Are We at the End of the Twenty Game Winner Era?

It’s no secret that managers are yanking their starting pitchers sooner than later from games nowadays. The Tampa Bay Rays are using their relievers to start the first inning before moving on to their starter. Middle man pitchers are more in demand. So does this mean we’re seeing the end of the twenty game winner era?

According to calltothepen.com, “From 1886 -1981, there was only one Major Leaguetwenty game winner Baseball season (1981) where an individual pitcher failed to become a 20 game winner. Since 1994, there have already been six such seasons…” What are the reasons behind the decline? An increase in arm injuries is one factor. Since Tommy John surgery is commonplace in Major League Baseball now, many pitchers falsely assume they can throw as hard as they want and just get the surgery later to repair their arm. This is leading to more arm damager and a reluctance by managers to keep pitchers in games longer. The increase in injuries is leading organizations like Little League Baseball to issue guidelines limiting the amount of pitches a player can throw. For example, a Little Leaguer around age seven or eight can only throw a maximum of 50 pitches in a game. Some teams in Major League Baseball are starting to follow suit.

MLB Teams Are Shaking Up Their Pitching Rotations

The Tampa Bay Rays started an experiment this season where one of their relievers pitches the first inning. After the first inning, the pitcher initially scheduled to start comes in. It’s sort of a role reversal where relief pitchers can hammer the opposing team’s starting lineup sooner than later. So what do other baseball writers think of this idea? Sridhar Pappu, author of The Year of the Pitcher, stated that “…the complete game is very much a thing of the past and what the Rays are doing–experimenting with relievers starting games could make traditional starting pitching–much less twenty game winners–obsolete for some teams, should it work.”

We’ll Certainly Never See a Thirty Game Winner Again, Much Less Twenty Game Winner

Denny McLain of the Detroit Tigers was the last pitcher to win thirty games in a season back in 1968. Since then there’s only been a handful of pitchers who have come anywhere near winning thirty games. “I think the idea that we would ever see a 30 game winner, given the number of actual starts a pitcher makes and limited pitch counts and innings limits, is going to be something we will never see in the game again,” Pappu added. “Moreover, with the use of advanced analytics, the idea of wins being the primary factor of getting into the Hall of Fame, will fade–and quicker than we might think as new, younger voters begin to grow in influence.”

We’ll certainly never see a thirty game winner again. It’s fair to say too that we are at the end of the twenty game winner era as well.

NFL Moves to Ban Kneeling, Is Baseball Next?

I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag; I know that I am a black man in a white world.” I want you to think about this quotation. Who said it? Colin Kaepernick? Malcolm Butler? I’ll reveal its author at the end of this article. For now, I mention it because as the NFL moves to ban kneeling during the National Anthem, it’s only a matter of time until this issue reaches other professional sports.

Let’s recap how the issue started. In 2016, Colin Kaepernick of the SanNFL moves Francisco 49ers knelt during the playing of the National Anthem to protest racial injustice towards black Americans. With stories in the news about black men being targeted by the police, it’s becoming more and more difficult to deny the idea that America still has a major problem with race. The bigger problem is that Americans don’t want to recognize that it is a problem. They say things like “If they just did what they were told they wouldn’t have gotten shot,” or “They’re racist too!” The problem with statements like this is that it doesn’t address the root of the problem (plus they’re not true). It also completely ignores Kaepernick’s motive for kneeling. In fact, I’m willing to bet you most people don’t even know why he knelt to begin with. They see a black man who they think doesn’t appreciate what he has when the reality is he just wants other African Americans to have the same opportunity he had. That’s not selfish. That’s heroic.

NLF Moves to Ban Kneeling, But for the Wrong Reasons

It’s clear that the NFL is struggling with declining viewership. For example, according to Sports Illustrated, NBC averaged only 18.2 million viewers in 2017, its lowest figure since 2008. Experts cite the kneeling controversy with the NFL’s declining viewership. Meanwhile, baseball is enjoying better ratings thanks to exciting World Series games. So for now the issue of kneeling in baseball isn’t an issue. But how long can other professional sports avoid this issue?

