A quick glance at the calendar on one's phone or computer will show that it is Thursday, April 5. That is exactly one week since the start of the 2018 Major League Baseball season. With seven days in the books, it's as good a time as any to run down the dumbest things we've seen in the first week.
Who better to do that than me, our resident dumb expert? Wait. Expert on dumb. That's better, though I've heard many times it's both, so if the shoe fits, why argue? I'm the dumb expert!
By way of reminder, this is a fun exercise in subjectivity. That is, the following includes my opinions. It's also for fun. If anyone gets angry, I hereby release all liability and this is an absolutely legally-binding paragraph. I watch lots of cop shows that have court scenes and I'm telling you, this is true. It's damn true.
Got all that? Good. Here are the dumbest things of the first week in MLB.
- People complaining about the new mound visit rule. Jeez, guys, you'll complain about anything, won't you? The flow of the game is better and the mound visits had become a crutch for the players. There's zero evidence that mound visits actually help pitchers get out of innings where they struggled and we saw several cases where pitchers worked out of messes without a visit.
- The weather. This is under the control of no one, so it shouldn't be ranked, but man, it's annoying to be so excited for baseball and already see a litany of postponements. , though, right?
- People on Twitter overreacting to everything, including each other. It's to the point now where the people going after the people overreacting are just as bad as the people overreacting. Wait. What? Nevermind. Moving on ...
5. Using pitcher W-L as primary indicator of performance
Yes, still. We'll be talking about this as long as a large swath of fans do it. This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the crap we've seen in just one week, but here goes:
- On Opening Day, Dylan Bundy worked seven scoreless innings with seven strikeouts and one walk against the Twins. The Orioles bullpen would blow the lead in the ninth, but then the Orioles still won. The win would go to Richard Bleier, who threw one inning. Bundy, by the way, only gave up one run in six innings against the mighty Astros on Wednesday but took a no-decision again, so he's 0-0 with a 0.69 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. Does he "just not know how to win?"
- On March 30, Johnny Cueto took a perfect game past the halfway point. He worked seven scoreless innings and only allowed one hit. The Giants would win 1-0, but they didn't score until the ninth, so Tony Watson got the win after his one spotless inning.
- On that same day, the Marlins topped the Cubs in 17 innings. Eddie Butler came in relief for the Cubs and was brilliant. He had gone 6 1/3 scoreless innings before taking the hill for the 17th. He got two quick outs before a line drive single and then a grounder with eyes ended his night. Cubs closer Brandon Morrow then gave up the game-winning hit and Butler took the loss. On the other end, Jarlin Garcia was unbelievable for the Marlins. He went six scoreless innings, but the Marlins won once he was out of the game, so Odrisamer Despaigne got the win for his 11 pitches of work.
- On Opening Day, Chris Sale worked six scoreless innings and left with the lead. The Red Sox bullpen blew the game. On April 3, Sale went five innings and allowed one run on five hits. The Red Sox won, but not until the 13th inning, so Sale is 0-0 with a 0.82 ERA, 0.81 WHIP and 12.3 K/9 through two starts.
We could do this all season. By all means, use the wins and losses in fantasy baseball, but they have no place in discussions about who the best pitchers are or in -- come late in the season -- Cy Young arguments. "A pitcher's job is to win" is archaic and wrong. His job is to put his team in position to win by keeping runs off the board, primarily, and that trickles down to missing bats and inducing weak contact.
4. The Pirates-Tigers overturn
My Pirates broadcast crew kept saying they just couldn't tell (because it wasn't clear; if anyone was biased it would be them), Comerica Park didn't have a good camera angle, the Tigers celebrated a walk-off victory only to have it overturned without a definitive look, Nick Castellanos would have easily been safe if he extended his legs when he should have on the slide, etc. Just all kinds of dumb here.. The entire replay time was way too long, the
On the flip-side, at least we got to see a nice on-field manager meltdown from Tigers skipper Ron Gardenhire. Replays have mostly eliminated those. I don't care if it was contrived. It was a nice throwback ejection.
3. The Gabe Kapler moves
Kapler is a smart guy. He likes to think things out and plan in advance. He also has a reputation for rubbing people the wrong way and he's off to a pretty terrible start with the Phillies.
First off, he sat one of his best players on Opening Day.
Herrera was said to be unhappy and who could blame him? Don't play matchups on Opening Day. Just play your best players. Before the season even started, Kapler rubbed one of his the wrong way.
Also, while planning is good, should an MLB manager really set his lineups a week in advance given the possibility of injuries, postponements (even for their opponents, which shakes up the opposing rotations) and a player maybe needing a day off to clear his head in the middle of an offensive funk? This isn't a video game.
During the opener, Kapler decided to lift ace Aaron Nola with a five-run lead and one out in the bottom of the sixth. Nola had thrown just 68 pitches. He was set to face the Braves' big guns the third time through the order and the stats say every pitcher gets worse from there. Again, Kapler was going straight by the stats and not looking at the situation as him being down two important relievers in Tommy Hunter and Pat Neshek -- not too mention how this would play with Nola if the bullpen blew the lead. It did. The Phillies lost.
