It’s time to debate the future of baseball – New York Post

To weigh in on the present and future of baseball, The Post organized an All-Star panel of players past and present, an MLB competition committee member and two Hall of Fame voters. Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson, Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia, YES broadcaster David Cone and Mets general manager Sandy Alderson joined The Post’s Joel Sherman and Ken Davidoff to discuss all things baseball:

Pace of play

JOEL SHERMAN: Pace of play feels like the biggest issue of 2017. Because the commissioner has been concentrating on it so much. He so badly wanted to implement new stuff in the CBA, but to get the CBA done, it wasn’t — there wasn’t big stuff included. So why don’t we start there, on pace of play, mound visits? The game — the commissioner is concentrating on this, and we are now at the longest game in history. It’s backwards. It’s the bizarro world. The more he works on it, the longer the game goes. Sandy, you’re on the competition committee. Can you throw out some ideas you think should be implemented, and could be implemented without fundamentally changing the game?

SANDY ALDERSON: Well to give you a little history, I was at Major League Baseball back in 19 … or, 2003-4. The average time of game was about 2:45, 2:46. The average time of game now is about 3:05, this season. So, we’ve added 20 minutes. Some of that is due to replay, I think, but certainly not all of it. To me, the most fundamental change that we can make, that will have the sort of least disruptive effect on most players, is the pitch clock, play clock, whatever you want to call it. The average time per pitch, I don’t want to get too technical, is 23 seconds. If we had a pitch clock of 20 seconds, and you cut three seconds off each pitch, there are about 290 pitches per game, you do the math — that’s 14 or 15 minutes. So, just by nudging a little bit on that time per pitch, we can get all that time back without fundamentally altering the game in ways that pitchers have got to throw to three hitters, et cetera, et cetera. We don’t have to make those kinds of significant, fundamental changes to the game on the field if we just address this pace, and I actually think a clock would make it happen. It’s happening at the minor league level, it’s had a big impact, a lot of guys, about 40 percent of the pitchers now, have pitched under a clock at the minor league level, who are now at the major league level. So, I think it’s doable.

SHERMAN: So it’s fascinating because, if you talk to anybody who covers minor league baseball, scouts, they talk about the fact that it doesn’t feel intrusive, but the game moves a little quicker. So I would want to ask the two guys who, sitting before us, have thrown more than 6,000 major league innings: What would you think if there was a clock behind you? Would that bother you or, do you think it’s an important thing to implement?

CC SABATHIA: I think it’s important. I don’t think it would bother me. I think, I try to work fast anyway, for my fielders, to try to move the game along, so, I don’t think it would bother me. I don’t know about you Coney.

DAVID CONE: I take exception to the pitcher’s clock. It should be a hitter’s clock. [Laughter] The hitters stepping out of the box and all the routines, and a lot of time, hitters use that time to disagree with a call, with the umpire. That’s how they show their displeasure and they’re displeased with the call. You watch Aaron Judge, he never takes a step out of the box. He keeps his back foot right there the whole time, maybe steps out with one foot. I mean to me, the hitters have to cooperate with the pitchers on this one.

Baseball games are getting longer and longer. What can be done to pick up the pace?

SHERMAN: Curtis, you’re a hitter. So, I would ask two questions here, because you’re also very involved with the Players Association. Number one: What if the hitters were told, one foot in the box the whole time, no wandering, even if you disagree with a call, you get a curveball, you swing and miss, no wandering around to think about it? And number two: They were trying to push, this time, through for a clock. Why didn’t it happen and do you think it could happen in further negotiations?

CURTIS GRANDERSON: I think there were just inconsistencies, you can see it right now. Talk about the replay clock, we have the clock up there, and then it’ll tick to zero, and they still get an opportunity to challenge it. So we’ll say ‘Hey, the clock went to zero,’ and they’ll say ‘Well, that’s kind of up there,’ and it’s like, why have the clock then? I remember even, in the Arizona Fall League, in 2004, they were putting in the rule of, you couldn’t step out of the batter’s box with two feet. I just did it, I don’t even remember what it was, stepped out with two feet, umpire stepped in front of the plate and said ‘strike.’ I got confused what was going on, cause it was the first time it happened. I normally never step out, like Judge does, but for some reason, I just stepped out with two feet. I don’t know if it was something in my eye or whatever it was, and I had a strike put on me. No warning, nothing like that. So as long as it’s just, better transparency of exactly what’s going to happen, when it’s going to happen, how we need to do it, I think it can, slowly be introduced. But as long as it gets fine-tuned before we bring it to the big league level, I think it has a chance to do so. And then, playing behind guys like CC, I love it when guys work fast. It makes our job a lot easier behind there, when they’re taking more time we kind of slow down a little bit too, so when I got a chance to play behind CC, I was all for it.


