My generation, the one referred to so arrogantly by The Who half a century ago, is quite possibly the largest collection of spoiled brats in the history of human life. I’m only including the forever young who were born in the United States, of course, because that’s how we think. From Howdy Doody to Dick Clark to the Beatles the mass media, particularly television, catered to us every step of the way. For one thing, there were so many of us. What a market! For another, many of us had parents who lived through The Depression and The War, and, as a result, were determined that their kids were going to have everything that they had been forced to do without. What a great, great market! So, everywhere we went, we took over. Elementary school, high school, college, prison, you name it. It still goes on at assisted living facilities and graveyards.
While deep in thought as the new year began, your correspondent made a resolution. Why not drop all of the negative bile I’ve been belching forth (and aft) about the wretched changes to what used to be our national pastime–the constant whining and yapping about the designated sitter, the lost art of starting pitching, the crass commercialization, and Joe Buck? Maybe I really should have spent the entire winter speculating about which major league organization was going to turn Bryce Harper into the next Albert Pujols. Maybe I should just go with flow and forget about all of those things that went missing, like sacrifice bunts, going the other way, and affordable tickets. I was probably just getting old and crusty and wanting everything, including baseball, to be just like it was in the days when cars had drivers and the average person didn’t know what everyone else in the country had for lunch.
I mean, I wasn’t being what they call a purist, was I? I just wanted my own baby boomer golden days of the mid sixties and late seventies, didn’t I? At least the early DHs were aging stars of my youth like Henry Aaron, Rico Carty, and Frank Robinson. Didn’t mind that. Perhaps the old timers of my youth were nostalgic for the days of Smoky Joe Wood, who, in 1912, won 34 and lost 5 for the pennant winning Boston Red Sox while completing 35 of his 36 starts and coming out of the bullpen seven times for a total of 344 innings pitched. Or maybe some other folks missed the 40s, before the days of Jackie Robinson, when almost every runner had a good chance of scoring from first base on a triple. So , begrudgingly. it became apparent that my song was getting too many plays and it was time to get with it. Kind of a cranial liposuction. Ah yes! That feels better. Let’s talk about launch angles and spin rates. What’s good for General Motors is good for the country, even if the country is China, where they will soon be making Teslas as well.
Then I read about Tom Seaver. He’s been diagnosed with dementia and will no longer make public appearances. Seaver and Nolan Ryan, who briefly were teammates on the New York Mets, were strong legged, long lasting pitchers that, if anyone wished to learn proper technique and conditioning, were ideal models of the craft. I’m indebted to writer Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle, who dug up some quotes by Seaver from years ago that warmed my heart. He told the NewYork Daily News that …”All this babying of pitchers—pitch counts and innings limits—is a bunch of nonsense.” In case you didn’t know, Seaver pitched 20 seasons, had 231 complete games, won 311 games, and has a lifetime earned run average of 2.86 and 3,640 strikeouts. In another interview years ago he said, “These people today don’t understand what it means to walk off the mound after holding the other team down for nine innings….the effect it has on players in the other dugout. By coddling a guy, you’re teaching him to fear his innings pitched. Where are you going to find the next Bob Gibson or Steve Carlton unless a young pitcher is pushed? You won’t.And I guarantee you most of these guys would like tp pitch more and realize their full potential.”
Okay, I fell off the wagon. We do have guys like Max Scherzer and Madison Bumgarner and Justin Verlander. Jacob DeGrom and Cory Kluber also qualify. But it will take years and years to retrain everyone’s minds, so I might as well give up. It’s as likely to happen as Sunday doubleheaders.