Beyond mere misogyny

Trevor Bauer

Somehow it was easier on the insides when Trevor Bauer was a mere misogynist.

Before Trevor Bauer signed with the Dodgers in February, there were signs enough that the Mets might bring him aboard. And alarms enough that Bauer’s penchant for social media misogyny might require extraordinary pre-emptive strikes to contain potential fallout.

That was a month after the Mets fired general manager Jared Porter over sexual texts and images he sent a female reporter while working for the Cubs in 2016. And, around the time former Mets manager Mickey Callaway got suspended—and, eventually, fired as the Angels pitching coach—over several years’ unwanted pursuit of women around baseball.

A New York Post baseball writer, Joel Sherman, thought the last thing the Mets should consider under those circumstances was signing a pitcher to whom mere misogyny seemed second nature to anything longer than a single-year deal:

Bauer’s behavior does not rise near the malfeasance that Porter copped to and is alleged against Callaway. But Sandy Alderson hired both Porter and Callaway. He said in the aftermath of both disturbing revelations that had he known prior, he would not have hired Porter or Callaway. He knows what he knows about Bauer. Now. Today.

The Mets lost out to the Dodgers in the Bauer hunt. In letting Bauer become the Dodgers’ signing splash and migraine, the Mets may not have dodged just a bullet but a nuclear warhead.

On Monday, a 27-year-old woman filed a domestic violence restraining order against the 30-year-old righthander with pitching smarts to burn and a paleozoic personality to match. The Athletic‘s Brittany Ghiroli and Katie Strang got a look at the details inside the 67-page filing.

They almost make the sadomasochistic1963 novel whose title later became the name of a legendary rock band, The Velvet Underground, resemble The Enchanted Cottage. I can only imagine the sickenings to their stomachs Ghiroli and Strang felt.

“The alleged assaults described by the woman, which are extremely graphic in nature, happened during what she said began as consensual sexual encounters between the two,” Ghiroli and Strang wrote Wednesday.

According to the woman’s declaration attached to the request and obtained by The Athletic, she suffered injuries as a result of the second encounter, including two black eyes, a bloodied swollen lip, significant bruising and scratching to one side of her face. In the woman’s declaration, signed under penalty of perjury of California state laws, she said that her medical notes state that she had “significant head and facial trauma” and that there were signs of basilar skull fracture.

She also said that, in one of those incidents, while unconscious, Bauer penetrated her anally, which she did not consent to in advance.

“I agreed to have consensual sex; however, I did not agree or consent to what he did next,” she says. “I did not agree to be sexually assaulted.”

The two Athletic reporters reached out to Bauer’s side and got no comment beyond a statement from Bauer’s agent, Jon Fetterolf. The statement says, essentially, that Bauer and the woman began “a brief and wholly consensual sexual relationship” which she began, meeting twice, with Bauer leaving quietly but the two continuing to message in “friendly and flirtatious banter.”

But Fetterolf also acknowledged she sent Bauer photographs accompanied by a note that she sought medical treatment for a concussion, to which Bauer responded “with concern and confusion” while the woman was “neither angry nor accusatory.”

Mr. Bauer and [the woman] have not corresponded in over a month and have not seen each other in over six weeks. Her basis for filing a protection order is nonexistent, fraudulent, and deliberately omits key facts, information, and her own relevant communications. Any allegations that the pair’s encounters were not 100% consensual are baseless, defamatory, and will be refuted to the fullest extent of the law.

One of the lady’s own attorneys, Bryan Freedman, had a statement of his own to share with Ghiroli and Strang:

Without going into detail for the benefit of both my client and Mr. Bauer, the pictures evidencing the unconsented abuse do not lie. Any suggestion that she was not the victim of assault is not only false and defamatory but, in fact, perpetuates the abuse. Our client truly wants Mr. Bauer to engage in a medically appropriate therapeutic process where he can receive the treatment he needs to never act this way again.

“If he is willing to meaningfully participate in a process directed by appropriate professionals,” Freedman continued, “it will go a long way toward allowing her to feel safe and resolving this matter. But, regardless, she cannot allow this to happen unknowingly to anyone else.”

The woman accuses Bauer of choking her just enough into unconsciousness. She said in the filing that she awoke disoriented but also to him trying to have rough anal sex with her, “which I had never communicated that I wanted, nor did I consent,” and that the morning after he made a little light of the entire thing before he left an hour later.