The NFL moves to ban kneeling during a time of deep divide in America. That divide is based on nationalism and willful ignorance. This is not to say that you can’t condemn someone who doesn’t stand for the National Anthem. But the way Kaepernick’s critics are denouncing him doesn’t reflect a solid rationale. Looking at those who strongly condemn people like Kaepernick, including President Trump, it’s clear they’re more focused on upholding blind patriotism instead of the freedom of expression. Deviating from their view of American patriotism scares them. Instead of trying to engage in a meaningful discussion about the issue, they revert to threats and insults. It’s easier to scream “Get out of America!” instead of trying to see things from their point of view. This notion contradicts the values of the Constitution. It also widens the political divide in America.

But who would want to live in a country where you’re forced to stand for the National Anthem? Doesn’t that contradict the very principles written in the Constitution? As Jason Kander said, “Patriotism is about making this a country where everyone wants to [stand for the Anthem].”

Kneeling Is Not a Problem in the MLB (Yet)

Last season the Oakland A’s Bruce Maxwell took a knee during the National Anthem before beating the Texas Rangers 1-0. Like Kaepernick, Maxwell was strongly criticized for the move. As of today, Maxwell is the only player in Major League Baseball who has chosen to kneel during the National Anthem.

It would be ridiculous for the MLB to ban kneeling during the Anthem. First of all, it’s not a problem in baseball (yet). Secondly, if it became an issue, banning kneeling would give birth to a whole other set of problems that the MLB doesn’t want to have to face. Perhaps on a larger level, the MLB understands how it would contradict their past efforts towards inclusion. As the NFL moves to ban kneeling, baseball can’t quite use the same rationale as football, and it’s not because of declining viewership.

Baseball can’t effectively ban kneeling. It would be a blatant contradiction of the kind of diversity they’ve been promoting since Jackie Robinson broke the color line. Forbidding baseball players from kneeling would erase any credibility that the MLB is trying to build through promoting diversity in baseball.

MLB teams are privately owned and technically reserve the right to direct their players’ behavior on the field. President Trump’s involvement though might jeopardize this ban since it involves government interaction. Regardless, instead of forcing players to stand, perhaps they should be allowed to stand trial in the court of public opinion.

NFL Moves to Ban a Practice Inconsistent with Baseball Values

Jackie Robinson wrote the words in the first paragraph in his autobiography in 1972. In the twenty-five years between his debut and his death, Robinson felt that America hadn’t made much progress towards improving race relations. Kaepernick wasn’t the first athlete to protest the Anthem, and he won’t be the last. If we condemn the practice of kneeling during the Anthem, then we should cancel Jackie Robinson Day too. We might as well un-retire the number 42 throughout American ballparks because the same principle used to condemn kneeling is the same principle once used to bar blacks from baseball in the sense that such a ban exposes the fear ignorant people have of those who are different from them.

*Yawkey Way Report firmly believes in the First Amendment. We do not, nor will we, censor our writers. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the opinions Yawkey Way Report, its CEO, staff, publishers or advertisers. 

Do Strikeouts Make Baseball Fun or Boring?

One of the may things that I love about pitching is the art of the strikeout. For some fans the lack of action equates to boredom. According to “Real or Not? Striking Examples of Failure Becoming a Turnoff,” Major League teams have averaged 8.72 strikeouts per game this season, a 1.01 increase from 2015, and 1.95 from 2008. “That means about four more strikeouts between both teams per game than we had a decade ago,” according to the same article. So do strikeouts make baseball fun or boring?

Back in 2016, my friend Chuck Fountain and I attended a Red Sox game. David Pricebaseball fun faced off against Baltimore Orioles’ pitcher Chris Tillman. Price was superb by striking out eleven in eight innings. But it wasn’t enough to overcome the 3-2 deficit. Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop hit home runs for the O’s while Jackie Bradley Jr. took Tillman deep in the seventh inning. Aside from those home runs, Fenway Park was pretty quiet that night. Looking around the stadium I noticed how bored a lot of fans looked. Chuck and I talked about it on the walk back to his car. We thought it’d been a very interesting game to watch because the pitching had been so strong. Price and Tillman had a combined eighteen strikeouts. Price and closer Craig Kimbrel didn’t even walk a single O’s batter. It wasn’t the home run derby that many fans look forward to, but for two baseball writers, it was like watching a duel between two skilled marksmen.

