Mike Trout and Bryce Harper will get more ink, air time, and social media following than any other major league players again this coming season, and not just because they are young white guys in a sports world that once was dominated by white guys but now sees them as an endangered species. It will also be because they are very good at playing baseball.
Those of us who would have to hit the lottery to be able to afford tickets to major sporting events but aren’t stupid enough to buy lottery tickets have to be content to enjoy our games on television or radio. Therefore, rather than sit among cell phone cradling, mostly overweight “fans” who are stuffing their faces with highly overpriced fatty and sugary snacks and pleading for stray baseballs, we are forced to endure the constant chatter from play-by-play announcers and their sidekicks in the booths, which all now have corporate names. It is especially prevalent on national broadcasts while some of us,particularly in the San Francisco area where we can enjoy Jon Miller, Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper, are more fortunate than others. Here are some things we are absolutely guaranteed to be hearing again this season: 1)VELOCITY. In the days before radar guns, when all we had were slide rules, compasses, and our eyes and ears, there were pitchers who were “fast”. They could “bring it”. They threw “aspirin tablets”. We didn’t know precisely what the miles per hour were but we knew that we’d be lucky to get a foul tip. Now the big deal is to hit 100mph on the gun to impress the scouts and elbow surgeons. So we’ll be hearing about how some poor bastard used to average 96-98 but now it’s more like 89-92 and maybe he’ll have to learn how to pitch with all that that entails.
2)THE DESIGNATED HITTER. Already there is talk from chowderheads wanting to make both leagues uniform about the 43 year old rule that looked good at first but is so boring now. I’m all for uniformity if we can have it where pitchers hit in both leagues. The controversy, however, seems a bit manufactured so, instead of endless speculation, maybe we can just give it a rest. With the crowded booths at ESPN and Fox, someone is certain to bring it up while interviewing a player or manager as we all miss some action on the field.
3)BUYING AND SELLING. “Gee, Luke, the Pirates have lost their first five games.No doubt they’ll be thinking about dumping Marte and Cole by the trading deadline.” We used to hear old time players turned “color” men rhapsodize about the hit and run or how to properly execute the sacrifice bunt. In 2016, we’ll be hearing more about how much money will be freed to teams by dumping big contracts and how much so and so will be worth in his free agency year and all that other owner/manager bullshit. Please, people, there is a GAME being played here.
4)WORKING THE COUNT. Is Moneyball discredited yet? Look, if you’ve got no speed and all you can do is hit one over the wall every 21.5 at bats then, yeah, get yourself a walk and hope the next guy gets lucky. If your whole roster is filled with these John Jaha types then that might be your strategy,but don’t pretend you planned it that way because that is not very bright. I like the Dusty Baker approach: if it looks like something you can drive,rip. Not that walks are bad, especially compared to strikeouts, but let’s not make a religion out of it.
5)Finally,you and I will be certain to hear often that it takes “a certain mentality, etc.” to be a pitcher that pitches the ninth inning. The whole closer thing is so lame and tired. It takes guts to start a game too, and also to pitch out of trouble. Without courage, you might not get past American Legion ball.
Nevertheless, it’s 26 days until Spring Training starts and that, I guarantee you, is exciting.