I am amazed that the Commissioner of Baseball can call one of the teams within Major league baseball an aberration because he wishes them broken up and disbanded since they are a "small" market. Only "big market" teams can be good? Please. Strike after strike, stupid decisions and comments by the players association and the owners,and especially Selig, are destroying the game which was only saved by Mark McQuire Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds and their home run chases.
Sports Illustrated last week wrote a great 15 step plan for fixing baseball. It was elaborate, but very plausible. I hope Selig checks it out and thinks about some of the things mentioned.
Mean Gene: "You know, I don't think it's a question - Goldberg, I don't think it's a question of who's next, I think it's a question of who's left?" Goldberg: "No, see, that's where you're wrong. It ain't who's left, it's - WHO'S NEXT?"
"Just how hardcore am I? Well this morning, I drank milk that was two days past the expiration!" -Norman Smiley
The following announcement has not been paid for because it's free. Yes, Ripken breaking Gehrig's record was huge for baseball, but nobody cares about consistency and dependability, we wanna see guys hit balls very far! That's all baseball is these days! You think they're going to follow through on raising the mound like they've been saying for the past 4 years? No! We might as well turn the National Pastime into slow-pitch softball! Then again, Pedro would probably still have a 2.45 ERA.
The preceding announcement was not paid for because it was free.
Gugs, I give you an article I read in the Columbus Dispatch today, which can also be found on washingtonpost.com.
Pitchers Regain Control Of Game By Thomas Boswell
Quietly, baseball has brought itself back into balance over the last two years. Largely because of a bigger strike zone, pitching is back. If Barry Bonds, with his 73 home runs, was the symbol of 2001, then Curt Schilling with his 18-3 record, and more than a dozen starts still to come, is the symbol for 2002.
The trend toward equilibrium began last year, particularly in the American League. And it has strengthened this season, especially in the National League. As a result, the sport has come back from the brink of a ludicrous, almost comic, excess of offense. It's amazing what reducing runs by one-seventh can do for sanity.
Baseball entered this season with three large structural problems confronting it: restoring better economic balance among franchises, improving the sluggish pace of play, and reducing the number of 13-11, nine-home-run games.
While almost no one even noticed, baseball cured one of its most serious problems. The game still has major labor issues, as the next few weeks will no doubt illustrate. But few of those headaches are on the field. A sport that was in danger of becoming hideously lopsided, with scores that looked like softball games, has tinkered with rules, taken away some protective armor from hitters, and gotten back to something approximating "normal."
Here's one eye-catching statistic that captures the whole trend. In 2000, only one starting pitcher in the entire American League had an ERA under 3.70 (Pedro Martinez). Right now, there are 15 starters in the AL and 37 in both leagues combined.
This season, when we talk about historic performers, we'll focus on starting pitchers. Who's more amazing, Schilling, who already has 212 strikeouts along with his 18 wins, or teammate Randy Johnson, 14-4 with 200 strikeouts? Yet Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine actually rank first and third, respectively, in the league in ERA. That's no surprise. Two years ago, no NL team had an ERA under 4.00. This year, the entire Braves staff is at 2.95.
Forget that chicks love the long ball. Who's the front-runner for the AL Cy Young Award: one of two Red Sox pitchers, Derek Lowe (14-5, 2.23) or Martinez (13-2, 2.50), or the A's Barry Zito, who is 15-3 at age 24 and could be emerging as a superstar. Why, Mike Mussina (13-4) might finally have a 20-win season.
Hitters haven't disappeared, but they've sure taken a step backward. Maybe it took umpires and pitchers two years to get comfortable with the idea of pitches above the belt being called strikes, as the rule book stipulates. Certainly more pitchers now understand the value of a "high hard one."
Also, hitters are slightly less prone to stand on top of the plate, taking away the outside corner, now that they are not allowed to wear the enormous armor of recent years. They can still get some protection, but not to the point where a 95-mph fastball on the elbow doesn't hurt. Less has proved to be more.
Perhaps you've even noticed that umpires now seem to allow pitchers to work inside -- and even hit a batter -- without issuing a warning. The unwritten code at the moment is that if one team drills a hitter and the other team retaliates with one hit batter, it's not the end of the world as long as the pitches are below the neck.
Tempers can flare, as they did in Sunday's Orioles-Red Sox mini-brawl, which was ignited by tit-for-tat fastballs in the back. But that was an accepted staple of the game for decades. As long as head-hunting is verboten, pitchers should continue to be given leeway to work inside with gusto, even if hitters don't like it.
And they don't. With good reason. At the moment, only one player is on a pace to hit 50 homers. Forget the days of 70 homers. We may wait a generation, or forever, to see a player who hits more home runs in a season than Babe Ruth did, yet isn't even the home run champ. Someday far in the future, a trivia question may be: What player hit 63, 64 and 66 home runs, but didn't win the home run crown in any of those years? And people won't believe that such a fate could have befallen Sammy Sosa.
Right now, only one player in the National League is on pace for more than 121 RBI. And only two hitters in each league are batting over .333. Why, this could be 1935, 1946, 1958, 1977 or dozens of other sensible seasons when the sport had statistics and league leaders that made sense in a long-term historical context.
Is it possible something has gone spectacularly right for poor battered baseball? Apparently, it has. Right now, the sport is in a perfectly satisfactory balance between pitching and hitting, with an enjoyable, but modest bias toward offense. The American League is probably still a little too hit happy. But not enough to complain.
It's hard to believe that, just two years ago, there were only seven starters in all of baseball with ERAs under 3.25. Now, there are 16. That's typical of what's happened. Pick any benchmark you choose. If you look at the number of starting pitchers with ERAs under 3.00, 3.25, 3.50, 3.75 and 4.00, there are twice as many, and sometimes three times as many pitchers with ERAs at levels as there were just two years ago.
The sport hasn't stumbled into a generation of young star pitchers. The trend is too broad for that. It encompasses entire teams. In 2000, only one team in the whole home run bedazzled American League had an ERA under 4.49. In other words, nobody could pitch a lick. Every game had the potential to be a joke. Now, there are seven teams, half the league, under 4.49. And four teams are under 4.00. In the NL, seven teams have a lower ERA this season than the best team in the league had two years ago!
All in all, the National League has shaved its ERA from 4.63 in '00 to 3.86 at the moment. Most of the drop, down from 4.36 in '01, has come this year. The AL made its major improvement last year, with the league ERA dropping from 4.91 in '00 to 4.47. It's hovering right around 4.50 again this year.
It's the AL, however, which seems to have more emerging potential 20-game winners among its young starters. This year, Lowe (14-5), Mark Buehrle (13-7), Jarrod Washburn (12-2), Roy Halladay (12-4) and even the Orioles' Rodrigo Lopez (11-3) probably will end up in the high teens if they don't hit 20.
This transformation has been enormous, as dramatic in its way as the flood of home runs that preceded it. But baseball has had so many other problems, controversies and distractions that the game itself has been overlooked.
It's time to change our mind-set, hard as it may be. Baseball isn't just a game of 450-foot swats anymore. Check the box scores. Last Saturday and Sunday produced five shutouts, including a 1-0 game. Remember shutouts? Those who care for the game can stop worrying. The sport hasn't degenerated into a slugfest fiasco.
In fact, it's being played just about right.
"BobHollySTILLRules STILL rules!" -SmooveK, finally letting the world know what a select few have known all along. That I do, indeed, rule.
Bengals, Playoffs, 2002.
DON'T BELIEVE IT!
*I* want to be the right one!
Note: In honor of the soon-to-be NWA Champion, the Hardcore Holly titantron is on hiatus, so that we can all GET ROWDY!