at 97 MPH. Perhaps it’s not such a great imbalance of knowledge?

The argument is of course that the Astros and Red Sox must’ve gleaned a huge advantage from it because they won two of the last three World Series. Except that’s going to go away when we find out just how many other teams had their own scheme in place. And also, what the hell happened to the Red Sox last year, then? I would still bet their success was more predicated on having more good players.

Not that this should have been swept under the rug or not even addressed, because clearly it’s a violation of rules. And perhaps you could solve a good portion of this by getting rid of the still idiotic challenge system of replay so that dugouts wouldn’t even have monitors anywhere near them. You’ll always have video rooms because hitters check that mid-game, but you could easily run those on delay for that purpose. It wouldn’t solve all, but it would solve some. Sure, VAR in England has shown us the problems with a non-challenge system, but baseball is different than everything and I will always be convinced that a fifth ump in the pressbox with radio communication to the other four umps could solve close calls in less than 30 seconds.

At the end of the day, I don’t see Correa or Altuve or Springer or Bregman hitting .228 next year.

In his letter, Manfred made comment how the Astros had made everything about winning at all costs, and results were all that mattered. Yeah, and? That’s the idea of every sports organization, or so I thought. There is something even more soulless about how the Astros went about things, going through their Taubman/Osuna grossness and their streamlining of their scouting department, and we could keep doing. I suppose there’s a part of all of us that’s the “Can’t we do better?” question when it comes to how much winning means and what we’re willing to put up with to see our team do so.

Again, haven’t the Patriots answered all of this?

It really feels like the Astros and Red Sox tried something, they got caught, and they’ll get punishments that might or might not affect them on the field. And maybe other teams will either be found out or stop doing whatever they were doing for fear of getting thwacked themselves. And then some other team will come up with something new. Others will follow. Cycle probably repeats itself.

It’s a violation. It doesn’t feel like a major crime. And it doesn’t feel like one that MLB has solved now, or will anytime soon. And that’s fine. There’s always shit like this.

Baseball

It’s probably a good idea to point out a portion of the appeal of being a baseball fan is yelling at clouds. It’s the one sport where part of the fabric is that you can look at clouds while watching it. So occasionally you’re going to yell at them. Now that that’s out of the way…

It seems every season, especially of late, once or twice a week some major writer or publication or site is producing something where it’s just some former player–perhaps incontinent, perhaps not, but I’m betting on the former–bitching about how the game has changed and it wasn’t his way in his day and this game sucks and they can’t watch it. Funny enough, they seem to watch it enough to get quoted in these stories, don’t they. Just in the past couple days, Pete Rose, who is a rapist it needs to be pointed out, got a platform to bemoan the status of the game.

Not even hockey has the regularity of aged yahoos and and shitheads come out of whatever forest hut they’ve been inhabiting to proclaim the game was better back when their brains were spilling out over the red line. You get them, but not as often, and also they’re kind of laughed out of the building because of how much faster and more skilled the game is now and people enjoy it. Also, maybe it’s because older hockey players have a much harder time locating three sentences and assembling them than old baseball players do.

Baseball does have a problem in that no sport is more beholden to its past, or traditions. Which might be why it’s falling behind, although it remains to see how that will play out over years as less and less kids play football and look elsewhere. I suppose one of the fascinations of baseball is that it’s the one sport where we can, somewhat, compare players across eras. Like, we know that Dick Butkus would have been killed by second down in today’s game, given the size and speed of players now versus when he played. Baseball doesn’t, or didn’t, have that.

But baseball also seems to refuse to acknowledge that its players have changed. No longer do you see a guy who is, “just a ballplayer.” John Kruk isn’t around, and try and find someone who looked like Aaron Judge in 1975. They throw harder, they swing harder, they’re in better condition, they do everything better. This is hardly a bad thing.

While I may frown upon the messenger, the idea that the game today is a tougher watch, or not as enjoyable, has at least a little merit. But it also shows no patience, because sports and games change and evolve and it’s usually hard to see what things will look like five or ten years down the road.

But my favorite card to be played by the particularly-addled is something like this:

 

Like, if every team in baseball were simply to throw away their analytics department, we’d simply forget what it all said and how it was better to go about winning baseball games. Why is it that more and better information is only scary to old white guys?

Do you ever hear this shit in the NBA? Ok, when it comes to the Houston Rockets, you do, because James Harden can be hard to watch even though he’s a phenomenal player. But the Rockets are hardly the only team that stress threes and layups, and only want a mid-range jumper in certainly situations. And there’s far more movement in NBA offenses now than there was before. Maybe I don’t pay close enough attention, but does the press roll out Jack Sikma every so often to tell us how much he misses a solid bounce-pass?

Certainly no one complains about the greater offense in the NFL now. The only complaint you get about football is that the refs don’t have much idea what they’re doing, but with all the tweaks to the rulebook and replay, it’s a wonder why we think they should.

Whenever something is wrong in baseball, it’s the eggheads’ fault. Always. They fouled up something beautiful, by merely trying to improve it. And if we took them all out to some island and had them all shot, baseball would return to its glorious roots. Because if there wasn’t some nerd in the front office, Bryce Harper would just try and punch a single over the head of the shortstop every AB?

Nightengale’s tweet is utterly hilarious, as pretty much anything that leaps to undeserved freedom out of his gaping maw, because it’s always crusty old baseball men bemoaning they don’t have a job anymore. It reminds me of seeing Lita Ford complaining about how Nirvana ruined her career and wondering when anyone would want the empty-headed rock she specialized in back (that has nothing to do with The Runaways, mind). First off, Gregg Popovich and Bill Belichik are constantly reinventing their teams and styles to stay on top. Fuck, the Pats have had like eight different offenses in this run, and generally are on the cutting edge of innovation. Even when they go retro, as they did in last season’s Super Bowl, it’s to counteract something innovative on the other side.

Coach K doesn’t count because college sports are rigged, evil, and creepy. All he has to do is open the door, watch the best athletes in the country roll through, and then spend the season trying to fuck that up as best he can (and he usually succeeds at that. Coach K sucks and if he were the coach everyone thinks he is he’d have like, 12 national titles).

Baseball has the most amount of people who can’t let go of what was, which is why it has a real problem looking forward and trying to project where the game will go and how it can steer that correctly. It’s constantly trying to claw back what it had, even though that time is gone. It needs to face forward and decide where it wants to go and how to get there. And it can’t do that by giving such voice to those who have been left behind.

“Adapt or die.” MLB would be wise to use those words from a movie about just how in fact it began to move forward once.