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What If Baseball Had A Scandal And America Didn’t Care?

The existential crisis for Rob Manfred isn’t that pitchers are using illegal substances and deadening offenses to all-time impotence — it’s that fans aren’t talking about it, in a troubled sport teetering on apathy

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What’s sad is, no one cares anymore. The nation’s baseball aficionados, assuming any are left, are so numb to the death march of scandals in their sport — electronic sign-stealing, steroids, tanking — that they’ve come to accept cheating as an existential evil and the commissioner and owners as complicit, impervious, TV-money-hoarding hustlers.

So when weeks and months pass — actually, years — before the sport’s foggy leadership acknowledges that pitchers have emasculated batters by blatantly lathering balls with foreign substances, any fan still awake just shrugs and murmurs, “Buy me some peanuts and Pelican Grip.”

grip_dip2
Courtesy: WhatProsWear

Faced with a labor impasse that could lead to a crippling work stoppage, Major League Baseball has responded with a season so lifeless and soporific that we’re almost begging for the games to fade away. Thanks largely to the illegal sticky goo, which allows pitchers to increase spin rates and reduce a hitter’s chances of making even scant contact, an already sluggish sport has devolved into a hit-challenged, action-less slog. So-called commissioner Rob Manfred has known about these crimes, just as he knew about sign-stealing and just as predecessor Bud Selig knew about performance-enhancing drugs. Yet Manfred moved at a typically plodding pace, chatting privately with the Players Association while strikeout rates soared to an all-time high, batting averages plummeted to record lows and an unfathomable six no-hitters were pitched in a six-week period.

This unwatchable trudge couldn’t have come at a worse time. With MLB ever-desperate to woo young people and retain future attention spans in a post-pandemic world, the industry never has been less relevant in America’s sporting calendar. The NBA adjusted its season so the Finals end in mid-to-late July, as the almighty NFL and its predominant storylines heat up and the Tokyo Olympics begin, however perilously. Which means baseball, for the first time, won’t have a single month in 2021 when it is front and center in our sights. Will anybody even notice when the collective bargaining agreement expires?

If nothing else, athletic competition must be governed by integrity. Why would a consumer, with so many entertainment choices, waste time, money and energy on a sport so relentlessly dishonest? It’s mind-boggling that it took an unlikely character — the oft-mocked country singer, Joe West — to shine light on the epidemic of glue, pine tar and dipping. Enforcing rule 6.02c, the veteran umpire exerted his power on May 26 and confiscated the sunscreen-and-rosin-rubbed cap of Cardinals pitcher Giovanny Gallegos.

It led Cardinals manager Mike Shildt to throw the tantrum that finally prompted deep discussion and change. “This is baseball’s dirty little secret,” said Shildt, protecting his pitcher. “Let’s go check the guys that are sitting there going into their glove every day with filthy stuff coming out, not some guy before he even steps on the mound with a spot on his hat.” Naturally, the commish wasn’t happy that a mere ump had stepped in and taken initiative, but if not for West, there wouldn’t have been a reckoning the last two weeks that led to a long-overdue response: With the aid of the same video technology that sabotaged baseball — how’s it going, Astros? — umpires will be required to inspect all pitchers for substances throughout games.

There could be as many as 10 random checks a game, reports ESPN, and starting pitchers will be checked at least two times per start. And while the Players Association will pounce with grievances, MLB is prepared to hammer cheating hurlers with 10-day suspensions without pay. Yes, the average length of games — which only has crawled the wrong way under Manfred — will be a bigger problem. And I’d feel better if suspensions were for 21 days and not 10 days, which makes it a one-start punishment for a starter. But beginning next week, at long last, Manfred is ready to take action and try to solve the latest disgrace on his watch.

What took him so long? Is he so intimidated by the union, not wanting to sever whatever CBA-negotiating thread remains, that he allowed a season to be swallowed by substance-induced spin rates? Was he not listening to the complaints, which started as whispers and mushroomed into open protests, from clubhouses? Did he not read the recent Sports Illustrated expose? Just what does Manfred do every day, exactly, in his Park Avenue office?