Do Strikeouts Make Baseball Fun? More Than You Think

Many baseball fans go to the ballpark hoping to see as many home runs as possible. Fewer fans though seem to appreciate the art of the strikeout. Fans complain about the pitch count, fouled off balls, and other aspects of an at-bat that can draw a game out. What they don’t understand though is that it’s not a drawn out affair as much as it’s a duel between a pitcher and a hitter, both of whom are trying to overpower the other. A skilled hitter will foul off ball after ball until he gets the pitch he wants. In the process he’s trying to wear out the pitcher. The same goes for the hitter. A skilled pitcher throws an arsenal of pitches that are designed to deceive the hitter. There isn’t a baseball fan who doesn’t already knows this, but it’s also something that many fans don’t seem to appreciate.

Instead of complaining about the lack of home runs, focus instead on the pitching duel that you see in every game. It’s a mental game between two of the top athletes in the world. That makes baseball fun for this writer!

Are We Seeing a New Era of Entitled Baseball Players?

The Houston Astros played the Chicago White Sox last Friday night in Chicago. The Astros’ Justin Verlander, arguably a future Hall of Famer, took a no-hitter into the fifth inning. The White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson had other plans though. Anderson broke up the no-no in the bottom of the fifth with a single, but that’s not what angered Verlander. With a 3-0 count on the next batter, Anderson attempted to steal second base, but the next batter walked so the steal didn’t count. It was Anderson’s apparent celebration of the walk that upset Verlander. Was Anderson wrong to showboat on the field? Or is Verlander a part of a new era of entitled baseball players?

“I wasn’t upset with him being excited about getting a hit,” Verlander was quoted asentitled baseball players saying in a Yahoo! Sports article. “But he celebrated [trying to steal on a 3-0 in a 5-0 game], though.” When told about Verlander’s annoyance at him, Anderson replied, “I’m out just playing and having fun. If he took it to heart, so what?”

There’s no doubt that players get frustrated, especially pitchers. But does Verlander have a point about the unwritten rules of baseball that apparently say it’s not cool to try and steal on a 3-0 count? Or is Verlander just being a crybaby? After all, Verlander got the win and the White Sox never scored on him. So what’s he complaining about?

Baseball players have always been cocky. Reggie Jackson once said, “After Jackie Robinson, the most important black in baseball history is Reggie Jackson, I really mean that.” Rickey Henderson used to talk about himself in the third person, calling himself the greatest of all time. Bob Gibson refused to talk to members of the opposing team. So what’s the difference between Verlander and these Hall of Famers? First of all, these HoFers were very competitive. That’s not to say that Verlander isn’t. But fans didn’t usually hear the kind of petty complaining from these guys. That’s not to say they never complained. But the difference is that Verlander is throwing a fit over a game that he and the Astros won 10-0. How much is enough for him? And if the White Sox were down that much, why WOULDN’T they try to steal bases to try and get ahead? Who is Verlander to say what they can and can’t do?

Entitled Baseball Players Ruin the Fun

On April 1st, the Orioles’ catcher Chance Sisco dropped a bunt against the Minnesota Twins’ pitcher Jose Berrios and reached first safely. While Berrios won the game 7-0, the Twins were mad at Sisco for bunting. According to Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Twins second baseman Brian Dozier wasn’t happy about the bunt. “Obviously, we’re not a fan of it. He’s a young kid. I could’ve said something at second base but they have tremendous veteran leadership over there. I’m sure they’ll address that. It’s all about learning. You learn up here.”

Again, what’s the problem here? The Astros and Twins won both games by hefty margins, but they didn’t like the opposing team’s attempts to exploit their weakness. It’s like hearing a mugger complain to the police because someone squirted pepper spray in his eyes as he tried to steal a purse. What did you think the other party was going to do? Just roll over and give up because you’re overpowering them?

Verlander and Berrios need to remember what the great Orioles manager Earl Weaver once said, “You can’t sit on a lead and run a few plays into the line and just kill the clock. You’ve got to throw the ball over the damn plate and give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game of them all.” The White Sox and Orioles, respectively, got another chance and did what they could to overcome the deficit. That’s the whole point of the game of baseball, if not most other sports. Verlander and Berrios should focus less on being entitled baseball players and focus more on being a good sport.

Players refusing to question these “unwritten rules” not only puts their team at risk of losing but emboldens the arrogance seen in these entitled baseball players.

Does Dave Dombrowski get enough credit?

Dave Dombrowski has done what he has had to do, thus far.

