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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The beautiful thing about the politics of today and yesterday is that one thing remains the same. No matter whether you’re wrong or right, all you have to do is make some sort of ad hominem attack and it will get you air time.
This has become increasingly true during the normally boring Washington summers when the news channels are just itching for something to break the tedium of the recess. And this year has provided plenty of sparks. Dick Cheney has made himself more accessible than he was during the eight years of Bush’s presidency, emerging on a regular basis to proclaim that Obama is making the country less safe. And everyone seems to be lining up to take a whack at the universal health care plan although it’s interesting to note how many of those people already have insurance.
But I also realized something. Baseball is seriously lacking these same types of attacks. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned it before but at this time of the year, when all the races are heating up, where’s the fire? Why aren’t the Giants and Rockies cracking on each others’ mothers? Why aren’t the Rangers poking fun at Pedroia’s size? And why aren’t the Tigers and Twins provoking Ozzie Guillen into even crazier rants?
C’mon people. This is baseball. America’s pastime. And you know what else America is home to? The yo’ mama joke. See the connection? Ok, let’s get on it. I’ll start. Albert Pujols’ mama is so dumb, she thinks a shortstop is when she runs into 7/11 for a hotdog and a Slurpee.
Feisty factions of conservative right wing constituents are finally going to get what they have always wanted. Indeed, after a series of anti-republican films exploiting the low-blow antics of unsavory characters such as Richard Nixon and George W. Bush reached wide audiences in 2008, the GOP is all smiles knowing the biggest, baddest politico docudrama to ever hit the big screen is well on its way!
Special Relationship, the upcoming film starring Julianne Moore as democratic juggernaut Hillary Clinton and Dennis Quaid as the always promiscuous Bill Clinton, will explore the finer points of Slick Willy’s extramarital affair with Monica Lewinsky and his wife’s subsequent decision to stick by his side (so she could run for the New York senate, and eventually the presidency).
Moore is a decent actress. I see her pulling off this role of a lifetime no problem. Quaid as Clinton? What a wonderful opportunity to repeat his 1987 world-class performance from Inner Space! I can hardly wait, folks!
And the Hollywood hoopla doesn’t just end there, dear readers. I am super excited about some other upcoming films that are in the early stages of development:
The Little MVP Who Could: The Dustin Pedroia Story
Starring Macaulay Culkin as Pedroia, this film aims to highlight the undying will of small stature phenoms on baseball diamonds all across the galaxy. Also features Manny Ramirez as the evil space alien predator intent on disrupting all things Red Sox until the bitter intergalactic end.
Jacked! The Alex Rodriguez Story
Pre-production on this film has been stalled until Alex can get his entire story straight. While the writers continue to amend the script as best they can, more problems seem eminent as Vin Diesel, originally slated to star as A-Rod, pulled out of the project noting that not even he would subject himself to performance enhancing drugs, whether his trusted cousin bought them in the D.R. or not.
Yeah, I Hit .213 Last Year, What’s It to Ya, Buddy? The Khalil Greene Story
Sean Penn stars in this not-so-action-packed drama about how decent defense often allows a poor offensive performer to wallow in the ongoing apathy that is the San Diego Padres (and later, St. Louis Cardinals).
Where Have I Gone? The Rafael Palmeiro Story
In perhaps the most poignantly cast role of the century, Tony Danza portrays PED-raging anti-hero Rafael Palmeiro not because he looks like him (he doesn’t) but because his career is as equally irrelevant.
And finally, what promises to be a most entertaining entanglement of hopes, dreams, egos and narcissism:
Me, Me, Me! The Curt Schilling Story
Posthumously directed by Stanley Kubrick, this tale of unfettered vainglory explores the tired, whiny affectations of one number 38 through standard Kubrick mind-busts like a minimalistic score and plenty of drawn-out steady-cam shots. Accurately portraying the role of Schilling will be the outspoken and very homosexual Nathan Lane. Who else to better force Curt into yet another self-consuming fit of rage than a flamboyantly gay ultra-liberal left wing Broadway icon with plenty of career left in him?