Curtis GrandersonNew York Post

SHERMAN: We actually have a term in our game: to stall. In 2017, when everybody’s attention span is [snapping fingers] ‘Come on,’ we can’t stall. Can you mention this, are some attempts — and everybody’s making fun of like, the four-pitch intentional walk is implemented this season. Do you think this is something like, if there was a pitch clock, the intentional walks and maybe one other thing, everyone would get the idea, and you wouldn’t have to implement 30 things because everyone would just be moving quicker?

KEN DAVIDOFF: I think that Joel and I think that Sandy mentioned, just that pitch clocks are already in play in the minor leagues. You hope that these pitchers grow up and are just used to that. They don’t need the clock, they just naturally work that hard. I have to say, I hope they bring back the intentional walk, no offense to the two pitchers. That’s not dead action, that’s live action. I mean, you know, pitchers who struggle to throw it, that’s a real thing, that’s much different than a …

CONE: Happens once a year, somebody air-mails one …

DAVIDOFF: Yeah, that’s different than a mound visit. The ball is live. So bring that back and do this other stuff.

Umpiring

SHERMAN: Do you think robot umps are coming, and should be used for uniformity? Kenny, I would go to you on robot umps, and I’ll ask the pitchers in specific about raising the strike zone.

DAVIDOFF: Yeah, I’ve advocated for robo-umps. I do think —I know back in the day it was charming. I think it was, might have been Roger Angell’s book “The View,” where Ron Darling was quoted — oh, it was a book on umpires — but Ron Darling was quoted ‘Oh, I would prepare for my start that day and who’s behind the plate today? OK, whoever it was. All right, I know his strike zone,’ but I think that time has passed. I think now with replay and with all the social media, we want those calls to be right and if there’s an apparatus in place to have uniformity, I’m in favor of it.

Robot umpires: The cure for the strike zone or a bit of science fiction?

SHERMAN: CC, you’ve got to throw the ball, still, towards that plate. Would you like it raised, and would you like the thing behind home plate to be a human being or a robot?

SABATHIA: I mean, I think they tried to raise the strike zone a couple of times — right? — and we can’t get it right. No, I mean, I just want the strike zone to be universal, like if I throw a pitch right here I know it’s a strike. Sometimes you don’t get that, so I think it’s — I don’t know what the solution is or what you could do but I would like it to be, I know when I throw a pitch in a certain spot, it’s a strike every time. And you don’t get that now. So, I don’t know if it would be robot umps — that K-zone is not the solution, obviously.


CC SabathiaNew York Post

SHERMAN: Do you feel the same way as a hitter? The one thing I say is, if they could get robo-umps perfect, and who knows if they can or can’t, you would have that. The strike zone would always be uniform. And, like it or not, today that’s gonna be a strike 100 percent of the time. I think we forget also, the umpires, you take a look at Curtis and you’re playing at 100 degrees at 100 percent humidity, you’re gonna wear down. What’s the 58-year-old guy behind home plate who’s gotta call 300 pitches today, like, what strike or ball is he calling in the seventh inning? So, I wonder, the hitter’s view.

GRANDERSON: I remember Vernon Wells, he made a comment, he got the chance to meet with the umpires a few years ago, and they said ‘Hey, we’re getting 90 percent of the calls correct.’ That sounds great, you know, you get 90 percent on a test, that’s an A. But if you look at over the course of a game, our pitchers, our pitching staff throws 150 pitches, their pitching staff throws 150 pitches, that’s 300 pitches. That means they miss 30 of them. Over the course of the game, if they give CC 30 more strikes, CC’s never gonna lose, right? That’s hard for us to hit if you’re missing 30 more pitches over the course of a game.

