Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The new Grandy Man Preservation Act? MLB owners may shrink the strike zone to add HRs and eliminate Ks

As a Yankee fan, one of the saddest memories in recent times was the career track of Mr. Curtis Granderson. He arrived as a 5-tooler, a guy who could beat out a nubber, then steal his way to third. The Grandy Man can! The Master would shout, 35 times a season. But the Grandy Man didn't... about 200 times. I still see him trudging back to the dugout, bat in hand, and grumble about Ian Kennedy, Austin Jackson and Phil Coke.

Well, maybe the historians will say that Curtis came too early.

An idea under consideration by the League of Extraordinarily Rich White Men - aka the MLB owners - would raise the current strike zone a few inches, above the knees. Like hemlines. Showing some thigh always gets attention, right?

Basically, the move would shrink the zone, adding HRs and eliminating Ks. This is Commissioner Rob Manfred, talking yesterday to the AP:

"I think that the interest in the topic is really driven by the fact that if you look over time there has been a movement down of the strike zone, largely as a result of the way we evaluate the strike zone with umpires."

The old fan in me, he dunno about this. If you look over time, the movement in MLB has been toward HRs rather than Billy Ball. The AL East last season was a strikeout/hit-it-out division. Not one of our "sluggers" hit .280, and both Tex and McCann were in the .220s. More hitting would be great. But the old fan dunno.

Whenever the lords of baseball want to boost attention, they look for HRs. In the mid-90s, they turned their heads so a few steroid-built Sasquatches could rescue the game from the seething fan anger caused by the strike. When it was over, the most iconic records in sports were gone, and to this day, I can't tell you what the single season HR mark is, because - frankly - I've tried to block it out.

So what are the Great Men thinking? That they can tweak up a couple season-long HR derbies - with Trout and Harper chasing 80, maybe 90? Would that finally exorcise the names "Bonds" and "McGwire" from their shitlist? The old fan... he dunno. Somewhere, the ghost of Charlie Lau is watching and shaking his head. So, will they just shrink the strike zone and unleash the Krakens?

The old fan dunno.

The great LA Times sportswriter Jim Murray once said of Rickie Henderson, by the way he crouched in the batters box, that he had a strike zone "the size of Hitler's heart." No owner had to help him. Back then, they simply didn't swing for the fences all the time.

One of the best memories I have of last season was Greg Bird's first MLB at bat. He hit a liner to left. It was caught. But he hit it to left - to the opposite field. Nobody had to shrink the zone to let him do it. He put the bat on the ball, rather than trying to drive it to Mars. If Bird becomes another Grandy Man, if that right field porch hypnotizes him, as it did old Curtis... they can make the strike zone the size of Hitler's heart. It won't matter.

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