Freak vs. foolish injuries

Edwin Diáz

Edwin Diáz helped off the field after a freak season-ending knee injury while celebrating Puerto Rico’s quarterfinal advance in the WBC.

No, it’s not happy news that Mets relief ace Edwin Diáz is going to miss the 2023 season after tearing his patellar tendon celebrating Puerto Rico’s World Baseball Classic win. (Diáz and teammates whooped it up after beating the Dominican Republic to advance to the WBC quarterfinals.) But no, this does not exactly fall under the heading of Incredibly Stupid Injuries By Guys Who Ought to Know Better.

Further: I’d be all-in on shifting the WBC to a time of year when baseball players are in better shape to compete. Mets pitcher Max Scherzer thinks it might supplant the All-Star Game entirely and enable a full week’s worth of a mid-year break. That might be worth a look, if you can get past teams having similar concerns about their stars adding wear and maybe injuries as the stretch drive approaches. Might.

Meanwhile, the WBC means something to every player who signed up for it, whether representing MLB’s home country or representing their own home countries. They’re putting it on the line for the sort of honour that escapes the like of Keith Olbermann with his insouciantly sexist conclusionThe WBC is a meaningless exhibition series designed to: get YOU to buy another uniform, to hell with the real season, and split up teammates based on where their grandmothers got laid.

Diáz is also not the only one who went in, either, on a fresh or potential delicious multi-year, nine-figure deal. That’s how many millions Shohei Ohtani figures to make when he hits the market this fall, assuming the Angels decide to let him walk all the way into someone else’s arms?

You think Diáz tearing his patellar celebrating a key win is dumb at all, never mind the worst of the dumb? You sure don’t know the real history of incredibly foolish injuries. Diáz’s was a freak injury. It could have happened at a family wedding during some particularly exuberant whooping-it-up. It could have happened walking out to his car from the mall. He wasn’t even a hundredth as foolish as the following roll of baseball players and their incredibly weird injuries:

Bite Me Dept.—1923: Nondescript pitcher Clarence Bethen put his false teeth into his hip pocket, thinking he looked meaner on the mound when they were out. His lifetime 7.32 ERA thinks otherwise. But in one game he actually hit a double, slide hard into second—and took a bite in the butt from the pocketed choppers.

CONCLUSION: That wasn’t what they meant by putting your teeth into your work. (What was Bethen expecting when he pulled up at second—an immediate corned beef on rye with mustard?)

Jim and Jill Went Down the Hill Dept.—1967: Cy Young Award-winning Red Sox pitcher Jim Lonborg went skiing after the season. That’s where he suffered the torn left knee ligaments that cost him half the 1968 season and left him far less than the pitcher he was in 1967. It’s said Lonborg’s companion on that trip was actress Jill St. John, of whom he may or may not have been in hot pursuit down the slope.

CONCLUSION: Well, nobody could blame anyone for giving a Jill St. John hot pursuit. Except maybe Lonborg’s manager, Dick Williams, who probably took it as a) a devastating loss going into 1968; and, b) a personal affront to himself. Not necessarily in that order.

(Lonborg’s happy ending: he became a respected New England dentist after his pitching career ended, retiring from practise in 2017.)

Chumpionship Ring Dept.—1970: Braves closer Cecil Upshaw thought demonstrating his slam dunk technique by way of an awning on the street was a clever idea . . . until it cost him the entire season, after his ring got caught in it and he damaged ligaments in his hand.

CONCLUSION: Leave the slamming dunks to the ones who get paid to do them. The ones who wear NBA or WNBA underwear.

Take Him Out of the Ball Game Dept.—1983: On an off day for the Royals, Hall of Famer George Brett broke his toe running from . . . his kitchen to his living room, to continue watching a Cubs game, specifically to see his buddy Bill Buckner hit.

CONCLUSION: That was a foolish idea no matter whom Brett couldn’t bear not to see at the plate.

