Friday, July 1, 2011

How Baseball Has Changed

Wednesday afternoon at Wrigley Field in the windy city, Chicago. The Cubs faced off with the defending World Champs, the San Francisco Giants. What a game it was! I remember reading somewhere about a guy who was dying. Someone asked him what he would miss about life, and one of the things he mentioned was "...being able to watch a meaningless mid-season baseball game." I had the opportunity of doing just that and availed myself of the pleasure wednesday afternoon. The Cubs faced off with the defending World Champs, the San Francisco Giants. What a game it was!
The Freak, Tim Linecum took the mound for the guys from the left coast, while Ryan Dempster started for the Cubbies. It turned out to be a pitcher's duel. The Cubs scored one in the bottom of the seventh and that was it until the ninth, as Dempster retired twenty in a row at one point. Pat Burrell led off with a double in the top of the ninth and...out comes the manager of the Cubs, Mike Quade. Dempster had only thrown 83 pitches, far below the usual century mark managers use as a standard these daze. I could not believe my eyes when he brought in a relief pitcher! "My god man," I thought, "this can't be happening!" I could hear Tim McCarver in my mind talking about what Bob Gibson would've said to the manager back in the day if he had been dumb enough to try and take the ball out of Gibson's hands at this point of the game. Hell, I can't imagine Leo Durocher coming out in 1969 to try and relieve Ferguson Jenkins, the Cubs HOFer who completed 23 of the 42 starts he made that year. Used to be a game like that belonged to the starting pitcher, and WE LIKED IT THAT WAY!
Now the namby-pamby spoiled pitchers only pitch every fifth day and are expected to go only six innings for a so-called 'quality start'. Now the hurlers are considered to be over-worked if they throw more than 200 innings a season. Back in '69 Fergie Jenkins hurled 311. His teammate Bill Hands took the mound for 300, while the #3 starter, Ken Holtzman, pitched 261, which would lead MLB these crazy, hazy, daze...
The relief pitcher allowed the man on second to score, but shut the Giants down and the Cubs scored to win the game. So the so-called 'closer', Carlos Marmol got credit for blowing a save opportunity and also winning the game. Who said baseball was fair?
Speaking of fair...The Braves manager, Freddie Gonzalez, has inserted the worst hitter in the major leagues, Dan Uggla, whose stats are truly ugly, into the #2 spot in the batting order, to "try and get him going." What he ought to do is get him going to the minor leagues! I read somewhere that the most important batting order position in relation to scoring runs was the second spot. I recall it because I was so surprised. I would not have guessed it, and I don't miss much in my beloved game of baseball. For some time, the manager was putting Uggla in the spot behind the rookie first baseman, Freddie Freeman. When Freeman got hot, nothing would come of his base hits because he had a desiginated out batting right behind him. Dan became a real ugly rally killer. The manager has begun to place Freeman in the clean-up spot in the lineup, which is as smart as putting Uggla in the two hole. A batter with the kind of rotten stats that Uggla has should, if in the lineup, be batting eight, unless, that is, there is a good hitting pitcher! Then he should be batting last. Freddie should take a page out of Tony LaRussa's book and hit him ninth. Maybe Uggla would pull a 'Hor Hey' and refuse to play. The Braves could then unload the guy without having to pay him the Big Bucks they owe him. Hey, it's worth a shot...
How is it that these over-priced ballplayers have come to feel entitled? I mean, why should someone like Derek Jeter, who only plays a game, be able to afford a mansion that has come to be called 'St. Jetersburg'? Many millions are out of work and it is only getting worse. I sometimes think we would be better off if, like in the movie, Doctor Zhivago, the people would rise up and take over houses like that and move many families into it. How is it that the owners can afford to pay these players so much money? They can afford it because, for a generation, the politicians have gotten into bed with the owners and stuck WE THE PEOPLE with paying for the new stadiums. Read the chapters on George W. Bush and how he came to own the Texas Rangers, and on George Steinbrenner, in the book, Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You with the Bill) by David Cay Johnston. I have read probably far too many books on the business of baseball. I am currently reading: Hot Stove Economics: Understanding Baseball's Second Season by J. C. Bradbury, after having read his first book: The Baseball Economist: The Real Game Exposed. Both are highly recommended. These books, and others, detail just how far in the slimy politicos and owners have stuck it in us. Could it be time for WE, THE PEOPLE, to start sticking back?

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