“I think the substance issue is real,” Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto said last month. “I think pitchers are using a lot more substances now than they have in the past. Not just a lot more, but it’s been more effective than it has been. Guys are increasing their spin rate. That’s why there’s so many walks and strikeouts every game because guys are just letting it rip with all the spin. It’s harder to control, but also harder to hit. I think if they cracked down on that, that would honestly help the offense a lot, get the ball in play more often, and less swing and miss.”

This time, Manfred can’t make the same short-sighted mistake and think players and managers eventually will police each other. They won’t. There always has been a little boys’ code, through the steroids and sign-stealing debacles, that says a team won’t snitch on another in fear of being snitched on in reprisal. The same wink-wink nonsense has existed in the Pelican Grip Era, and just because some pitchers are suspended — trust me, they won’t be the big names — doesn’t mean balls won’t be doctored.

The team to watch is in Los Angeles — and the pitcher to watch is the smart-ass in residency, Trevor Bauer. For all their resources as baseball’s leading bluebloods, the Dodgers have too much talent to cheat, one would think. Yet their staff spin rate in 2021 reflects the highest one-year increase in the majors, SI reports. And you’d be an idiot not to suspect Bauer as the Spin King of Spin City, knowing he has accused others of cheating while acknowledging spin rates as his own secret sauce. His spin numbers are up dramatically the past two seasons, which inspired the Dodgers to follow their first World Series title in 32 years by giving Bauer a $102 million deal for three seasons. Their top four starters — Bauer, Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, Julio Urias — rank in the top nine of four-seam fastball spin rates.

What’s happening in your house there, Dave Roberts? Asked last week if his pitchers are using substances, the Dodgers manager said, “I don’t know. I don’t have those conversations. I really don’t know.”

Now that MLB is cracking down, Roberts is more interested in elaborating. “Once things are implemented, then we’ll adhere to the rules,” he said over the weekend. “That’s the way we all should look at it.”

All of which confirmed the credo of clubhouses since the mid-1990s: We’ll cheat until they catch us … and then, if we want, we’ll continue to cheat!

Of course, by the time Manfred tries to execute another clumsy plan, the sports world will be immersed in how the Brooklyn Nets are faring if James Harden has a bad hamstring. And whether Aaron Rodgers will report to the Packers or resume his hissy fit as another get-me-out-of-here control freak. And whether Jon Rahm — shame on the sports world for thinking COVID-19 is an afterthought — can recover from his positive test in time for the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, where Phil Mickelson awaits at his boyhood course. And whether Japan will be ravaged by the coronavirus when it still is recovering from a tsunami, earthquake and nuclear disaster.

Baseball should be petrified about mass apathy. In what should be viewed as another putrid scandal, on full media blast, it’s a faint blip in a niche sport. At least the game was interesting when we were enraged by steroids.

Kids don't play the Barry Bonds market – Orange County Register
Courtesy: Orange County Register

Now it’s only a sad, lonely country song, with Joe West on vocals.

BNM Writers

It’s Not a Vaccine Mandate, It’s a Test Mandate

“Chuck Todd from Meet The Press, the New York Times, CNN, numerous other media outlets and even the White House spokesman have called Biden’s policy a vaccine mandate. It’s not. So, why do they keep reporting it as such?”

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I feel I must disclose my feelings on Covid-19 before my column this week so everyone knows my bias. 

If you want to take the horse dewormer medicine, Ivermectin, for Covid-19, I DON’T CARE.

If you want to wear a mask in a crowd indoors or out, I DON’T CARE

If you don’t want to get a Covid-19 vaccine, again, I DON’T CARE. 

In terms of full disclosure, I have been vaccinated. As far as I know, I haven’t had Covid-19, and only my dog has had some form of Ivermectin. 

With that out of the way, can we talk about how President Biden’s mandate is being discussed and reported on? This is not a liberal or conservative issue, and it’s not a CNN vs FOX News issue. Most everyone has an opinion on it, yet most don’t care to find out what was actually proposed. Even the White House is misleading folks with its own policy. 

