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Carroll County Times Opinion

Chris Roemer: Mancini trade is emblematic of baseball’s miserable decline | COMMENTARY

The Orioles may be winning more often these days, but as an organization, they’ve shown they leave much to be desired.

Trey Mancini stuck with his team through its darkest days. He was not only a clubhouse leader, he became the face of the Orioles organization. His fight back from Stage 3 colon cancer embodied the tenacious, never-say-die attitude that has come to characterize the current pitch of Orioles, and he is as responsible as anyone for the team’s newfound success.

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Mancini was the soul of the Orioles.

The Orioles just sold their soul for a couple of pitching prospects who ultimately may have all the promise of Ubaldo Jimenez. One needs surgery, for crying out loud.

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In the end, the Orioles thanked Mancini with a pat on the back and a hardy farewell.

Personally, I don’t care if they traded Mancini for Babe Ruth. The organization owed him. They repaid him with betrayal. It was only a couple weeks ago, Mancini all but pleaded with the front office to let him finish the year as an Oriole so he could be part of the team’s first run at the playoffs in years. Surely, he had earned that much consideration for all he’s meant to this club. It was too much to ask.

I know, I know, Major League Baseball is a business, but the Orioles have proven themselves to be as heartless as the worst robber barons of the Gilded Age.

Let’s face it, baseball is not what it used to be. Players drop in and drop out like people checking in and out of a hotel. In the old days, we knew the players, who established close and lasting relationships with their communities. Sure, there were trades, but fans could count on a core contingent to be there season after season. Brooks Robinson, Cal Ripken, Jim Palmer, Boog Powell.

Today, they come and go so fast you need a scorecard to know who’s on the scorecard.

Making things worse, the game itself is heading down a path that makes it far less satisfying as a sport. Analytics is killing baseball.

Two out in the bottom of the ninth. Man on second with the tying run at the plate. The count, 3-2. Here comes the pitch. The batter hits a bullet to the gap in left-center. Unfortunately, the shortstop has positioned himself on the precise spot the computer told him the ball would be hit. He raises his glove and snags the ball for the third out. Game over. How exciting.

Of course, the announcers can always regale us with stats about how many miles per hour the ball came off the bat, the spin rate of the curve he hit, and how many times the batter hit a similar ball to left-center in the ninth inning during evening games played in August against right-handed pitchers named Bob.

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If baseball is being challenged for its designation as the national pastime, this is why. Today’s game is boring. Major League Baseball thinks tweaking the rules with pizza-box-sized bases, machines calling balls and strikes, pitch clocks, and “stealing first” will bring back the excitement technology has stolen.

Today, even a close call at the plate has all the excitement of a haircut. What’s the call? Who cares? People in New York are going to microscopically dissect the video replay and will let us know how things work out in a few minutes. Who knows, maybe the catcher had his foot in the wrong place.

Baseball was great when it was a game of inches. Today, it is a game of some measurement too small to calculate. Personally, I don’t care if a runner’s foot hit the bag one nanosecond before the ball entered the fielder’s glove, or a tag just creased a fold in the runner’s uniform as he slid into second.

Soon, some machine is going to call sterile, clinically accurate balls and strikes. I don’t know about you, but I liked watching Earl Weaver and Billy Martin go after umpires. It was part of the entertainment. Fans, falling asleep in the stands, always wake up when the manager is out on the field kicking dirt on an umpire. In fact, it’s when fans are the loudest and most engaged. They love it! Maybe today’s managers can kick dirt on a keyboard.

Until now, baseball was always a game of subtleties of human interactions governed more by unwritten canon than anything found in the rule book. What held it together, what gave the game its enduring appeal was its character, an ethos, a set of traditions and customs developed over more than a century of play.

Technology is sucking the life out of the game. It’s robbing it of its color and personality.

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Baseball instinct and intuition, the kind that set greats like Casey Stengel, John McGraw, and even Earl Weaver apart from their peers, both past and present, has been replaced with algorithms and high-speed cameras. An irrational desire to make the game perfect has destroyed what made the game great.

It’s no longer a human endeavor.

And that’s why Mancini is no longer an Oriole. Some computer program told the front office the team needed someone different.

Mancini probably hit the ball at the wrong launch angle.

How stupid of him.

Chris Roemer is a retired banker and educator who resides in Finksburg. He can be contacted at chrisroemer1960@gmail.com


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