SABATHIA: It don’t matter what they do to it, as long as it’s consistent. If you guys make an adjustment, we’ll make an adjustment, like, it’s just gotta be the same.

ALDERSON: I actually think if technology is available, we need to use it, because it’s like putting your head in the sand if you don’t. The rest of society is using it in a variety of ways and we ignore it because we have this traditional approach to the game. So I think we need to use it, but I also think we need to recognize the limitations of technology. The reason there’s a two-inch buffer on either side of the plate is because the technology is only good to about two or three inches. If it were perfect, we wouldn’t have the two-inch buffers. I’m against robo-cops … er, robo-cops, robo-umpires …

SHERMAN: I’m definitely against robo-cops.

Entertainment

ALDERSON: I would allow managers to argue balls and strikes.

SHERMAN: Cause the game isn’t slow enough?

ALDERSON: No, because the game isn’t as entertaining as it could be.

SABATHIA: Yeah.

ALDERSON: The first manager I ever had was Billy Martin. And, he would put on a show like, weekly at least, in his discussions, arguments, confrontations with umpires. It was part of the theater of the game. We’ve lost that. I saw Joe Girardi try to do it the other day. It was an attempt. It was, it was Martin-like in ways, but our arguments are so harmless. They never lead to anything. But they’re fun to watch. So, anyway, I would keep the umpires and I would actually allow managers to argue balls and strikes. Why? Because it’s the only thing left to argue with replay, and I’m very much in favor of replay. I’d be surprised if the players didn’t think “Yeah, we want to get the play right.” You want the pitch right, called right, you want the play right. And, even if we lose because a call is overturned, as long as it was the right call, I’m all for that.

SHERMAN: I do think one of the big issues of this game right now is: Is it an entertaining game in 2017? Is it slow moving, is it caught in a different generation, we’re dealing with bat flips, et cetera. Kenny, what would you do to make the game more exciting? And, this is essentially a television question, right? They’re kind of the masters both nationally and locally with places like YES that really supply the money in the game.


Bryce HarperAP

DAVIDOFF: Yeah, that’s a great question, Joel. And I kinda think it ties into off-the-field stuff and —you guys can speak to this better than I can — but just promoting the game more, and it’s so hard to promote baseball the way the NBA and NFL does, cause you guys play every day. You get the rare off day and we really appreciate you coming in, but I’m sure you just want to rest. But the NBA plays three days a week, so LeBron can film his commercials and Curry, but I think that, actually, if you could make the personalities more compelling, I think that will kind of take care of the game itself.

SHERMAN: Yeah, well, as CC knows, I talk to him about baseball like 40 percent of the time and the NBA 60 percent of the time. Like, Russell Westbrook could be a big star in Oklahoma City. The biggest star in our game is probably Mike Trout — he plays in Southern California, not L.A. I think you could walk down most streets and nobody would know who he is, everybody will know who Russell Westbrook is. What could be done to make players either more accessible, more popular, or make the game more popular?

SABATHIA: Well, in the NBA, as far as commercials and stuff like that goes, the NBA, they use all their stars in the commercials: the kid commercials, the State Farm commercials. Everything that’s like sponsors of the NBA are the big stars. So maybe if we get Mike Trout and some of our big sponsor commercials, those are national spots and more people will recognize him. I think as far as the game goes, as far as excitement, bat flips or WBC, the way people run out of the dugout on a home run — I love that. You know, it’d be hard to do that over 162, but I love the energy and excitement. This WBC this year was the most exciting by far because of the passion. And I think if we can get some of that back and people not flip out about bat flips, or guys pimping home runs or things like that. If I strike you out, and I want to yell or say something to my dugout, then you know, it’s not showing you up, you know, it’s just excitement and I think that we need that in the game, and I don’t mind it at all.

SHERMAN: Curtis, I’m wondering if you could piggyback on that, because I think if we were doing a film for someone who plays the game “right,” you would be in the documentary. You don’t style, you don’t do all this. You OK with the opposing team — you’re standing in center field, somebody hits a homer, stares it down, flips the bat?

