Tag Archives: baseball history

“THE FASTER THEY COME IN, THE FASTER THEY GO OUT”

Those are the words my high school baseball coach used to say when he tried to get me to use breaking balls more often against power hitters. I didn’t buy into it preferring power vs. power and let the chips fall where they may. Which in a way is what we’re seeing in the game today.

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The game of baseball today at its highest level is all about power. the talk in baseball after the All Star Game, and especially after Giancarlo Stanton’s Home Run Derby explosion (video), is this……..what’s up with all the home runs this year? 

A degree of panic is setting in as once again MLB has to answer the question yet again – do we have a bunch of juiced up players in the game today?

Commissioner Rob Manfred answered the question while in San Diego this way….”We think it has to do with the way pitchers pitch and the way hitters are being taught to play the game. You’ve seen some unusual developments in terms of home run hitters being up in the lineup to get them more at-bats. So we think it has more to do with the game this time around, because we’re comfortable we’re doing everything we can on the performance-enhancing drugs front.”

Typical spin you might expect from the man hired by the owners who like to see the “asses in the seats” that home runs bring as George Steinbrenner liked to say……except for one thing……

In this case, he’s probably right and here’s why……

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The Ups And Downs Of A Basebal Season

In the half century I’ve been following baseball, I’ve never ceased to be amazed by the ups and downs of a l-o-n- g baseball season. Through 81 games in the NBA, 16 in the NFL, nothing compares to the stretch of 162 games played over six months.

Some would say that’s exactly why I don’t follow baseball – the season is too long and the games are even longer. Well to each his own I guess, but let the naysayers be reminded that when you sit down for a 1:00 game in the NFL – that game takes longer to play than the average (under 3 hours now) ballgame.

And don’t even talk to me about about the last two minutes of a NBA game!

But we’re not talking about that. imageWe’re talking about the ups and downs of a baseball season and how that lends itself to continued fan interest over a season. Open a NFL season at 0-5 and you’re done – prepare for the draft and for ESPN solemnly admitting that it made a mistake in scheduling you for the 12th game of the season on Sunday night.

So what are these ups and downs we’ve witnessed so far at the halfway point in the 2016 season and what might be coming in the second half as baseball accelerates to the playoffs and an eventual World Series title……

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REFLECTIONS ON BASEBALL – A YEAR’S RECAP

Over the last year or so, I’ve managed to write nearly 250 pieces – some good, some not so good. Some widely read, some not read at all.

I’ve noticed that the blog continues to draw interest from countries like Brazil, South Korea, Japan, Spain, and Italy

I’ve noticed too that there is a relationship between what I think is a good column and the higher number of hits it gets from the major search engines.

Instead of reblogging those more popular columns, I thought I’d list them here in case you missed them.

******   Mental Illness And Major League Baseball  11/15/2015

******  Bryce Harper – Another Baseball Brat  9/28/2015

******  Ron Luciano – Baseball’s Most Flamboyant Umpire  2/10/2016

****** It’s All About Location Location …..  7/15/2015

Thanks for your continued readership.shutterstock_71439202

Steve         scontursi@yahoo.com

 

HEY, WHO’S STEALIN’ THE STOLEN BASE FROM BASEBALL?

Like the golf cart that used to bring relievers in from the bullpen, the strategy of the stolen base appears to be all but disappearing from the game as it is being played today.

The only playerimage I can think of with “base stealer” attached to his repertoire now is Billy Hamilton of the Cincinnati Reds. Dexter Fowler maybe but he has other skills that overshadow him as a base stealer.

As always, imagethe numbers (while boring) demonstrate the decline. According to Sweet Spot – ESPN, “The number of stolen bases across baseball last year was historically low. In 2015, Major League Baseball players stole 2,505 bases, the lowest total since 1974 (2,488) when there were six fewer teams. Last season’s per-game average of 0.52 stolen bases per team was the lowest since 1973. There were 259 fewer stolen bases in 2015 than in 2014 and a whopping 724 fewer stolen bases in 2015 than in 2012.”

So it’s clear. But the scintillating question remains – Why?

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FROM A HITTERS PERSPECTIVE – PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE……

In the last few days, we’ve been concentrating on the art of pitching along with the benefits that come from making the batter hit your pitch and being able to economize spent energy as well as wear and tear on the arm (Location, Location, Location….).

But becauseimage pitchers are only one half of the equation that comprises the best one on one contest in all of sports, it might be even more revealing if we take look today at the perspective of the “other guy” – namely – the hitter. 

And if the pitcher’s job is to economize and get 27 outs any which way he can…….then it follows that the hitter’s job is to negate that by forcing the pitcher to throw him as many pitches as he can each at bat. 

The first thing to be noted when you look at the stats provided by Sporting Charts is that like pitchers, the bulk of major league hitters do not seem to be buying into what obviously appears to be a sound road to success at this level.

And any time I see something like this……I want to know why………

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“IT GETS LATE EARLY OUT THERE” – ON THE METS CONUNDRUM

With all the negative press I’ve given him and with the disastrous start by Matt Harvey  (0-3 ,5.71 ERA, with just 9K’s in 17 innings), you might be thinking I would be gloating right about now saying, “See, I told ya “.