The pair continued messaging each other, though. They met again in mid-May. That time, the woman’s filing says, instead of trying a little rough sex after choking her unconscious Bauer basically beat her head in for her—and, after she was fully conscious, told her she was safe and he “would never do those things to you if it wasn’t sexually.”

“As part of the request to the court,” Ghiroli and Strang wrote, “the woman also provided text messages and screenshots of voicemails she said Bauer sent to her inquiring about her well being and checking in with her to see what he could do; in one message, Bauer offers to deliver groceries to her.” What a guy.

The filing also mentions the woman went for two medical exams off that second “encounter,” including “rapid CT scans” for face, neck, and brain. She also met San Diego police detectives, downplayed the whole thing as just “rough sex,” and didn’t drop Bauer’s name then for fear of public repercussion.

“I was afraid what Trevor would do if he found out,” Ghiroli and Strang quote her filing. “I remain afraid that Trevor will find me and hurt me for going to the hospital.” They also quote from a conversation between herself and Bauer under the Pasadena Police Department’s direction: “I said, ‘Thank you for acknowledging what you did to me.’ Trevor acknowledged it and asked how we could move forward and asked if he could still reach out.”

The Pasadena PD is still investigating. Another attorney for the lady, Marc Garelick, said in a statement he and his client both expect criminal action against Bauer. MLB is also investigating and may sanction Bauer under the sport’s domestic violence policy.

“Let the balance between Bauer’s talent and his headaches be on the Dodgers’ heads,” I wrote when Bauer signed that three-year, $102 million deal with them. “The Dodgers may be deep enough that Bauer’s headaches wouldn’t make a huge impact, but they could leave the Dodgers with as many migraines off the field as their presence on it will leave for the rest the National League West, at minimum.”

If all Bauer gives the Dodgers now is a mere migraine, it would be a substantial improvement.

Wild rough sex is one thing. Forgive me if I have an impossible time believing that battering a woman like her head is a boxing gym speed bag, or giving her a back-door slider while she’s out cold, is any kind of erotic for either partner.

“One of the last text messages I sent him,” the lady’s filing said, “was, ‘I appreciate all of your offers to help, but the best way you can help me is to never do that to anyone else ever again.’ To this, Trevor responded, ‘I would never do anything to hurt anyone. That includes you’.”

What a guy.

The Mets add the unwritten rule-breaking Sisco Kid

Chance Sisco, Jose Berrios

Leave a man open turf, don’t whine when he accepts the gift.

“This is what I call taking a chance,” said Old Grumpy Elder. He called to tell me the Mets picked Orioles catcher Chance Sisco off the waiver wire, and he took no chances on missing the opportunity for a dubious pun.

I happened to spot the news courtesy of New York Daily News writer Deesha Thosar on Twitter just before Old Grumpy rang. I couldn’t resist asking whether she was tempted to cue up Johnny Mathis’s ancient hit, “Chances Are.” She hasn’t answered at this writing.

From the look of it, the Mets decided they needed either a spare part or someone to pick up some minor league depth slack. Sisco didn’t exactly make Baltimore people forget Elrod Hendricks or Rick Dempsey behind the plate. He’s not ugly, so he wouldn’t make them forget Andy Etchebarren, either.

Sisco is still considered a catcher with talent despite not having turned his minor league advancements into comparable Show deliverance. The Mets optioned him to Syracuse (Triple-A) for now. His wounding flaw in the Show: proneness to striking out, though it beats hitting into double plays. (He’s averaged 1.3 hits into double plays a year so far.)

“He was actually having a decent turn behind the plate when he got there this year,” I said. “He got into 21 games and started nineteen of them. He was actually three runs saved above the league’s average at his position.”

“Never mind the esoteric crap,” Grumpy snorted. “What’s his fielding average this year?”

“Seven points above his league average for catchers.”

“You’re kidding.”

“I’m serious. He’s fielding a thousand percent behind the plate this year and the league average for catchers is .993.”

“OK, yeah,” Grumpy said. Then I heard him snap his fingers. “Hey! Now I remember him. From three years ago. That game against the Twins. This guy’s gonna get the Mets into hot water if he pulls a stunt like that again.”

