Old School

Michael Pineda

The silliness of Major League Baseball was captured in one single moment last night on the mound at Fenway Park. The umpiring crew surrounded Michael Pineda as crew chief Gerry Davis examined New York Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda after the accusation from Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell that Pineda had pine tar “all over his neck”.

Of course, there was pine tar. Pineda was cheating. He was subsequently ejected in the 2nd inning to the dismay of Yankees manager Joe GIradi. No one is too shocked or outraged. This is Major League Baseball. Wake us up when something newsworthy happens, right?

It is a cliché to call any type of backwards thinking Neanderthal-like but that’s what Major League Baseball is. Aside from FIFA, there isn’t a league in the world that is more behind the times than the MLB. Despite the abundance of statistics that is so pervasive in the game these days, the old school mentality from managers, coaches and commentators still dominates many aspects of the way the MLB operates.

Michael Pineda and pine tar-gate is a microcosm of everything that is wrong with baseball yet the MLB is about as active as a Prince Fielder in the off-season in changing the game for the better. Pineda was put on “unofficial probation” after camera’s caught him using pine tar in his April 10th start against the Red Sox with no regard for discretion or subtlety. Pineda did not care and neither did the Red Sox apparently.

Pineda’s use of pine tar on April 10th was about as discreet as a pot smoker on 4:20 but the umpires didn’t do a damn thing about it because no one brought it to their attention. It’s part of the large unwritten “code” in baseball that pitchers use a variety of foreign substances to help them on the mound.

Don’t ask, don’t tell.

For some reason, everyone involved around the game of baseball accepts it for what it is. There isn’t a sport where cheating is more universally recognized and allowed within the confines of the game than baseball.

The substance abuse problem among pitchers is the MLB’s version of the don’t ask, don’t tell policy and it is just the tip of the iceberg. While America’s pastime has been surpassed by both football and basketball in the last decade, Bud Selig and Major League Baseball have sat back and watched it happen. Wilfully blind to the plethora of issues that need to be addressed. They foolishly allow the game to be subjugated to the “this is how the game was always played” old school mind-set.

Coming up with solutions to the game, any game, is America’s true greatest pastime. Everyone thinks they have the answers, if only someone would listen to them.

However, some of the fixes needed in the MLB are so obvious, a six-year-old child could figure out what the right thing to do is. Even a first-grader knows the difference between right and wrong, and a number of problems in the MLB simply have to do with enforcing the rules.

In this post-steroid age, scoring runs are at an all-time low in the MLB but the league continues to give the pitcher every advantage possible. This isn’t 1964 anymore. Blatant stupidity/laziness from guys like Michael Pineda should not be the only cases where enforcement of the rule should occur. The don’t ask, don’t tell policy regarding pine tar, sunscreen or any other foreign substance is as nonsensical as it gets.

Hitting is harder than ever with constant defensive shifts, 95mph fastballs as common as the cold and guys like Pineda given mostly free rein to do whatever they want to the baseball on the mound. Nevertheless, we have the old school commentators like Buck Martinez and Joe Buck clamouring that the strike zone needs to be more liberal than it already is to speed up the game.

Make hitting harder to speed up the game? Fixing one problem by exasperating another is not how you go about improving anything.

If baseball could learn anything from football and basketball, it’s that more scoring is the goal. Bud Selig, or anyone who works at Major League Baseball for that matter, has yet to get the memo. In 2013 and 2014, the amount of runs scored per game in the MLB has not been this low since 1992.

The most frustrating aspect of this is some of these problems are as simple as ensuring umpires do their jobs and carry out the rules properly. Don’t allow pitchers to use foreign substances. Don’t allow pitchers to throw strikes three inches off the plate. Don’t allow pitchers to take over 30 seconds in between pitches.

I doubt Bud Selig has any trouble sleeping, but if he ever lies in bed at night wondering why they’re losing out to the NFL and NBA, maybe he should realize that not many people can handle three to four hours of pitching dominance.

Michael Pineda and pine tar-gate, in itself, is not all that interesting. Pineda will get suspended, come back and probably do it all over again. Nothing will change as a result of this story. Major League Baseball will continue to stand idly by as the NFL and NBA surpass them in every possible way.

The issues the league faces are not complicated. Any small child could understand what needs to be done. Enforce the rules.

But then again, that would be too easy.

Agree? Disagree? Reply in the comments section below or e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com

Also, you can follow me on twitter @chrisrossPTB and I will happily return the favour.

