Pirates broadcasters complain about Yairo Muñoz stealing bases ahead seven runs

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The Pirates’ broadcast team has not had the best year. In May, Bob Walk complained about Marcell Ozuna tagging up to advance to third base on a Yairo Muñoz fly ball to deep center field when the Cardinals led 16-4. Walk said, “Can you answer why he was tagging up there?” He continued, “There is no answer. None.” Later, Joe Block said, “Gotta play the game, I guess.” Walk snarked, “Is that what that’s called? I have a problem with that.”

In late May, John Wehner said Derek Dietrich‘s dead grandfather would be ashamed of him because he flipped his bat and watched some of the many home runs he hit against the Pirates early in the season. Specifically, Wehner said on Pittsburgh’s 93.7 The Fan Morning Show, “I heard of him because of his grandfather (Steve Demeter) who used to be a minor league coach for the Pirates. He was the nicest, sweetest guy in the world. He’s rolling in his grave every time this guy hits a home run. He’s embarrassed of his grandson.”

In early June, Steve Blass offered some ill-advised commentary on Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr.’s “jewelry” or “stuff.” After Acuña was hit by a pitch, Blass said, “I was getting ready to say, you know… With a young player doing all that stuff and all the jewelry and all the stuff, back in the day — I’m not saying it’s right or wrong…” Blass made similar comments about Cubs infielder Javier Báez two years ago, saying, “Anybody but Javier Baez. He’s a difficult player for me to root for. I’ll put it that way.” Block asked, “Is it because of his flashiness?” Blass responded, “That’s a nice way of putting it.

That leads us to Wednesday evening, when the Pirates hosted the Cardinals for the second game of a three-game series. The game got out of hand quickly as the Cardinals put up a nine-spot in the second inning and tacked on four more runs in the fourth to make it a 13-4 game. During that fourth inning, when the Cardinals led 11-4, Muñoz was on first base after grounding into a fielder’s choice. He easily stole second base on a 1-0 pitch from Luis Escobar. Play-by-play guy Greg Brown says with surprise in his voice, “The runner steals, ahead 11 to four. Wow.” He continued, “Always wonder about those unwritten rules.” As Walk was explaining how the unwritten rules have changed in recent years, Muñoz stole third base with just as much ease. The Pirates’ infield was playing back, so there was no chance to get Muñoz. The fans at PNC Park began to boo, which Brown used as evidence that what Muñoz did was wrong. Walk said, “I know exactly what would happen now — in a different era.” Brown said, “I’ve never heard the fans boo [over unwritten rules]. Basically, this is — again, these old, unwritten rules, but the fans don’t like it. I guess it’s possible [the fans are] just not happy with Escobar giving them this running lead.”

The camera panned to Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright on the on-deck circle, wearing a helmet with the flap to protect one’s jaw. Walk said, “He’s wearing the right helmet.” Brown said, “I know he wouldn’t like it. He’s still old school. I guarantee you, you get him off to the side and ask him what he thinks, stealing second and third ahead 11 to four.” After Andrew Knizner drew a four-pitch walk to bring up Wainwright to the plate with runners on the corner and one out, Walk snarked, “Gotta watch for the squeeze [bunt], here, huh?” Brown retorted, “Yeah, that’s right. Why not?”

Here is a video of the exchange from Twitter user @VanHicklestein:

The game ended 14-8, with the Pirates rallying for four runs in the final three innings. Though it still wasn’t close, it shows that the game is never really over until the final out is recorded. A seven-run lead in the fourth inning is sizable but not insurmountable, especially not on a hot July night in the era of juiced baseballs. On Tuesday, we saw the Twins take an 8-2 lead after four innings, but the Yankees fought back and eventually on 14-12 in 10 innings. Why Brown and Walk felt that the Cardinals should have given up at that point in the game is anyone’s guess, but given the broadcast booth’s recent history, I have one hypothesis.

For a generation (Walk’s) that looks back on itself with rose-colored glasses, believing themselves to have been rough and tough, they sure want the game to get switched to easy mode at the first sign of adversity. In their brief conversation, Brown and Walk elucidate that teams shouldn’t steal bases nor should they squeeze bunt with a seven-run lead. Anything else? No hard swings? Maybe no swings at all? Just stare at pitch after pitch until the Pirates mount a comeback and reduce the deficit to some sacred threshold.

Baseball is having trouble gaining traction among younger fans for myriad reasons. Among those reasons is that few broadcasters seem to actually like the game they cover on a daily basis. There is no shortage of people in the baseball community, particularly those who are younger and cut their teeth online, who could do as good or a better job while showing unyielding enthusiasm for the game. Take the Statcast-centric broadcast booth ESPN sometimes uses, which features Jason Benetti, Mike Petriello, and Eduardo Pérez. They elaborate on how cool something was by adding data into the conversation. Which is not to say that these broadcast booths should necessarily focus on Statcast data — it is far from perfect — nor should they be relentlessly positive. But so many broadcasters working in the game today are grumpy, ostensibly because the game has changed and passed them by. It’s not good for the sport to have them reaching millions of households on a yearly basis, giving fans every reason to flip the channel and watch something else.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.