WPCNR VIEW FROM THE UPPER DECK By “Bull” Allen. April 3, 2021:
BULL ALLEN, VOICE OF THE UPPER DECK
Hello there everybody, this is Bull Allen in the open air mezzanine press box at old Yankee Stadium coming to you on WPIX looking at the unending eternal green of the outfield, the three monuments in play, 301 down the Left field line, 402 to the bullpen in left, the 457 feet to left center, 461 to the monuments in center, 296 down the line in right 344 to dead right, and 407 to right center; the immaculate brown dirt of the infield and the majestic grandeur of America’s Roman Coliseum triple deck: the Big Ball Park, as The Old Redhead used to call it.
I’m happy that baseball is back with fans in attendance in 2020, but the first taste of baseball gets a thumbs-down on baseball’s business geniuses who want shorten the games by instituting the 10th inning tie-breaker: starting the 10th inning of a game tied after nine innings with the visitors starting an inning with a runner on second, and in the bottom of the 10th, giving the home team the same runner on second.
The whole effect is an anti-climactic way to send the fans home in baseball because the game is not timed.
The advantage shifts to the visiting team and gives them a better chance to win.
Baseball relievers today are not good in getting out of jams. When relievers first started being used in the late 1930s and 40s, the pitchers most being starters, were used to pitching out of jams. Today’s relievers are used to start innings mostly and are left in to the point where they blow the game or keep the side scoreless. After the starter goes 5 innings or 6 if he has his stuff, managers go to the middle reliever, the set-up man and the closer. If the closer does not close and allows the game to be tied, the bullpen has been used so you start the 10th with a man on second in the Tie-breaker rule and you use the dreaded second choice middle reliever who is not used to starting with the winning run on second.
Yesterday, in the Yankee opener there was a 2-2 tie, and they went to the 10th.
First person up with a runner on second, hits a long fly to right center, slightly misjudged by the Yankee rightfielder. Double run scores. We go to bottom of the 10th, and the Yanks with a runner on second, go down swinging trying for the 2-run homer.
What is needed here is to bring very fast pitchers—starters groomed to a warmup pitch who can throw over a 100 to get the free swingers out and prevent the sacrifice to third.
In fact, the strategy for the home team especially the homer-or-nothing hitters that have always been favored by Yankee management, has to be tweaked. Hitters have to be disciplined to situation hitting. When you have the runner on second, the hitter cannot try and pull the ball. The Yankees might have won the game in the ninth had Judge not tried to pull the pitch with the winning run on third and 1 out. He hits right to third with the runner taking off for home. The shortstop got the ball to the plate in plenty of time. If Judge had shortened up and hit to the right side there is a much longer throw and the catcher would have had to come away from blocking the plate to get the throw to the plate if the second baseman had to field it. I rarely see disciplined situation hitting today in the game. Everyone is trying jack it.
In the 10th inning Tie Breaker, situation hitting is imperative. The first batter should sacrifice the runner on second to third. But noooooooooooo. No manager does that. They want to win the game with a base hit. If you sacrifice the runner to third, you have two shots to get the run in. In Toronto Yankee top of the 10th the pitcher left one up and in and the Blue Jay lined it over Judge’s head. Pitching mistake of course. But the last thing you want in there is a pitcher that cannot throw HARD. You can’t risk hanging a slider that does not slide. Hence you have to groom a Dick Raditz, a Ryne Duren, a no nonsense flame thrower with control to give you a better chance to get out of the inning and foil the sacrifice bunt or the steal from a pinch runner. You have to be able to pinch run for the runner on second (baseball has not made clear if you can do that, in fact try and find all the changes for this season).
But I beg your pardon. I was distracted by the beerman.
If you watch Fast Pitch Softball where the Tie-Breaker rule comes from, you can defense the runner on second. You do not want him to advance to third. To do this you have force the second base runner in the top of the 10th to run on any hit. (If the slugger meekly grounds to third, the runner will not advance if the slugger grounds to second, the runner might try and advance and if they do can zing a throw over for a tag play at third and choke off the run.
(The Yankees might add the great Softball pitcher, Michelle Smith to their staff to help Aaron Boone with strategy here to defend third base)
Also if you are the home team, you walk the first batter to first in the top of the 10th to set up the double play around the horn or get the runner on second at third on an easy force.
The strategy in You defend third base.
Call for pitchouts to defense the steal. Say a ball is hit right side. You can zip it to third for an easy force play (no tag required, it’s a force). You are now back to first and second 1 out and can go for the double play clean on a double play ball or go to third for a force, for 2 out. The advantage here is with two the batter is eager to blast one and when you are trying to hit homers it is harder to do. It is even harder if the pitcher is firing in the low 100s.
