MLB's Selective Integrity

During yesterday’s 7-4 Grapefruit League loss to the Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees Superstar, Aaron Judge, shared a playful moment with a soon-to- be Free Agent Superstar in Manny Machado. Judge was asked about that moment after the game and the slugger had this to say: “Adding him to our lineup that we already got would be something special. I told him he’d look good in pinstripes.” It seemed like an innocent moment between two elite players but Major League Baseball did not see it that way. They issued this statement in response to Judge’s comments: “We have been in contact with the Yankees. They communicated to us that Mr. Judge’s off the cuff remarks were not appropriate and not authorized by the club. They will speak to him to make sure that this does not happen again.”

The comments when first reported didn’t bother a soul amongst those that relayed them. Then hours later, MLB created a mountain out of a molehill and decided they had to publicly reprimand Aaron Judge. If you ask MLB why they felt the need to scold Judge it a public manner they’ll likely spout some line about the integrity of the game. If that’s the case then why didn’t MLB decide to defend the integrity of the game when Hunter Pence of the San Francisco Giants openly pined on Twitter for Giancarlo Stanton to waive his no trade clause when the Giants and Miami Marlins were discussing a trade for the reigning National League MVP? It’s not exactly the same scenario but it’s close enough. A player on one team made an innocent comment on how much fun, for lack of a better term, it would be for a player under contract to a different team to come play with them. One player got a talking to and the other player got, well, nothing. It’s called “selective integrity” and MLB has a history of it.

MLB is too busy worried about collusion to worry about how they are compromising the integrity of the game themselves. Let’s be honest, no matter how many cute little conversations Machado and Judge have this season, Machado is going to go to the highest bidder in 2019. The only thing Machado will be colluding with is money and there will be lots of it. MLB needs to worry about the on field product and not about what two players are chit-chatting about on the base paths.

MLB is so obsessed with pace of play and the length of their games. The games are “too slow” and “not exciting” enough. It’s what their market research says. Except for the fact that line is a load of hot garbage. MLB is doing a disservice to the real fans of the game to change the rules to cater to a casual observer. Today’s society is fast paced and very now, now, now and they feel baseball doesn’t fit that profile. Except that it does. Just because one doesn’t understand baseball doesn’t mean that something isn’t happening at every moment of the game and why should we be punished for that? With a runner of first, where’s the second baseman? Is he shading toward the bag to cover a throw from the catcher? Speaking of the catcher, what signs is he giving? Is he calling for fastballs to make a throw easier on him? Is the runner even thinking about stealing? What’s the batter’s approach? Is he taking a pitch to allow the runner to steal? Is the hit and run on or is the batter up there to swing for the fences? Seems like a heck of a lot is going on while “nothing” is going on.

MLB is already taking steps to improve pace of play. They are only allowing six mound visits per game. So, now mound visits have to be strategic as a team must save one for the ninth inning in case their closer gets in trouble. I’ll be the first to admit that there were way too many mound visits last season but six is such a random number. Why not one per inning? That seems more than fair. The worst part is that what a mound visit entails is all up to the umpire. Umpire A may allow the first baseman over for a quick chat while Umpire B might not. If you are going to implement these rules you need to have a concrete set of them and MLB doesn’t. And what is the penalty for a seventh mound visit? We still don’t know. What if Gary Sanchez wants to go out for a seventh what is stopping him? Is the umpire going to tackle him to the ground? It sounds silly because the rule and the implementation of it is silly.

There are a slew of rules being tested out in the minor leagues this season to see how they work. The one that has me the most chapped is starting extra innings with a runner on second base. This is not how you play baseball. It is as bad if not worse than the atrocious college football overtime rule. It’s a gimmick. There’s no room in MLB for a gimmick like that. Let the game take its natural progression. If it takes 19 innings to get a winner, so be it. I’d rather watch a game for seven hours and know it ended in a natural way then it end in 3.5 hours and have it end with some dumb gimmick after the two teams battled hard to win for nine innings.

I’m not against improving some aspects of the pace of play in MLB. Let’s keep the batters in the box. There’s no need for them to take a Sunday stroll in between each pitch and I’d be open to seeing a 10-15 second pitch clock with no one on base. There are ways to move things along without compromising the way the game is played.

I’m not saying MLB shouldn’t have said something to Aaron Judge. If they felt it was “collusion” then it is in their right to say something. They just shouldn’t cry about the integrity of the game when they themselves are ruining the integrity of the game. There’s off the field integrity, which is what MLB is crying foul on Aaron Judge for. Then there’s on the field integrity and that is how the game is played. Let’s not forget how MLB didn’t care about the integrity of how the game was played in the late 90s when steroids ran rampant across MLB. As long as the home runs flew out of parks they didn’t care. It wasn’t until the Federal Government stepped in that they cleaned up the game. So, please don’t cry to us about “integrity” when MLB has shown throughout their history that they have no “integrity” on how the game is played as long as the money rolls in. The thing about “integrity” is that it can be bought but MLB wants you to buy it in terms of ticket sales and jerseys. That’s why they want to change the way the game is played, to attract new fans to the games to spend their money on the MLB product. The “real” fan be damned and the game as you loved it be damned as well. It’s not like MLB is truly hurting for money but they want to fit into this fast paced, new generation of how things are ingested. Don’t take in the baseball experience, binge watch it like a TV show on Netflix. That’s where they are wrong and that’s where they are hurting the integrity of the game.

Aaron Judge had a misstep yesterday. He should’ve kept that conversation to himself but MLB’s Selective Integrity Police came after him. Don’t worry Aaron. They still want you to be the face of the game and sell tons of jerseys. That’s your job, not to harm the integrity of the game. That’s their job.

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