GRANDERSON: Think about this: We all played at a young age, started at Tee-Ball, Little League. If you go to a Tee-Ball, Little League game, the kids are making noise, the whole game. It’s OK. You get to high school, they get louder. You get to college, they get even louder. Then you get to pro ball and they tell you to stop doing all that. Can’t come out, can’t celebrate, can’t do any of this, can’t do any of that. But every level we played prior to that, you’re able to do that. It’s OK. We make noise, we cheer, we celebrate, we do all these great things when things go well. But then at the big league level, that’s not the way it’s supposed to be done. All of a sudden, it gets changed a little different. Not sure why that is, until you get out of the United States. You go to the Dominican and Venezuela and Japan, any of these other markets, again they celebrate when big things are happening, so why not continue to do that if that’s a part of it? If you don’t like it, if CC doesn’t want the guy to bat flip then what is he gonna do? I’m gonna try to strike you out.

SABATHIA: Yeah, strike ’em out. That’s the quickest way to solve that problem.

Is baseball doing enough to market its stars?

SHERMAN: Sandy, I wonder if I could bring you back to promoting the game a little bit. Just as something interesting that caught my attention. So Time magazine does a thing every year on the 100 most influential people. Over the last 10 years, not one baseball player has been in the top 100. The only baseball person is Theo Epstein. The last time a baseball player was in it, 2007, and I could give everyone 1,000 guesses and they wouldn’t come up with Chien Ming-Wang as the guy who was most influential. This is a list with people from individual sports — Serena Williams, but also you know, LeBron, Kevin Durant, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning. Why isn’t Curtis Granderson and CC Sabathia on this list?”

ALDERSON: Well, first of all, I would distinguish influential from popular, OK? I mean, influential sounds like I got a former corporation and I have a clothing line, and I’ve got to do a bunch of other things. So, I can’t really speak to that. On the other hand, what I really enjoy is diverse personalities. I think as some of the teams, I found the most interesting and the most memorable are the ones that had these diverse personalities. When we were in Oakland, we had Dennis Eckersley, Dave Stewart, Dave Parker, Canseco, McGwire — totally different, everybody had a different personality. Some were straight, “Hey, act like you’ve done it before,” other guys really enjoyed themselves, Dennis Eckersley. And I think that, it’s the counterpoint that these different personalities provide. So I think what we have to do in the game is not stifle enthusiasm. I think enthusiasm is infectious. It’s what Grandy was talking about, at the Tee-Ball level. It’s what keeps kids coming back, is that sense of enthusiasm and excitement and, to the extent that we stifle that I think that we do a disservice to the game. I go back to arguing with umpires: Hey why not? It’s harmless. But it’s part of, it’s another sort of, signpost of the enthusiasm and passion that people have for the game.

SABATHIA: I used to always tell him, we had a ballgame, man, “Pimp that a little bit.” He’d always put his head down, I’m in the dugout, I’m excited just watching my teammate hit a homer. So I want to see it. I really do love and enjoy the passion of when guys get excited. Like with the walkoffs, if you watch walkoffs back in the day — I watched a highlight of Jete and everybody just slapping hands like, I want to be at the plate jumping around. We invest so much time, you become family and you’re all pulling for one goal. You want to win and when you do it in exciting ways, you want to be excited.

CONE: There’s one thing we’re kind of overlooking compared to other sports here, it’s gotta be the shoes. You know, we have all these NBA players that are promoted by companies that are selling product. And you don’t see a lot of kids walking down Fifth Avenue in spikes. There’s just nothing to sell in terms of product.

SHERMAN: Would you take out uniformity then? Would it be OK for a flashy player like Cespedes to wear like, he can wear whatever cleat he wants?

SABATHIA: It’d be awesome.

SHERMAN: Yeah, like you might not buy that in a cleat, but you would buy it in a sneaker.

CONE: It’s possible, but you’re talking about major companies developing product lines and the cost associated with that. Yeah, is it potentially possible? Yes, it is. But as of now, NBA players have two agents. One for their shoe contract — which they make more on that —and then one for their salary-capped, limited, on-the-court salary.

ALDERSON: You know, I think Major League Baseball recognizes this issue, and is becoming a lot more liberal in terms of uniform violations and things of that sort. A lot more special events, I know, with the Mets, we got these crazy socks now that show the New York skyline. You know, where did those come from? And where would they have been 10 years ago? They would’ve been in somebody’s drawer and a bad idea.

