Before the Hank insights:
On September 15, 2009, during the post-game wrap, Mike Krukow liked that Pablo "Panda" Sandoval went ape when Benjie Molina scored from third base on a grounder to flame-throwing shortstop, Troy Tulowitzki.
Except his partner, Duane Kuiper didn't agree with Krukow's assessment. "He can't go ape he can only go bear. He's a panda!" Laughter ensued. Gut bustin' hoo-hahing. Kuiper's timing was as impeccable as his response was priceless.
...There is no doubt today's players are better athletes than their predecessors. They're bigger, stronger, faster and they jump higher than the players of my youth, but they don't play baseball as well. They can't. The system works against it.
If players of today have all these physical attributes, why can't baseball produce a starting pitcher who can go more than 6 innings? For some reason, those in high places have decreed these well-conditioned athletes must be placed on pitch counts and are never allowed to develop the arm strength that might enable them to throw a complete game.
Major league teams fear that these young men, to whom large sums have been paid, might develop arm trouble... Take a look at the disabled list and see how many of those pitchers you pampered in the minor leagues are out for 15, 30, or 60 days.
Why develop a starting pitcher to go the distance when you have these men to fill in the late inning roles? Get serious. Only 2 or 3 teams have pitchers who fit those descriptions. The others are using guys who are now with their twelfth club... I'd never seen such a mess as i did with pitching, I saw far too many who looked like they'd rather walk a batter than risk letting him hit the ball. History shows one of the best ways to get a batter out is to get him to hit the ball to somebody with a glove on.
-- Hank Greenwald
In an ESPN magazine article by Tim Keown that went on to say...many causes and culprits-long term contracts for veterans, large bonuses for top draft picks, increased influence from agents and orthopedists-combined to shift the emphasis from production to protection.
Nolan Ryan, the Texas Rangers' president, says the game itself should dictate the number of pitches, not the other way around. "All this outside crap came into play," Ryan says. "All of a sudden you have people who haven't pitched and haven't played and don't understand baseball driving the front offices to come up with a number. 'Oh, he's at 100 pitches. I need to take him out.' NO! He should be getting one more out to get out of the inning."
Rangers' pitching coach, Mike Maddux (brother of Greg) says, "We've had to educate guys to understand a perfect inning isn't nine pitches and three strikeouts; it's 3 pitches and 3 outs.
The Rangers have experimented with live batting practice and gotten good results. Maddux told hitting instructor, Rudy Jaramillo to bring a lot of bats, because his pitchers planned on breaking some. To which Jaramillo responded, 'make sure you have a lot of baseballs, because my hitters plan on losing some.'
Maddux noticed an unexpected benefit: His pitchers were being forced to concentrate far more than a typical bullpen session. Said Maddux, "We talk about concentration being one of the most important parts of the game, but we never practice it." "You almost have to concentrate to concentrate. Well, here we were, practicing concentration without even realizing it."
(thanks to Hank Greenwald and Tim Keown for the inspiration to do this piece.)
Kevin J. Marquez