Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

The oys of summer


As the buds begin to pop out on our local trees, my winter-weary mind turns to the potentials of spring. Namely, baseball.

I’ve been a fan since I was just a wee lad, when I was lucky enough to attend St. Louis Cardinals games that must have featured (though I was too young to know it) Hall of Famers like Bob Gibson, Orlando Cepeda, Steve Carlton, and Lou Brock. I remember specific games later when Brock was still playing, as well as favorites of mine like Tim McCarver and Curt Flood, and though the ‘70s were a bust as far as postseason play was concerned, I maintained my enthusiasm long enough to be ready for the great ’82 season and the seven-game World Series my boys won after a 15-year drought. (And again for the 24-year drought until ‘06!)

More recently it’s been harder to keep up the rah-rah because of lineup changes that have me scratching my head and wondering if I’m rooting for the players or, like Seinfeld used to say, for the clothes. Some of my favorite Redbirds are gone now (David Freese, we hardly knew ye!), only to be replaced with a string of pasty white guys who all seem to hit .250 and talk like “Nuke” LaLoosh in Bull Durham. The addition of Dexter Fowler in the offseason might help.

But now that I’ve poked my nose up out of my burrow as spring training begins, I hear that the intentional walk is no more — at least not as we’ve come to know it. Starting this season, pitchers won’t have to throw the four ceremonial balls out of the strike zone. Instead, the manager will signal to the home plate umpire, “Put ‘im on!”

Yes, I’m a purist, and if the designated hitter ever comes to the National League, I’m done. Baseball will be dead to me. This isn’t quite that dire, but I’m still berserk with anger over this obsessive focus on the length of ballgames, which is what the new intentional walk rule is all about. MLB is upset because the average length of games went up by four minutes in ‘16. Four minutes! All the intentional walks in an average game might add up to that. Maybe. But in exchange, you’ve lost the time-tested ritual of the defense having to go through the humiliation of throwing those four pitches — and taking the chance that the hurler will screw up and throw one away or put it over the plate. There are clips of crazy things happening.

Even when doing an intentional walk to get to the hapless pitcher who’s up next, there’s a psychological value in throwing those pitches. It says, from the defensive pov, “Look what we’re doing to you. Depriving you of a chance to win the game!” Then the pitcher strikes out.

Baseball is a hundred and fifty years old. It was working just fine. Why can’t we stop futzing with it?


3 comments on “The oys of summer

  1. kingmidget
    March 3, 2017

    I’m with you on this. I’m a purist as well. Although, you over-estimate the time value of the intentional walk. The statistics show that there isn’t much more than one intentional walk per game. So, what we’re really talking about is a matter of seconds

    The thing that bothers me about all of this “time of game” and “pace of the game” crap is that there is one single reason games are longer now than they used to be — every single game played is televised and the commercial breaks between innings are longer than needed for the pitcher to throw his 8 warmup pitches. Take away the need for TV commercial breaks and you probably eliminate 20 minutes from the time of the game.

    And, yes, if the DH ever comes to the National League, I too am done with the game.

    By the way, I’m headed to spring training in Phoenix in a couple of weeks.

    • Kevin Brennan
      March 3, 2017

      Spring training! Awesome! That should be a lot of fun, and great weather too …

      What kills me is that all televised sports have the same issue with commercial breaks. But add to that baseball’s natural pace, with all the pauses between pitches, the throwing to first, the stepping out of the box … it drives the young people nuts because they have the attention span of a fly.

      I guess we sound pretty old right about now, eh? 😉

      • kingmidget
        March 3, 2017

        One of the biggest reasons to enjoy baseball is those pauses and the quiet aspect of the game. You can go to a baseball game and enjoy the company of your friends and those around you and … with the other major sports, it’s all thunder and noise.

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This entry was posted on March 3, 2017 by in Et alia and tagged .
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