This Needs to Stop

Alex Rodriguez

Other than FIFA, the MLB is the world’s most archaic league. No professional sports league in North America is as slow at adapting to modern changes than Major League Baseball. It took a lifetime in and a half for Bud Selig to finally install an expanded replay system.

While the importance of history in the game of baseball cannot be underscored, its rich history prevents the league from moving forward. The illogical phrase preventing change of “this is how it has always been done” rings truer in the game of baseball than it does anywhere else.

Last night, Boston Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster gave us his variation of the ever-constant vigilante justice we see in baseball. Dempster took it upon himself to send a cryptic message to Alex Rodriguez. He threw one pitch behind his knees, two pitches far enough inside for a half-blind person to understand what was going on and finally plunked A-Rod high and tight.

It was an unprecedented moment in MLB history.

I can’t lie. I smiled after seeing that 4th pitch bean baseball’s most polarizing figure since Barry Bonds retire. My baseball coach in high school, Dave Empey, was Ryan Dempster’s coach and is still his friend to this day. When I saw that 4th pitch fly into A-Rod’s elbow, I could hear Dave, in his old, cranky voice telling us in one of his pre-game speeches, “Ryan Dempster was a man!” Granted, Ryan Dempster doesn’t have to bat in the American league.

However, the biggest takeaway from this incident has to be the MLB’s ignorance of the vigilante justice that has been as integral to the game of baseball as the Kardashian’s are to late-night TV writers. Players and fans accept it, as we do with so many other things in society, because “that’s the way it has always been done.”

The vigilante justice pitchers impose when they bean an opposing does make some sense. Human beings are wired for revenge. An eye for an eye, right?

In this day and age though, that foolhardy acceptance of such a simple concept needs to change before someone gets hurt.

There has been no hotter topic than the issue of concussions in sports over the past few years. The NFL and NHL have gone out of their respective ways in attempts to minimize head injuries. The games have changed as a result of it.

The MLB is happy with vigilante justice. It means that, for the most part, they don’t have to deal with the straining process of determining suspensions. Accepting and recognizing it as simply a part of the game ensures that they don’t have to be the bad guy. Say what you want about Roger Goodell, but he has no qualms with being the bad cop.

Although the concept of vigilante justice does make some sense, when you break it down, it’s about as ridiculous as a monkey wearing a cowboy hat and riding a dog. Players hurl a rock hard object, the baseball, at the bodies and sometimes heads of opposing batters at speeds of 90-100 mph from 60 feet away. It may be considered justice in the game of baseball but, in a court of law, that sounds a helluva lot like assault with a deadly weapon.

Yet the majority of players and fans still seem to be fine with it.

Ryan Dempster continued to pitch. Joe Giradi was ejected for standing up for what was right. Curt Schilling said on the radio this morning that he couldn’t believe that C.C. Sabathia didn’t take it upon himself to stand up for his teammate.

Baseball mentality at its finest.

The MLB has been lucky. Despite the countless number of balls that have flown intentionally and unintentionally at the heads of players, no one has been seriously injured or killed. This may sound crazy but the ‘law of being due’ ominously looms over the game like a dark, stormy cloud. With the amount of balls that are purposefully flung at delicate human heads, it’s only a matter of time before someone sustains a life threatening injury.

It just takes one ball to hit the wrong spot, helmet or no helmet.

Major League Baseball has to get a better handle on this. Pitchers who intentionally toss balls at players should be suspended. A zero tolerance policy. It takes something to the degree of what Ryan Dempster did yesterday for the MLB to hand out one of those 6 game, 1 start suspensions.

Those 6 game suspensions have to be the bare minimum. Even though I still smirk when I think about Dempster’s best Batman impersonation, he needs to be made an example of. I know he won’t be but he should be. It can’t be up to the pitchers to do the dirty work. It’s not fair to the pitchers and it’s even less fair to the often time’s innocent (star) players who have to bear the brunt of the pitcher’s dirty work.

I don’t think I can count on my fingers how many times Bryce Harper has been thrown at in his very short MLB career.

Like so many things in life, significant penalties are the only way to change the culture. It’s the only way vigilante justice in baseball can be reined in. We can’t continue to stand idly by and tolerate players putting their lives on the line every time a team feels the need for retribution.

This is an important issue that is constantly swept under the rug by that dreaded nostalgic mantra. I get it. That’s how it has always been done.