Performance-enhancing drugs

SHERMAN: I wanted to talk about performance-enhancing drugs a little bit. The ability to go from 88 to 92 and 92 to 95, or hit a ball farther. You know … the testing is done more. There’s 12,000 blood and urine tests being done in 2017, that’s up by over 3,500 from 2016 as part of the new CBA. And yet, we’re getting players busted for steroids — I mean, somebody was using winstrol. I was on the finish line in 1988 when Ben Johnson won the gold medal — that’s what he was taking, it was the first time I had ever heard that word. And, we’re using old fashioned, Eastern European drugs, which makes me wonder: Are we doing better, or are we doing worse, Ken?

DAVIDOFF: I think the reality — and I’m the clear outsider in this room, this is the outsider’s perspective — is that there’s always going to be this. I mean, Commissioner Selig did a lot of great things, but I think he was mistaken in thinking, “We have eradicated this from the game.” We clearly have not — I think Commissioner Manfred has been more realistic about it — it’s always going to be there. All you can do is put in the best possible testing. I think the testing has improved leaps and bounds from the times that CC started and then Curtis started, but clearly the chemists are always ahead of the testers, right? So it’s a constant spy versus spy game.

Performance-enhancing drugs remain a part of baseball. Are the penalties strict enough?

SHERMAN: These are uncomfortable questions, so I’ll throw it out to the three players, whoever wants to jump into it. On one hand, I sense that clean players are really upset when somebody’s cheating — it’s your livelihood, it could be keeping somebody out. On the other hand, when somebody comes back from a suspension, they’re taken right back into the family, they’re protected, as opposed to maybe … I mean, I don’t want to take a guy out and completely ostracize him, but the ability to speak out even against a teammate.

GRANDERSON: I think fans even do it as well. I mean, all of a sudden, you hear them getting booed for a player and then they blast him, when they find out this person cheated, then that person comes back and they’re cheering him they’re rocking his jersey, they’re doing all these different things. So it’s happening across the board. For whatever reason, I think a lot of people just want to know you did it, and “We caught you, OK great now we can move on.” So, I think from the outside, that’s what a lot of people feel, whether you admit it or we gotcha, ‘Now, OK, we’re good. Let’s go on to the next thing and come back and help our team win. That’s all we want to see you do.’ From a player’s standpoint, we understand that guys make mistakes, you know we’re all human and none of us, by any means, have ever been perfect and never will be. So if someone does something like that, obviously it’s something that you never want to see happen, you never want to see someone close to you — whether it be a friend or a teammate, something like that, and you take it as a mistake and move on. He served his time, and now it’s “Come back and get ready to play baseball.”

SHERMAN: Should we be tougher? Should there be tougher penalties? To Kenny’s point, I don’t know that we can ever get to zero. But can we get closer to zero by being tougher?

SABATHIA: I think we should be tougher. I definitely think it should be, you know, you get caught, maybe a year’s suspension. I don’t know what it is now, whether you get half a season [80 games]. I mean, it needs to be tougher, I think because with some people it’s still worth the risk. If you can do this, and improve your performance and, you know, improve your numbers — maybe you get caught and still come back and get a contract.


David ConeNew York Post

GRANDERSON: Or get caught during your contract.

SABATHIA: Or get caught during a contract, so it’s still …

SHERMAN: And you’re only losing the pay during your suspension …

SABATHIA: It’s still kind of worth the risk. Right now it does. So I think, I think it needs to be tougher.

SHERMAN: Coney?

CONE: Well, I mean the notion that performance-enhancing drugs isn’t woven in the fabric of the game for a century is just not true. Amphetamines, red juice, certain players back in the ’50s. I mean there’s — I won’t mention any names — I mean there’s always been some sort of performance enhancing. Everybody’s looking for something. They always have been. Ty Cobb, I’m sure was looking for something, for an edge. The problem is now, the something’s a lot better than what the old something used to be and record books and home run records certainly were compromised.

SHERMAN: Sandy, I wonder, as somebody who has to manage players, and decide, often, who gets paid or not, do you worry, when you sign a player to a long-term contract, have you heard like “You know this guy’s performance was x and then became y. We’re signing him because of y. His fastball got better or whatever. Should we be doing this, and he’s gonna jump off the stuff, and then I’m gonna have, the previous version of him.”

