MLB needs quick fix
June 26, 2018 3:01 AM
by Mark Mayer
The more you watch baseball as it stands today, you come to realize John Smoltz is totally right. The game needs to change and quick.
“Ballplayers are just plain selfish with their at-bats. They only care about their stats,” Smoltz said as he sat in the FOX analyst seat describing the Mets’ pathetic display with men in scoring position and less than two out during an 8-3 loss last Saturday at Citi Field.
“I can offer players a $1 million bonus if they can avoid striking out with runners in scoring position and less than two out for an entire season,” Smoltz said. “Players would say they just can’t do it.”
The Mets sure proved that. One inning was first and third none out – two strikeouts and a lazy roller to first. The next inning, man on third one out became strikeout, out. Again nothing. Todd Frazier not once, but twice stood there with the bat on his shoulders and took a third strike right down Broadway.
What could he possibly be thinking? Obviously, nothing.
No wonder the Mets were on a 4 for 64 failure rate with runners in scoring position. No wonder Jake deGrom is the subject of trade talk. How can he keep from punching a wall in disgust?! I’m close to doing it as a fan, much less a bettor.
So what do the Dodgers resort to up 3-2 with runners at the corners? They attempt a suicide squeeze bunt, which naturally works. Then Matt Kemp comes up with the bases loaded and hits a grand slam. Dagger.
Stolen bases, squeeze bunts, hitting to the opposite field, sacrificing at bats to advance runners – all of these are lost in this day of sabermetrics. How I loathe the word. Rickey Henderson, Maury Wills and Lou Brock would be lost in this generation of baseball.
Yeah, chicks dig the longball and that’s fine. We have a bunch on course for 50-plus. The Yanks, Red Sox and Astros are all over 50 wins and on pace to exceed 100. That’s unprecedented. And yet we’re seeing the worst collection of bullpens and poor baseball I can ever recall.
The game needs fixing – no not that type of fixing. I mean course corrections. A 154-game schedule would be nice, but that’s not happening. Speeding up play would be nice, but not everyone can pitch as fast as Max Scherzer.
Teams are shifting on almost every pull hitter these days and these batters absolutely refuse to take the bait and hit the ball where the defenders used to be. Runs are there for the taking. Double plays are a lot better than strikeouts with nobody out and runners on first and third. The defense is giving you the run. Just make contact!
When the shift is on and there’s a runner on third, why is he not thinking about stealing home or at the very least taking a humongous lead off the bag? There’s no fielder remotely near the third baseball bag in the over-shift so there’s no fear of being caught off base. The hitter just has to put the ball in play in any form and the run scores.
And don’t get me started on pitch counts and removing aces from games after 7 or 8 beautiful innings only to see the bullpen implode. The great Juan Marichal once threw 16 scoreless innings and nearly 260 pitches in a 1-0 win over Warren Spahn. Now that’s when baseball was baseball.
Smoltz makes a lot of sense. Hopefully his Hall of Fame rant will be heard.
Cup Runneth Over
Note to Alex Ovechkin: Enjoy the Stanley Cup while you can.
Strange doings in D.C. Bryce Harper trying to gather himself from a sub .220 batting average, Caps signing top defenseman John Carlson to a nice eight year deal, yet allowing head coach Barry Trotz to join the New York Islanders.
Being an Islanders fan, I am “trotting” to the futures window for a wager on the Islanders to at least make the playoffs. Now if they can talk John Taveres into re-signing!
As for Taveres, they better move soon before the Vegas Golden Knights intervene. They plan on meeting with the Islanders’ leader and wouldn’t that be rosy having him next season in Vegas.
ENCORE: In my Dirty Dozen golf column last Wednesday on our website, I mentioned this wasn’t going to be the year for Bubba Watson to win again at River Highlands.
Well, I signed an incorrect scorecard, thanks to Paul Casey for a huge choke job down the stretch. Hey Paul, if you want to go into the water, wear swim trunks.