Kapler had another gaffe in Game 2 () and then declared the Phillies would make the playoffs.
Quite the dumb start. Room for improvement, though, so there's that.
2. Booing Stanton
Of course, in the home opener, Stanton struck out all five times he came to the plate. A terrible performance for sure, and Stanton himself owned it. After the game, he said the job of cleanup man Didi Gregorius -- who had a whopping eight RBI in the game -- was to clean up the "garbage" in front of him, self-deprecatingly calling himself garbage.
Hell, the Yankees won the game with ease, too. So all was cool, right?
Nope. Stanton was booed after his fourth strikeout and after the fifth the boos were rather heavy, at least considering many fans had already left.
Man, how dumb. Your favorite team wins and you still have to go out of your way to boo one of your own players, who had a huge hand in winning the first game of the season? On April 3, with an 11-4 win and your favorite team sitting 3-2, you want to boo Giancarlo freaking Stanton?
I can just hear all the fake tough guys in the crowd, too, puffing out their chests and screaming about how that "might have been acceptable in Miami" but "THIS IS NEW YORK!"
Oh man, I'm dying laughing at that mentality. What a dumb way to fan. I think my favorite part of that mentality is the inherent suggestion that somehow booing Stanton will make him try harder and then, as a result, perform better. He won NL MVP last season with a largely indifferent fan base, but an overbearing fan base that will boo him for one awful game is somehow going to make him perform better. Sound logic. Hilariously, he hit a home run in his first at-bat the next day, so I'm sure the booing worked in the minds of the boobirds.
Yes, I realize Yankees fans pride themselves on being so much tougher on their players than everyone else. Yes, I realize once you've paid for a ticket you are free to boo with impunity. I strongly support both of those things. I also reserve the right to make fun of you for it. It's a two-way street I'm certain both sides are good with. After all, you New Yorkers can take it better than everyone else, right? You're tough!
Stanton didn't care. I'm sure the people who booed were proud of themselves. I thought it was laughably dumb.
1. The Twins and Buntgate
The Twins won over the Orioles on April 1, 7-0. Jose Berrios throwing a shutout in his first outing of the season should have been the story. It was a story. It wasn't the story, though, thanks to his teammates.
In the bottom of the ninth, Orioles catcher Chance Sisco stepped into the left-handed batter's box. The Twins put on the shift, expecting Sisco to pull and obviously wanting to keep Berrios' shutty intact. Sisco decided -- presumably because he's a professional baseball player -- he was going to put on his best effort to get on base and he bunted for a hit down the third-base line.
The Twins didn't think this was acceptable.
A group of adults being paid to play baseball had a 7-0 lead and their feelings were hurt because a player got a base hit by bunting against a shift they voluntarily employed. Think that through.
"When they didn't hold our runner on, they conceded to the fact they didn't want us to steal, so we didn't steal," Dozier said. "We could have very easily stolen and put up more runs, so therefore in return you don't bunt. That's what everybody is missing in this whole thing."
"Everyone just thinks, 'He's whining because they bunted against the shift,' " Dozier said. "That's how baseball is played. That's just how the game is played. That's just how it is."
"We all have our opinions on the shift and whether it's then OK to do that," he said. "My personal opinion is I think this is a perfect scenario: They weren't holding us on, so therefore don't bunt. That's where it starts. Other than that, you try to find a way to help your team win."
I like Dozier and he's been great the few times I've spoken with him in person. This is more an issue with baseball players as a whole and how they seemingly can't escape this feeling of constantly being aggrieved by the actions of the other team.
Notice how he thought that it didn't matter that the Twins were shifting (and, therefore, still trying to prevent hits), but Sisco still shouldn't have been allowed to bunt? He's bringing up a previous Twins runner not being held on, but his scenario is actually arguing the opposite. If the runner was being held on, the opponent is saying, "you can still steal," right? With the Twins employing a shift, they are saying "we're still trying, so you can still try and get on base via a bunt," right?
I think the most amazing thing about Dozier's doubling down was when he said "other than that." He's talking about Sisco, a rookie catcher, needing to worry about the feelings of his opponent before trying to help his team. Let's be real, too, by pointing out this is a rookie. He has to worry about more than his team winning. He has to perform as an individual in hopes to establish himself as a big-leaguer and carve out a career. You want him worrying about the opposing team's feelings when down 7-0, too?
That we're even discussing this is oh-so-dumb. A team was winning 7-0 and it won 7-0. Just play the game and quit worrying about stuff that just isn't that damn important.
Get outta here with that. MLB players are among the most mentally tough athletes in the world, but in the face of their so-called unwritten rules, they lose all sense of logic and mental toughness. Then it's all about how you didn't do things the way I wanted you to, so now I'm going to throw a temper tantrum and claim you violated the sanctity of baseball. Again, get outta here.
It's a very, very bad look.
And, yes, it's the dumbest thing we've seen so far in the 2018 season. More to come, I'm sure. When it happens, the Dumb Expert will be here to sort it out.