Winds of Change

Often during the late June/early July months, there isn’t real pressing news in the sports world. But here in 2021 the Winds of Change are Blowing
…on the baseball diamond, back in 2018 Trevor Bauer was sounding the alarm about teams/pitchers doctoring baseballs with the goal of increasing the spin rate. When spin rate increases, the pitches break sharper & later…a huge advantage for the pitcher. Then he singled out the Asstroes for their use of this “technique” at that time. At that moment, most fans brushed him off about the Houston team only to find out months later of their extreme, advanced cheating behaviors. He added, “If you just look the other way and you let some people do it, the people who chose not to do it are at a competitive disadvantage”
….still the winds of change blew last year as Bauer again pointed out again that the “tacky” materials made the baseball “move” more than it would normally. “But eight years later, I haven’t found any other way [to increase the spin on my fastball] except using foreign substances,” Bauer wrote. “Baseball will never address that problem unless it has to, though, because I would guess 70 percent of the pitchers in the league use some sort of technically illegal substance on the ball. It’s just that some organizations really know how to weaponize that and some don’t. The Astros are super advanced analytically and they know how to weaponize it.”
… Some pitchers– Bauer for one, Gerrit Cole for another, have parlayed their success..albeit aided by substances…into monstrous contracts. Each has unusually high spin rates.
…this “issue” has been around for a long time. Historically in the MLB, certain substances were accepted (like rosin, sunscreen, even pine tar) which improved the grip & the control of the pitches. Batters didn’t mind since they wanted pitchers to have control of their 92-100mph fastballs. Certain pitchers, Gaylord Perry jumps into mind, went through a long, but quick , sequence of touching several parts of their uniform, arms, hat, etc. Many seemed to think that he was “using” something.. some thought that it was an act to distract the batters…or both.
…this year however, things elevated in the “doctoring” world. Using tacky material improved spin rates. The higher the spin rate, the more the baseball “moves”. ESPN’s Jeff Passan points out that the average four-seam spin rate in MLB has jumped by 79 rpm since 2015, while the average rpm for sliders, curveballs and cutters have increased by a measure of between 200 and 350 per pitch. Further, the use is increasing around the league. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes notes that Bauer’s 2,438 rpm average spin rate in 2018 (prior to his spike) ranked 11th at the time but would only rank 27th in 2021. (Similarly, Bauer’s 2322 rpm average four-seam fastball spin in 2018 ranked 24th, but that mark would come in just 61st this season). The more aggressive adopters of foreign substances have benefited at an increasingly disproportionate level.
…These winds of change have blown up due to the dismal batting in the MLB. MLB has seen 7 no-hitters in 2021; a league batting avg of .238 (lowest since 1968—2nd lowest since 1871!!); the highest strike out rate –8.93 in the history of the game! Sooo…change …immediate change.. blew in … NOW the MLB feels like steps have to be taken. Umpires, this week, began inspecting the pitchers at the start of the game and at the end of each inning. Why not prior to the inning…not after it? Let each umpire rotate doing it. Each person being different may have a slightly “different” touch.
…currently, if “caught, the player is suspended 10 days but no loss of pay! This seems ridiculous! Soooo…this hurts the team, not the player. From where I sit, the player should be suspended AND lose his pay for 10 days. Further, the team should not be able to replace him on the roster. Jim Edmonds made some terrific points in last nights game. Players respond best when you hit them in the wallet.
…I do think that….even when stadiums are reopened fully….attendance will be down. Couple reasons….fans have found other interests in the past year AND the game is not very entertaining right now with the snail-like pace of the game, all time high in strikeout rate, length of game, etc.
…The MLB isn’t the only place that winds of Change are blowing. The NCAA will be changing dramatically due to a recent Supreme Court ruling. The Court voted 9-0 (when was the last unanimous vote in the Supreme court?) that the NCAA may NOT place limits on education-related benefits received by athletes for playing college sports. This landmark decision, led by Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s opinion, would push aside the current NCAA model in favor of a model that compensates athletes. About 4-5 years ago, I proposed in one my blogs that athletes should be treated as entertainers. Don’t play the pretend game that they are “regular” students. It’s commonly agreed upon that in the major conferences, at different levels, some, maybe many, of the star athletes “work” in the classroom while being strongly supported by tutors, assistants, varied schedules, courses that lead to a “general Ed” degree.
…it appears that conferences will now go independently in shaping their regulations. The Power 5 conferences, who have increasingly increased in their power in football, will increasingly set the standards. It appears that the other conferences may not walk exactly the same path primarily due to the financial differences of the Power 5 & all the others.
….Mizzou is in the strongest of the Power 5 conferences-SEC. Will Missouri be able to afford all the new “benefits” for the athletes? Currently there are a total number of 659 student athletes who participate in varsity sports at the school, 344 of whom are male and 315 are female. Sports-related student aid is available at Mizzou and the average award is around $18,795 per athlete. It’s just under $12.4m for the athletes with $119m for the Athletic Budget. On the other hand, maybe Mizzou will be better placed in the SEC to enrich their athletic department. Clearly, the winds of change are blowing in college athletics with more changes on the way.
…the Winds of Change may “brew up a storm shortly” if the Cards don’t change. Dropping both games in Detroit against the last place…oops …2 wins moved them to 4th place. This series began the softest 12 games of the Cards schedule (Tigers-2 games; Pitt-4 games; D-Backs-3 games; Colorado-3 games. None of those teams are above 4th place in their division. If the Cards continue to stumble in the next 10 games, I think the “winds of change” will blow into the Cards administrative & coaching staffs.
….Don’t forget to “catch up” on former blogs on bobryansportsblog.com or on Facebook for the latest few blogs. YOUR thoughts are always invited on Facebook! Thanks for the read! Bob

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