Originally Posted Dec 2015
“Hot Stove” is outta place for a 75 degree day in December…. But Baseball is still The Sport I can enjoy year-round as a pure fan without bemoaning the socio-cultural collapse of America…. sigh. So, lets – “PLAY BALL”.
I make no apologies that “Baseball” is the one sport where I still allow myself to “be a fan”. Baseball has always been the sport that I identified with as a player of limited ability but so appreciative of those who possess some / all of the “five tools” especially at the “big league” level.
I love that it is called “the big leagues”….. that the locker room is “a clubhouse” ….. and that the manager wears a uniform.
I enjoy being a baseball fan for all the reasons that many disdain…. the pace of play…. the stop/go high drama…. the “no clock” – “not over ‘til the last man’s out” hope springing eternal from within the human breast…. the symmetry of the playing field and rules – 60’6” – 90’ – 4 balls & 3 strikes – 3 outs ….. the sounds (“crack of the bat”….. “ball smacking into the mitt”….. vendors peddling their wares) ….. that physical size is not as critical as ability – from Nellie Fox and Albie Pearson to Frank Howard and Randy Johnson.
I also appreciate that 93.7% of the fans in the stands do not understand either “the infield fly rule” or “a balk” but think they do. EVERY time a pitcher bluffs to 2nd, a fan in every park on Earth – Cuba, Japan, Korea, Dominican Republic, or New Bern – WILL yell “balk” and cuss the crooked and blind “ump” for not calling it…. unless it is “his pitcher” of course in which case the fan smirks that the ump missed “the obvious balk”.
I love that unlike any other sport, fans can argue 24/7 the comparisons of players over 100+ years with a certain assuredness.
Could Ty Cobb hit Nolan Ryan? Johnny Bench and Yogi versus Buster Posey and “Yadi”? Mike Trout versus “Mickey” or “Say Hey” or “Duke”?
Technology has had minimal effect “between the lines”. Balls and bats are basically the same. Gloves HAVE changed over the years. Knickers have given way to “softball pants” (which I have finally come around to accepting). Home “whites” and Road “greys” are now passé EXCEPT for The Yankees.
Teams that routinely practice “the suicide squeeze” and “hitting the cut-off man” WILL win more often than those that don’t.
I resist understanding “analytics”. I have no clue what WAR or OPS is, nor do I want to google it to learn. I do appreciate the JUG gun and am amazed that a decrease of 3-4 mph in a “heater” can spell the end of a pitcher’s career.
I mean no offense to great athletes in any sports (and I DO consider NASCAR and Golf to be “sports) but IMO none can compare to the sheer artistry of MLB middle infielders – shortstops and 2nd basemen. There IS a difference between playing LF versus RF and no sport has a skill set equivalent to an MLB catcher.
I have also come to appreciate “free agency” and the drama it brings to the off-season as GMs play “poker” with their rosters. The astronomical salaries are “monopoly money”. I always go back to Ol’ Roy’s “how many golf balls does one man need?”
Whether a player makes $20M or the MLB minimum of $500K…. he ultimately will find himself in the bottom of the 9th – 3-2 count, bases loaded, two outs, trailing by two…. staring out at an MLB pitcher gripping a ball preparing to throw it 60’6” at 100 mph within a foot or so of his head…. and be expected to “come thru in the clutch”.
Appreciating the “team aspect” of baseball…. it is, at its core, a sport where the actions of the individual player are fully exposed for all to see….. the batter swings or misses – the pitcher makes his pitch or is off by a fatal inch or two – the fielder catches / throws successfully or not. ….. all those actions if full view of a ballpark filled with fans all of whom know just enough about “baseball” to think they know it all.
As a Cardinals’ fan, this has been a difficult off-season for sure; but I am NOT dismayed. I trust GM “Moz” and “Manager Mike” to bring a scrappy bunch of ballplayers out of Florida in early April wearing those beautiful “birds on the bat” uniforms and, with Stan The Man looking down from his heavenly box seat, will do us proud “in the shadow of The Arch”.
….. IF Brendan Moss has regained the strength in his legs, improving his “warning track power” by just a few feet, and Yadi’s thumb is sound…. look for The Red Birds to be, as usual, “in the hunt” come late September.
Here’s a great article highlighting the young superstars of baseball.
With the calendar turning to 2016, the youth movement in Major League Baseball has set us up for what figures to be a remarkable second half of the decade.
It’s hard to remember a time when the sport featured so many bona fide stars under the age of 25, both at the plate and on the mound. In 2015, only one top-five MVP finisher was in his 30s (Joey Votto).
It was a near-impossible task to pick a projected starting nine for the second half of the decade — especially at positions like shortstop and third base, where there are so many talented players who haven’t even reached their primes. Still, the guess here is that five years from now, the below selections will stack up with any era in baseball history.