This is not a vaccine mandate, it’s a test mandate. 

President Biden’s policy has made two changes. All federal workers must receive a vaccine. You don’t have to work for the federal government, but if you do, you must be vaccinated. Again, not a mandate. No one is forcing you to work for the federal government. That’s your choice.  

Delta Airlines implemented a policy charging employees $200 if they choose not to be vaccinated. As a result, thousands have received the Covid-19 vaccine to avoid the penalty. That is their choice. 

Schools, public and private universities, hospitals, and companies big and small have made similar rules. If you want to work or attend, you must get a vaccine. Not a vaccine mandate, big difference.

Companies make all sorts of rules, some smart, some dumb. I know a radio station that will not let their on-air hosts talk to the media (dumb). My company policy says, I can’t eat food in the studio (smart). You can agree or disagree with a policy, and if you choose not to follow it, that is your choice. Nobody from the government is going to come to your home, hold you down, and jab a needle in your arm. Yet I’ve heard that said a few hundred times in the last few weeks.

Part two of President Biden’s policy says that if you are a company with over 100 employees, your employees will be required to have a vaccine or get tested weekly to see if they are Covid-19 positive. Again, this is not a vaccine mandate. It’s just a test, once a week. A test mandate, if you will.

Chuck Todd from Meet The Press, the New York Times, CNN, numerous other media outlets and even the White House spokesman have called Biden’s policy a vaccine mandate. It’s not. So, why do they keep reporting it as such?   

I talk to neighbors, callers, and friends, and they’re all arguing over something that isn’t happening. Some have gotten really angry and stood defiant. They will not, under any circumstances, be forced to get a vaccine. 

“How about a test?” 

“Wait, what?”  

These are crazy times. We talk past each other, we debate our own set of facts, we get to choose the news we like, and disregard and disqualify the news we don’t. I’m afraid we have crossed some type of rubicon. Everyone is arguing and debating a policy but nobody knows the actual policy.

If you think taking a test to find out if you have a life threatening virus that could harm you, a family member, or a coworker is government overreach, I DON’T CARE. Quite frankly, I’m exhausted by the screaming. But if you are going to argue about it, you should do yourself a favor and know what the policy is before you decide you are for it or against it. 

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BNM Writers

Few Media Outlets Were Brave Enough to #NeverForget Both Sides

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Saturday marked 20 years since Sept. 11, 2001.

Everyone has a 9/11 story. Where they were. How they reacted. What they remember about that treacherous day in America.

Consuming media coverage and memorials over the weekend, there was one very common theme.

Unity. Unofficially the word was said 42,365,789 times this weekend.

Listening to the radio, I heard one newstalk host romanticize about how the entire country came together as one, and he didn’t feel we did the same fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.

Before the NFL kicked off on Sunday, both Fox and CBS aired extended memorial video montages. The New York Yankees and New York Mets played the Subway Series and on Saturday wore hats representing the Fire and Police Departments of their city.

Netflix, Hulu and Peacock dropped streaming documentaries.

All of this coverage focused on the heroism, the devastation that destroyed 2,996 families, and the unified aftermath. Stats were dropped about the sales of United States flags hitting all-time highs. The patriotic shirt and bumper stickers industry was booming for months.

Let’s be clear – this aforementioned coverage was extremely important.

The following might be controversial, so I unfortunately feel obligated to include the following disclaimer:

I think 9/11 memorial coverage is necessary. #NeverForget is important. I’ve often thought that we don’t talk enough Pearl Harbor where 2,403 Americans also died, maybe that’s a generational coverage thing. So, in the age of the 24-hour news cycle, we should keep these stories prominent and always celebrate the heroes of that harrowing day.

Now that my stance on 9/11 coverage is very very clear…

We should also talk more about the racist hate-crime filled society we created for Muslims, Arabic speaking Americans, Sikhs, and anyone who appeared middle eastern or had dark brown skin. We should also never forget those innocent people whose lives were extremely affected during the aftermath.