ALDERSON: Yeah, I think front offices do worry about performance levels — changes in performance levels — and what that means for a long-term commitment. It’s one of the things that — it’s only one of the things — that we worry about in long-term commitments. It’s not just about performance-enhancing drugs, it’s about a host of other things, just the nature of the game and so forth. But, from my standpoint, to go back to what Grandy said, you know, there’s the institutional need to have discipline and punishment and policy about a variety of things, including performance-enhancing drugs.

Injury Epidemic

SHERMAN: It’s stunning in this age, where I think if you walk into any clubhouse — and Sandy I think you probably have the numbers on this — four or five guys per staff have had Tommy John surgery. And, Coney I’d ask you this question, is: It’s costing millions of dollars on the DL, it’s influencing careers, it’s affecting seasons, it’s affecting players who never make it to pro ball because they’re going out early. Any thoughts on dealing with an epidemic?

CONE: So many variables involved, it’s hard to pinpoint one. Certainly travel ball, private lessons, the kids who have access to those kinds of situations, and that advantage, probably are getting used more. I played three sports in high school, you know. When it was baseball season it was time to pick up a baseball and when it’s time you put the baseball down, so, you know maybe that’s part of it. Usage, certainly technique, pitchers have learned how to train and throw the ball harder, with more velocity, more relief pitchers than starters probably, but there’s so many variables involved it’s hard to pinpoint one and say, “Do this, don’t do that.”


Sandy AldersonNew York Post

SHERMAN: CC, we’ll do this — knock on wood — your arm in particular for, as hard as you threw as a young player, you’ve stayed healthy. Is it genetics? Is it luck? Is it that you’re playing a lot of sports growing up?

SABATHIA: Obviously I played a lot of sports, I played three sports growing up, like coming up all the way through, through high school, And I think when I was a young player with the Indians, they put a pitch limit on me when I was early: 80 pitches. And that stuck with me all the way through, halfway through my second year in the big leagues. So I was in the big leagues only throwing 80 pitches and I think that kind of set me up and kind of helped me to get to where I am today with no arm injuries. But I have a 13-year-old who’s talking about youth usage and stuff. I only let him pitch once every other weekend and that’s three innings at a time. I just felt like if he grows up and is going to be a pitcher, obviously I know because all you gonna do is throw a baseball for the rest of your life. You might as well go play other positions and try to go learn how to play the game that way, so I think it’s just over-usage with kids and travel ball and I see some of these kids — and I’m not gonna say anything — but I see some of these kids pitching every weekend, it just makes no sense to me, the way some of these kids are getting used and it’s just unfortunate. But for me, myself, I think it’s just the way I was handled, you know, as a young player with the Indians. I think they put a good plan together for me, and it’s worked out for me.

GRANDERSON: I think the over-usage is big, lack of multiple sports is big, I played three sports just like these guys. I remember talking to a high school team two years ago, and the kids were asking me: “When did you start practicing baseball?” I said, “Once basketball season ended.” They go, “You didn’t go to any lessons, you didn’t hit in the offseason?” No, my first time picking up the baseball bat was time for baseball practice. That was it, I think that definitely helped out a lot in terms of maintaining, keeping you fresh, switching and using different muscles. I also met with a family — they were 12 years old — and they were asking me “Which league should my son play in?” One was 80 games, one was 100 games. I say, let’s get this correct: When I signed my contract, at the age of 21, my short season was 74 games. I got paid to do that. Your son’s 12 years old, he’s got to play more games than I got paid to do?

Relief pitchers are so effective now, is it damaging baseball?

SHERMAN: Sandy, you have to deal with roster management and payroll. That’s all affected by this, and we hear the word more and more in the game now, which is sports science — trying to figure out where these injuries are coming from. Just as someone who has to manage it all, do you have some larger thought on these injuries?

ALDERSON: Yes. Sports science is kind of an oxymoron in a way, as everybody has pointed out, it’s difficult to put your finger on, you know, what’s going on. In the way of a positive, if you go back 10-15 years, or 20, it was rotator cuff. And, you hear very little about the rotator cuff these days, so, there are areas where we’ve actually made some improvement. I think the problem, and maybe the difference between a rotator cuff and a ligament is the fact that one is elastic and the other one isn’t. And, guys have gotten so big, and you’re talking about usage, and strength and overpowering. It’s the same reason we have oblique injuries, is because guys have gotten bigger and stronger and throw harder, and there are certain parts of the body that just don’t adapt to that new physical condition.