But, come on. Let’s not wait until something tragic happens.

Agree? Disagree? Reply in the comments section below or e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com

Also, you can follow me on twitter @chrisrossPTB and I will happily return the favour.

Justin Verlander. The V is for Victory

Bull. Horse. Stud. Ace.

Those words could all describe Justin Verlander and last night he proved that he isn’t just one, but all of those adjectives wrapped up into one freakishly hard-throwing individual.

Justin Verlander wasn’t his 0.92 WHIP or 2.40 ERA self last night but that’s what made his start that much more impressive. Like any real ace would, Verlander battled through 8 gruelling innings against an all-star team line-up masking as a Major League team.

For me, Justin Verlander was more impressive last night than he has been at any point this season. That includes the no-hitter I watched against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Like many true aces do, Verlander struggled through the first inning. No surprise there. It also was no surprise that Verlander started to dominant as many true aces do in October. But a 7th inning double by Brett Gardner tied the game up at 4’s. A very good start turned into something rather ordinary for the Detroit Tiger stud.

But the Tigers roared back in the bottom of the 7th retaking the lead. Working on a modified 3 days rest, Justin Verlander came out for the 8th even though his pitch count was above 100.

Amazingly, that wasn’t the only thing that was above 100 late in the game. A tired Verlander was topping out at 101 mph with the game on the line. He was throwing harder than he did all game in the 7th and 8th innings. The TBS broadcast put up a graph early in the 8th inning showing Verlander’s velocity progression of the game, inning by inning. Naturally, Verlander’s speed gradually increased each inning with a major spike in the all important 7th inning.

He reached back like only a true ace can.

It didn’t matter though. The Yankees still touched him for 2 runs in the 7th inning.

After his team clawed back for a run in the bottom half of the inning, he fought back like only a true ace would.

The tiredness was apparent in the 7th inning. It was apparent in the 8th inning. No biggie though because it was of the utmost importance that Verlander finish out the 8th inning. Setup man Joaquin Benoit had pitched 2 innings the night before. Jose Valverde had thrown over 30 pitches in game 2 as well. With a 1 run lead against the New York Yankees in the pivotal game 3, Verlander had to come out for the 8th.

In 8 innings, Verlander bent but he didn’t break. He threw a scoreless 8th and gave way to Valverde and his ongoing save streak.

Mentally, Verlander looks to be as tough as they come. Facing the Yankee ace, C.C. Sabathia, who threw 106 pitches in 5.1 innings, Verlander was clearly unphased after putting his team in a hole early in the game.

He did this all under the immense pressures of October baseball. The immense pressures of being considered the game’s best pitcher. The immense pressures of possibly being the first pitcher in a long time to win the MVP. The immense pressures of playing the hated and storied New York Yankees.

A man isn’t measured by what he does when things are going well.

Wins for pitchers are slowly diminishing in value, and with good reason I might add. However, Justin Verlander last night truly won this game for the Tigers. He didn’t no hit his opponent like Roy Halladay or casually waltz through the Yankees like Cliff Lee did in recent history. What he did was take the bull by the horns and, when his team staked him to the game’s final lead in the bottom of the 7th, he came out and did what he had to do in the 8th.

In the process he not only put his team up 2-1 in the ALDS but he also brought Jose Valverde one step closer (no pun intended) to being able to say “I told you so” to everyone for his ridiculously stupid and not quite as clichéd guarantee.

Quite a player indeed.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will happily return the favour.

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How Can You Not Laugh?

What now Jonathan?

Actually, I’m pointing and laughing.

The AL East hatred of the Yankees and Red Sox almost goes hand in hand. If you don’t live in either city, it’s likely that you have developed a passion for rooting against these two perennial powerhouse teams. Every year it’s like having The Joker and Two Face separately wreak havoc on the dreams of the 28 other Major League teams.

This is arguably the most epic collapse in the history of Major League Baseball. I say with immense pleasure that it was a treat to watch it unfold before my eyes.

It’s not sadistic. It’s only natural. I would even go as far to say that it would be wrong to sympathize with the Red Sox as well as the city of Boston.

If it isn’t the big payroll, it’s the snail’s pace, toolish looking closer, the powerhouse roster or the Boston fan that pisses you off even though you can’t quite figure out why. There are an endless amount of reasons to get satisfaction out of a Boston Red Sox collapse.

Why stop at the baseball team though?

