Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Baseball Complaint

Regular readers of this space know just how far in the tank I am for the game of baseball. Many of you don’t get it because you’re football people and that’s fine. Some of you are charmed by my love of baseball, considering it part of my eccentricity that I would be so fond of a game that has fallen from being the national pass time 50 years ago to an October annoyance today. That’s fair. But even I, especially someone like me, has earned the right to air a complaint about the game I love. Watching night after night of playoff baseball has brought this issue to the table and it’s time for a public airing.

Ok, one of the charms of this game is the fact that there is no time clock. Some games that are well-pitched can be over in less than 2 hours. Others, with errors and lots of runs can last much longer. Plus, in baseball there’s always the possibility of extra innings since we never play for ties. I love this about baseball. You go to a game and for the first time all week time is finally on your side, no deadlines, no glancing at the clock on the wall. You can actually have a conversation at a baseball game. The pace of the game isn’t break neck like the rest of the world. If I want manic I’ll go to work. Two minute drill? I’m sorry, that sounds like something the dentist does to you when he is really pissed off. However, having said all of this, a relatively modern baseball invention is testing my patience…the batting glove.

95% of players today wear not one, but TWO batting gloves. These leather and nylon menaces have done more to slow down the pace of play than anything since the introduction of the commercial break. It goes something like this. Hitter approaches the batters box. Before entering the box he tugs on the wrist band of each glove and stretches it tight until the Velcro patch locks it at the desired level of security. Then and only then does he step into the box, ready to hit. The pitcher peers in for the sign, gets the one he wants and fires a first pitch fastball that misses the outside corner. The umpire calls out “ball one”. Then, inexplicably the batter steps out of the box. For what reason, you might ask? Well, he must now refasten both of his batting gloves. But, why?? How could they possibly have become any looser from the violent torque involved in TAKING A PITCH!!!! This maddening habit of modern players is starting to get under my skin. First of all, how could Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, and Ted Williams have hit all of those home runs without batting gloves? Do guys like Mark Raynolds, Adam Dunn and Danny Espinosa need batting gloves so that can strike out over 200 times in a single season? I guess I should be thankful that Nomar Garciaparra has retired. Old Nomar raised batting glove adjustment to an art form with the Tourette Syndrome-esk nervous tick of a train wreck that he ran out there after every pitch. Before leaving Boston he corrupted an otherwise fine player, Dustin Pedroia, with the same affliction. Sadly, it has spread like wild fire to almost every player in the game. Now it’s…step in box, take pitch, adjust batting glove, repeat. ARRGGHHH!!!

While I’m at it. Modern pitchers need to get a hold of some game tape of guys like Jim Kaat and Mel Stottlemyer, or any pitcher who hung up his cleats before the incorporation of ESPN. Those guys would get the ball from the catcher, maybe rub it up for two seconds, then fire it back. Their view was, they preferred to rush the hitter, to set the tempo, THEIR tempo. Now, pitchers are like human rain delays with all of their walking around the mound, grounds keeping duties, and irritating multiple shake-offs of sign after sign. The other night when Ryan Voglesong was pitching for the Giants, I swear, I thought I would throw something at my flat screen. PITCH THE BALL ALREADY FOR GOD”S SAKE!!!! I mean, the calm, rational, pastoral nature of the game is wonderful and all but when it’s 11:30 at night and a 1-1 ballgame is only in the bottom of the fourth inning?

You know what would be fun? How about doing a little time travel back to the early sixties. I introduce Mickey Mantle to the modern batting glove and convince him that the wrist straps MUST be adjusted after every pitch, whether he swings the bat or not. Then I watch him step into the box against Bob Gibson. What would be the chances of Mickey getting beaned if he stepped out to readjust his batting glove after taking a pitch? I’d say 100%.