Race

SHERMAN: There was an incident with Adam Jones earlier this season, at Fenway Park. And I thought, and I think there’s two issues when we’re dealing with race in the game right now. One is, how players are treated at the ballpark. And the other is participation. And, if I could take treated at the ballpark first, cause it’s hard to believe that, 70 years after Jackie Robinson took incredible garbage at the ballpark, that any player is still dealing with this. And CC, you said something after that incident that struck me so powerfully: That you knew the exact number of African-American players in the game. You said, “I know the other 62.” What is it even like in 2017 to be an African-American player, and are you taking a level of abuse that the average media member, teammate, fan doesn’t know about?

SABATHIA: Well I don’t think it’s anything that nobody knows about. The incident with me in Boston happened when I was in Cleveland, way before I came to the Yankees. It’s tough in 2017 that [there’s] 62 of us. And I’m fortunate in a way to have a couple on my team, with Aaron Hicks and Chris Carter, but it’s tough when you’re in a clubhouse and you’re playing for eight months and you don’t have anybody that you can relate to. Not necessarily relate to, but somebody who looks like you, on the same team. That’s always hard for me and I’ve found it — I played a couple years in Cleveland where I had no other African-Americans to bounce anything off of. And that’s always a tough situation.

SHERMAN: Curtis have you felt like an outlier, when you’re playing?

GRANDERSON: You know, I never feel like there’s things directed specifically to me. If it’s something that is happening along the lines, it’s mostly because of the game. Because I’m wearing the other uniform than the team that they want to cheer for. So that ends up happening. But at the same time, there are things in the community that I have noticed, you know, going into a spot and not necessarily being treated well until they find out I played for the Yankees or play for the Mets — “Oh, oh come on in!” Wait a minute, you weren’t about to let me in before this, until you found out that I play baseball. Now I’m a different type of person than the person I was before. So those things I’ve experienced and have dealt with, you know, over the course of my entire life. Similar to what CC talked about, going into the locker room and you’re the only person that looks like yourself and having, just, conversations with your teammates. You know, it’s always one-sided things or, even with the Adam Jones situation, the media came to me. You know, we got 24 other ballplayers on this team, it affected a baseball player. True, it was an African-American baseball player, but I’m sure some other people have some insight to what happened in the situation. Why just come to me? So little things like that you sense and feel over the course of your career. And even just, outside of baseball as well.

What is it like to be a black baseball player in 2017?

SHERMAN: So let me not ignore that. Sandy, you’re an executive. I’m sure you’ve had to deal with uncomfortable situations that come along like this. You’ve been in the game a long time, you go back to the ’70s. Has there been a diminishment of incidents, are clubhouses better, is the stadium atmosphere better, or are we still trapped in a bad place?

ALDERSON: Honestly, I’ve been in the game 35 years and the number of those kinds of Adam Jones incidents that I can recall, not very many. Now maybe that’s because a lot of my career was in Oakland, which is — CC knows, he’s from that area — which is a very diverse population. So I think those kinds of things are an aberration. On the other hand, I think we have to recognize that, as part of a broader society, those issues still exist.

SHERMAN: In 1986, Coney, when you were playing, 19 percent of players were African-American. It’s down to 7.7 percent this year. But, it’s a record to Sandy’s point: 29.8 percent of players born outside the United States, a record on Opening Day this year. I wonder, as a person who covers the game now, but played the game at a time where almost one out of every five players was African-American, what do you think of the changing diversity in the game?

CONE: Well, I’m proud of the Latin American influence, I have a lot of Latin-American friends, who have done so much for the game. Their idol, probably universally, is Roberto Clemente. I think we’ve made great steps on that side of it, in terms of interpreters. Carlos Beltran was kind of the point guard on getting interpreters for some of the Spanish-speaking players and as a broadcaster, I want to hear what Michael Pineda has to say in his native language. I’d like to ask him some serious questions. I appreciate the fact that he tries to speak English, and continues to try, I think that’s a great thing.

Odds and ends

SHERMAN: Coney, you mentioned the designated hitter earlier. Would you like to see it uniform?

