Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Baseball Is Baseball Again

A recent item in the paper about the Cincinnati Reds caught my eye. The story said the Reds led the league in going first to third, referring to a runner on first getting to third on a single to the outfield, rather than stopping at second. This is something the Reds pride themselves on doing, and it illustrates just how far baseball has come in getting past the steroids era.

In the steroids era baseball became too much like a slow pitch softball game, with runners waiting on bases for a batter to hit a home run, and everybody trying to hit a home run every time at bat. It was very dull and uninteresting, and so much of the beauty of the game was lost in the process.

Sunday there were two inside-the-park home runs, and listening to the excitement of the announcers it was obvious this was much more exciting than a blast over the fence. Another recent morsel was David Ortiz getting thrown out in the 9th inning of the All-Star game, thereby virtually ruining the AL's chance to come back agint the NL. A single to the right fielder was fielded and Ortiz was forced at second by the right fielder! Ortiz had to wait to see if the ball would be caught, and he just didn't have the speed to get to the base after that. The AL manager would, of course, have liked to have pinch run for him, but the only position player left on the bench had to be kept back in case he was needed in the field. (The All-Star game does count these days, as we are continually reminded, but the managers still manage too much like they are trying to get everybody into the game instead of to win.) Again, this example shows the importance of speed.

The stats are quite clear on home runs. The last two years in the American League the home run leader has had less than 40. The last time this happened in the AL was 1982-83. In the interim period Babe Ruth's long-standing standard of 60 was exceeded six times--three times by Sosa, twice by McGwire, and once by Bonds. To put it another way, prior to 1995 a player had hit 50 homers in a season only 16 times. From 1995 on, this has happened 25 times. Thankfully, we seem to be getting back to baseball as it's meant to be played and enjoyed.

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