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Baseball Essay, Research Paper

Baseball is going down the drain.

Don’t ask why, just wave goodbye, Baseball WeeklyBlame it on the juiced baseball. Blame it on the juiced players. Blame it on the shrinking strike zone. Blame it on the shrinking pitching talent pool. Blame it on the easy-to-hit new ballparks. Blame it on the easy-to-see baseball. Blame it on all the new bat companies. Blame it on all the underground steroid use. “Hell, blame it on global warming,” Toronto Blue Jays manager Jim Fregosi says. “We’re blaming all these damn homers on everything else, so why not?” Welcome to the era when major league baseball games start looking like your kids’ T-ball games, when Jermaine Dye and Tony Batista become household names, and when we yawn at 40-home run seasons. Just wondering, but considering that Fregosi, 58, was a six-time All-Star who hit 151 career homers, how many would he hit in today’s environment? “I wouldn’t want to hazard a guess,” says Fregosi, who saw 180 runs scored in the Blue Jays’ recent 10-game homestand, “because the figure would sound ludicrous. “But you can’t even compare players from the past anymore. You’ve got to judge the players by decades, not their overall stats. “You look at the Hall of Fame, and there are guys today who are in there who hit 140 homers and drove in 700, 800 runs. “You do that now, and you’d get laughed out of Cooperstown. “It’s a different game, a different time.” Nowadays, we’re seeing things we never thought possible. Just a week ago, Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada became the first teammates to hit homers from each side of the plate in the same game. Mo Vaughn, Tim Salmon and Troy Glaus of the Angels became the first trio to hit home runs in an inning twice in the same game. The Minnesota Twins, who hit just 105 homers all last season, hit six in one game. Kevin Elster of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who retired and didn’t even play last season, hit three homers in one game. Jermaine Dye has hit 38 homers in the last seven months – eight more than Hall of Famer George Brett hit in any season. And the St. Louis Cardinals, who hit only 58 homers in 1986, hit 55 home runs in April, tying the 1947 New York Giants for the most home runs in a month in the NL. Where will it stop? Will it stop at all? “To me, Aaron Sele (of the Seattle Mariners) says it all,” Fregosi says. “You look at his ERA the last four years – 5.32 ERA, 5.38, 4.23, 4.79. And he’s one of the top free-agent pitchers in the game.” If a pitcher put up those kind of numbers in Fregosi’s time, he’d be released, not making $7 million a year. Then again, Fregosi says, one look at history should have shown us this would happen. “Look back, when did (Roger) Maris and (Mickey) Mantle hit all of those homers?” Fregosi asks. “Right after expansion. “And these homers being hit now? Right after expansion. “You’re seeing pitchers rushed to the big leagues now who might have good arms, but have no idea how to pitch yet.” There’s no need to look past last Saturday’s game between the Milwaukee Brewers and Houston Astros for evidence. Everett Stull, making just his third big-league start, walked nine batters. Reliever Matt Williams followed and walked five more, giving the Brewers a franchise-record 14 walks, including 25 in two games. And young Astros starter Scott Elarton felt right in place when he walked eight batters in just 4.1 innings and was pulled with a 10-3 lead. Can anyone outside the city limits of Atlanta, besides Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez, pitch anymore? Does anyone care? “They’ve got to do something,” Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan told us this winter. “They’ve got to do something for the pitchers. Raise the mound. Do something. The offense now is just too much. “I’ve never seen so many 10-run games in my life.” Even the superstar hitters are starting to complain. Dodgers All-Star left fielder Gary Sheffield used to be proud of a 30-homer season. Now, if he hits 30 homers by the All-Star break, he’s wondering if he still has a shot to make the All-Star team. Sheffield isn’t shy at naming one reason for the onslaught: steroid-induced muscle. He wouldn’t mind seeing testing for steroids to level the playing field. (See Dugout Direct, Page 24.) Then again, when you build ballparks designed to play home run derby every day, and turn the Houston Astros’ home field from a pitcher’s park into a home run haven, what’s a pitcher to do? And if it’s not tough enough for pitchers to survive in ballparks that are just 307 feet down the lines, some pitchers say even the balls are harder and slicker this year – and the black printing of the commissioner’s logo on the ball is much easier for the hitters to pick up than the old light-blue printing. “The balls are definitely slicker,” Yankees five-time Cy Young winner Roger Clemens says.”"I don’t know if it’s the people making the ball or what, but it’s a lot harder to grip.” But who has time to even see the ball, much less examine them, with the rate they’re flying out of ballparks? An average of 2.57 home runs a game flew out of parks in April, compared to last April’s 2.22, in what became a record year for home runs. And this is only April. Wait until it gets hot and the ball really starts jumping. “I can’t explain it,” says Batista, who already has hit eight homers this year for the Blue Jays and has hit 39 in the last seven months. “For me, it’s just a matter of getting playing time. I knew once I got the chance, I could hit homers.” Yeah, but at this rate? “Hey, a lot of guys hit homers now,” he says. “I just want to be one of them.” The trouble is that anyone and everyone not only are hitting homers, but also hitting the ball 425 feet to the opposite field. It used to be that Mets catcher Piazza was one of the few power hitters in the game capable of going deep to the opposite field, but now even the slightly built shortstops and second basemen are doing it, too. “This is the damnedest thing I’ve ever seen,” former Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog says. “The game has changed so damn much. The ball is juiced, the pitchers don’t use the inside half of the plate and the hitters look like NFL linemen.” Well, if nothing else, at least the AL pitchers, with the exception of the interleague games, are spared the nightmare of having to pitch at Enron Field in Houston. The Astros’ new ballpark has become every hitter’s fantasy, with 46 homers hit in the first 12 games. Several Cardinals’ players have spread the news throughout the league that it makes Coors Field look like a pitcher’s park. “We call it Home Run Field, not Enron Field,” Astros pitcher Jose Lima says. “Last year, we couldn’t wait to get home. This year, we don’t want to come home. It’s scary.” Astros ace Shane Reynolds says: “You can’t expect to see games like you’ve seen pitched for (35) years in the Astrodome. Those days are gone.” While pitchers continue to complain, managers rip out their hair and hitters sprint to the batter’s box, fans appear to love home run derby. Attendance is up again, and baseball is expecting to set a record. TV ratings are solid, and the advertising buck is strong. So although baseball would love one day to eliminate the designated hitter rule in exchange for increasing the roster to 26 players, and several general managers are in favor of raising the mound to 14 inches, baseball is in no hurry to lend a helping hand to the pitchers. “I don’t like adjusting rules or changing rules,” commissioner Bud Selig says. “I know we did it in ‘69, but I’d rather not do that.” So get used to it, folks. The long ball is here to stay, forever ingrained in the new era of baseball tradition.


it was from longball.com

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