By Hal McCoy
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, getting ready to stay up until the wee hours to see the Cincinnati Reds on the west coast and see if what they are doing is live or Memorex (Look it up on Google, kids).
—Dear Abner Doubleday: It is fortunate you are not around to see what they are doing to the beautiful game you invented (supposedly). It would make you swallow your chewing tobacco. But chewing tobacco is not allowed on a professional baseball field.
They have this commissioner guy running (ruining) the game with some changes that would make the game unfamiliar to you.
A player named Ernie Banks once stood next to me at a batting cage and said, “What a beautiful day for baseball. Let’s play two.” He meant 18 innings, two full games. He didn’t mean 14 innings, but that’s what they’ve done to doubleheaders.
And, A.D., they’ve added a player to your original nine, a guy who only bats. He doesn’t need a glove. He never plays defense. That isn’t the way you wanted it.
They’ve also told a guy to leave the dugout and run out to second base in the 10th inning. He didn’t earn his way with a hit, a walk, getting hit by a pitch or even reaching on an error. They just say, “You’re on base, free of charge.” To add insult, the guy actually made the last out in the ninth inning, but they give him a free pass to second base.
They have these things called computers, Ab, that tells them where to play on defense, something called The Shift. Against left handed hitters, the third baseman might play in short right field and the shortstop in short center field directly behind second base. It is Abbott & Costello come to life.
The computer also tells them to hit a home run or strikeout or walk. Nearly gone is the stolen base, the hit and run, the sacrifice bunt, the suicide squeeze, all gone like a bottle bat.
There are all kinds of alphabet statistics and they calculate launch angle, spin rate and exit velocity, which makes my head spin and makes me want to exit.
Remember, Abner, when there were two leagues and the only time they met each other was in the World Series? Now they have what they call interleague play and everybody plays everybody. But every team in the National League doesn’t play every team in the American League, just some of ‘em. It’s whacky and it’s unfair because everybody doesn’t play the same teams.
And when a manager puts a relief pitcher in the game, that pitcher could give up back-to-back home runs, but the manager can’t take him out. He has to wait until that guy gives up another home run before the manager can’t remove him. Yep, a relief pitcher has to face a minimum of three batters. Crazy, huh?
A lot of us wish you could come back, Mr. Doubleday, and tear up the current rulebook and rewrite it the way you had it in the first place. And stay away from computers.
—With Major League baseball cracking down on pitcher applying gook and sludge on baseballs, it reminds me of a story Lou Piniella tells.
When he managed the New York Yankees, there was a game when the opposing pitcher was doing suspicious things to the baseball.
Owner George Steinbrenner, watching from his private box, kept calling Piniella in the dugout, telling him to have the umpire check the pitcher.
Piniella ignored until about the fourth call when Steinbrenner called and said, “Lou, you have to have the umpire check that guy. He is doing something to the baseballs. Everybody up here sees it.”
That’s when Piniella quietly whispered into the phone, “George, I can’t do that. Our pitcher is doing the same thing.”
—QUOTE: From Hall of Famer and noted greaseball pitcher Gaylord Perry: “I reckon I tried everything on the old horseshide except salt and pepper and chocolate topping.”
After game when he faced a suspected spitballer, Pete Rose said, “I’m pretty sure he was wetting up the baseballs. I know I didn’t have to take a shower after the game.”
—When Lou Piniella was a player, he was traded by Kansas City to the Yankees. Owner George Steinbrenner called him into his office at the Yankees spring training camp in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and said, “Son, we have strict grooming rules here. Your hair is too long. Get it cut.”
Said Piniella, “Sir, the greatest Man to walk the earth had long hair. Every image I’ve ever seen of Him he has long hair.”
Steinbrenner rose from his chair and said, “Follow me.” They walked across a parking lot and stopped by a swimming pool.
“Now,” said Steinbrenner, “if you can walk across that water you can keep your long hair.”
—Sometimes when there are two or three superstars on a team, there is jealousy in the clubhouse and on the field.
That certainly isn’t the case with the Cincinnati Reds, where Joey Votto has been the face of the franchise, but Nick Castellanos and Jesse Winker are the Talk of the Team as they battle each other for a batting title.
“As far as discussing Jesse and my performances and our relationship, feeding off each other and pushing each other has been a lot of fun,” said Castellanos. “I have been privileged to do that with him this season.”
—Jesse Winker’s favorite tune: ‘Shallow,’ by Lady Gaga. (There certainly is nothing shallow about Winker. And is it a coincidence that ‘
Shadow’ is from the movie ‘A Star is Born?’)
—Speaking of Castellanos and Winker, the odds in Las Vegas keep coming down on their chances to win MVP.
Castellanos is fourth on the list at 10 tro 1, down from 16 to 1. Winker is fifth at 14 to 1, down from 33 to 1.
New York Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom is the current pick at 2 to 1, San Diego’s Fernando Tatis Jr., is at 9 to 4 and Atlanta’s Ronald Acuna Jr., is 7 to 2.
—QUOTE: From Houston’s 5-foot-5 second baseman Jose Altuve, American League MVP in 2017: “It’s not how big you are, what matters is how big you play.”
—Henry Aaron made his major league debut in 1954 with the Milwaukee Braves at Crosley Field against the Cincinnati Reds.
In his first at bat he hit into a double play and he went 0 for 5 on the day. The Reds pitcher? Joe Nuxhall.
—Nothing says modern-day baseball like a game this week between the Detroit Tigers and the Kansas City Royals.
The Tigers used nine pitchers in a nine-inning game. Nine! And the Tigers won, 10-3.
—From my best childhood friend, Tom Bartone: “I ordered a chicken and an egg at the same time from Amazon. I’ll let you know which comes first.”