Yes, my friends, going to the movies has never seemed so good.
Don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.
Despite the late-inning dramatics and clutch hitting by Team America,
the World Baseball Classic will be especially notable to MLB managers
because of the rash of injuries that has hit the players. With
important team leaders like Chipper Jones, Kevin Youkilis and Ryan
Braun suffering injuries, how do you think this will effect teams’
decisions to let their players participate next time around?
The World Baseball Classic, still in its infancy, is similar in that it has yet to find the perfect balance of entertainment and logic. We, the viewers, cannot expect it to be the perfect international tournament it aims to be — not yet at least.
There are naysayers. There are those who feel the Classic is a colossal waste of time. There are general managers and agents and players and pundits who see it as a liability more than an asset. And I understand their points of view.
If I were Omar Minaya or Theo Epstein or Frank Wren and I was forced to watch my best players risk injury in the name of a “friendly” tournament with seemingly zero tangible gain, I guess I would be a little ticked off too. But I believe the World Baseball Classic is more than just a King Bud money machine meant to get more people interested in Major League Baseball around the world. To me, it is a showcase of the most talented players on the planet: a baseball bravura boasting a playoff-like atmosphere during the most boring weeks of spring training.
And whether ballplayers are playing in the WBC or in Jupiter, Florida or with their kids at home, guys are going to get hurt.
Just ask Joel Zumaya about his Guitar Hero hangup.
Or just ask Aaron Boone about his penchant for pickup basketball.
Or just ask Ken Griffey, Jr. about wrestling with his children.
And while the easy way out is to say let us put an end to this World Baseball Classic for good and focus on the regular season, players are still going to find ways to injure themselves on and off the field. Personally, I would rather see a guy get hurt for his country than a video game.
The WBC only happens every few years, folks. Eventually, the kinks will be worked out. In the meantime, the foreseen benefits of firing up an entire baseball-following planet are far and beyond more plentiful than the occasional injury risks inherited by players, teams and front offices.
The truth is: baseball (yet again) was light years behind the rest of sports in not having an authentic international forum. And while the rewards of the Classic won’t be seen for another twenty years or so when little Chen Jianguo and Mario Perugino and Ned van Flanders are all grown up and starting superstars in the Majors, I think we all owe it to the world to give this tournament a chance — and most of all, to enjoy it.
But just to be safe, we should all continue to pray to the baseball gods that our team’s best players escape injury free and refrain from jumping up and down on Oprah’s couch.
Don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.
A loaded topic like this can really only take us in one direction: The weirdness that is the World Baseball Classic. Pedroia and Jeter trotting off the field together after a put-out at second base? That just doesn’t look right. Wright and Rollins manning the left side of the infield? Did I miss something?
Now, I realize that this weirdness can also happen during the All-Star Game but that’s a once a year freak-fest where the players wear odd uniforms and the outcome has taken on a disproportionate level of importance.
This is the World Baseball Classic, the World Cup of Baseball. I want drama. I want to watch MLB teammates like Curtis Granderson and Magglio Ordonez whip themselves up into a nationalistic fervor so intense that they come to blows and then both demand trades. I want Jeter to talk about the toxic environment created by the presence of Red Sox players and former Yankees. I want David Wright and Jimmy Rollins to use this forum as an excuse to decide the NL East crown in the most logical fashion possible, pistols at dawn on the pitcher’s mound.
But no. Instead we get stories like this, where injured players are sticking around and other players are happy to sit the bench or take limited playing time just for the honor of being part of this team. Where’s a T.O. or a Latrell Sprewell when you really need them? Can we really allow this love fest to continue unabated?
However, there is still hope for the Scrooges among us. So far the US team has made congeniality easy by eking out a win over Canada and then pounding Venezeula. But what happens when they are faced with real challenges by way of Puerto Rico or Japan? Only then will we see what these players are really made of and what happens when vexing developments explode inside cramped locker-room havens.
