So earlier this week, as a true baseball fan, I came across the story that I had dreaded as baseball begins to kick back into gear for another season with players starting to report to their teams respective Spring training sites.
I came across the story at MLB Trade Rumors, which, if you are a baseball fan, is a good informative site and one that doesn’t seem to need to beat you over the head as much with Statcast nonsense like MLB where it is practically part of their site’s stories mission statement, I think, to inundate you with as much useless Statcast shit as possible, in every other paragraph, with surely some quota for writers for a minimum number of times to employ the mind numbingly useless numbers followed by an “as per Statcast”.
It has really diminished the writing of the beauty and the brilliance and the romance of the sport.
Sorry, but no one is hangin’ ‘round the water cooler discussing or marveling at exit velocities or launch angles or spin counts or arbitrary “elite” something or others or percentiles or comical percentages of possibilities no matter how much you hard hit rate them.
Now, as this true baseball fan, I have always made a part of every day of the offseason a check in with whatever news was available to me, in whatever form, from old newspapers back when to now MLB and Trade Rumors for the latest talk and moves and then to DK Pittsburgh sports more recently, and specifically, to check in on the latest talk and possible moves in the world of my beloved Pittsburgh Pirates, beloved since I first discovered the game and then started to work on understanding it, then play it (in many forms for many years) and even to dream impossible dreams of it, Black and Gold dreams.
But I came across the dreaded story and my disappointment was palpable, to me at least, in a swing too hard knock it foul anger kind of way, but, sadly, it wasn’t unexpected as Rob Manfred and MLB have always had this as one of their major game change goals since shamelessly using Covid as a way to force it into the conversation and then onto the field back in 2020 and then for the next two seasons after. Shamelessly I say as Covid was used as the excuse for it being necessary to possibly shorten the games for safety concerns but it was still ok to schedule 7 inning doubleheaders? I knew we were screwed last season when, at the last minute, after it had been taken off the table, it was reinstated for “just one more season” when in reality it was reinstated as one more opportunity to force fans to accustom to the idea of just one more season and beyond, like the best of propagandist will when they repeat lies over and over until you just acquiesce.
The dreaded? The gift runner on second base to start extra innings, the Manfred Man (borrowed term) if you will, an embarrassment to and a mockery of the sport, damning the integrity of the game. And no, it’s not a “Ghost” runner as it might be called, has been called, is called, as the headline of that dreaded story at MLB Trade Rumors read when I first came about it earlier this week and has been used in other stories.
This isn’t some wiffle ball or stick ball game in my backyard with friends when I was 12 by the way, though I guess the childlike playground rules nature of it kind of applies but the difference being that even in those wiffle ball or stick ball contests, when we were kids, we still had respect enough for the game that that “ghost” runner actually had to earn his place on second base depending on what constituted a double for us at Frankenberry Field.
At least we knew what a legitimate game was and within the rules of this game we played and loved, a wiffle ball one, or a stick ball one, with a small number of friends, maybe just a couple to a side, where we placed imaginary runners at their earned bases, we knew of the game’s importance to us, we kept within the rules of the real game as best we could. Bill punched his wiffle/tennis ball past the double line, Sav squeaked a seeing eye single past Dave (we always had at least one infielder at second along with a pitcher) or if we were lucky enough to have had six guys that day, another at third, but we now had runners at the corners.
We didn’t make anything up when it came to what “ghost” was on base. It was baseball as best we could imitate it, Bill punched that double and Sav squeaked that single. And we never tried to find a way to shorten the end of it, however much Mom’s sandwiches and iced tea enticed us to take a break and we didn’t make millions while doing so.
But MLB? They don’t even try to make the best as could, no, they just alter what we found to be baseball gospel, earned things, but instead just imagine Bill’s punched double to be just that, imagined, and then place a “ghost” there as if Bill had never even grabbed a bat in hopes to get to Mom’s sandwiches a little earlier.
Now MLB will try to justify how they want to get to those sandwiches, how fans will see the new permanent extra inning games as actual baseball.
“I think for fans it does bring focus at the end of the game” according to Rob Manfred.
What “focus” is that Rob? That a first pitch single will get you to the parking lot faster and rob you of the excitement that extras can bring? Yeah, that focus.
No, no it doesn’t bring focus, unless of course you mean by focus the focus of wives who have agreed to sit in lawn chairs and pretend to glory their beer league boys while wanting to get to the bar as early as possible along with their men.
The wives know as well as anyone else that it is not real baseball or softball any longer as beers and bar apps await, man that place has the best potato skins, can we pick up the pace please?
Hell, MLB even admits that this “gift” runner on second during the regular season is not legitimate baseball as they abandon it in the playoffs, I mean, you don’t want somebody’s team losing the World Series on a bunt and a sacrifice fly or just that simple leadoff single on the first pitch in the bottom of the tenth now do you?
And don’t get me started on the other new rule changes for this season, pitch clocks, eschewing shifts that have been in play for decades and have always been part of the game (manager waving fielders to the right or the left) and shortening the distance between the bags as artificially producing offense seems to be the only goal, that’s what the peoples want right, more offense, even if it’s cheap? Just like those juiced home runs right?
You might say that all of this hasn’t changed the game Rob, but that’s just not true.
“Step right up, step right up!”
(Megaphone, Top Hat, fancy gold festooned red vest)
“Come under the tent and see the greatest game in history!”
(Manfred on the mound directing the spotlight to second base)
“Behold the magic of a baserunner suddenly appearing where he shouldn’t be!! The Manfred Man who appears not what you see! A Ghost!”
“But will soon send us home early in a lesser baseball spree! And extras long no longer a need to be!!”
“But it’s still baseball we will decree!”
“Step right up, step right up!!”
“You will also see the ease now of stolen bases and doubles and triples with gained inches that are sure to be sinched with larger bags flipping a finch to the game’s shared history”
“Step right up, step right up!!”
Well Rob, if it makes you feel vindicated, you will have certainly shortened games, at least for this one diehard as I will never watch any game past nine any longer. I know I will fade, I’m old now and things will gain a sad normalcy but this one will still never rise above being a gimmick, a sideshow, a cheapening of the sport.
My Buccos could be in the chase at the end of September, a division on the line possibly, as I watch my paid for MLB subscription for as long as its been available (never an easy pay for me) but if it goes to extras I will have to turn it off, as I have for two seasons now (2020 didn’t count, should never count, an aberration, didn’t grab an inning) as watching a cheapened version of a possible victory just wouldn’t be worth it.
And by the way? I would so love to see the game, with new artificially created offense and defensive limitations discount the time hoped to be saved from all of this.
I’m not a petty guy, but I will be in this case.