That was a reference to the April Fool’s Day 2018 game in which the Orioles were down 7-0 in the ninth and Sisco beat out a bunt for a base hit. Not because he’s any kind of road runner, but because the Twins were foolish enough to put an overshift on him to the right side of the infield.

The small details: Twins pitcher Jose Berrios was trying to finish a one-hitter and had one out in the ninth. Sisco’s a lefthanded batter. He’d also had the only Oriole hit of the game to that point. The Twins thought a guy who hit .181 and batted (according to Real Batting Average) a mere .364 was liable to go Yogi Berra on them.

So they left him enough third base-side real estate for a homesteader to build himself a five-bedroom mini-mansion. Sure enough, Sisco dropped the bunt there and was safer at first than a nursing baby.

Berrios and the Twins were steaming mad over it. Even after they finished the Orioles despite a followup unintentional walk and a line single up the pipe to load the pillows. It took a pop out foul behind the plate and a strikeout to do it.

“You blame them for being p.o.ed at him?” Grumpy asked, deadly serious.

“I don’t care if he’s bunting,” Berrios told reporters after the game. “I just know it’s not good for baseball in that situation, that’s it.”

I quoted that back to Grumpy. “The only thing worse,” he said, “would have been if Berrios was trying to finish a no-hitter.”

“Well, then,” I began, “who was the genius who told the Twins infield to leave the third base side unprotected?”

“Irrelevant,” Grumpy answered. “You ever heard of respect for the game? You ever heard of sportsmanship? You ever heard of fair’s fair?”

“You ever heard of all’s fair in love, war, and baseball?” I came back. “You don’t want your guy to blow a no-hitter or a one-hitter, you don’t leave the other guy territory that wide open. Then you’re begging for trouble.”

“C’mon,” Grumpy pleaded, “you know better than that crap. The Orioles were down 7-0. It’s not like they had a prayer left.”

“Did you forget that after Sisco helped himself to what the Twins offered on the house they loaded the bases with still only one out? Seems to me they had five prayers left at least—three on the bases and two more minimum coming to the plate.”

I heard Grumpy make a noise on the other end. I couldn’t tell if it was a snort, a grunt, a cough, or flatulence.

“Yes, his team was down 7-0,” I said. “But whatever happened to playing until the absolute last out? Since when do you just hand the other guys the finish to a one-hitter without making the best stand possible to push back and, you know, win?”

“Not the point,” Grumpy harrumphed.

“Horseshit,” I harrumphed back. “You really think Sisco was supposed to take that overshift as an April Fool’s joke and then thank the nice Twins for the laugh by hitting it right into that packed right side like a good little boy?”

“No fair,” Grumpy whined. “You’re quoting yourself.”

“So what?” I said with a short laugh. “You think I’m the first writer who ever quoted himself?”

Then I remembered Twins second baseman Brian Dozier’s postgame comments. I read them back to Grumpy: “Obviously, we’re not a fan of it. He’s a young kid. I could’ve said something at second base but they have tremendous veteran leadership over there.”

“Good for him,” Grumpy said.

“Well,” I said, “I still think it’s to wonder whether the Twins’ own tremendous veteran leadership thought for a moment that overshifting with a 7-0 lead against a sub-mediocre team’s sub-mediocre batter was less criminal than that kid seeing a big fat hole onto which to hit and doing just that. Who says even a bad team’s supposed to just roll over and play dead down seven in the ninth no matter what?”

“Winning isn’t everything.”

“What about not trying to win?” I countered. “Especially when the other guys are dumb enough to give you everything short of a gilt-edged, engraved invitation to make mischief?”

I can’t transcribe Grumpy’s answer in polite company. In impolite company, it would get him served a fist on rye with mustard.

Stickum up!

Jacob deGrom

Jacob deGrom sets an unexpected precedent: first pitcher searched under baseball’s new rulebook crackdown against that new-fashioned medicated (and otherwise) goo . . .

History won’t quite record Jacob deGrom as the first pitcher in baseball history to be patted down on or departing the mound. Rare as it’s been, it’s happened before. Still-living Hall of Famer Gaylord (K-Y) Perry, the late Hall of Famer Don (Black & Decker) Sutton, and the late Hall of Famer Whitey (The Chairman of the Board) Ford could tell you from experience.

But on Monday afternoon, deGrom was the first to be stopped, stood for inspection, and also ordered to open his belt as though he was a holding-cell suspect about to be placed on suicide watch.