Their stories are important. Acknowledging the ugliness can assist in learning from those mistakes.

Although the coverage wasn’t front page, there were news outlets brave enough to hit on those topics over the weekend. I wanted to take time to highlight them, quoting some excerpts that may be tough to read:

Anita Snow and Noreen Nasir of Associated Press for ABC News: “Sikh entrepreneur Balbir Singh Sodhi was killed at his Arizona gas station four days after the Sept. 11 attacks by a man who declared he was “going to go out and shoot some towel-heads” and mistook him for an Arab Muslim.”

Sodhi’s brother spoke with Kimmy Yam of NBC News and reflected on the hate crime.

Kiara Alfonseca for ABC News: “Mosques were burned or destroyed and death threats and harassment followed many Muslims in the weeks following the attacks, according to congressional testimony from the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2011. Some victims were beaten, attacked or held at gunpoint for merely being perceived as Muslim, the organization said.”

Maria Lisignoli of NBC 15 in Madison, WI spoke with a local principal:

“But, you know, as often as you will speak to other Muslim and millennials especially, they feel like we feel like we’ve had to answer for the crimes of other people,” Warsi said.

He says linking the Islamic faith with these attacks was damaging mentally and physically.

“I myself have been discriminated against been a victim to hate crime with physical assault, just because I’m Muslim,” Warsi said.

Dorothy Hastings for PBS: “Since 2001, Muslims have been the second most frequent target for religiously motivated hate crimes, according to the federal hate crime data.”

Newstalk program directors, news directors and journalists should always strive to tell both sides of the story. It’s not the feel-good unified story, but nothing about journalism is easy. The industry isn’t for propaganda.

There are tough truths that need to be told. It’s part of the job.

The stories are important. The coverage is necessary.

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BNM Writers

The Weather Channel Was Go To Outlet for Hurricane Ida Coverage

The three major cable news outlets were surprisingly slow in covering Hurricane Ida, despite most of their offices located in New York City.

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Hurricane Ida continued to wreak havoc on Wednesday, Sep. 1, as the storm that rocked Louisiana the previous weekend unleashed its fury upon the northeast.

The Weather Channel was the primary outlet for Ida coverage. Here was their ratings track as the storm reached New Jersey and New York that evening, according to Nielsen Media Research:

  • 8:00-9:00 p.m. ET: 0.391 million viewers; 158,000 adults 25-54
  • 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET: 0.461 million viewers; 154,000 adults 25-54
  • 10:00-11:00 p.m. ET: 0.348 million viewers; 111,000 adults 25-54
  • 11:00 p.m.-midnight ET: 0.269 million viewers; 100,000 adults 25-54
  • midnight-1:00 a.m. ET: 0.230 million viewers; 72,000 adults 25-54
  • 1:00-2:00 a.m. ET: 0.198 million viewers; 63,000 adults 25-54

3.15 inches of rain fell in Central Park from 8:51-9:51 p.m. ET — the largest amount of rainfall there within a one-hour period on record, a mark previously set just eleven days prior (Aug. 21) by the effects of Hurricane Henri’s storm (1.94 inches). 8.4 inches fell in Newark, New Jersey throughout the entire evening. Over 50 people in the northeast perished due to Ida.

The three major cable news outlets were surprisingly slow in covering Hurricane Ida, despite most of their offices located in New York City. Fox News Channel provided 10-minute special reports in the overnight of late Sep. 1/early Sep. 2:

  • 1:00-1:10 a.m. ET: 0.875 million viewers; 213,000 adults 25-54
  • 2:00-2:11 a.m. ET: 0.692 million viewers; 166,000 adults 25-54
  • 3:00-3:08 a.m. ET: 0.526 million viewers; 129,000 adults 25-54

CNN’s “Newsroom Live” began at 2 a.m. ET, reporting on Hurricane Ida. It averaged 411,000 viewers and 128,000 adults 25-54 for the hour.