Rolling Blunder Dept.—1985: Vince Coleman, the Cardinals’ road running base thief, got his foot caught in a tarp-rolling machine at Busch Stadium before Game Four of the National League Championship Series. Incurring a bone chip in his knee and a foot bruise, Coleman—who set a rookie record for stolen bases that year—was stopped for the rest of that postseason.

CONCLUSION: It’s a lot safer to put your foot in your mouth. (Coleman did, a few times during his major league career.) But, seriously, this, too, was more of a freak accident than Vincent Van Go deciding to challenge a tarp roller to a footrace.

Cowboy Down Dept.—1986: Hall of Famer Wade Boggs once missed a week with a back strain suffered when . . . pulling on a pair of cowboy boots. This gave pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps a bad name.

CONCLUSION: Easy does it.

Oh, What a Mangled Web Dept.—1990: Then-Blue Jays outfielder Glenallen Hill fell out of bed and right into a glass table—suffering bruises and cuts on elbows, knees, and legs—as he . . . awoke violently from a nightmare about spiders.

CONCLUSION: Calling your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man . . .

Ice, Ice, Baby Dept.—1993: Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson fell asleep with an ice bag on his foot . . . and the Man of Steal suffered a nasty case of frostbite, which froze him out of three August games.

CONCLUSION: There’s more than one reason not to doze off during a game.

Sorry, Wrong Number Dept.—1994: Relief pitcher Steve Sparks once thought that just because a motivational speaker he’d seen could rip a thick phone book in half he could do it—until his dislocated shoulder told him, “No, you can’t.”

CONCLUSION: Don’t believe everything you see.

Bed Sore Dept.—2002: Outfielder Marty Cordova once suffered a bad sunburn across his face . . . on a tanning bed.

CONCLUSION: Tan, don’t burn, get a Coppertone tan.

Oh, Deer! Dept.—2005: Promising Rockies rook Clint Barmes was given some choice deer meat by elder teammate Todd Helton. The venison won the battle when its weight caused Barmes to fall and break his collarbone. He went from leading National League rookies in most offensive categories to journeyman after recovering.

CONCLUSION: Presume that Bambi isn’t exactly one of Barmes’s favourite films.

Pie in the Sky Dept.—2010: Marlins utility man Chris Coghlan tore the meniscus in his left knee when . . . he fell while trying to smoosh a pie in the face of Wes Helms, who’d just won a game for the Fish with a game-ending bases-loaded single.

CONCLUSION: It might have been a good thing Helms didn’t win it with a grand slam—Coghlan might have been tempted to try hitting him with a whole bakery truck.

Honey, I Forgot to Look Dept.—2012: Jonathan Lucroy reached under his bed for a sock and didn’t see his wife fiddling with suitcases on the bed. One of the suitcases fell over the bed and onto Lucroy’s hand. He hit the disabled list after trying but failing to hide that he couldn’t grip his bat properly.

CONCLUSION: Look out above.

Baggage Claim Dept.—Royals catcher Salvador Perez punished his knees enough in thousands of squats behind the plate without blowing the opening of the 2018 season when he suffered a torn medial collateral ligament in his knee . . . while carrying a heavy suitcase up some steps.

CONCLUSION: There are reasons Mr. Otis invented the (ahem) safety elevator.

Now you tell me what’s worse or what’s less responsible—a freak accident while celebrating a tournament win? Or, blowing a season showing on the street that you could have busted a backboard any old time you chose?

Joe Pepitone, RIP: The shakiest Yankee

Joe Pepitone, Yogi Berra

Joe Pepitone (left) with Hall of Fame teammate (and 1964 Yankee manager) Yogi Berra. Pepitone once remembered Berra telling him, “I wish I could buy you for what you’re worth and sell you for what you think you’re worth.” (Yogi Berra Museum photo.)

No Yankee position player to emerge in the early post-Casey Stengel era was as talented as Joe Pepitone, who died Monday morning at 82. No Yankee of the same period was equally as self-immolating, either.