The fact that he beat the Braves in game one of a doubleheader seemed incompetent, irrelevant, and immaterial.

Welcome to Day One of the Show’s official crackdown on that new-fashioned medicated goo. Purely by an accident of timing, deGrom’s Mets were due to host the Braves in the first of Monday’s games. Purely by the same accident, deGrom himself had the dubious honour of first come, first frisked.

It almost seemed a by-the-way kind of thing when the tall righthander spent the rest of his working hours deGromming as usual. He struck six Braves out in five innings, surrendered one two-out double in the fifth inning that was good enough to let him lure Pablo Sandoval, that early-season pinch-hitting sensation, into a pop out to third for the side.

While he was at it, deGrom speared a leadoff line drive back up the pipe in the third with a swipe of his glove that looked so effortless he might as well have been swatting a pestiferous fly.

It makes you wonder how insect repellant escaped entry on baseball’s contraband list.

“I’m only surprised the umps didn’t think about having his glove checked for Krazy Glue right then and there,” said my friend Kenny Keystone, long-retired sub-minor league infielder, who rang my cell phone right off—well, I can’t say the hook with a cell phone, can I?

Kenny blew up my phone the moment home plate umpire Ben May flagged deGrom down as he strode off the mound after punching two out of three Braves out in the first.

“You seeing this?” he hollered wildly.

“I’m seeing it, Ken,” I replied. “I’m not exactly believing it, but I’m seeing it.”

“Whaddya mean, you’re not exactly believing it?”

“Easy,” I said as the frisking began. “How many times has baseball government threatened a crackdown on this, that, or the other thing? How many times have those crackdowns amounted to, ‘If we catch you doing that again, we’re going to be . . . very, very angry at you’?”

Ken was about to answer when I cut him short. “Wait,” I said. “Here it is.”

There it was. DeGrom strode off the mound, and May flagged him down. It looked at first as though May tossed the last ball deGrom pitched in the inning to either one side or to third base umpire and crew chief Ron (Mea) Kulpa, whichever came first.

May said something illegible to lip readers watching on television. DeGrom waved his right arm away, flashing the kind of grin that in another time and another place might have been the grin of a guy whose well-timed hotfoot was about to explode right up the victim’s heel—not to mention his Achilles tendon and his calf.

Then Kulpa arrived. “Never mind the dental work, buster,” he seemed to say, “hand over the glove.”

Kulpa had his back on the camera view, but we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that too many indignant fans wouldn’t know the meaning of when real cheaters get caught on the spot and then cuffed and stuffed. He inspected deGrom’s glove almost as though he’d found the tape that fell off the lock at the Watergate.

The only thing missing was the Citi Field P.A. people cuing up and playing the famous theme from The Pink Panther.

“Glove, hat, and belt,” is what turned out to be the instructions to deGrom from the men in blue-black and gray. In the moment, if you weren’t in the ballpark, a half educated guess might have the exchange like this as deGrom handed his gear over:

DeGrom: Here. Nothing to see here, Ron.

Kulpa: Don’t tempt me to say you had nothing upstairs.

DeGrom: You’d have laughed your head off saying it.

Kulpa: Then you’d have been tempted to throw one at me upstairs!

DeGrom: Where it has plenty of room to bounce around?

I did say half educated. DeGrom’s not one of those guys who’s going to let a little thing like baseball’s government imposing and enforcing on-the-spot inspections and searches kill the mood.

For all anybody knows, behind that prankish looking grin of his deGrom was humming the theme to CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: “Who are you? Who? Who? Who? Who?”

Next, Kulpa moved a little to his right. Then, deGrom moved his right hand to the front of his almost non-existent stomach. And the next thing anybody saw, deGrom loosened his belt.

“Are you seeing that?” Kenny whooped. “Why the hell don’t they just have him drop his drawers right then and there while they’re at it?”

At the same moment, May moved left and deGrom had his hat back. After re-fastening his belt and accepting his glove back, too, deGrom moved to his own left, toward the dugout, and never once stopped grinning big and wide—except when he was laughing his own not-so-fool head off.

I had to laugh, too.

