With the imminent advent of a new football season, it’s time for RSBS to explore areas where a brown, oblong ball and a small, white ball overlap. The basics are pretty clear in that they both include a ball and two opposing teams but beyond that, there really isn’t that much they have in common. Maybe the silly tight pants? However, there is one area where they bear a striking resemblance.
Baseball today subscribes to the adage that you can’t win without a dominant closer. He can be a finesse guy, he can be an overpowering guy but he has to be able to shut down the other team for somewhere between 1 or more innings at the end of a game. This ranks them right up there in the same category as field goal kickers.
Now, before you start complaining, I fully recognize that both field goal kickers and closers are gifted with incredible physical talents. There’s no way I could kick a 50 yard field goal. In fact, there’s no way I could kick a 15 yard field goal. Similarly, I probably can’t throw a baseball more than 60 miles an hour, much less hit that tiny little strikezone.
But that doesn’t change the fact that both kickers and closers are specialty guys who come in for very specific tasks that have evolved with their respective games. And the rewards for these thankless jobs are relatively miniscule. Except on rare occasions, their best hope is just to remain invisible while attempting to succeed. Because when they fail, you can be sure their picture will be splashed across the front of the sports section (or the front page of various blogs).
Closers come from different backgrounds, sometimes converted starters who just can’t handle the innings anymore or guys with funky deliveries who can’t last outside of 25 pitches. And kickers tend to be guys who got kicked off the soccer team in high school or who were just too small to play any other position. Seriously, can you imagine Martin Grammatica playing wide receiver? He’d die, simple as that.
I suppose everything in life these days is heading towards more specialization and it’s rare that you find a renaissance man who can perform more than one task (unlike the ubermensch pictured here). But it’s kind of a shame that guys like Carlos Zambrano and Micah Owings are more the exception than the rule.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m no purist and I have no desire for things to go back to the days of Babe Ruth or Bronko Nagurski. If you think players get injured a lot now, just imagine if they had to do double duty. But, I think we can shed a single tear for the end of an era before we except our new, super-specialized overlords.