Thursday, July 8, 2021

HoraceClarke66: The Yankees Are the Team of the Past and Always Will Be! Part de Deux: The Babe vs. “Showtime.”

 From the desk of HoraceClarke66...

I say this is sad, because it is truly too bad when an otherwise intelligent baseball observer such as Tom Verducci can be pressured or lured into writing something purely for clickbait—as he did recently in claiming that Shohei Ohtani is actually a better ballplayer than Babe Ruth was.

 Verducci compares Ohtani favorably not only to The Babe, but also Juan Soto, Yu Darvish, Roger Clemens, Willie Mays, Swan Lake, and—I’m not making this up—Michelangelo’s ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.  

(I’m not going to attach the piece and encourage any secretive clickbaiting out there.)

Ohtani—now batting .276, and last seen spitting the bit against a staggering Yankees team—is “a once-in-a-century ballplayer,” according to Verducci, one who “shuns specialization in a society that craves and rewards it.” “[N]ot even the Babe slugged or ran like Ohtani does” while the Japanese wunderkind is ahead of both Mays and Clemens in his career—and he, Verducci, has the statistics to prove it.

 What Verducci has, in fact, is a model of how to lie with statistics.

 Ruth, Mays, Clemens, and many, many other stars of the game had in fact done much more at his age than Ohtani, who just turned 27. What Verducci does, instead of admitting this, is to compare stats for the number of games that Ohtani and others have played in the majors.

 But even this doesn’t really work.

 Thus Ohtani—who has missed almost 35 percent of his first three, major-league seasons with injury—has played in “only” 347 games. Whereas Ruth had already given up the rigors of being a two-way player after “a mere 218 games.”

 (Verducci also provides us with a quote in which the Babe says just how hard those rigors were. The real reason was more likely Ruth’s ADD, which left him always needing to do something.)

 But let’s review.

 By the time he had played 347 games—despite missing two years in the army—Willie Mays had won the NL MVP award and a batting title, and made the greatest catch in World Series history, while leading his team to a championship. 

By the time he was 27, Mays had compiled two 30-30 seasons, hit over .300 four times, hit as many as 51 home runs, and established himself as the greatest centerfielder the game has ever seen.

 By the time he’d played in 347 major-league games, Roger Clemens had won 3 Cy Young awards and 1 MVP, won over 20 games three separate times, pitched 104 complete games, thrown 44 shutouts, and led his team to 4 division titles and 1 World Series. 

And that was all before the juice. By the time he was 27, Clemens had merely won 2 of those Cy Youngs, and the MVP.

 Shohei Ohtani?

 After his welcome win over Boston the other night (and a home run last night), Showtime has a lifetime record of 8-4 in the majors, with a 3.89 ERA. He has never pitched a shutout, never even got through the 8th inning. He has thrown a total of 120 1/3 innings in his major-league career.

 As a hitter, Showtime has never batted higher than .286 on a season. He does run well—41 stolen bases in 52 attempts—and has 4 bunt hits.

 But to say he “shuns specialization”? 

 When he’s not pitching, Ohtani is a DH. What could be more specialized than that?

 He has played a total of 12 2/3 innings in the field, in his entire major-league career.  That’s it.  Less than a game-and-a-half.

 As an outfielder, Ohtani has yet to register an assist. Or an error. Or a putout. That’s right: in his fourth big-league season, Showtime has not had a single chance in the outfield.

 So let’s get to the Big Bam.

 By the time he gave up pitching regularly—at the age of 24—Babe Ruth had won 92 games in the regular season and 3 more in the World Series, where he also set a record for consecutive scoreless innings that would stand for 44 years.

 Ruth had established himself as the best left-handed pitcher in the game—and at his peak, in 1916-17, he had moved ahead of The Big Train, Walter Johnson, as the best pitcher in the game, period. Head-to-head, he defeated Johnson in 6 of their 8 meetings.

 (Also, whereas The Big Train held Ruth to a mortal .280 BA, The Babe hit 7 of the 97 home runs Johnson gave up, lifetime. Also, as a pitcher, Ruth held Ty Cobb to a .326 average—40 points below his lifetime mark—and struck him out 7 times, or 1.5 percent of the times Cobb fanned in his entire career.)

 (Also, Shohei Ohtani actually managed to walk Brett Gardner with the bases loaded last week.)

 By the time the Babe was 27, he had literally changed the way the game was played.

 He had broken the single-season record for home runs three times, twice more than doubling the old, pre-Babe record.  

 Think Showtime will hit over 146 home runs this year? And next?