“Kenny,” I said, “You know better than me that if they drop his drawers there, it’s going to be tough to decide which is worse—the umps strip-searching a player right there on the field, or that Citi Field audience going you-know-what-shit nuts. And nobody will be able to tell if they’re going you-know-what-shit nuts because of the outrage of the strip search or because the women in the park think deGrom’s got the best legs in baseball.”

“If they were gonna frisk him and search him,” Kenny replied, “why the hell didn’t they just march him into the dugout, move him up against the wall, and pat him down the old fashioned way?”

“Because they were making history, too.”

“History?”

“Purely by an accident of timing,” I said, “deGrom’s the first pitcher to get searched for syrup, stickum, SpiderTack, or other kinds of blends we don’t even know were invented yet. Even if half of baseball world thinks half or better of the pitchers out there today spend as much time in their private laboratories as watching the videos of their most recent pitching turns.”

“Yeah?”

“Well,” I said, “May and Kulpa have become the first umpires to perform searches for syrup, stickum, SpiderTack, and other kinds of blends we don’t even know were invented yet.”

“Who cares about those guys” Kenny asked indignantly.

“I’ll name you two,” I said. “I’m willing to bet half deGrom’s salary that Joe West and Angel Hernandez are steaming mad because the Elysian Fields gods couldn’t bring themselves to arrange it so that one of them would be the first to approach some pitcher with a search warrant.”

Rookie Braves pitcher Kyle Muller was stopped and frisked likewise after working the bottom of the first. Over in Texas, Rangers starter Kyle Gibson and Athletics starter Frankie Montas got stopped and frisked after working each half of the second.

By then it was about as funny as a strip search warrant for a nudist colony. And who cared about them, anyway? They didn’t get to make history. The guy with the 0.50 ERA on the season after his day’s work was done did. He passed inspection with flying colours. Who says deGrom isn’t leading a charmed life this season?

“You can’t bet half deGrom’s salary,” Kenny shot back.

“It’d be the easiest $17.75 million I ever made.”

“I’m coming to Vegas on the morning plane,” he said. “I’ve got two words for you and I’m saying them to your face.”

“And what might those two words happen to be?”

“Stickum up!”

Is Alonso’s alarm a little sticky?

Pete Alonso

The Mets first baseman couldn’t care less which pitches have which syrup on the ball—he thinks, not implausibly, that there’s a larger ball-manipulation manipulation involved.

Just when you might have started thinking the sticky skirmish over pitchers and their new old-fashioned medicated goo was a mess as it was, here comes a new ingredient in the controversy. It may or may not stick, but it may or may not be entirely out of bounds, either.

Pete Alonso, the Mets’ slugging first baseman, doesn’t want the pitchers to be unstuck. More significant is his thinking as to why the balls themselves have been manipulated in recent seasons: nothing to do with the way the game’s played on the field, and everything to do with playing games with free agency.

“I think the biggest concern is Major League Baseball manipulates the baseball year in and year out depending on free agency class or guys being in an advanced part of their arbitration,” Alonso told a videoconference call including New York Daily News reporter Deesha Thosar, before the Mets met (and murdered) the Orioles in Baltimore Wednesday.

I do think that’s a big issue, the ball being different every single year. With other sports, the ball is the same, like basketball, tennis, golf, the ball is the same. That’s the real issue, the changing of the baseball. And maybe if they didn’t, the league didn’t change the baseball, pitchers wouldn’t need to use as much sticky stuff.

Alonso’s take doesn’t have hard, tangible evidence, but neither does Thosar dismiss him out of hand.

“It’s been widely believed that MLB has manipulated the baseball for years now, but the league is never forthright about it,” she wrote. “In 2019, the alleged juiced ball led to the highest home run rate in MLB history. This year, the league sent a memo to all thirty teams just before spring training, explaining that the ball would be altered this season to sail one to two feet shorter on fly balls hit over 375 feet. In other words, fewer home runs.”

“Forthright” and “baseball government” are too often about as synonymous as “celibacy” and “promiscuity.”

Back in 2019 the pitchers suspected and spoke up about the balls being “juiced.” This year the balls are supposed to have been de-juiced. Whatever they’ve been or not been this time around, enough pitchers are looking for every way they can think to control them when they throw them. That’s Alonso’s story, and if you’ll pardon the expression he’s sticking to it for now.

Thosar adds that Alonso’s “candid stance” doesn’t exactly jibe with MLB’s wants, either. Not just because the sport is about to unwrap what’s been speculated to be a firm crackdown on the pitchers’ sticky syrups, either.