As a baseball player, Pepitone was a three-time All-Star and a three-time Gold Glove first baseman with a World Series grand slam on his resumé. As a man, to describe him as a mess was to be polite.

The slender kid from Brooklyn’s tough Park Slope section with a powerful bat, and sure hands and feet at first base, waged a war inside his heart and soul. He threw his career into a wild morass of long nights, reckless spending, wanton sex, and bouts of indifference. He may have been a fresh air blast through the staid Yankee image, but it sprang from and then dug its own tortuous well.

Pepitone was the oldest son of a violently abusive Brooklyn construction worker whom he worshiped and feared at once. The elder Pepitone didn’t seem to know or care about the distinctions between true misbehaviour and simple human error. The bruises and welts on his son’s body (he once clocked his son a shot that sent the kid’s head through the glass of a washing machine door) would prove nothing compared to those in the boy’s head and heart.

When Pepitone began attracting baseball scouts’ attention as a teenager, his father’s temper hit further verbal extremes; a heart attack forced the old man to stop beating him at last. But when the boy interceded in an argument between his parents, and the father lashed at him with particular malevolence, the boy blurted out to his mother, perhaps out of years of pain, “I really wish he’d die!”

Two days later, that’s just what happened, thanks to a second heart attack, sending Pepitone into a mental prison of guilt even as it spun him into a sense of liberation. In time, he’d sign with the Yankees and spend his entire signing bonus (including on a flashy Thunderbird convertible) en route his first spring training camp in 1958. (Stengel invariably called him “Pepperone.”)

He was lively and fun-loving, but he also used his Yankee affiliation to attract women who took him to their beds—even if it meant eventually trashing his first two marriages and costing himself three children. After a trip through the minors that was as randily adventurous as productive on the field, Pepitone reached the Yankees in spring 1962.

He’d show enough that the Yankees traded veteran incumbent Moose Skowron to the Dodgers for 1963. He would have his moments until the Yankees finally threw their hands up and traded him to the Astros after the 1969 season: a solid 1963; blasting a World Series grand slam (Game Six, 1964); a 31-homer season (1966); three Gold Gloves at first base.

He was fan friendly, and stories abound about his unfailing politeness and sincerity when meeting fans during and after his playing career. “To know Joe Pepitone,” wrote sportswriter Bill Madden in Pride of October: What It Was to Be Young and a Yankee, “was always to like Joe Pepitone . . . He just never felt secure enough to believe people could really like him for who he was, a genuinely giving person . . . whose only real weakness was the addiction to celebrity.”

His Yankee popularity was also his entree to such heavy spending bills that it wasn’t uncommon to discover process servers greeting him on the road and at home. The shakiest Yankee of his time, he sometimes disappeared without word and returned with remorse that lasted until the next party, the next bedmate, the next suspension, the next battle in his lifelong mental and spiritual war.

Exiled from the Yankees, Pepitone chafed under the more heavily-regimented Astro regime of the time, got himself suspended when he jumped the team to return to New York, and got himself picked up by the Cubs on the waiver wire in August 1970. A year later, he had arguably his best season as a player. While a Cub, he met a Playboy Bunny who’d become his third wife and with whom he had two more children.

Pepitone still couldn’t defeat his inner furies or avoid damaging his personal and familial relationships, alas. (The Yankees once sent him to an analyst, but he said he feared the analyst was far more interested in Yankee favour than in him.) Two businesses he co-formed failed; the second, a Chicago bar, lost clientele following a Chicago police investigation into rampant drug activity in the area, forcing Pepitone, its celebrity co-owner, to sell his share.

He retired, then un-retired in 1972, then was traded to the Braves in early 1973. Despite seeming to rediscover his form at the plate in four games as a Brave, Pepitone retired from the Show for good in May 1973. He went to Japan on a two-year contract with the Yakult Atoms (long since known as the Swallows).