On the following morning of Thursday, Sep. 2, the governors of New Jersey (Phil Murphy) and New York (Kathy Hochul) held separate press conferences addressing the aftermath of Ida. Fox News, averaging 1.6 million total viewers and 265,000 in the 25-54 demo from 10-11 a.m. ET, aired most of these conferences until bailing on them when the topic of climate change was mentioned.

CNN (967,000 viewers/228,000 adults 25-54 from 10-11 a.m. ET) and MSNBC (Murphy: 843,000 viewers/90,000 adults 25-54 from 10:19-10:38 a.m. ET; Hochul: 778,000 viewers/86,000 adults 25-54 from 10:38-11:12 a.m. ET) both aired the Murphy and Hochul press conferences in full.

Here are the cable news averages for August 30-September 5, 2021.

Total Day (August 30-September 5 @ 6 a.m.-5:59 a.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 1.548 million viewers; 259,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 0.744 million viewers; 84,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.653 million viewers; 145,000 adults 25-54
  • The Weather Channel: 0.247 million viewers; 57,000 adults 25-54
  • HLN: 0.201 million viewers; 61,000 adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 0.145 million viewers; 33,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.140 million viewers; 20,000 adults 25-54
  • Fox Business Network: 0.096 million viewers; 10,000 adults 25-54

Prime Time (August 30-September 4 @ 8-11 p.m.; September 5 @ 7-11 p.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 2.642 million viewers; 434,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 1.260 million viewers; 145,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.876 million viewers; 202,000 adults 25-54
  • The Weather Channel: 0.259 million viewers; 72,000 adults 25-54
  • HLN: 0.218 million viewers; 62,000 adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 0.199 million viewers; 60,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.163 million viewers; 33,000 adults 25-54
  • Fox Business Network: 0.054 million viewers; 6,000 adults 25-54

Top 10 most-watched cable news programs (and the top MSNBC, CNN and The Weather Channel programs with their respective associated ranks) in total viewers:

1. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 8/30/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 4.312 million viewers

2. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 8/30/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 4.130 million viewers

3. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 8/31/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.846 million viewers

4. Hannity (FOXNC, Mon. 8/30/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.841 million viewers

5. Hannity (FOXNC, Tue. 8/31/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.620 million viewers

6. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 9/1/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.519 million viewers

7. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 9/1/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.506 million viewers

8. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 8/31/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.489 million viewers

9. Hannity (FOXNC, Wed. 9/1/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.393 million viewers

10. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 9/2/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.317 million viewers

19. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Mon. 8/30/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.763 million viewers

125. Anderson Cooper 360 (CNN, Mon. 8/30/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 1.199 million viewers

190. America’s Morning Headquarters (TWC, Mon. 8/30/2021 10:00 AM, 60 min.) 0.909 million viewers

Top 10 cable news programs (and the top  MSNBC, CNN and The Weather Channel programs with their respective associated ranks) among adults 25-54:

1. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 8/30/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.778 million adults 25-54

2. Hannity (FOXNC, Mon. 8/30/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.667 million adults 25-54

3. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 8/30/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.667 million adults 25-54

4. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 8/31/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.654 million adults 25-54

5. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 9/1/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.634 million adults 25-54

6. Hannity (FOXNC, Wed. 9/1/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.613 million adults 25-54

7. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 9/2/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.574 million adults 25-54

8. The Ingraham Angle (FOXNC, Mon. 8/30/2021 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.569 million adults 25-54

9. Hannity (FOXNC, Tue. 8/31/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.564 million adults 25-54

10. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 9/1/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.552 million adults 25-54

32. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Mon. 8/30/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.367 million adults 25-54

71. Don Lemon Tonight (CNN, Mon. 8/30/2021 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.282 million adults 25-54

87. America’s Morning Headquarters (TWC, Mon. 8/30/2021 10:00 AM, 60 min.) 0.253 million adults 25-54

Source: Live+Same Day data, Nielsen Media Research

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