We might have to start calling Rob Manfred “Baghdad Bob” soon.
Anyway, if you didn’t see this yesterday, here you go. That’s Ben Lindbergh summing up at how the baseball is different this postseason than it was in the regular season. And if that’s not enough, you can use Rob Arthur’s Twitter account to basically give you the same stuff. Or his own article on BP. Or, if you watched Will Smith crush that ball in the ninth of Game 5 against the Nats, flip his bat, assume he was about to be LA’s biggest hero for a night and dreaming of all the velvet ropes that would be cast aside for him, only to watch it gasp for air and then wheeze out of life on the warning track, you knew something was up. Hell, even Howie Kendrick’s series decider, which he was celebrating in the box, only scraped the other side of the wall. There are other examples in the division round, but clearly what players knew all season to be homer contact/sound isn’t quite that in October.
We just went through a regular season where homers were flying at record and downright silly rates. And no matter what team you root for, you can think of a couple by your guys that when they were hit you couldn’t believe went out. For me, Schwarber’s arms only flip to the opposite field for his third homer of the day in Milwaukee immediately springs to mind. And yet for months, MLB and Manfred clung to the excuse that Rawlings had been “centering the ball” better as a reason for the greater aerodynamics of the baseball being used.
They finally relented, as if we could just ignore the fact that MLB itself bought Rawlings last season and this was the first time they were making baseballs under that umbrella for MLB. An organization worried about the lack of offense in the game. So MLB wanted you to believe that it either had no control over HOW A COMPANY IT OWNS MANUFACTURED THE VERY STARTING POINT OF ITS GAME, or that these things just happened naturally.
However, with the ball seemingly changing for its most important games, MLB has basically told you that what went on in the regular season is, at least somewhat, farcical. What they’re telling you is that they were terrified of some ridiculous homer deciding a series, a season, turning the direction of one or two teams for years possibly. Which means they think that homers in the regular season weren’t worthy of that, or hence not fair, or not right. They’ve essentially, partially negated all that went on between the end of March and the end of September. They’ve provided their own asterisk, which is a word that makes every baseball fan make a “blech” sound.
It’s not all that different than the NHL throwing shootouts out of its regular season tiebreakers and moving to remove overtime results from them as well. They’re moving in the direction of saying, “Yeah that’s fun to watch and all them but it really shouldn’t count. That was a sideshow.”
In the end, both teams are using the same ball, so it’s not like one team gets an advantage out of it or anything. But again, MLB will want you to believe that this just happened and they didn’t do anything to change the ball. We of course know this is horseshit, unless they think we’re that stupid. And they might.
Still, we can assume that MLB hyperactivated its baseballs because it thought that’s what fans wanted. And then when the most fans are watching, they kind of made a constipated face and thought, “Yeah, that was all kind of stupid, huh?” Which gives one the idea that MLB doesn’t really know what its fans want or how to get new ones, as TV ratings and attendance keep trending the wrong ways.
Me? I’m more along the lines of homers being dramatic and rarer than the mere “holding serve” feeling they took on during this season. That doesn’t mean that’s what everyone should want or the way MLB should go. I honestly don’t know. I just enjoy watching an entire league basically admitting it fucked up and not having the stones to see it through when the most important matters are decided.
Either MLB is deceiving everyone, or it simply cannot regulate how the actual baseball is produced. Neither speaks to a terribly competent organization.