After driving home the game winner against the Yomiuri Giants in his first game, he and his wife struggled enough to acclimate to Japan. His baseball passion waned; he claimed injuries to stay out of games while hitting the nightclubs or traveling to America and back regardless. Finally he asked for and obtained his release. His surname became Japanese vernacular for loafing.

Pepitone returned to New York, where he started an Italian delicatessen restaurant that also failed. He tried a brief baseball comeback in the Pacific Coast League before playing professional softball for a spell. By the end of the 1970s he’d become a Yankee minor league instructor, a role in which he was credited with helping a solid-hitting kid named Don Mattingly sharpen himself into an above-average defensive first baseman.

He coached first base for the Yankees briefly in 1982. He was arrested in 1985 with two other men when the driver ran a red light but drugs were found in the car. He spent time in New York’s notorious Riker’s Island jail in 1988 on misdemeanor drug convictions; he was busted for a 1992 fight in the Catskills after a man denounced him as “a washed-up nobody.” In 1995 he pleaded guilty to DUI after a crash in the Queens Midtown Tunnel. In the new century, his third marriage ended in divorce as well.

“I gave [my family] ample reason to be concerned about me, about my self-destructiveness, and I’m sorry about that. Truly sorry that I brought them down so many times,” he wrote in his 1975 memoir, Joe, You Coulda Made Us Proud. “I know now that you can’t [eff] over yourself without messing up the people you care about most, and with that knowledge comes the greatest pain of all. You do what you have to do, and you pay the price—but you pay it doubly when you see how it has hurt others you love.”

Joe Pepitone

Pepitone talking to reporters before a Yankees’ Old Timers’ Day event.

It only took three more decades from there before Pepitone—who once enticed Mantle and Whitey Ford into smoking marijuana, and who maintained a working relationship with the Yankees after his playing days and through all his future troubles—finally seemed to act on such truths. (He may or may not have been prodded, too, by a book written by two nephews, Soul of a Yankee, mixing biography with fantasy in a likely bid to shake and wake their uncle fully at last.)

“I began seeing a psychiatrist and I learned that I’m bipolar,” he told Society for American Baseball Research biographer David Krell in 2018, adding that he rebuilt relationships with his family, his second and third former wives, and three of his five children. Pepitone eventually moved to Kansas City to live with one of his daughters.

Abused children go forward in numerous ways. Not all dive as deeply into the demimonde and wreak the havoc upon their loved ones and their selves that Pepitone wreaked. He came from a time in which child abuse and bipolarity were little discussed, if at all. He chose the wrong salves without building or sustaining real support around him. If he truly rebuilt those relationships and finally came to full terms with his self-immolation, it speaks well of the man he became at long enough last.

But it could have been so much different, so much earlier, for those Pepitone loved and for himself, and in that order. May the Lord confer continued healing upon those he left behind, justice upon the father who so damaged him, and mercy upon himself.

Albie Pearson, RIP: Little big man

Albie Pearson

Albie Pearson having a little fun with teammates in the Angels’ dugout.

“I never have the satisfaction of looking an umpire in the eye, I’m forever signing autographs for kids taller than I am, and human skyscrapers like Norm Zauchin and Jim Lemon of our club make me feel like a midget when they walk by but, hand me a bat and let me step into the box, and I’m as good as the next guy—some of ’em, at least.” Thus said 5’5″ outfielder Albie Pearson, then with the ancient Washington Senators, in the Chicago Tribune in 1958, the year he was named the American League’s Rookie of the Year.

He proved a man far bigger than his physical lack of stature.

Pearson died 21 February at 88. He’s remembered far better for his tenure as one of the original Los Angeles/California Angels, picked in the American League’s first expansion draft. In fact, in a couple of ways he evoked the Biblical admonition that the last shall be the first.

The Senators swapped him to the Orioles and Pearson had an up and down life between Baltimore and the Orioles’ farm system. Then he heard the Angels were being created in his native southern California. He wrote to the new team’s general manager, Fred Haney, asking to be drafted. Haney granted his wish—as the thirtieth and final player to be chosen.