“[T]hough it was already expected, it’s becoming all the more obvious that there will be a fight between the Players Association and MLB with the sport’s current collective bargaining agreement set to expire in just six months,” she reminds us. “Both sides have been publicly combative in recent years, and many around the league believe a potential strike could be in play.”

As though the owners were strangers to manipulating, undermining, or wrecking the free agency market before, you know.

Not those straightforward owners whose forebears abused the ancient reserve clause into making players chattel; forced a strike or two with harebrained ideas about compensation pools; colluded to suppress legitimate free agency markets; and, forced a truly ruinous strike (and a cancelled World Series) by trying to strong-arm players into stopping them before they over-spent, mis-spent, or mal-spent yet again. Not them.

Alonso admits he’s not thinking hard-line about the pitchers’ stickum, gripum, syrup, honey, wax, whatever,  because he’s even more concerned about batter safety at the plate—particularly after every Met player, coach, official, and fan had the daylights scared right out of them when Kevin Pillar took an out-of-control fastball right smack in the sniffer last month.

Even if you admit that the subtexts include too many baseball organisations hunting speed first and control on the mound almost as an afterthought, Pillar’s proboscis is only a fraction’s distance from the sport facing another Conigliaro tragedy—if not another Chapman one.

“I would rather [pitchers] have control,” Alonso told Thosar. “I don’t care what they use.”

For me, I use pine tar to hit. I have lizard skin, I have batting gloves. I have the most advantage when it comes to holding onto my bat. So I wouldn’t care. On our on-deck bag we have a pine tar rag, we have a pine tar stick, a special sticky spray with rosin. I mean you name it, we have it.

“I wouldn’t care if they had that behind the mound to help hold onto the ball, because when we start getting into these hotter months, guys start to sweat. And let’s say if they lose a fastball arm-side, I mean we all saw what happened to Kevin Pillar. That’s scary. We’re lucky that he only had a broken nose. It could be a lot worse depending on where it hits a guy.

It was a lot worse when Tony Conigliaro got hit in the eye by an errant Jack Hamilton fastball in mid-August 1967. A comeback or two to one side, Conigliaro was never really the same player again, his eyesight damaged for life—and we’ll never know whether continuing aftereffects of that drill led to the stroke that sent him into a coma for the last eight years of his life. (He died at 45.)

It was a lot worse than that when Ray Chapman got drilled and killed in a time when batters wore no helmets and pitchers were just about allowed to put anything on the ball they could think of—until the fear that an out-of-control Carl Mays spitter did the dirty work prompted a formal ban on spitters and other kinds of ball doctorings.

Which didn’t stop the mound’s Houdinis and Copperfields, of course. News flash: Various pitchers have continued looking for various edges—sometimes even using various edges—on their pitches all these decades since. Depending upon the atmospheres of enforcement, managers have either 1) let it ride because a few of their own men might be loading or scuffing; or, 2) called for immediate arrests and arraignments because . . . a few of their own might be subjects of sworn warrants.

Today’s honeyballers just might be the spiritual great-grandchildren of Hall of Famer Whitey Ford, whose late-career tricks and treats included a secret sauce of rosin, turpentine, and baby oil he said helped him grip his breaking balls better, har har. Depending on the depth and substance of the coming crackdown, today’s brewers won’t be too quick to plead the Ford defense: “Better ideas, driven by you.

Nobody among baseball’s government wants to admit to another dirty little secret: Among its other self-inflicted problems, the three-batter minimum for relief pitchers makes it impossible for a manager to get an out-of-control pitcher the hell out of there, before he does worse than Genesis Cabrera did to Bryce Harper and Didi Grigorius opening a relief inning back-to-back last month. Grigorius got it in the ribs. Right after Harper took one off his honker onto his wrist—and Harper hasn’t been the same hitter since.

Even a de-juiced baseball can still break a human beak.

Does Alonso have tin foil under his hat? Or, is he onto something substantial? He’s implied what The Athletic‘s Brittany Ghiroli comes right out to ask, then answer, in part:

[W]ho enabled the system that allowed these pitchers to cash in? Who decided to ignore the sticky stuff for years? Was the initial hope that the entertainment value — like performance-enhancing drugs — would perhaps translate into more eyeballs and excitement for the sport?

