MLB finally gets one right

If justice is supposed to be blind, it doesn’t hurt to take a peek, now and then.

MLB, which can make a trip between Point A and Point B an unintended journey through the alphabet — consider its replay rules — has finally gotten one right.

The in-game, on-field stop-and-frisk umpire inspections of pitchers for game-afflicting substances may not be pretty, but they work as a deterrent. Besides, what’s pretty about the current state of baseball?

Who cares how it looks? I’ve got a scar on my neck from spinal surgery. (I was on the helicopter with NBC News’ Brian Williams when we were shot down in Iraq.) It doesn’t look good, but I sure feel better.

Such on-the-spot, immediate examinations seem to prevent chicanery that can occur once a pitcher reaches the dugout. Only one pitcher, the Mariners’ Hector Santiago, has thus far been busted, and his 10-game suspension seems about right, also as a deterrent.

The MLBPA’s silence on this matter, a silence that can be interpreted as cooperation, is welcomed. Perhaps, unlike throughout the long Steroid Era, enabled by Bud Selig and players’ union boss Donald Fehr, the MLBPA might now support a clean game.

And now back to MLB’s usual absence of foresight …

For MLB to even consider legislating against the shift is missing the larger point. It’s the treatment of a symptom — tissues for a cold — rather than a cure.

Pulling the ball into the shift has become the natural by-product of trying to hit a home run during every at-bat. That’s why sluggers (and those who aspire to be) are batting .200, striking out three times per game but hitting enough home runs to be considered indispensable or at least valuable.

Hector Santiago received a 10-game suspension for having a foreign substance on his glove in a June game.
Hector Santiago received a 10-game suspension for having a foreign substance on his glove in a June game.

It’s painfully obvious that where a two-strike pitch once logically compelled most batters to “shorten up” to try to put the ball in play, it now doesn’t matter if it’s an 0-2 or 2-0 pitch, batters will try to smash it 500 feet.

From my chair, the worst thing to happen to Clint Frazier was hitting 12 homers in 69 games in 2019. That has today made him a .186 batter who often strikes out swinging.

I also see that short outfield wall in Yankee Stadium’s right field as a steady inducement to both strike out and hit into the shift.

Legislating against the shift will only produce a few more unintended ground ball hits to left or right field. It won’t make for fundamentally more skilled batters nor create smarter baseball played by smarter players.

Coverage clouded with chaotic displays, babbling voices

Reader Tommy Barth has sent us a screen shot from Monday’s Home Run Derby on ESPN, one that confirms that TV excesses now elude the minimal boundaries of both common sense and maximum neurological functions.

ESPN's coverage of Monday's Home Run Derby featured a screen split into two panels with multiple data boxes in a scene of information overload, writes Phil Mushnick.
ESPN’s coverage of Monday’s Home Run Derby featured a screen split into two panels with multiple data boxes in a scene of information overload, writes Phil Mushnick.
Tommy Barth

Welcome back. On the subject of TV excesses, the trend — plague — to fill every telecast with empty-headed talk actually seems to be worsening. Networks hire voices, then throw them out to sink or swim, no swimming lessons or lifeguards provided.

We know of no network that employs an effective verbal content coach, if such an important role is even filled. Few hires seem to realize that TV isn’t radio.

Thus a parade of the verbally excessive continues. Some, such as John Smoltz, simply talk far too much, and he is an analyst on the baseball telecasts on two networks, Fox and TBS. Whatever useful observations he might make are lost in a sea of words.

He would be twice as good if he spoke half as much, but apparently he’s told he did a great job after every telecast — and we’ll see ya next week.

On YES, Ryan Ruocco , a steady fill-in for Michael Kay, continues to try too hard to please, leaving viewers with an earful of extraneous matter as he tries to sell us a game and a team we’re already watching.

He can’t leave the obvious alone, thus, with the Yankees batting we hear, “The Yanks have a 4-0, lead and are trying to add to that here.” Well, of course they are. Yet we hear such useless filler throughout his assignments.

And there is little more transparently annoying than forced laughter at nothing worth more than a slight grin. The fabulous Phillies team of Harry Kallas and Richie Ashburn would grunt to demonstrate they “got it.” When something was genuinely funny they, as well as viewers and listeners, all laughed — real laughs.

Is there no one at YES who can help Ruocco, and, by extension or even extortion, help us? Answer: No.

One can sense that Ruocco so wants to please — to dazzle us — that you begin to hurt for him.

Ruocco, Smoltz and dozens of others should apply the you-are-there test: Would you like to be seated at a game next to a fellow like that?

A fellow who always aced that test was Jim Spanarkel, and YES last year saw fit to dump him.

Again, it’s TV. If you’re stuck for something to say, chances are that saying nothing is the smart path to travel. As Will Rogers said, “Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.”

Grad to be here, sort of

Your Educational, Student-Athlete Tax Dollars at Work: Rutgers’ publicly funded grad schools apparently continue to fill with full-scholarship athletes unlikely to stick past their remaining season of sports eligibility.

Unless, of course, it’s all an academic, win-at-all-costs con that exploits NCAA eligibility loopholes. And most Division I schools’ athletic departments know, off the record, it’s exactly that. If these basketball and football players were legitimately drawn to grad schools, why not the school from which they just graduated?

Last week Rutgers basketball “landed” 6-foot-8 forward Ralph Agee, a San Jose State graduate from California.

With, “I really feel Rutgers is a place where I can spend my graduate year at,” he has already indicated that he’s not traveling across the country to earn his Masters unless he’s enrolled in a bang-zoom accelerated program.

Not that anyone on the Big Ten Network will tell us, but Rutgers is Agee’s fourth college.

I’ve long maintained that my plan is to EX-pire before I RE-tire. But if I do retire, the first thing I’m going to do is what you’ve been able to do for years: Watch sports with the mute button engaged.

Friday, no more than 20 seconds into watching NBC/Golf Channel’s second round British Open coverage, a shot appeared of Bryson DeChambeau, who was 3-over and two strokes over the cut line at that time, to which was heard this:

Host Steve Sands: “He needs to kick it in gear if he wants to make it to Saturday and Sunday.”

Reporter John Wood: “He does. He definitely does.” Alrighty, then.

Moments later we were told that Jon Rahm’s “tee shot found some really thick rough.” Sure it “found” the rough — that’s where he hit it.

That was followed by a nice, speaks-for-itself chip by Louis Oosthuizen, to which we were told, “He’s a beautiful chipper of the ball,” as if he might otherwise chip an egg salad sandwich or a small child.

Then, with a major being contested and the cut being sweated via live coverage, NBC/Golf Channel took us to a nine-minute studio insert. The Golf Channel ran out on live Open coverage!

Wait for me, mute button, I’m a comin’!

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