But I’m imagenot gloating. Instead, I’m disappointed because anytime a staff is put together like the one the Mets have now, it should be an opportunity to see something very special happen. Something that happens rarely in baseball when you could conceivably have three starters challenging for the Cy Young and two or even three 20 game winners. And when there is no designated “Ace” on the staff because they’re all aces.

For most fans, including myself, there is nothing more exciting than to hear the sound of the crash of the bat on a ball and watching it soar into the night for a home run. And usually , it takes a more cerebral fan imageto appreciate a crafty pitcher getting 27 outs against a lineup of good solid hitters. And because pitching represents the offense in baseball where everything begins, I am still hopeful that these guys do put it together and make this staff one that will be talked about for years to come.

With the Nationals looking like they have something to prove from last year’s debacle, the Mets are stumbling and as Yogi said, indeed “It does get late early out there “, even in April when the games count just as much as they do in September. 

Because the Mets do have a lights out starting staff, there is no need to push the panic button just yet. But somethings gotta give soon and chances are it will not be their abominable batting averages. So, where do they go here………

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IS BASEBALL A RACIST SPORT?

 

In a Sporting News  interview, Chris Rock put it this way, “Baseball doesn’t just have rules from another time. It has an old-fashioned code, too. When you score in football or basketball, the players celebrate. imageGood times, come on! When you score in baseball, the code says, ‘Better not look too happy about it or else a baseball will go whizzing by your head.’ “

He is not wrong, but he is also not grasping the full picture either. Because it’s not just about baseball…….it’s about our society and culture as a whole. Racism is imagedeeply rooted in our history beginning with the first boats that carried slaves from Africa to the British colonies when the first settlers arrived here.

But we are far removed from what happened then. And as a society, we can only be responsible for what exists now and how our actions today will affect what the future will look like tomorrow.

As I will explain later, baseball is historically not a racist sport ………but at the same time baseball needs to be wary of becoming so……..and it needs to face and solve the division that exists along racial lines in the game today …………because those division lines exist whether MLB puts the blinders on or not………

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MY WIFE HAS A QUESTION…..

Coincidentally, an article appeared in the New York Times a day after I published this post. It’s titled “The Unbearable Whiteness Of Baseball “  and lends another perspective on the question at hand . Your comments and thoughts (see below) will add to the discussion…..

My wife, who is hardly a fan of baseball though she puts up with me spending some time doing this…..asked me a question that deserves an answer. She wants to know why it is necessary for baseball to goimage to Cuba to scout and sign future major league ballplayers.

Throw in the steady influx of Japanese , Dominican, and Korean talent and you have the fuller picture, but…….

That’s a fair question, right?  The inference being – why do we have to go elsewhere to find new talent to play in what is commonly referred to as America’s Pastime…….

Needless to say, that got me going because a good question deserves a good answer…..

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WHEN CHANGE DEFIES LOGIC…………

 

Historically, I believe it would be fair to say that baseball has held true to the basic fundamentals of the game. That is to say – it’s still three outs in an inning, 60’6″ to home plate, a two base hit still counts as a double, and so on. But along the way, the game has also been tweaked with a human hand.image Divisions, Wild Card Teams, the DH, the Rule 5 Draft, etc. have made their way into the game and for the most part are entrenched whether we like it or not.

But some of these changes are more subtle and they kind of sneak their way into the game with hardly anyone noticing until a facet of the game becomes virtually extinct.  One trend that we should be taking a closer look at is the seeming disappearance of the major league scout who is being replaced in deference to the  rising tide of what we’ll call for now “baseball analytics”……….or this generation’s fulfillment of a belief that imagetechnology is the panacea for solutions to all problems and situations that present themselves in the 21st Century………

Granted, it’s only a small ripple in the pond but still it deserves our attention simply because it reflects a change in baseball away from human input on the game……… And in the same way that (conceivably) the need for umpires could be eliminated and replaced by robots…….baseball needs to be mindful of this change with an eye towards halting it before it spreads even further …… And here’s why……..

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ONE MAN’S BIG LEAGUE ODYESSY……

Note: Dylan Bundy is scheduled to make his first start for the Orioles in 2016. It hasn’t exactly been an easy ride to get there as you’ll see when you read on….

Imagine being a first round draft pick from Owasso, Oklahoma and the fourth player taken overall in the 2011 baseball draft by the Baltimore Orioles, signing a $6+ million contract, then breezing your way through imageyour first stop in the minors in 2012 tossing 30 consecutive innings before you allow an earned run, then following that up at your next stop at Frederick winning eight of eleven decisions while averaging more than a strikeout per inning………and capping it all off with a call up to the Orioles that September.

Sounds magical, doesn’t it? But this is the true story of Dylan Bundy. However, the only flaw in the story is that those 1.2 innings he tossed for the Orioles late in the season that year were his last and he has yet to appear in another major league game since then.

There have imagealways been highly touted first round draft picks who went bust. For good reason, they are not household names because they quickly disappeared from the baseball scene. Names like Kasey Kiker who never made it past Double A over six seasons, Daniel Moskos who labored in the Pirates organization for eight minor league seasons, and Greg Reynolds who was last seen pitching in Japan in 2014.

But Dylan Bundy’s story is not about failing on the mound……….it’s about something he has had no control of……..his body. His story however is not over and it’s possible that one of its last chapters will be written this season…….

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