. . . The onus now, all of a sudden, is on upholding the integrity of the game. But what took so long?

Whatever new rules or regulations are put in place will be to enforce an existing rule. And while it’s easy to pile on the pitchers and pitching coaches and teams who knowingly broke the rules, the blame should not start there.

It should start with Commissioner Nero. Ever fiddling—with unneeded rules, with refusing to enable the needed one or two, with the baseballs themselves—while baseball burns.

Enough is way beyond enough, already

Jack Flaherty

Flaherty in discomfort after fouling off an outer-edge pitch in the sixth Monday. He grimaced with gritted teeth as he swung—and could face IL time with an oblique strain.

Bad enough: Someone had to drag it out of Jacob deGrom that his freshly-ended stay on the Mets’ injured list came because he strained his side while . . . swinging the bat. Worse, now: Jack Flaherty could miss a start at minimum for the Cardinals now that he’s got an apparent rib cage injury after he dinged it . . . swinging the bat.

As if the overall futility of pitchers swinging at the plate isn’t enough reason to implement the universal designated hitter. (Anyone who says deGrom with his .450 hitting average isn’t an outlier is either blind or willfully ignorant.) The injury risk isn’t just someone’s equally perverse fantasy.

Flaherty was pitching well enough against the Dodgers Monday evening when he batted against Trevor Bauer in the top of the sixth. He swung with a slight lunge at an outer-edge pitch on 0-1 and fouled it off, a clenched-teeth grimace very visible on his face as he swung. Then he hopped around the plate area in plain discomfort.

Cardinals manager Mike Shildt took no chances. After Flaherty struck out looking, Shildt lifted him from the game at once. With a 2.90 ERA, a 9.7 strikeout-per-nine-inning rate, and a 1.03 walks/hits per inning pitched rate, Flaherty is the one Cardinals starting pitcher above all whom Shildt cannot afford to lose for any length of time.

The good news was the Cardinals dropping a three-spot on Bauer in the inning: Justin Williams leading off with a home run off the right field foul pole; then, after Tommy Edman reached on a throwing error, Dylan Carlson hitting one over the center field fence.

The bad news was the Dodgers jumping the Cardinals bullpen for four in the bottom of the sixth to re-take the lead. Max Muncy’s one-out double against reliever Ryan Helsley was followed a base hit later by another Cardinal reliever, Genesis Cabrera, walking Cody Bellinger to load the pads, then walking Will Smith to re-tie the game at three, striking Gavin Lux out looking, but surrendering a three-run double on the fifteenth pitch to Chris Taylor before . . .

Well, now. What was that Thomas Boswell wrote two years ago about getting tired of watching rallies killed by the cop-out of pitching around competent number eight hitters to strike out the opposing pitcher? Cabrera put Dodger second baseman Zach McKinstry aboard and then struck Bauer himself out for the side. “In the AL,” Boswell wrote then, “you must pitch your way out of a jam, not ‘pitch around’ your way out of it.”

Flaherty’s batting injury threw a stone into Shildt’s gears. The righthander working in front of a hometown crowd had surrendered two runs on back-to-back solo bombs but checked in at the sixth-inning plate after wiping out eight straight Dodgers including one string of five straight strikeouts. Then Flaherty went from cruise control to road hazard with one swing.

Barring unforeseen circumstances there was no way the manager wanted to go that early to the bullpen that leads the entire Show with 120 walks this season. They’ve also walked more batters with the bases loaded (fifteen) than they’ve surrendered hits (fourteen) with ducks on the pond.

“I felt a little tightness, and it was more just felt we should check it out more than anything,” said Flaherty during a post-game press conference. “A little bit of tightness I felt, and thought it was something to bring up. More just to be safe . . . I’m sitting here just fine. I’ll get up out of this chair just fine. I’m moving around all right. I don’t ever leave games. I don’t ever come out of games. It was just something just wanted to check out.”

That’s his story, and he’s sticking to it, never mind that averaging five and two thirds innings per start this year he comes out of games, all right, just never during a working inning. He felt the little bit of tightness first while pitching the fifth. Then after swinging on that foul tick it looked like enough that Shildt decided enough was enough.

