Because you want to know what rock stars think of the pitching environment these days

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Rolling Stones has a series in which Dan Epstein — author of the fantastic “Big Hair and Plastic Grass” book about baseball in the 1970s — asks various musicians who happen to be baseball fans about the issues of the day. Among the many panel members: Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, Pete Yorn, , Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie, Steve Earle, Alice Cooper and Scott Ian of Anthrax. 

Today’s issue: pitching is up, offense is down. R.A. Dickey and the no-hitters and perfect games of this season seem crazy. So what gives?

I think, overall, this group addresses it pretty darn reasonably. In fact, more reasonably than a lot of baseball fans and writers do. Only a couple of them go to the all-too-easy and none-too-accurate explanation that it’s all a function of steroids being out of the game.  Most of them couch in terms of the multiple factors I suspect are in play: fewer PEDs, better defense, better scouting, better pitcher development, etc.  I’m particularly taken with Steve Earle’s response, if only for the way he put it.

And then there’s Joe Pernice of the Pernice brothers:

What are pitchers doing in 2012 that they weren’t doing in 1995? Better scouting, better training and physical maintenance? Probably, but should that add up to more ridiculously good pitching performances? Who knows? The game is capricious. It’s similar to the duality of light: it is both particulate and wave-like. Try figuring out an electron’s position and the wavelength at which it travels. I dare you.

Yeah, man.

Oh good, it’s “Yasiel Puig is a showboat” season

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With the Los Angeles Dodgers punching their ticket to the World Series, Yasiel Puig is now going to be the subject of commentary by people who tend not to care about Yasiel Puig until it’s useful for them to write outraged columns or go on talk radio rants about baseball deportment.

We got a brief teaser of this last night when, after scoring the Dodgers’ ninth run on a Logan Forsythe double, TBS analyst Ron Darling criticized Puig for his “shenanigans” and “rubbing it in.” Never mind that his third base coach was waving him home and that, if he didn’t run hard, he was just as likely to be criticized for dogging it. In other news, baseball teams don’t stop trying in the fourth inning of baseball games, nor should they.

That was just an appetizer, though. The first real course of the “Puig is a problem” feast we’re likely to be served over the next week and a half comes from Phil Mushnick of the New York Post, who wrote it even before the Dodgers won Game 5 last night:

If you were raised to love baseball and to recognize the smart, winning kind from everything less, the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig is insufferable. As the sport is diminished by professionals who disregard the basic act of running to first base as a matter of style, Puig, an incurable home-plate poser, often makes turning doubles and triples into singles appear effortless . . . In the postseason, Puig continues to behave as if he’s in the Home Run Derby. He even seems to relish his high-risk flamboyant foolishness despite frequent backfires.

This may as well be a fill in the blanks column from 2013 or 2014, when “Puig is a flashy showboater who costs his team more than he gives it” columns were all the rage. It ignores the fact that Puig, commonly dinged for being lazy, worked his butt off in 2017, particularly on defense, to the point where he has a strong case for a Gold Glove this year. It also ignores his .455/.538/.727 line in the NLDS sweep of the Diamondbacks and his .389/.500/.611 line against the Cubs in the NLCS. In the regular season he set career highs for games, homers, RBI, stolen bases and almost set a career high for walks despite having seventy fewer plate appearances than he did back in 2013 when he walked 67 times. He’s not the MVP candidate some thought he might be, but he’s a fantastic player who has been a key part of the Dodgers winning their first pennant in 29 years.

But the dings on Puig from the likes of Mushnick have rarely been about production. They’ve simply been about style and the manner in which he’s carried himself. To the extent those issues were legitimate points of criticism — particularly his tardiness, his relationships with his teammates and his at times questionable dedication — they have primarily been in-house concerns for the Dodgers, not the casual fan like Mushnick. On that score the Dodgers have dealt with Puig and, by all accounts, Puig has responded pretty well. An occasional lapse to be sure, but nothing which makes him a greater burden than a benefit. I mean, if he was, would be be batting cleanup in a pennant-clinching game?

So if the beef with Puig is not really about baseball, what could Phil Mushnick’s issue with him possible be?

I, for one, have no idea whatsoever.