Sox fans have been spoiled recently. In November of 2002, Boston eployed the youngest general manager in MLB history in Theo Epstein. After one season, we knew he was gifted. As soon as he got to Beantown, he traded for guys like Curt Schilling, found Kevin Millar and most notably David Ortiz, seemingly out of nowhere. The next season, He broke the “Curse of the Bambino”. He was the first man to construct a roster to the promise land in almost a century. However, are Red Sox fans discrediting Dave Dombrowski’s work thus far, due to Epstein’s brilliance?

Ownership ended up virtually “swapping” Epstein in an agreement with the Chicago Cubs for a player or compensatory piece to be named later (Chris Carpenter), after the 2012 collapse.

In August 2015, after the Ben Cherington experiment, the Red Sox hired Dave Dombrowski, as President of Baseball Operations. Since then, the Red Sox haven’t made it past the first round of the playoffs. Meanwhile, Theo Epstein has broken another curse with the Cubs.

But are we as Red Sox fans losing patience with Dombrowski because of Epstein’s quick success? Let’s hold on just a second.

Epstein built a winner in just two years after a century of futility here in Boston. Dombrowski has constructed a competitive team in his first two seasons as President of Baseball Ops, a team that has won the division twice. Epstein’s glorious first two years were both wild card finishing teams.Dave Dombrowski

When Dombrowski got to Boston in ’15, it was kind of a strange period in time. The Red Sox were just coming off a couple of scrutinized signings in Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez. Ramirez has shown flashes of greatness, but for an annual salary value, many would suggest a bit high for his production.  The Red Sox are still paying parts of Sandoval’s salary, even though he was cut.

Dombrowski  had to re-solidify a pitching staff deemed World Series caliber. Red Sox fans have grown so accustomed of having elite pitching. He went out and traded for Craig Kimbrel to replace the departing Red Sox great Koji Uehara, then signed David Price, whom many thought was the top pitcher on the market.

Next season, fans wanted more. Boston had just come off a disappointing first round playoff finish against the Cleveland Indians. Pitching, after much regular season success, was again the issue. It seemed fans were also desperate to not move their prized prospect, Andrew Benintendi, especially after losing fan favorite David Ortiz to retirement. Dombrowski managed to trade infielder Yoan Moncada and starting pitcher Michael Kopech to the White Sox, for left-handed ace Chris Sale, while keeping Benintendi.

Fans were adamant for a fresh approach at skipper and pop replacement for Ortiz. Dombrowski let manager John Farrell go and hired former ex Red Sox infielder Alex Cora for the job. Dombrowski played his cards right with notorious great uber agent Scott Boras. He waited until the market dissipated and got his power in J.D. Martinez late February. Martinez is an outfielder/designated hitter who hit more home runs, per at bat, than Giancarlo Stanton or Aaron Judge did last season.

Sox fans need to cut Dombrowski some slack.

Red Sox now have the highest payroll and are trying to get another championship. He’s listening. Let’s just be patient.

 

MLB in London? Focus on U.S First!

A few weeks ago, it was reported that Major League Baseball is finalizing an agreement that will bring baseball to London. Yes, you read that correctly— the MLB in London! If agreed upon, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees would play a two-game series at London’s Olympic Stadium on June 29-30 in 2019. The games would be the first regular season contests that the MLB has played in Europe. Clearly, this is being done in an effort to grow the game on that continent.MLB in London

Personally, I think the MLB needs to think about this for a second. It’s not an awful idea, but I think the priority should be growing the game at home in the United States first. Baseball has been losing popularity in the states for a long time now, especially along the younger generation. I feel like a weirdo when I tell friends that I like to sit down and watch a baseball game. That’s not a good thing.

Forget MLB in London, For Now

Instead of taking care of that problem and finding some way to fix baseball here, Rob Manfred and company want to move on to something they aren’t ready for. They are just following in the NFL’s footsteps by forcing London games down everyone’s throats and that’s barely even working for football, which is insanely popular.

My last issue with this is the fact that they are sending the Red Sox and Yankees. I get that they want to send a good product. You do not want to do what Roger Goodell does to the good people of London by subjecting them to crappy teams. This is not the right two to send, however. Baseball’s popularity is down largely because of pace of play and everyone’s short attention spans. That means we should not introduce the game to London by sending them these two teams. They notoriously play the longest games against each other. If you want to send the Yankees or the Sox, send them against someone else. Otherwise, we’ll be getting shots of the fans there filing out in the sixth inning after three hours.