 The first time he did this, in 1920, Ruth hit more home runs than any other team in the American League.

 Think Showtime will hit 325 or so homers this year?

 It was true that The Babe could be a reckless baserunner. But he did steal home 10 times in his career. Call me when Ohtani does it once.

 Oh, and bunting? Ruth bunted for a hit 10 times—in the single season of 1923, when he batted .393.

 As a fielder, The Babe was known for never throwing to the wrong base and early on—before his legs started to atrophy after the Yankees forbade him from working out in the offseason—he was often among the league leaders in getting to balls.

 He never got to “play” DH, of course. If he had, he might be playing still.

 It’s difficult to summarize how many ways that Babe Ruth changed not only baseball but professional sports in general, in America and around the world. There’s a strong case to be made that Ruth was not only the greatest baseball player ever, but the greatest athlete, ever, in terms of how he altered sport.

 The Babe produced the first-ever, million-person gate at the old Polo Grounds during the 1920 season. Soon he had facilitated the construction of the first, gigantic, college-football-size stadium for baseball (and pro football), “The House That Ruth Built”—and where, with his usual timing, he hit the very first home run.

 Shohei Ohtani, ballplayer of the century, can’t even DH a third of the time?

 The Babe almost never took a day off. To offset his record salary, the Yankees played constant exhibition games, in every bush-league town and hamlet that would pay their steep fee (of which the Babe got a nice cut), before, after, and during the season.

 In return, Ruth was generally expected to pitch, roll around in the outfield with the children who inevitably mobbed him, lead the town band, pose for pictures in all sorts of costumes and headdresses, sign hundreds of autographs, and hit a gargantuan home run—which he almost always did. 

 It’s likely that the Babe played more games than any other athlete in North American history—which, considering baseball’s extended schedule, means that he likely played more games than any other athlete anywhere, ever.

 As Waite Hoyt put it:  “All the lies about Babe Ruth are true.”

 Hey, don’t get me wrong. I think Shohei Ohtani seems like a fine individual, and he is a joy to watch. Particularly when he manages to walk Gary Sanchez and hit Clint Frazier with a pitch in the same inning.

 Seriously! The kid’s terrific. I wish him all joy and happiness in his career.

 But Swan Lake, he ain’t. Michaelangelo, he ain’t. Willie Mays, he ain’t. 

Babe Ruth, he ain’t.


Anonymous said...

I'll bet he can't even do 32 fouettés.

13bit said...

Hoss, this is a masterpiece.

Il miglior fabbro

Kevin said...

Verducci has gone "strictly commercial". I USED to enjoy reading his articles, before the so-called "Verducci effect". Reading this bullshit of his makes me want to kick his sold-out ass. Soon, there won't be any real sportswriters who are allowed to make the Big Time.

Horace, what a great, well researched piece. KUDOS!

Mike said...

This is awesome, Hoss. Thank you.

TheWinWarblist said...

"Particularly when he manages to walk Gary Sanchez and hit Clint Frazier with a pitch in the same inning."

Sing it Sister!!

Tom Verducci has always been a fuck-wit.

Rufus T. Firefly said...

What Winnie said.

Rufus T. Firefly said...

And Hoss, you are a researcher and a wordsmith in one.

DickAllen said...

Amen brother.

HoraceClarke66 said...

I am humbled by your praise, ladies and gentlemen. And yes, as long as Ohtani keeps hitting Clint with pitches, I think this is a win-win.

DickAllen said...

Last time I checked, Ohtani was on a team nearly as close to the cellar as they are to first. Talk to me when he wins anything besides headlines for his “historic” season.

And fuck Verducci. And Steven A Smith fuck him too. And fuck Buster Olney - especially fuck him. Bloodsucking vampires all.

And Harold, Brain, and Boooooone.

HoraceClarke66 said...

A quick correction: I should have written, "Ohtani can't even DH TWO-thirds of the time?"—not A third.

Also, I apologize for the quality of some of the pix I tried to squeeze in. The ones of Ruth are really terrific, particularly the one that just looks like a blurry crowd shot. It is, in fact, a shot of the Babe in the middle, in a straw boater, barely visible above some 5,000 boys who mobbed him at some event.


When the Yanks used to play at Shibe Park in Philly, they would get off at that city's North(?) Station, and walk the couple of blocks to the park. A cry would go out along the way: "Babe Ruth is coming!" People would run to their windows—and before long the Babe would be carrying a kid under each arm and another on his shoulders.

Really: never take a perfectly serviceable human being and tell me he's the same as a god. People used to get truly fucked-up in Greek mythology for such hubris.

