Tuesday, July 13, 2021

HoraceClarke66: Are the stars out tonight?

 From the tortured desk of HoraceClarke66...

Word is that at least nine of the players picked to play in the All-Star Game—including all four of the Cheatin’ ’Stros—will skip the only all-star game worth tuning into. The reason several of them have given—including, most prominently, Mets ace Jacob deGrom—is that they want “to spend more time with the family.”

 It’s good to see that the players are not as completely tone deaf as they often sound when talking about their lives and work. All the emphasis on putting in quality hours with the family demonstrates that they—or at least their agents—have been paying enough attention to know that family feeling is about the one unassailable value we have these days.

 This may come as a surprise in that baseball players have never been renowned for their domesticity. They have, let us say, been more inclined to spread the love during their time on the road—and, occasionally, in the bullpen or even the clubhouse—during the long, long season.

 I, for once, am not willing to stoop to such skepticism. I have no reason to doubt that Jacob deGrom or any other player isn’t ga-ga over his wife and kiddies in this more enlightened age.

 But gimme a break.

 Ballplayers, if they so choose, could spend enough time with the family to absolutely horrify any self-respecting American kid. Four solid months, 24/7, during the off-season, to start with. It’s not like the old days, when Phil Rizzuto had to work as a haberdasher and Yogi Berra ran a bowling alley during the winter.

 In the summer, most players make enough now that they could have the family even on road trips.  No?

 Sorry, but I ain’t buyin’ it. I think most players are mostly interested in taking three days off at the All-Star break, with or without the family. Their front offices, which would just as soon they didn’t risk injury and came back tanned, rested, and ready for the playoff drives, encourage them.

 It’s a mistake.

 The All-Star Game used to be one of major-league baseball’s glittering showcases. When I was first following the game, in the late 1960s, you still heard all about the amazing feat of King Carl Hubbell striking out Ruth, Gehrig, Foxx, Simmons, and Cronin, in order, at the Polo Grounds in 1934.

 You knew that Babe Ruth—who else?—had hit the first All-Star homer the year before. There was Ted Williams’ three-run, ninth-inning homer to win the 1941 game in Detroit, right after Joe DiMaggio had just managed to leg it out to first and avoid the double-play.

 There was Williams’ epic, 4-4, 5 RBI game at Fenway in 1946, and Red Schoendienst’s home run in the 14th inning in 1950, and Stan the Man Musial’s in the 12th inning in 1955, and the amazing feats performed by Willie Mays just about every year. There was Yaz and Gary Carter and Junior Griffey, and Mariano Rivera pitching as flawlessly as he did in the regular season and the World Series.

 There was the 1971 game, 50 years ago this year, with 22 Hall-of-Famers in the lineup, and Reggie hitting the light tower in Detroit. There was Pete Rose’s dash home, and Jetes winning the All-Star MVP along with the World Series MVP in the same year.

 There was Bo Jackson giving us an all-too-brief glance of what he could have been, and Pedro pulling off a near-Hubbell, striking out Barry Larkin, Larry Walker, Sammy Sosa, and Mark McGwire in succession at Fenway, in 1999. 

It was a game you wanted to see, had to see. The first baseball game I ever watched all the way through was the 1967 All-Star Game, which went 15 innings. It was really terrible, because some idiot decided to schedule it for dusk in Anaheim, and nobody could see the ball.

 I loved it, and I loved that my father let me stay up to watch it.

 The All-Star Game used to be played like a war, once upon a time, with each league vying to show that its players, its style of play was superior. The long period of National League domination seemed like a morality play, rewarding the league that had thoroughly embraced integration.

 Inevitably, a lot of the luster faded, particularly after inter-league play came in. The game was played to benefit the players’ pension fund—and of course with what all-star players make today they are as likely to worry about that pension as our current Billionaires in Space.

 But still. 

 Jacob deGrom couldn’t show up to pitch three innings? Even one inning? Just to face Shohei Ohtani, leading off?

 I know, I know. He’s looking forward to spending time with his family. And more than likely he’s looking to avoid aggravating whatever the mysterious injury is that enables him to look completely unhittable for the three or five or six innings he is usually able to pitch.

 His absence only exacerbates baseball’s already grievous credibility issue. What is going on with deGrom? Is he hurt? Is this another juicing problem of some kind?

 Or is it just indifference?  