CONE: Interleague play is the X-factor here now, and a level playing field is pretty hard to get. It used to be, all the talk 20 years ago was getting rid of the DH. It’s come full circle now, about adding the DH, and I’ve found that kind of remarkable. I think, if you look at the numbers, American League or pitchers in general, last year, I think their average was in the .130s, .139ish, something like that. Madison Bumgarner, the exceptions, CC can really swing the bat. When I played in the National League, I loved swinging the bat, I’ve come full circle on this. The DHs extend their careers — Paul Molitors, George Bretts. The one thing, if you’re gonna say it’s a skill and the better-hitting pitchers deserve to hit, it’s up to the pitchers who can’t hit, that’s on them. No, it’s not. It’s not on them, cause they’re not allowed to train. They’re not allowed to ply their skill, they’re not allowed to do it in the minor leagues. So, the first time I picked up a major league bat, faced a major league pitcher, I hadn’t hit since high school. To me, that’s just ridiculous.

SHERMAN: Sandy, do you think we should be uniform at this point?

ALDERSON: Well let me say, first of all, that nothing has changed. Mets pitchers still can’t bunt. I guess my first instinct is that I like consistency and, I actually thought years ago that often, the World Series was determined by who had home-field advantage simply because the first game was either a DH or not a DH. But, at the same time, I like the debate that goes on about the DH. Maybe we’ve exhausted that debate at this point.

SHERMAN: Questions about the roster. Should they get bigger? Should starting pitchers be on the roster on anything but the day they pitch? Forty-man call-up, in September, could be 40 against 25.

DAVIDOFF: I follow hockey a little bit. You have your group of x guys and, all right, here are the guys who are active that day. And I think I’ve advocated for this, Joel, is using the whole organization. Here’s my 25-man roster today. And I think that makes a ton of sense in light of everything else we’ve been talking about.

SABATHIA: I think for the extra innings thing — we played that long game, our pitchers pitched so well out of the bullpen and somebody’s got to get sent down cause we don’t have enough pitching. I think if you play past 11 innings then the next day you get a 26th guy. You get to call up a guy and bring up a guy so nobody gets demoted for doing their job, for doing their job well. Maybe give us a roster spot or two to fill that so you don’t mess up your roster.

SHERMAN: I figured I’d go around one last time. Anything that’s on your mind past, present, future.

GRANDERSON: I think of all these people that are able to break down the statistics and bring in new stats that I had never heard about and still don’t understand how they work. Let’s use that to help with the scheduling. I think, on top of that, the excitement and promoting of our current stars–there’s been a lot of talk about saying our players need to do more, but 162 games in 180 days makes it difficult to do so. But, there’s a ton of footage in those games. Let’s loop that footage together, in spring training when we’re doing all our media stuff and all our photos, have CC out there saying “I love this game,” real quick, and then we can run over it. Run it there, and also put them out there to the different markets that aren’t already in baseball. Getting it out on Nickelodeon where kids are watching, MTV, ABC — CC’s a big fan of Scandal [laughing]. Coney mentioned before that the marketing companies are promoting their players and using these guys to do it. Well, if the Nikes, and the New Balances of the world, and the Under Armours of the world aren’t taking us and doing it, well, MLB is still a marketing monster. You still have the players that you can throw out there and do it — case in point, Super Bowl this past year. I saw a commercial for the return of ‘Walking Dead.’ Well, why couldn’t there have been a commercial saying ‘After Super Bowl, Spring Training starts. World Baseball Classic is coming up. Get ready.’ Millions of people around the world, getting a chance to watch that game, on this day, we had 16 countries represented for the World Baseball Classic —this is your chance to promote to them.

SHERMAN: Said by a pitcher, and amen.

DAVIDOFF: Yeah, I want to touch on the Hall of Fame, just cause no one else has. I’m a voter, and the trends are clearly going towards guys with illegal PED suspicions heading in. Pudge Rodriguez is in, Mike Piazza is in, Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds are both trending that way. That’s the way I think it should be. That’s the way I’ve voted. I think we might get to a point where Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez, both suspended guys, get in. And I think the Hall of Fame is about having the best and biggest contributors to the game inducted. I’d even be in favor of Pete Rose at this point.

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