Kevin said...

I recall back in '15 or '16 seeing an article that was proclaiming that Jake Arrieta as an all time great. Then again, the NFL started to market a GOAT QB every three years since the early eighties. This kind of marketing really sucks the richness out of sports for the kids. Personally, as a kid I used to love picking up books that wrote about players from five years years to fifty years earlier. Even now, the stars of the nineties Yankees are rapidly fading. Well, it's like the final lines in "Patton" about 'all fame is fleeting'.

I just wish that Verducci, Olney, ESPN, and others would "fleet" a bit faster down the road.

Joe Formerlyof Brooklyn said...

I am getting tired of the Anti-Italians-of-American descent attitude in this country.

First, there's Fauci -- a Brooklynite, a Yankees fan. He rises to national prominence, but he can't help but to make himself look like an ass. At least once a week! First the media politely pretended not to notice, but then . . .

Then there's Giuliani. Are precise specifications needed here?

And let's not omit Nancy Pelosi. A very rich person who lies at least 11 times a day whether she needs to or not.

Now,we gotta pick on Verducci, instead of forgiving him his inadequacy, quackery, and stupidity.

You all probably were willing to forgive Hillary a few things, but when it comes to someone with a vowel in the wrong place in his(her) name . . . no-ooooo!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for injecting politics into the equation, a-hole Couldn’t you help yourself, could you? Go suck Trump’s penis. We are here for baseball.

Anonymous said...

If they still gave the Pulitzer for actual writing and accuracy, this word get one.

As a former researcher and writer myself, I am almost humbled to be in your presence. [I can't actually be humbled because I am a retired attorney and if caught humbled, I would be flogged by the local night riders.]

The "Prose Monarch" Archangel

Joe Formerlyof Brooklyn said...

We may be "here for baseball" -- but with the NYYs 2021, it ain't here for us.

Kevin said...

@Joe Formerly of Brooklyn: My grandparents got off the Tomato Boat. Like all immigrant populations, yes, many should still be toiling in the Old Country.

JM said...

When MLB was going wild promoting Bonds and Sosa and McGwire, and how they broke Babe's and Maris's single-season records, I thought it was bullshit. When Bonds passed the Babe, I thought it was bullshit. Nobody did what Ruth did. Nobody. Ever. Otani is fun, but I can't really take him seriously. He's a pretty good pitcher and a pretty good hitter, but comparing him to Ruth is like comparing Taylor Smith to Billie Holliday.

He's a pop star, not a giant. I'll be surprised if he actually finishes 10 or 12 years in the bigs.

Scottish Yankee fan said...

Another brilliant article thanks for sharing

You are a very talented writer

HoraceClarke66 said...

Thanks, Archie, thanks, Scotland!

And...interesting NON-POLITICAL, fun fact about Italian immigration:

While millions of Italians came here, worked like hell, and contributed immeasurably to our America...about half returned to Italy. This was not all that uncommon with many different immigrant groups—and why not?

Italy 100-150 years ago—especially in the South—was so poor that you could live pretty well on what you'd made through working even on a laborer's wages in the U.S.. So why not move back to family, friends, and one of the most beautiful countries on the planet, rather than staying in a Lower East Side tenement?

The groups that stayed in the largest percentages? Ashkenazi Jews and the Irish.


They didn't have a country of their own, and were essentially colonial subjects (much as Britain periodically pretended that Irish Catholics were real citizens).

America was the only place they could have full rights. And that is your history lesson for the day! :)

Anonymous said...

Yeah, my father and my two uncles went back to Italy too,
that little scenic cruise called WWII.

Seriously, lots of Italians went back because they made money here and were relatively well off converting it to lira.
Also, They missed the climate. Most settled in the North and hated the snow and cold.

Fun Fact about Italians, DO NOT PISS them off by say anything derogatory about their country of origin or insinuate anything that can be interpreted as a slight. Would you like to swim with cement flippers?

The "Ever Avenging" Archangelo

Kevin said...

LMAO, be careful that you don't make a derogatory statement about a region in Italy without knowing that persons' complete lineage. People can get verrrrry eeemmmotional.

HoraceClarke66 said...

That's what I'm saying, Archie!

Also, while I forget what the figure was, Italians sent some incredible percentage of their wages back home even while they were still in the U.S.

All the immigrants were amazing...and Americans were so appreciative that they slammed shut the Golden Door as soon as they could, in 1924. Then opened it again, decades later. But still hate immigrants. And love them.

We're a confused and confusing people these days.

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