Jan 28

Manfred Must Shift From This Issue

That Rob Manfred is even thinking of it should give pause to any baseball fan, or at least one who considers themselves traditionalists.

MANFRED: Shift not an issue.

MANFRED: Shift not an issue.

There’s no such thing as perfection, and certainly baseball is not without flaws. However, use of a defensive shift isn’t one of them. Manfred, who succeeded Bud Selig as commissioner, in an effort to increase scoring is contemplating outlawing defensive shifts.

Baseball defenses have implemented shifts for years, dating back to Ted Williams if not before. Williams was good enough, and smart enough, to beat the shift.

Many of today’s players are not. Many frustrated by the shift have complained and privately lobbied to outlaw it. If Manfred manages to do this he would be rewarding players for incompetence and not being able to do their job.

Run production has gradually declined in recent years and a knee-jerk reaction has it being attributable to an increase in shifts. Funny, but did anybody connected with Major League Baseball ever think that might be because of a decline in steroid usage?

Of course, this logic would be an admission of the steroid era, one of the black marks of Selig’s tenure.

How many runs do shifts take away is debatable, but I’m willing to bet offenses are more stagnant because too many hitters simply don’t know how to hit. They are too preoccupied with pulling the ball and not using the entire field; they aren’t interested in working the count and drawing walks to increase their on-base percentage; and perhaps above all, they are enamored with the home run and don’t care about strikeouts.

So, what’s next if shifts are outlawed? Could baseball legislate what pitches must be thrown on specific counts? Or, how about telling outfielders how deep they can play, or ban corner infielders from guarding the lines late in the game? What about giving a hitter four strikes instead of three?

There are so many things Major League Baseball could do if it wants to improve the product on the field, but banning shifts is not one of them.

All too often, the stewards of the sport remind me of a man who can’t resist poking the coals of a barbeque to fan the flames. It’s really a great sport, with its biggest problem all those trying to needlessly trying to “improve’’ it.

Jan 26

Yankees Ready To Spar With Rodriguez

The Yankees fired an interesting salvo in their on-going war with disgraced slugger Alex Rodriguez.

After refusing to hold a “clear-the-air’’ meeting with Rodriguez, the Yankees are reportedly bracing their legal defense to prevent him from collecting on any of the $30 million in bonuses he would get from his 2007 marketing agreement with the team.

RODRIGUEZ: Facing more legal hassles.

RODRIGUEZ: Facing more legal hassles.

Good for them, even though they are sure to lose.

With six more homers he will tie Willie Mays (660) for fourth place on the career list, which would be worth $6 million. He would also get $6 million for tying Babe Ruth (714), Hank Aaron (755), Barry Bonds (762) and passing Bonds.

Naturally, the basis for their argument is Rodriguez’s involvement with steroids. It would be a worthwhile fight except for several flaws, namely the Yankees knew what they were getting into when they signed him, and then re-signed him.

However, their case would carry greater weight if they were to sue him for money already paid and to get out of the contract entirely, which has three years and $61 million remaining.

Proving they had no knowledge about steroids would be difficult because it is largely assumed Major League Baseball was aware of steroid use as far back as 1998, when we were “treated,’’ to the home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.

Going this way would undoubtedly reopen old wounds and possibly create new ones. Personally, I would like to see them go that route regardless of the fallout because maybe all the truth would come out.


Jan 20

Baseball Screwing Around With Game Times Again

I love baseball. I just don’t like the people running the sport, simply because their motivation isn’t in the best interest of the game.

Major League Baseball, in its indefinite lack of wisdom, continues in its running-in-the-mud desire to shorten the time of games. Yes, the sport with no clock wants to speed things up.

Baseball now wants to require pitchers to finish their warm-up tosses and be ready to make their first pitch 30 seconds before the end of all between-innings commercial breaks. Also, hitters have to be in the batter’s box 20 seconds before the end of each commercial break.

If these rules are implemented, baseball officials think they can trim games by 10 to 15 minutes. What will happen in those 10 to 15 minutes, they couldn’t say.

What these geniuses also wouldn’t say are the penalties for breaking these rules.

