Is baseball becoming a small man’s game? Frank Thomas is retired,
Jermaine Dye can’t find a new home. Even Ryan Howard didn’t seem to be
quite the same dynamo last season as he was the year before. Joe
Mauer and Albert Pujols, while not necessarily small, definitely
aren’t monsters like McGwire and Bonds. And let’s not forget Dustin
Pedroia’s MVP win from a year ago. With all the focus on multi-tooled
players, is there still a place for a big man with a big stick?
Believe me, dear readers, when I put an entire year’s salary on the table and bet on the fact that from now until the end of time, in this grand game of ours there will always be a place for a big man with a big stick.
(That’s what she said.)
That and I will obviously continue to have the self-restraint of a 14 year old.
But that doesn’t matter.
Sure, the game changes. It morphs to suit the times, needs. In the nineteen-aughts the emphasis was on the fundamentals — moving the runner over, taking the ball the other way, sliding cleats up. The Ruthian era saw the longball gain importance. The 60s saw pitching dominate. The game of the 80s stressed the need for speed. The steroid era killed all of that, making it easy for old, overweight has-beens to resuscitate their careers while inflating the record books at the same time, thus exaggerating the homerun to cult status.
And now, after all of that, indeed we are seeing another theme take form and that theme is: athleticism. Five tooled players are the hottest commodity. Weight consciousness abounds. The current goal is to be well-rounded and excel at every part of the job. The more a player can do, the more valuable he becomes and we are experiencing a real shift in the athletic zeitgeist of Major League Baseball.
What a wonderful thing!
Instead of waiting for the juiced-up meat-head to play the 3-run homer waiting game, now we get to see hitters expand the strike zone and hit to all fields. The running game is in renaissance and we get to experience the art of the steal, which in my opinion, is one of the most beautiful facets of any baseball game. And now managers manage more: hit and runs, double steals, sacrifice bunts. They’re all results from this new found shift towards athleticism.
Baseball is rewarding itself with pure, stealth athletes.
Yet fear not, homer lovers, for the game will always need its big men. The premier archetype, George Herman Ruth, made baseball what it is today; and without that powerful mystique and consistent threat from the “slugger”, baseball would not remain as our US American pastime.
So while the bones of the league may shift more towards athleticism and overall skill, I assure you that there will always be room for Dave Kingman and Frank Thomas and Ryan Howard.
Like they say all over the internets, chicks certainly do dig the long ball.
And contrary to everything you know, chicks run the universe.
Don’t hate me. ‘Cuz I’m right.
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