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Old-timers continue to point fingers, complain about baseball

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Bleacher Report’s Scott Miller has a lengthy column up in which he discusses the way the game of baseball has changed and continues to change. He quotes a number of old-timers, including Goose Gossage, Pete Rose, and Jim Leyland, who bemoan the direction in which the game has gone. They hate that starters rarely pitch deep into games, that coaches adhere to pitch counts, the rise of analytics, the lack of arguments between umpires and managers, among other things.

Miller provides his own support for the game changing for the worse. Sadly, the column reads more like Abe Simpson in the 2002 episode of The Simpsons titled “The Old Man and the Key.” Grandpa Simpson was featured in a newspaper article with the headline, “Old Man Yells at Cloud,” which has gone on to become an Internet meme. Most people, for various reasons including cognitive biases, think things back in the prime of their lives was better, regardless of whether or not that is actually true.

For example, Miller writes, “Strikeouts, power pitchers and defensive shifts have conspired to keep batting averages low and diffuse old-fashioned rallies.” However, despite the implementation of the shift to various degrees by all 30 times, BABIP hasn’t really changed. Starting with 2010 and going through 2018, the MLB average BABIP has been: .297, .295, .297, .297, .299, .299, .300, .300, .296. What we — Russell Carleton of Baseball Prospectus, more specifically — have found is that pitchers give up noticeably more walks when the shift is on than when it is not, presumably because it makes them uncomfortable.

On another subject, Gossage lamented the now-endangered manager-umpire argument spectacle. He said, “Used to be, umpires made a call and managers ran out of the dugout and threw bases and kicked dirt and brought everybody out of their seats whether you were for that team or against it. It was exciting. It had character. They’re taking every bit of character there was in the game out of it.”

That’s truly one of the most hilarious quotes of all time because two years ago, Gossage ripped José Bautista for his bat flip — an expression of character and emotion — during the 2015 ALCS. Gossage called Bautista “a f-ing disgrace to the game.” He added, “[Bautista is] embarrassing to all the Latin players, whoever played before him. Throwing his bat and acting like a fool, like all those guys in Toronto. Yoenis Céspedes, same thing.” If Gossage truly cared about baseball players and coaches having the freedom to express themselves, he wouldn’t have said what he said two years ago. He’s just latching on to something to complain about simply because it’s different from when he played.

Gossage, two years ago, also went on a rant against nerds and analytics. He did exactly that in Miller’s column. The more things change, the more they stay the same, right?

Leyland said, “My problem with it really is that that’s the way we’re grooming [starting pitchers] in the minor leagues. They throw 75 f–king pitches in the minor leagues. They say if they throw 75 they’re OK, but if they throw 76 they’re going to get hurt. Who the heck ever came up with that? It’s ridiculous. They don’t pitch innings.”

That’s just a willing misunderstanding of pitch counts. No one thinks that 76 — or 100, or 101 — pitches is extremely more dangerous than the pitch that preceded it. But each pitch is, on a scale, slightly more likely to result in injury than the one that preceded it. If one is to draw a line, one must do so arbitrarily, so we’ve chosen convenient numbers of demarcation like 100 and 75.

Miller, for some reason, also sought the opinion of disgraced former major leaguer Pete Rose. Rose is quoted as saying, “I’d have probably gotten kicked out of every game in the third or fourth inning [today]. Fans every once in a while like a fight at the ballpark. Instead of helping someone up, kick dirt on him.” Yes, what baseball really needs is a return to psychopathic behavior. Thanks for the quote, Scott.

Miller’s whole column is just a handful of 60- and 70-year-olds yelling at clouds because the game has passed them by. As with the recent Joe Simpson debacles, the game needs to hear from people who are younger, from more diverse backgrounds, and enthusiastic about the game. Maybe part of the reason people aren’t gravitating towards baseball is we put the microphone in front of the Negative Nancies and not the Positive Pauls. Let’s hear from Jessica Mendoza, Francisco Lindor, and Carlos Gómez, just to name a few. They might entice a few people to give baseball a shot instead of run in the opposite direction anytime Rose, Leyland, or Gossage speak.

Dodgers upset with Héctor Neris after Thursday’s game

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July hasn’t treated Phillies closer Héctor Neris well. Entering Thursday, he had allowed runs in three of his last four appearances, blowing two saves in the process. His struggles continued as he allowed a two-out solo home run to Alex Verdugo in the bottom of the ninth inning on Thursday afternoon, closing the deficit to 7-6. Thankfully for the Phillies, he was able to get the final out, getting Justin Turner to fly out to right field. An excited Neris looked into the Dodgers’ dugout and yelled an expletive.

The four-game series between the Dodgers and Phillies had quite some drama. After Matt Beaty hit a go-ahead three-run home run in the top of the ninth inning on Tuesday, Neris threw a pitch at the next batter, David Freese, seemingly in frustration. Neris was suspended three games. He appealed his punishment, which is why he’s been allowed to pitch. In the fourth inning of Thursday’s game, Max Muncy and Beaty stepped on first baseman Rhys Hoskins‘ ankle on consecutive plays. That, along with his own struggles, explains why Neris might’ve been amped up after closing out the ballgame.

The Dodgers were, understandably, not happy about Neris yelling at them. Several players shouted back, including Clayton Kershaw and Russell Martin. An unamused Muncy glared at Neris. Martin suggested to Neris that they meet in the hallway.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said after the game, “I think we played this series the right way, played it straight. To look in our dugout and to taunt in any way, I think it’s unacceptable. Look in your own dugout.”

Muncy said, “He’s blown about eight saves against us over the last two years. I guess he was finally excited he got one. Whatever.”

Neris attributed his outburst to emotions, saying, “It’s a great win for my team and just I let my emotion get out.”

In baseball, everyone is pro-showing-emotion when it’s himself and his teammates, and against when it’s players on the other team. Muncy got into a back-and-forth with Giants starter Madison Bumgarner after flipping his bat and watching his long home run at Oracle Park last month. Bumgarner jawed at him and Muncy said, “I just told him if he doesn’t want me to watch the ball, go get it out of the ocean.”

Neris, however, is the last guy on the Phillies who should be antagonizing the Dodgers after his terrible decision to throw at Freese, not to mention his overall poor performance against them. The Phillies were pigs in mud who wanted to wrestle and the Dodgers jumped in with them for some reason. Thankfully, the two teams are done playing each other for the rest of the regular season.