The Eagles came up short in the playoffs and chilly weather has set in over the Philadelphia region.  Diehard Philly sports fans take heart — the Philadelphia Phillies pitchers and catchers report on February 11.  For the 2020 season, we look forward to our franchise’s 55th manager at the helm: Joe Girardi. He brings an impressive resume, leading the New York Yankees into the postseason in six of his ten seasons with the club as well as capturing the 27th World Series for the Pinstripes against the Phillies in 2009.  

Girardi may very well bring his magic to the City of Brotherly Love so that we enjoy October baseball in 2020.  But how did the Phightin’ Phils, who racked up way more losses than wins in the last decade, score a manager with such a good pedigree?  Unfortunately, cheating allegations in Major League Baseball, which had absolutely nothing to do with Girardi, set him on the road to Philadelphia.

Girardi may very well bring his magic to the City of Brotherly Love so that we enjoy October baseball in 2020. 

For lovers of the game of baseball, a reminder about the art of the sport sets the stage.  Hitting requires exquisite timing. When a talented pitcher manages to interrupt that timing, he deploys a weapon that thwarts even the most gifted batter. 

Anyone who has been around baseball long enough will tell you that batting practice offers little resemblance to facing an adept pitcher who utilizes off speed pitches. Thus, the changeup, where the pitcher surreptitiously adjusts his grip, which causes the ball to arrive at the plate later than expected, often effectively fools the batter.  If the pitcher can just get that hitter to have his weight shift and his timing slightly interrupted, he will most likely win the battle, and at the very least, reduce that hitter to just using the strength of his hands rather than his full body, effectively turning any power hitter into one who barely squeaks out a single.

When you see a Major League hitter flail at a pitch, you know the pitcher’s timing duped him. The same goes for when you see a hitter fail to swing at a pitch that crosses right down the middle … an incorrect timing calculation leaves the player standing at the plate, watching the ball speed past him. 

Foretelling the type of the next pitch based on your count at the plate is a skill using both science and art.  All great hitters achieve this expertise. They know that when the count is in your favor because you have amassed more balls than strikes, look for a fastball.  Of course, the pitcher uses the same strategy and he can make the batter look foolish by throwing a different pitch. When a batter continually gets it wrong, his batting average plummets.

Recently, the internet alighted with bombshell claims against two Houston Astros players: Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman.  By allegedly using a buzzer taped to their bodies, accusers say that the players received stolen signals as to what pitches were coming.  The scandal exploded, with all sorts of claims of hidden cameras and other clandestine tricks. Thus, technology disrupted the careful and cerebral art of pitching.  The Astros players vehemently deny the claims and but an investigation confirmed the illegal use of a camera system. Other teams are now under fire for similar charges.

Girardi’s Yankees did not make it to the final dance in 2017 when the Houston Astros bested them in the American League championship series.  The Astros went on to become 2017 World Series champions. Many now say that win came about by the use of deception. Whatever the case, the Yankee front office soured on Girardi, who then tried a stint as a broadcaster before re-entering the world of managing to bring hope back to Broad Street.

Baseball is a beautiful sport. Played well, it is a pure joy to watch.

While this scandal may ultimately prove to be fortuitous for our home team, stealing signals destroys the great game of baseball: the disappearance of the timing factor means fans essentially pay to watch players take batting practice.  

Baseball is a beautiful sport. Played well, it is a pure joy to watch. When fraudsters compromise the integrity of the game, they reduce baseball to a made-for-TV home run derby, devoid of skill and science.

As Philadelphia Phillies fans, we look forward to this new season with Girardi, with hope that we will see a post-season.  For baseball fans everywhere, we are saddened by the cloud of deception that might have had a hand in bringing him to our great city.  The gloom over this beloved sport might be here to stay.

Tim Kerns is a former Minor League Baseball player and the Owner/Operator of Triple Crown Academy in Limerick, PA, where he trains youth from Little League to college level in the fine art of the game.  Learn more @triplecrownacademy. His sister, Linda A. Kerns, is an attorney and a co-founder of Broad + Liberty.

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