But until that time I’m going to swallow my bile and cheer like a pre-pubescent girl at an early 90’s New Kids on the Block concert as the announcers rattle off the Pedroia to Jeter to Youkilis inning ending double-play. USA! USA! USA!
It still remains to be seen what the ultimate consequences of the steroid excesses in baseball will be. There are the obvious effects when guys like Pudge get smaller overnight and guys like Jason Giambi no longer put up the same numbers. And in fact, an early result seems to be a bit of an overall downward trend in ballplayer size these days, with smaller guys like Pedroia winning awards and huge contracts. The NY Times, in its continuing series “Why the mainstream media is barely relevant: Stating the obvious three years after the fact,” points out this very same fact.
However, there are more important questions that need to be answered and I am not satisfied with their coverage. For instance, we all know about Derek Jeter’s romantic entanglements with women like Mariah Carey and Jessica Biel. I applaud that. But why is he now dating a 22 year old? I mean, this guy is five years older than me and I’m pretty sure if I was dating someone barely old enough to legally drink, my family and friends would wonder what was going on. Pudge may have hit the Slimfast but at least he isn’t robbing the cradle.
All I know is that it’s hard to feel bad for a guy like Jeter who is so cavalier in his profligacy. But even that is better than A-Rod with his she-males and Joba with his strippers. And it definitely beats talking about PED’s. Thank god New York has a family man like CC around now. Perhaps it will make up for the loss of the one guy who always kept things real by wearing his emotions on his shirt sleeve. Where are your tears when we really need them, Farnsworth?
Equally so, Ignorance, thy name is Mr. Allen Krause.
“…the fact is, neither of them [Albert Pujols, Dustin Pedroia] deserved the MVP for this year.”
— Allen Krause, Misery, Thy Name is Detroit
Ordinarily, I prefer to eschew my impetus to pass judgment and/or speculate the grounds of one’s idiocy, but in this case, Mr. Krause, I’m afraid there is no explanation for your blasphemy other than to say you must be smoking the same stuff as our dear leader; and it’s certainly beginning to show.
Next you’ll be saying things like:
Or even worse:
Look, I and our dear readers all know that even though you reside in Washington, D.C., you’re still a Michigander at the core of your being and with that comes a certain inherited blind ignorance in the way of assessing athletic achievement. And we all realize that, aside from your Hockeytown Redwings, you don’t have much to cheer about these days. U of M looks like a pop-warner team. The Tigers are the baseball equivalent of our nation’s financial mess. The Lions are an absolute abomination, better fit for cleaning toilets in an Amtrak restroom than trying to execute the fundamentals of football.
But when you say that both Pujols and Pedroia were not rewarded for their efforts this season but rather for feats of the past, I have no choice but to postulate: what the $#%& is wrong with you?!?!
Pujols’ numbers were hands down the best of anyone this season. He is always an MVP candidate for the simple fact that he is always getting better and always carrying his team. He won the MVP in 2005. He should’ve won in 2004. This year, 2008, above any else, was certainly cause for him to win again because without Pujols in that lineup, the Cardinals would’ve probably been the 20 games under .500 team everyone thought they’d be at the start.
In the case of Pedroia, his 2008 achievements were far better than his 2007 achievements. He proved himself an invaluable leader throughout the season both with his bat and his glove, not to mention his guts and brawn.
So where the hell do you find it reasonable to compare these two paragons of baseball accomplishment to Denzel Washington and his role in Training Day, which, by the way, was also very well acted no matter what you think, Mr. Krause.
I’d suggest that you take this upcoming Thanksgiving holiday to give thanks that despite your inability to successfully formulate sensible arguments with actual information to back yo ^ss up you still have a cushy intellectual job that turns a blind eye to your inaccuracies, as grave as they are.
Oh yes, Al, you can hate me. That’s fine. Just don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.