What has long been romanticized about baseball is the leisurely pace of the game allowing fans to talk with each other between pitches and innings to share memories and thoughts on strategy.

It is how the game is passed on from one generation to the next.

Unfortunately, those running the sport ignore one thing that made the game so precious to many of us –the leisurely pace.

Just for once, I want the keepers of the game to care about it as much as we do.


Jan 18

Selig Rewards Wilpon For Not Spending

This blog gets many comments imploring Major League Baseball to force the Wilpons to sell the Mets. I said it will never happen, and the recent move by MLB to name Fred Wilpon to chair the Finance Committee underscores that position.

We should remember while Bud Selig is commissioner, he is first and foremost a former owner. His roots are in ownership and that’s where his sentiment lies.

Selig is tight with Wilpon, always has been and probably always will be. Selig isn’t interested in the Mets increasing their payroll. His position as commissioner has always been to reduce payroll and that’s exactly what Wilpon has done with the Mets.

Basically, Selig rewarded Wilpon for not spending.

Wilpon has run the Mets the way Selig would if he were owner. Wilpon has been a good soldier for Selig, and for that, has been rewarded.


Jan 07

What Goes Through The Mind Of A Hall Of Fame Voter?

What goes through the mind of a Hall of Fame voter? I was upfront with my selections and a good number of my colleagues did the same. That’s not to say I understand the reasoning behind their votes or comprehend the logic behind their agendas, and, let’s face it, there are some with a plan or ax to grind.

I was glad my colleagues hung strong and didn’t vote for those clearly linked to steroids, and we’re talking Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire.

I did not vote for a player directly linked to steroids, either by a failed test; testimony from other players on the record; or mentioned in the Mitchell Report. I don’t put much stock in a player accusing another off the record. That’s gutless.

I don’t buy the argument some had Hall of Fame careers before they were linked to steroids. They still cheated, but how do you determine when the cheating began? I agree these players are part of baseball history and should be recognized. However, don’t acknowledge them in the Hall of Fame unless there is a notation on the plaque and Major League Baseball puts an asterisk by their names and numbers. Given that, I would include Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson, but with the notation being their connection to gambling.

Not only did those players tarnish their names and era in which they played, but continue to do damage to the game. Yes, there are writers with agendas, and one is to eschew voting because they believe the influx of those linked to steroids provided too many qualified players. Granted, if Bonds and Clemens were already in somebody else would get those votes.

It’s a privilege to vote and I can’t understand not voting because you can’t come up with ten under the thinking there are so many candidates. What garbage! After covering baseball for at least ten years any voter should know enough to pick ten players from the list. If he or she can’t, then maybe they aren’t qualified to vote in the first place.

All of a sudden, there are grumblings about increasing the number to more than ten.

This isn’t the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame where everybody seems to get in, even the groupies. If you want to vote for a cheater, by all means that’s your right. But, what I can’t grasp is one writer who voted for Bonds and Clemens – the poster children of the steroid era – but not Mike Piazza, who didn’t make it largely because of circumstantial evidence. We’re talking about the greatest hitting catcher in history.

There are other puzzling ballots.

Some writers refuse to vote for an obvious candidate, say Randy Johnson, who appeared on 97.3 percent of the ballots. How do you not vote for a 300-game winner? Then again, there were some who didn’t vote for Craig Biggio and his 3,000 hits last year.

I’ve heard several explanations, neither of them any good. Their belief is no player is worthy of being a unanimous selection and want to make sure there isn’t. What a crock. Your job as a voter is to vote for a worthy candidate and not ignore him because they don’t believe in a unanimous selection.

Yes, there are players that good. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Cal Ripken Jr., Hank Aaron and Sandy Koufax to name a few. And, I’d like to ask what those handful of writers were thinking when they ignored Tom Seaver.

Another explanation I heard for the non-unanimous vote was the writer figured others would vote for that player and he or she wanted to save a vote for a personal favorite.

That’s not right, either.

However, to me the worst thing a voter can do is throw away their ballot by refusing to vote because he or she wants to make a statement about the process.

If you want to make a statement don’t forfeit your vote one time, but give it up permanently.