Michael Wilbon found a new target for his anti-analytics ire in MLB tracking exit velocities for hitters like Pittsburgh's O'Neil Cruz. Credit: Pardon the Interruption

Please make no mistake: Ken Rosenthal is a Michael Wilbon fan.

But that doesn’t mean The Athletic’s senior MLB insider and Fox Sports sideline reporter has to agree with what Wilbon said about exit velocity during an episode of ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption last week.

“It angers me,” Wilbon said of the hype around Pirates shortstop O’Neil Cruz’s exit velocity. “He’s a .260 hitter, so why do I care about the exit velo? I don’t, and so I guess people need this to become interested and more fascinated and go, ‘Oh wow.’ Not only do I not go, ‘oh wow,’ it has started the ruination of watching sports for me, numbers like this put up on the screen repeatedly, day in, day out.”

Interrupting a potential rebuttal to Wilbon’s comments, Rosenthal expressed his appreciation for Wilbon’s personal graciousness in their past interactions during a recent appearance on Foul Territory. However, this appreciation didn’t prevent him from criticizing ESPN’s current MLB coverage, particularly Wilbon’s comments and the ones Stephen A. Smith made about Mike Trout being injured too much.

“But we’ve seen now twice ESPN commentators, both of whom who are basically basketball centric — Michael Wilbon and Stephen A. Smith — venture into baseball without a lot of knowledge about baseball,” Rosenthal said. “Trout gets hurt too much, according to Stephen A. Smith. And now Michael’s saying exit velo is ruining the sport for him — or ruining sports in general for him. This is why, in this day and age, it’s probably better to focus on a specific sport — the way I do — than talk about things you don’t have any knowledge of.

“And the exit velo debate is a legitimate one. And I understand the frustration of some fans who say, ‘Listen, it’s not that important. Look at these guys like (Giancarlo) Stanton, who hit the ball hard. He’s having a good year this year, but he hasn’t always been that way.’ You look at O’Neil Cruz, yeah, great, he’s basically an above-average offensive player but not a great offensive player. Yes, my point on this was that that performance Tuesday night was a great performance, and it was measurable. It was quantifiable. We came to have a better appreciation of it because we knew what the numbers were and we knew the context of what the numbers were.

“So, I wish Michael hadn’t said that because he got crushed for it. And Michael Wilbon is one of the most accomplished people in our business and one of the best people in our business. But we all say things that we don’t always think entirely through. And I think he would like this one back.”

Foul Territory host Todd Frazier said that people are going to have their opinions and wanted to leave it at that.

But the overwhelming baseball public didn’t agree with Wilbon’s sentiment; Rosenthal included.

[Foul Territory]

About Sam Neumann

Since the beginning of 2023, Sam has been a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. A 2021 graduate of Temple University, Sam is a Charlotte native, who currently calls Greenville, South Carolina his home. He also has a love/hate relationship with the New York Mets and Jets.