“The tightness is in the torso,” wrote the St. Louis Post-Dispatch‘s Derrick Goold, “and the concern will be that Flaherty has an injury to the oblique that could lead to a lengthy absence. He was being re-evaluated late Monday night, and it’s likely the team will have scans taken of his torso.”

If those scans show further damage than just a little tightness, it’s disaster for the Cardinals as well as for Flaherty. They’re in second place and half a game behind the Cubs in the NL Central despite the Cubs leading the Show with their current injured list population.

We’re not exactly talking about one of the great hitting pitchers here, either. Flaherty’s hitting average is .125 this season. Jacob deGrom he ain’t. Not on the mound, of course, as good as he is out there, but especially not at the plate.

The entire Cardinal pitching staff is hitting .070 this season to date. The team is fifteenth in Show for runs scored and runs allowed, but you might see them a little higher for runs scored if they didn’t have to waste plate appearances with those .070-hitting pitchers.

DeGrom’s Mets are rock bottom in the entire Show for runs allowed. They’re also at rock bottom for runs scored, alas. Think they might have a few more runs on the board if their pitchers didn’t have to drag their happy hides to the plate? The Mets’ pitchers are hitting .167 as of this morning’s stats. Remove deGrom and it wouldn’t be that high by a long shot.

You tell me which is more important to the Mets or any team—a .450-hitting pitcher who’s a too-obvious outlier among his breed? Or, a pitcher whose 0.71 ERA (with a 1.08 fielding-independent pitching rate) could hold up all season long and leave him in a league of his own? (DeGrom isn’t shown atop the leaderboards for ERA and FIP only because—with the Mets having played only 46 games, plus his IL turn—he’s pitched only 51 innings so far; or, just shy of seven innings a start.)

Commissioner Nero decided last year’s universal DH wouldn’t be this year’s at minimum. The issue will return to the table when the current collective bargaining agreement expires after this season. Some say the days of NL pitchers hitting will end there. Some say not quite yet. Those days deserve to end permanently at last.

From the end of the 20th Century’s first decade through the end of the 21st Century’s first decade, pitchers overall have hit .155. They’ve made Willy Miranda resemble Willie Mays. Do Nero and the chump contingent insisting that pitchers taking turns at the plate means “real” baseball need more evidence on behalf of ending the National League’s “traditional” refusal of the designated hitter? (Which really amounts to refusing an idea that was first hatched by one of its own owners before the turn of the 20th Century.)

Try just two items to start:

* Continuing regular-season interleague play makes a further mockery of that NL “tradition,” since pitchers have to bat when such games are played in the NL team’s park but NL pitchers get a breather at the plate when the games are played in the AL parks.

(Incidentally, 2020’s pan-damn-ically inspired irregular season was the first time the leagues tied in regular-season interleague play. Since the virus was introduced in 1997, the American League has fanned the National League’s behind: 3,315-3,047. The National League has led in interleague play only four times since 1997 and not once since 2003.)

* This season’s slash line at the plate for all Show pitchers as of this morning is .108/.145/ .140. The slash line for National League pitchers at the plate as of this morning: .107/.145/.137. Now, remove deGrom from the picture—the NL’s pitchers would be hitting .101.

Go ahead, call for continuing to send outlier deGrom to the plate for a lousy six-point hike in the pitchers’ overall hitting average. In a year where nobody can really decide what to think about offense and how declined it is in the first place.

In a year when deGrom has spent time on the injured list because of a plate appearance,  Flaherty is now in danger of spending likewise because of one, and Diamondbacks pitcher Zac Gallen is missing “weeks” due to an ulnar collateral ligament strain he first incurred during late spring training . . . taking batting practise.

You want to continue risking pitcher health through non-pitching injury? You really want to continue watching pitchers not named Jacob deGrom (or even further-outlying Shohei Ohtani—who doesn’t bat on his pitching days normally and damn well shouldn’t) wasting precious outs at the plate? You really want to keep watching rallies die when the opposing pitcher pitches around your good number eight batter to strike your pitcher’s ass out?

Be my guest. If “traditionalists” don’t care about exposing themselves as baseball bigots by rejecting real evidence on behalf of lamely-excused prejudice, neither do I.

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Situation update: Jack Flaherty did indeed hit the ten-day injured list Tuesday—with an oblique strain that may keep him out more than ten days or “just a couple of weeks.” Was it worth it for a foul tick followed by a called strikeout?