The game only works if everybody cares. Jacob deGrom, at the height of his game, can’t give us a single batter? 

 He would still have plenty of time to spend with his family.


HoraceClarke66 said...

And speaking of Ohtani, the beat goes on:

Here is Tyler Kepner in World Soccer Daily, sorry, the NY Times:

"While Ohtani is frequently compared to Babe Ruth as a world-class hitter and pitcher, Ruth never made 20 starts and had at least 200 plate appearances in the same season. With 13 starts this season—and almost 350 turns at bat—Ohtani could be the first to ever shoulder two such burdens.

"'Babe didn't do it like this all the time,' said Colorado Rockies Manager Bud Black, an All-Star coach [and someone born 22 years after the Babe retired]...

Let's review:

—While still mostly a pitcher in 1918, The Babe had 382 plate appearances, and 19 starts—plus 1 relief appearance. He threw a total of 166 1/3 innings. He would undoubtedly have started at least one more time, but the regular season was ended at the start of September by federal order, because of World War I.

Those 19 starts included 18 complete games and 1 shutout.

—As it was, though, the Babe started and won 2 games in the World Series that year. The first was a complete game shutout, and the second featured 7 2/3 innings of shutout ball, extending his record, Series shutout run to 29 2/3 innings.

In other words, the Babe had 21 starts in all in 1918, including the Series, and threw a total of 183 1/3 innings.

—As a batter in 1918, Ruth hit a league-leading, 11 deadball homers, and batted .300. He played 59 games in the OF, where he handled 121 chances.

—Shohei Ohtani has indeed made 13 starts already, on the road to finish with more than 20. He has also pitched all of 67 innings, which puts him on the road to finish with 122 innings on the season, which would put him 44 innings short of Ruth's 1918 regular-season totals, and almost 60 innings short of his regular- and postseason totals.

—Obtain has not pitched a complete game or a shutout since 2017, when he threw one for the immortal Nippon Ham Fighters, in Japan's Pacific League.

—Shohei Ohtani is hitting .279—and when not pitching, has played almost exclusively as a DH, a "position" that did not exist in Ruth's time.

—Ohtani has played all of 12 1/3 innings in the outfield this year—the first year he has ever played OF in the majors—and he does not have a single chance in the field as anything but a pitcher.

Please stop, Mr. Kepner, and Mr. Verducci. When you compare Shohei Ohtani to Babe Ruth—or, really, to any true major-league great—you are only embarrassing yourself.

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Anonymous said...

Now the only way you can be sure if a player is actually married is if they skip the All-Star Game to be with their family.

I remember that '71 game in particular. I was 16 and had my first job which was at a Boy Scout camp in the Adirondack Mts., as a counselor for 10 weeks. I loved it, but got almost no games because there were such weak signals there for my radio.
However, the ASG was picked up by the local radio station in Tupper Lake and I listened to the game with about 20 other guys sitting around a campfire. A solid mix of American League fans vs. National league fans and you felt like the game mattered.
I forgot what I did yesterday, but I can remember the Reggie Homer as clear as day.
Man was life simply then

The Archangel

Anonymous said...

Great post, Hoss! I completely agree and understand what you mean.

The All-Star game used to be such a fun game to look forward to for all fans. A lot of fans actually cared about which league won. Now? It's been reduced to a non-stop commercial. Nobody, fans, players or even the media could care less which league wins. Baseball's popularity is dropping off a cliff, so it would be nice if a marquee pitcher would think that it's important enough to be at the game just to represent his team and give the fans a reason to watch it.

The Hammer of God

Kevin said...

Great post as usual, Horace, although there was something about the '71 All-Star game and fifty years which really disturbs me. It's bad enough to hear about young, talented, ballplayers being compared to Ruth and Company. Obtain, talented and charismatic that he is, is international branding at it's most obvious. I find that being taken for a fool is an insufferable insult, part of why I can't watch football and basketball anymore. MLB, with their numbers bullshit marketing scheme needs to cool it a bit. I have to admit that the players talking about their family is pretty hilarious, especially when talking about choosing which contract to sign. I know, I'm such a cynic.

HoraceClarke66 said...

Thanks, Hammer.

And you said it, Kevin! I'm watching it now, and commenting on it like crazy on the comments for the post above this one, if you're interested.

This is, in so many ways, a new low!

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