There I went again, getting it wrong. Specifically, I was sure that the 2021 baseball season was not going to happen because the pandemic was not going to allow it with people ignoring all the warnings and happily infecting each other with the killer virus at every opportunity to gather in large groups.
I’m very happy to have been wrong, of course, and it’s great to see the game being played again without cardboard cutouts in the stands. As regular readers already know, it’s not the first time I’ve been wrong. As a mature, emotionally balanced adult, I will admit my mistakes but not dwell on them. Like most folks, I will only dwell on other people’s mistakes. Continuing in confessional mode, I am still a bit stuck in the Rip Van Winkle thing because I didn’t really pay much attention last season until the playoffs started so I don’t have the usual amount of knowledge with regard to rosters and can’t pretend to be able to tell what teams are strong and what teams aren’t, but I’m sure that I will catch up. I know Sergio Romo is still around somewhere, but did Dustin Pedroia really retire?
Everyone appears to believe that the Chicago White Sox have become one of the best teams in the major leagues and now they have the astronomically over rated Tony LaRussa back as manager but all I can say is okay boomer. As usual, the Dodgers and Yankees are media favorites to meet in the 2021 World Series, but I will need to see a few dozen http://baseballreference.comgames first and besides my disdain for both organizations is still deeply seated.
As for the new rules, I am going to come across as a grumpy, recalcitrant, probably constipated old fart but I don’t care. I was raised to stand for what is right and good, not necessarily what is popular or “trending”. After 2020, when the designated sitter position became “universal”, meaning both leagues used it, even stalwarts who long favored pitchers batting began to become converts to the idea. Even my man Tim Kurkjian joined the crowd of unholy blasphemers. Jessica Mendoza wants the DH too. I am saddened but not crushed. Why am I such a holdout, incapable of acknowledging the inevitable? Because, first: the idea that both the National League and the American league need to be identical in every way is, to be impolite, bullshit. In fact, the two leagues are better off having differences. All of this homogenization crap began when the league presidents’ offices were done away with and umpires no longer worked for one league or the other. It’s part of the American system of not allowing any such thing as competition and we probably have to look at our old friends in the television business for culpability here. Having actually different leagues is as bad to them as suggesting that Taco Bell’s latest bastardization of authentic Mexican food isn’t worth eating. Because, second: Mendoza noted in her opinion that what everyone seemed to want was more scoring. To me, that is questionable. I mean, why? Perhaps the answer is that, for people who haven’t played the game or otherwise learned to appreciate it, more runs equal more excitement. The “casual viewer” thinks 1-0 is boring. I have heard actual live people say that American football is superior to international soccer because there are more points scored. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that 17-10 is more fun than 3-2, especially when you get all of those huddles and time outs because beer makes me have to pee. At any rate, if adding the designated sitter had the objective of increasing the number of runs scored, it worked very well. In 1972, 6,441 runs were scored in the American League. Among the twelve teams, that meant that the average was 3.31 runs per game were scored. In 1973, the very first DH season, the American League scored 8,314 runs, or 4.276 runs per game per team, an increase of almost one run per game for each side. Now let’s jump all the way to 2006, when all of those A.L. teams had enjoyed three decades plus of no bats in the hands of inept pitchers but, instead, had found happy homes on the benches for players who were not so good at catching ground balls or fly balls and otherwise might be unemployed except for the fact that they could still occasionally hit a ball over the wall. Of course, by 2006, players had (ahem) better nutrition and closer fences and all that as well, but the runs were plentiful. The 14 American League teams scored 11,262 runs that year, or 4.966 per team per game. Imagine all of those highlight shows of balls leaving the yard and guys circling the bases and pointing to the sky! Ah, but guess what? In the same season, National League teams scored 12,338 runs which, for the 16 teams meant an average of 4.76 runs per game for each team. That is a whole two tenths of a run less than the vaunted designated sitter league. Wow! But mostly because, third: The designated sitter spread all over the game and was not confined to the major leagues. Amateur players are made into specialists at far too young an age. Don’t like hard balls bouncing off your shins? That’s okay, just hit it hard. We’ll find a place for you. Just like pitching and don’t want to try to hit the curve ball? Dude, just work on throwing it 100 miles per hour. You’ll get to play. All the stuff that used to be confined to senior slow pitch softball has spread all the way down to little league. No one is feeling any pressure to work on their whole game. This attitude will have the long term affect of making the game a lot less fun for all concerned.
I am not nostalgic for all of the old ways from the days of Ty Cobb and Rogers Hornsby because I think nothing should ever change. I just know that, when pitchers bat and batters field it maintains the concept of team in a better way. Sacrifice bunts and squeeze plays can be very exciting. The hit and run play has always mystified me but I like it when I see it work. Home run derby and strikeouts galore do not entertain me. Great defense, triples, and smart pitching by hurlers who have learned how to bunt and field and run the bases entertains me a lot.
As for the three batter minimum for relief pitchers, try again Manfred Manne. To shorten games, let’s have one commercial per half inning. And ten pitchers per roster.
And the runner on second at the beginning of any extra inning? The idea is to get a result, but both teams get the same deal. Bush league. Not even bush league. Play ball.
Despite all this grousing, it’s really good to have our game back. Now it’s time for me to catch up.