I don’t just hate the Boston Red Sox. I’m jealous of the city.

It’s difficult to sympathize with a city that has as many championship teams as Boston has. Every single one of their teams has won a championship in the last 5 years. I, much like many of you, have gone my entire life without witnessing a championship from one of my hometown teams.

*Note: I was 1 and 2 years old at the time of the Toronto Blue Jays championships, which I hardly think counts.

At the same time, I have to say that I am stoked to see the Rays pull it out, especially in the fashion of a walk-off dinger. They deserve it. They deserve it because of all the personnel that they lost in the off-season. They deserve it because they don’t need $200 million to create a winning team.

Hopefully, for his sake, Carl Crawford can take solace in his many millions of dollars.

Ellsbury, Pedroia, Ortiz, Gonzalez, Crawford, Lester, Papelbon, Bucholz. Flat out, that’s not fair.

The manner in which the Red Sox lost their final chance at redemption makes it that much sweeter, like a hot fudge sundae on a hot summers day. It doesn’t get much better than a big BS for a pitcher who could probably use a punch in the face every now and then. Well, at least a nice little bitch slap.

My disgust of the Red Sox reached its height earlier in the season when Jonathan Papelbon closed out a game against the Blue Jays at his incredibly, excessive, monumental, tortoise-like pace. His breathing, open mouth and all around douchebaggery pushed me over the edge. I couldn’t take it anymore. All seemed to be lost though with the Red Sox holding a 9 game lead with only 26 games left in the regular season.

I guess it ain’t over til the Red Sox closer chokes eh?

Not a problem though, Boston fans can now turn to their beloved Patriots and Mr. GQ extraordinaire. Another winning season and possible Super Bowl run can cure what ails the Bostonian sports fan.

Opportunity doesn’t come knocking at your door every day. For me, I have to take this chance to snicker at the temporary sadness of a baseball team that will probably finish up next year battling it out for another post-season spot yet again.

You should too.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will happily return the favour.

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What Does Derek Jeter’s Milestone Signify?

Just as Alex Rodriguez’s 600th home run last year wasn’t the sole focus of his milestone, Derek Jeter’s 3000th celebration is mired in question marks.

3000 is the hump that all great hitters strive to get over. It’s the mark that tells the world that you are one of the world’s finest hitters to ever play the game. Derek Jeter will become part of the exclusive, soon to be, 28 member club.

Although Jeter will shortly reach the peak of the 3000 hit mountain, his career is on the descent. His chase to 3000 is a distraction from the inevitable. The inevitable, interrupted by a calf injury. Jeter is finished from being on top of the baseball world.

The reality of it is that Derek Jeter is a grossly overpaid shortstop, batting .257 with just about everything except his media influence being limited as the days go by. Limited range, limited power, limited speed.

Derek Jeter is an aging athlete. There is no other way to put it. The sample presented by Jeter in the last season and a half is undeniable evidence. It can no longer be classified as an anomaly. A season and a half of mediocrity can be an anomaly at 30 but not 37.

Ichiro Suzuki is 37. It could be the first time in his career that he has a season batting under .300. Father time has got to him too.

Derek Jeter’s halo above his head does not give him the ability to avoid the inevitable that is coming sooner than he would like. He will always be the media darling but even Jeter worshippers can’t defend him forever.

For Jeter, 3000 hits means that his time as the leadoff hitter is running out. He knows he has no business being up there. The top of the order is no place for a former alpha male. Jeter is lucky that he is on one of the few teams that are able to mask the presence of an elephant at the top of the order.

The struggle that Derek Jeter has faced over the past year and a half to get to 3000 can’t be half as bad as the struggle that he is having trying to cope with his decline.

Denial is the first stage of any sort of grief but people should be past that point by now. Even Derek Jeter.

Anger. That’s something Jeter will probably see and hear from Yankee fans not long after number 3000. In sports but especially New York, it has what have you done for me lately? The Yankees are all about winning and Brian Cashman’s hardball with Derek Jeter in the off-season couldn’t have made the message any clearer.

Once Jeter hits 3000 New York can finally treat him as another average baseball player. Well, as average as an angel can be treated.

His 3000th hit will be an incredible moment. Much like a 100 year olds birthday, his milestone will be treasured, celebrated and last eternally.

It’s always a shame that the same human being will not.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

Subscribe to my blog too and you can get the latest posts such as Ian Mahinmi’s Comment is No Big Deal

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