Sunday, October 9, 2011

Change I Can’t Believe In

Another baseball post-season is in full force, and I am staying up much too late for games that, deep down, I couldn’t care less about.  They do not seem worthy of recording to watch at a more convenient time, but they are interesting enough to keep me out of bed when on live TV.  I cannot get past the feeling that if I don’t stay up, I might miss something, a Steve Bartman foul pop, a Don Denkinger blown call, or a Mariano Rivera once-in-a-generation melt down.  I don’t have a dog in the fight this year, as they say, but I’m hooked on the generic sport of baseball, and the playoffs are addictive.

I have been a fan of the game since before free agency, before the designated hitter, and before ESPN.  Heck, before cable TV.  Back then, Nolan Ryan was a hard throwing relief pitcher for the NY Mets who lacked consistent control, and was traded for Amos Otis.  Today, he owns the Texas Rangers and the record for most career no-hitters.  Go figure.  Players have changed, rules have changed, and divisional alignment has changed, while the basic core of the game has remained stable.  For the most part, I have no problem with that.

NOTE:  This is not going to be an old guy rant about the abomination that is the designated hitter rule.  That will be saved for another day, and it IS an abomination.

This is more of a musing on a variety of baseball irritations that have seeped into the game over the years, and this is my forum to wonder aloud, WTF?

Player Necklaces:  I’m sorry, but those roped necklaces that so many players wear today are embarrassing.  In 10 years, those same players will look at photos of themselves wearing those things with the same disdain that we ‘80s children look at our old photos featuring mullets, leg warmers, and Members Only jackets.  If the necklaces were made of candy, or steroids, I could understand.

The Underhand Put-Out:  When did pitchers decide that it is too risky to throw a ball to first base overhand?  These professional ballplayers have been throwing a ball since birth, sometimes longer, yet the 10 foot toss to 1st base on a dribbler seems to lock up their ability to function.  The shovel pass in football makes strategic sense.  The soft toss to the first baseman is plain childish.  Throw the darn thing – we’re paying you millions!  I blame Chuck Knoblach.   

The Walk Off Celebration:  I have no problem watching a team celebrate a walk off hit.  The walk off is one of the most exciting moments in all of sports.  I don’t remember when part of that happy celebration became an excuse to punch the hero in the gut until he runs away from his teammates.  A slap on the ass was good enough for a century, so let’s stop punishing the hero and pretending it’s fun for the victim.

The Pitch Count:  There was a time when a major league pitcher was not a delicate flower that was not allowed to throw more than 100 pitches every 5 days.  Cy Young won 511 games in his career.  I’ll bet he was over his pitch count a few times.  I can appreciate team trying to protect their investment, which in many cases represents millions of dollars, but perhaps – just maybe – these guys can handle more work.  Makes me long for the old days of unregulated HGH and steroids when injury recover was only an injection away...

Body Armor:  Ankle guards, elbow guards, helmet ear flaps – these guys are beginning to resemble Robo-Cop at the plate.  Get up there without all the specialty equipment and take your medicine.  Otherwise, there are semi-pro softball teams forming in your area soon.  “Thank you, for your cooperation.”

The Bullpen Cart:  God, I miss those golf carts with the team caps as roofs.  Those were cool.  Like the Zamboni, I always wanted to drive one of those during a game.  The bullpen cart has nothing to do with the actual game itself, but I did love them.  I am sure the relievers would enjoy the lift, especially those who are ‘waistline challenged’.

Starters Going 9 Innings (or relievers going more than 1):  See “Pitch Count”.

Little Chin Beards:  Grow one, don’t grow one, but make up your minds!  Half the league looks like their face could be found on an etching from an Egyptian Pharaoh pyramid stone.  I hate to defer to the Yankee policy, but clean shaven is starting to sound better to me.  It’s bad enough you spit into your gloves after every pitch.  The least you can do is shave those little Brillo pads off your faces.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the radio broadcasts of baseball.  The poetry of a good announcer creating the diamond scene in my mind continues to entertain, despite competing against high-def, 3-D, Pitch Trak, and the myriad of statistical pop-ups on the TV screen.  A good announcer can make all that noise superfluous to the action and the strategy and the drama of a hard fought game.  Love to listen to a game on the radio, and I hope that never changes. 

Hopefully Bud Selig won’t mess that up.

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