When the new Angels played their first official game, against Pearson’s former Orioles mates as things worked out, Pearson drew the new team’s first walk and scored its first run, coming home after Ted Kluszewski, the former Reds muscleman, hit the new team’s first official home run with two out in the top of the first. Kluszewski would hit the second official Angels home run an inning later.

“When my kids say grace,” the devout Pearson told Sports Illustrated for a 1963 profile (“The Littlest Angel”), “they say, ‘Dear Lord, bless this food, bless Mommy and Daddy and please help the Angels win and help Daddy get a hit. Amen.”

I’m a firm believer in the Bible and the Ten Commandments. I try to live by them without making myself obnoxious. I live my life as an example and I’m not ashamed of it. I want to be careful I don’t ruin my image as the little guy’s idol. I get letters from mothers telling me how proud they are of me because they haven’t seen my picture in a cigarette ad. I’m no prude and I don’t knock ballplayers who smoke or drink. I, too, live my life to the fullest, but I do it in a different way. There is something inside of me other than the shell going out and playing baseball. I’m kidded and goaded by the guys to get me in spots unbecoming to the way I believe. The person that puts his standards very high has to be careful. Everybody to his own life. I don’t try to push mine, but I’ll talk to anyone who’s interested in what I’m digging. I admit there are very few.

Sometimes, Pearson got goaded into unbecoming spots through no fault of the guys’ own—sort of. Early in 1963, Pearson asked to room with Bo Belinsky, the lefthanded pitcher who became the Angels’ sex symbol the previous season. (“I thought maybe I could get him in bed early,” Pearson cracked.) According to Belinsky biographer Maury Allen, Pearson and Belinsky shared only one thing that might, maybe, be considered a vice. Each man drove a candy-apple red Cadillac convertible. And it led to a hilarious mishap.

At the time, Belinsky’s collection of girlfriends included an Asian lady named Zenida who caught up to him not long after his once-fabled 1962 rookie no-hitter. She decided to wait for Belinsky in the player parking lot, perched atop what she thought was Belinsky’s Cadillac. Oops. “Here comes Albie out of the park with his wife,” Belinsky told Allen.

He’s walking toward the car. He sees Zenida sitting on the car, her (cheongsam) dress up to her ass, her legs twitching all over the place. She’s halfway across the parking lot and can’t really see who it is, so she’s waving because she knows it’s a ballplayer with a broad coming out of the players’ entrance and who could it be but me? When Albie gets a little closer she stops waving, but by that time it’s too late. Albie is white as a ghost and his wife is just pissed.

As roommates, Belinsky and Pearson weren’t exactly soul mates. Pearson ultimately switched to room on the road with another pitcher, Don Lee. “I tried not to disturb him,” Lee told SI. “He’s small and he burns up a lot of energy, so I know how important sleep is to him. Albie was no trouble. If he got noisy I just stuffed him in a drawer.”

Pearson developed a sound sense of humour about his lack of height early. Nicknamed the Littlest Angel, Pearson looked anything but little in 1963, his All-Star season. He had a .402 on-base percentage, a .304 hitting average (I’ll explain shortly), and though the National League won the All-Star Game Pearson started a tying rally in the third inning with a double off Cardinals pitcher Larry Jackson, coming home when Red Sox third baseman Frank Malzone singled him in with one out, before Twins catcher Earl Battey singled Malzone home to tie the game at three. (The final: 5-3, NL.)

Pearson’s Real Batting Average (total bases + walks + intentional walks + sacrifice flies + hit by pitches, divided by total plate appearances) for 1963 was a respectable .484. He wasn’t a power hitter but he was a tough strikeout: he finished his major league career with 282 fewer strikeouts than walks. Self-aware almost to a fault, Pearson was more than content to exercise his abilities as they were and not as he might have wished them secretly to have been.

