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Monthly Archives: June 2014

FlagBaseballThe designated hitter was just the beginning. Thank God I am a National League fan and get to watch the final remnants of the bygone era of a strategy-minded thinking man’s game where critical decisions have to be made when the pitcher is due to bat—just let him swing and make the best of it, sacrifice bunt with less than two out or suicide squeeze with a runner on third and less than two outs, or pinch hit even though he is pitching a good game just to get a tying or go-ahead run across the plate. Likewise, to let a tiring pitcher due to bat first, second, or third in the order next inning to pitch on fumes just a little longer so that you can pinch hit for him next inning; or pull a double-switch to allow a pitching change that changes the batting order so the new pitcher is not due to bat next inning. I would like to argue for the abolition of the designated hitter and have the NL protocol be the law of the land in both leagues—especially now that you have fifteen teams in each league and a minimum of one interleague game virtually every day is now a necessary evil in order to complete a 162 game schedule in six months. The younger generation may prefer the added offense of a DH in both leagues. But there are much deeper blows to the aorta of baseball purity right now.
A far more radical change in the game is giving the manager the option to challenge the umpire’s call and using video in some control room in Manhattan to possibly overturn the umpire’s call. Bill Klem, Tom Gorman, and Doug Harvey—going along the generation continuum, would never surrender their power to rule the game with an iron hand and allow video cameras overturn their calls which were once almighty even when a mistake is made—the so called human element of officiating. This generation of umpires does not want to rule the game; after all, the challenge-review rule was their idea. Truth be told, umpires made just as many mistakes in yesteryear as they do today; before high def television and other technology, many went undetected. A fan sitting in the upper deck at old Shea Stadium, closer to the airplanes than the field, or around the Pesky pole at Fenway Park with a grandstand column obstructing their view could not always find such a miscue. Neither could a snowy black-and-white TV running on rabbit ears or a first generation Zenith Chromocolor with a screen the shape of an eye-ball. This generation of umpires, many of them who resigned on September 1st, 1999 to protest the suspension of Tom Hallion and for some reason were allowed to come back the following year, chose the white flag over the black suit and now it takes four hours to complete a 3-2 nine-inning game.
The Internationalization of the game is another big difference between then and now. I commend the players and owners in 2002 for not going on strike and working out the revenue-sharing via payroll tax to give small-market teams a fair shake. One of the big differences is the Yankees cannot buy a championship as easily because the payroll tax keeps enough money in the pockets of most of the other owners to retain their star players. This is another generational shift because there was a time when the best players in the game would do whatever it took, even a small pay cut, to wear the pinstripes and play for the most storied sports franchise in the history of the world. This generation of players will stay with their teams as long as their current teams offer them the most money. The loophole Hal Steinbrenner has chosen to answer the retirements of Mariano Riviera and Derek Jeter and the aging team is to look overseas for superstars in other countries such as Masahiro Tanaka and populate the roster with the best foreign lands have to offer. As much as I hate it when the Yankees buy championships, I give Hal credit for the idea and if I were playing his chess pieces, it is a good move on the board. The biggest problems are (1) he was one of the few owners that can afford to pay the fees required to raid foreign rosters such as Japan and (2) if foreign players outnumber natural-born American players on the roster, is baseball still our national pastime? I don’t want to sound stogy because somebody had to do something daring to break the color-line in effect from 1900-46 as was the case with Branch Rickey signing Jackie Roosevelt Robinson; duly noted however, Jackie was a natural-born American. The fact that today’s players are more interested in making as much money as they can rather than a World Series ring or playing in New York, the baseball capital of the world, which once allured many players to the Big Apple either to the Yankees or one of three New York National League clubs over two centuries (Giants, Brooklyn Dodgers, and now the Mets).
I’m afraid the times, they are a changing. Let’s just hope the game can still be the pastime God intended for America.