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Murph: I’m still dubious of Manfred’s pat down policy, but is there a silver lining?

© Tim Heitman | 2021 Jun 22

Had this Jock Blog been penned Wednesday morning, the flamethrower would have been out, and pointed directly at Rob Manfred’s expensive closet of suits.

An umpire had just massaged Max Scherzer’s sweaty scalp. Sergio Romo had dropped trou in Texas. It appeared all hell was breaking loose. Baseball Gone Wild. 

The mid-season decree to search players for foreign substances seemed impulsive, poorly-planned and arbitrary. Commissioner Manfred, the man who gave us such atrocities as the DH in the National League, a runner on second in extra innings and seven-inning doubleheaders, had done it again.

He royally screwed up.

Surely, there had to be a better way than to institute a mid-season pack of search dogs on pitchers. Seeing these hurlers get stopped and frisked brought me back to my high school days, when my nerdy self was hustling to math class, only to see in my peripheral vision some of the back parking lot stoners dutifully emptying their pockets at the behest of the aggressive vice principal.

I didn’t know what the better answer was, but surely it can’t be having Scherzer’s head rubbed down, could it?

And yet, this Jock Blog is being penned Friday afternoon.

And since the Great Scherzer Scalp Swab . . . no other incidents have broken out.

We’ve had two straight days of incident-free baseball, with no Miranda rights being read or lawyers being hired.

Moreoever, data shows spin rates plummeting. 

One would presume that would mean the plague of strikeouts and microscopic batting averages might trend toward the hitters, not the pitchers. More offense might mean more fun baseball, instead of this Three True Outcome Ball we now watch.

(An entirely different Jock Blog might surmise that it’s not Spider Tack causing the death of offense, but the front office mindset that embraces two-cheek, two-strike swings, the total refusal to hit like Tony Gwynn and the home run-or-bust mentality that gets hitters jobs now. But that’s for another day.)

So I can’t exactly turn the flamethrower on Manfred’s suit collection as forcefully as I would have two days ago, given that chaos seems to have calmed down.

A’s part-owner Billy Beane came on our show this morning and backed the frisking of pitchers, saying it needed to be done to control a problem. Farhan Zaidi said on TKB that the best pitchers will still find ways to get hitters out.

Still, I’m suspicious that this is the best way to enforce the rules. Mostly, I’m suspicious because I don’t trust Manfred on anything. I’m also discouraged that this could create an even larger chasm in the canyon of hatred that exists between players and management, with an offseason CBA still to be negotiated. 

Also — where is the immediate offensive surge? The Dodgers got no-hit Thursday night! The Rays darn near got no-hit Thursday night! And in the process of penning this, Aaron Nola of the Phillies just tied Tom Seaver’s MLB record with 10 consecutive strikeouts.

Much remains to be determined on this pat-down policy. I’ll believe it works when I see it work.

Manfred’s just lucky the last two days have been free of any pitchers’ heads being photographed and sweat sent to DNA labs. Otherwise, the Jock Blog would have asked to frisk and search Rob Manfred for any clue that he likes baseball, or cares about the optics of our great game.


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