“I never was a star and I never will be,” he told SI. “I fit on the field now but it wasn’t always that way. Once–well, I wasn’t taken as a freak, but it was, ‘He’s there, he’s not going to hurt you.’ If I can be an adequate ballplayer there’ll always be a place for me. I’ll do the very best I can but comes the time there’s someone better.”

Albie & Helen Pearson

Albie and Helen Pearson at Father’s Heart Ranch, which they devoted to abused and abandoned pre-teen boys with the same commitment it took to raise five children of their own. (Orange County Register photo.)

He couldn’t stick consistently as a regular as often as not. Then, during spring training 1966, he ruptured two discs in his back on a hard slide. He got into two regular season games after he recovered, that July, but elected to sit the rest of the season out and retire after it. His back plus the Lord told him to do it.

He made his way after baseball as the part owner of Mighty Mite, a company making adhesive grips for sports equipment. In 1972 he became an ordained minister in the Baptist Church. He started a southern California youth foundation aimed at keeping children far away from drugs and another non-profit aimed to train ministers and pastors for setting up churches and orphanages in South America and Africa.

By 1997, Pearson and his wife, Helen—parents of five, eventual grandparents of seventeen and great-grandparents of sixteen—sold their California home to create Father’s Heart Ranch in Desert Hot Springs, a home for abused, neglected, and abandoned boys between ages six and twelve. The facility included both a Little League baseball team and a Pop Warner football team. The companion Father’s Heart International also provided food to four thousand Zambian children left orphaned when their parents died of AIDS.

That’s the man about whom one anonymous pitcher huffed, “He don’t drink, he don’t smoke, he don’t fool around. You can’t trust that kind.” Whose smile was so incessant he was once told “to get a couple more coats of shellac on his teeth.” Whose third base coach on the Angels, Rocky Bridges, observed, “I think he’ll be an archaeological find.”

“When you see a life changed,” Pearson told the Orange County Register in 2011, before he was scheduled to throw a ceremonial first pitch in Angel Stadium, “it’s worth everything compared to getting a base hit or winning a game.”

The littlest Angel wasn’t so little, after all.

This essay was published originally by Sports-Central.

Clocks and Clouds

Over a week ago, Mets pitcher Max Scherzer felt as though he’d awakened one fine morning to discover he had super powers. Very well, that’s a slight exaggeration. But after he’d spent two innings against his old team, the Nationals, striking out five despite surrendering a single run, Scherzer felt the newly-mandated pitch clock gave him, well…

“Really, the power the pitcher has now—I can totally dictate pace,” he crowed then. “The rule change of the hitter having only one timeout changes the complete dynamic of the hitter-and-pitcher dynamic. I love it. It’s a cat-and-mouse game. There’s rules, and I’ll operate within whatever the rules are. I can come set even before the hitter is really in the box. I can’t pitch until eight [seconds], but as soon as his eyes are up, I can go.”

Not so fast. Come last Friday, Scherzer faced the Nats once again and learned the hard way that he might have competition in the New Tricks Up Their Sleeves Department. With a man on first, he thought he could catch Victor Robles off guard the split second home plate umpire Jeremy Riggs re-set the pitch clock, after Robles stepped out of the box with his only allowable step-out during a plate appearance before stepping back in. Scherzer started to throw at that very split second. Riggs called a balk.

“He calls time, I come set, I get the green light,” Max the Knife told reporters post-game. “I thought that was a clean pitch. He said no. We have to figure out where the limit is.”

Baseball’s government thinks it did it for him. Hours after Scherzer’s little experiment was neutralized, MLB sent a memo to all 30 teams saying forthrightly that pitchers can’t throw “before the batter is reasonably set in the batter’s box.” Come Saturday, another Mets pitcher, Justin Verlander, discovered he’ll have to do something about his long-normal routine around the mound between pitches.