Now say you fail and one run is scored. You now have to prevent seriously the visiting from scoring any more runs. You have to go back to defending third base. (Do not bring the infield. One needs to play close at the corners and double play depth up the middle.) This will be much easier to do if you have a fireballer with control. Who may strike out. Though you probably will not have the liberal strike zone the plate umpire had at the Stadium yesterday on that frigid opener. The Bombers looked at too many called third strikes yesterday a sure sign that the strike zone is too liberal that afternoon.
The catastrophe of the Tie Breaker Rule is it opens flood gates when the first run is scored. You have to avoid that. Milwaukee plated 5 runs in their top of the 10th yesterday effectively destroying the ability of Minnesota to come back in the bottom of the tenth. Since you are using your worst reliever in the top of the 10th, or “fourth” in the relief rotation, that’s what is going to happen
Here’s where the home team is penalized psychologically by the visiting team. You are trailing by one run in the bottom of the 10th and now everybody batting for the home team thinks, “Hey we already have our bloop (starting out with a runner on second, now a blast wins it!”
Or, worse they get picky and look for the perfect pitch, fall behind then have to swing at a bad pitch or take it and get punched out. It is tough to hit a homer when you have to. The pitchers start out with high gas to tempt an early swing at a pitch you cannot hit out.
Now, in fast-pitch softball tie breaker with runner on second, situational hitting is encouraged. The first batter can sacrifice bunt to move the runner on second to third. Or the runner on second can attempt a run and hit with the hitter attempting to make—has to make contact with the pitch. Major league hitters looking to belt it out are not conditioned or adept enough to push/ hit the ball to the right side to execute the hit and run. Worst comes to worse a right hand hitter will block the catcher’s view and the catcher fails to release, or throws slightly late and you have a stolen base and a runner on first. Then the defense walks the next batter and you have bases loaded nobody out and a squeeze play can be attempted, with the bunt to the right side.
(Bunting as the Yankee raconteur my partner for many years, Phil “The Scooter” Rizzuto lamented is a lost art. But far from the strategy-shy managers of today to allow themselves to fail and have to answer sports reporters questions why have Judge bunt or take the bat out of his hands?)
Another hitting strategy is to hit to the right side. Move the back foot away from the plate if you’re a right hand hitter and make the second baseman play hit, a much tougher play at third to get the runner on second, who has to run instantly on a ball hit to the right side. A left hand hitter up with the Tie-breaker runner on second, opens his stance moving the right foot open and moving it to the first base foul line in order to punch/pull the ball into the first and second base hole, forcing the first base man to to throw it left handed (most first baseman are left handed).
It is also inconceivable to me, if the first batter is walked, why would you not hit and run with runners and first and second to avoid a double play? Why because the power lineups do not contain players who can be counted on to make contact with the ball. Today’s big boppers are going for the big bop not the strategic Baltimore Chop ( hit a chop that bounces in front of the right side of the plate using up time, and getting only one out if the chop is fielded cleanly, leaving two on at 2nd and third.) The chop is an art and you rarely see it today.
Pinch running for the lead Tie-Breaker runner has to be allowed and quite frankly we do not know if it is.
Watching the Toronto 10th inning was excruciatingly boring. The defense was not moving. Because every player was expecting the Toronto hitter to be swinging away for long ball. Which is exactly what happened. Nelson fell behind on the first pitch had to throw a strike and made it too good and boom screaming line drive over the rightfielder’s head.
Toronto brings home a flame thrower who strikes out the Yankee side in the bottom of the 10th.
The 10-inning Tie-Breaker takes a tight game with excitement and ends it with essentially a shoot out that hockey has. One of the greatest games I ever saw was the a 14-inning 5 hour ball game in Chicago’s Old Comiskey Park in 1975. Humdinger every inning. Lots of runners on base in every bottom of every extra inning, finally won on a homa by the Scarlett Hose Carl Yaztremski to Comiskey’s deepest part of the park. And the Pale Hose in the bottom of the 14th got the tying runs on. You will not see that this year. You will not hear Nancy Faust the organ playing maestro on the Hammond playing “Rock around the Clock” in the 12th, and a second “Take Me Out to the ballgame in the middle of the 14th.
Because the 10th Inning Tie-Breaker deflates your balloon as a fan. You’re seeing a great game and if there were extra innings…this is more free baseball you are getting more for your money. Every inning fraught with missed chances. And life is suspended for awhile and leaves you with memories you will never forget.
Your girl friend or wife is saying how long can this go on, and you tell her, hours, isn’t that great? And she rolls her eyes. I married my wife because she sat through two games of a doubleheader (9 innings each game). I said there is no other woman in the free world who would do that. So I married her, but she refused me three times. So I went extra proposings.
Baseball decisions are made for television ratings not for real baseball fans in the stands.
I do not like 7-inning doubleheader games, either. But that’s for another rain delay.
This is Bull Allen from the Upper Deck, the ball game is over, and I’ll be back with the totals in just a moment. It’s time for a White Owl Wallop! The Yanks won Saturday, 5-3 in a 3 hour and 50 minute game.
So long, everybody!