“Today I got on the mound a couple times and looked up and it was like, I only had seven seconds,” the future Hall of Famer said, after pitching three innings against the Marlins, surrendering a single run, and having to adjust his mound strolling. “If me and [Mets catcher] Omar [Narvaez] weren’t on the same page, it could have been a problem.”

When this spring training’s exhibition games began, Padres third baseman Manny Machado became baseball’s first to earn a 10-year, $350 million contract extension for opening with an 0-1 count on him before he even began a plate appearance. Okay, that’s a joke. But Machado did have strike one called on him when facing Mariners pitcher (and former Cy Young Award winner) Robbie Ray and failing to be in the batter’s box when eight seconds on the clock passed.

“I’m going to have to make a big adjustment,” Machado said with a hearty laugh after that game. “I might be 0-1 down a lot this year. It’s super fast. It’s definitely an adjustment period.”

Pitchers have 15 seconds to throw a pitch after receiving the ball back with the bases empty and 20 with men on base. Batters must be set and ready after 8 seconds are gone. And the pitchers aren’t the only ones looking to circumvent some of the new rules imposed by baseball’s attention-deficit commissioner. The notorious defensive infield shifts are now against the law, too, at least to the extent that there must be an infielder each on either side of second base itself at all times. Well, now. A few teams have already tried their own end run around that.

The Red Sox, for one. They thought they could get away with moving their left fielder to the shallowest patch of the right field grass against notorious all-or-nothing slugger Joey Gallo, now with the Twins. They got away with it long enough for Gallo—who’d torn one through the right side of the infield for a base hit earlier—to hammer a 3-1 service into the right field bleachers.

I’m reasonably certain I’m not the only one who thinks commissioner Rob Manfred didn’t stop to think that there was a reason for games going well over three hours having nothing to do with the actual play and everything to do with broadcast dollars. It never seems to have occurred to him that it wasn’t pitcher or batter gamesmanship, but two-minute-plus broadcast commercials after every half inning and during mid-jam pitching changes.

It seems to have occurred to Commissioner ADD less that he and his bosses might have landed the same delicious dollars by just limiting the spots to before each full inning and adjusting the dollars accordingly. Since it’s been established long and well enough that Manfred’s true concept of the good of the game is making money for it, that should have been child’s play for anyone applying brains.

And, speaking of dollars, try not to delude yourselves that MLB’s new so-called Economic Reform Committee will be for the good of the game, either. How about the Committee to Horsewhip Owners Who Actually Spend on Their Teams and Want to Win? The Committee to Immunize the Bob Nuttings and Bob Castellinis and John Fishers From Their Economic Malfeasance?

Manfred has pleaded that oh, but of course he’s after nothing more and nothing less than “a crisp and exciting game.” He’s been bereft, apparently, of the sense that baseball’s flavors come as much from the tensions in its pauses as from the cracks of the bats, the thwumps! of the pitches into the catchers’ mitts, and the brainstormings on the field and in the stands during jams.

Thus far, the games are shorter—by a measly 22 minutes. But the potential for such unintended consequences as, at extreme, a World Series-ending strikeout on a pitch clock violation is almost as vast as Manfred couldn’t stand single games having become. Those supporting the new arbitrary havoc like to say Manfred merely scoped what “the fans” wanted. It’s not inappropriate to ask, “which fans?”

Think about this: Hall of Fame pitcher Juan Marichal was fabled for an array of about sixteen different windups and ten different leg kicks, including the Rockettes-high kick that was his most familiar visual hallmark. The new pitch clock may actually come to erode the presence of pitchers who are that much fun to watch (I’m talking about you, Luis [Rock-a-Bye Samba] Garcia, among others) even if they’re not a barrel of laughs against whom to bat.

It might also erode the presence of batters who are as much fun before they swing as while they swing. What’s next—a base-running clock, mandating batters have x number of seconds before they’d better start hauling it around the bases on home runs? Oops. I’d better not go there. We don’t want to give Commissioner ADD any more brilliant ideas.

Note: This essay was published first by Sports-Central.