Baseball has become an utter shell of what it once was, and that thought eats away at me every day. If Legends such as Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Willie Mays, Cy Young, Satchel Paige and Walter Johnson were playing today, the present stars would be footnotes, bench players or even in the minor leagues. Today all the players care about is who will pay them more, not simply to play the game. The days of men in baseball are gone, all that remains are boys.
Today, most players are only concerned with their wallets. Their team, winning games, their fans, and even their reputation all take a backseat to the big dollars. Baseball was at its best when the players played during the summer, and then went to the coal mines, the steel mills or built the Brooklyn Bridge in the winter to make ends meet. Today, they get private jets, personal masseuses, and countless other luxuries that the players of old could not even dream of. The ballplayers of yesteryear were stars on the field, but once they left their respective clubhouses, they became the average Joe.
The fences of modern baseball are puny compared to those of old. If Babe Ruth played in such dimensions, he would have outdone not only himself and Roger Maris, but the phony numbers of Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. It would not be out of the question to have seen Ruth hit 800 home runs, 900, or maybe even upwards of 1,000 career home runs if he were to play in today’s game. Not only the dimensions, not only that back then pitchers had higher mounds, but Ruth played before steroids, before ballplayers made hand over fist, and back when 30 home runs was reached by only 4 or 5 batters per season. Ruth’s 60 home runs then would be like hitting 80 home runs today.
Then of course there is the steroid era. Players looking to boost their fame, numbers and most importantly their wallet, decided to take HGH and illegal anabolic steroids to name a few. Bums like A-Fraud, McGwire, Bonds, Sosa, Palmeiro, Giambi, Clemens, Manny Ramirez and countless others chose to completely corrupt nearly two decades of baseball by selfishly choosing to falsely captivate millions by putting up numbers not by hours of hard work in the gym, cage or in the field, but a few minutes in the bathroom with a syringe and a pill or two. These cheaters made us believe we were witnessing one of the greatest eras in the games grand history, but now it’s clear that it was in fact one of the darkest eras of the game. In my opinion this was exponentially worse than the 1919 Black Sox when they threw the World Series. Those guys could barely afford to feed their families. The owners were penny pinching, frequently cheated them, denied them their bonuses, while the owners made money hand over fist. It doesn’t excuse what they did, but what we witnessed in the 1990’s and early 2000’s was much worse.
The only steroid user I can whole heartedly forgive is Jay Gibbons. He was released by the Orioles after appearing in the Mitchell Report, after facing hard times, started clean from the ground up several years later, going through the minors and eventually made it back to the majors in 2010 for the Dodgers. He payed his price; players like Alex Rodriguez, or as I refer to him, A-Fraud, were never truly condemned for their actions. A-Fraud doesn’t care that he did it, like many others, he is only sorry that he got caught. He is the highest payed ballplayer in MLB history, do you really think he regrets taking a few PR hits? ESPN still covered his chase to 600 homers, still praised him, and yet his numbers are TAINTED. If I were to cover that, I would mention the fact that he took steroids before saying anything positive about him. These players needed to juice in order to and cheat for YEARS to become as good as Ruth, Gherig, Mays and Musial.
Players today have also become very frail in comparison to those of 25, 50 100 years ago. Players complain about it being too hot, or too cold or some other stupid complaint. THERE IS NO CRYING IN BASEBALL. Where are the guys like Kirk Gibson?, who was willing to step up to the plate, barely able to stand, and manage to hit a walk-off home run. Yes, there have been recent occurrences such as Curt Shilling’s “Bloody Sock Game”, but that stamina of old, that toughness, has been in short supply in this age of well conditioned atheticism. This is most recently apparent by Jason Heyward, who said he won’t return until he is “100%”. Chipper Jones was right, there are plenty of guys playing through injury, you get out there and play, especially a young kid like Heyward. Your team needs you, shut up, put your head down and play.
Where are the moments like Babe Ruth’s called his shot, or when Satchel Paige called his entire infield and outfield in, and with them kneeling around the mound for an inning and he struck out the side on nine pitches?
The last instances I can recall are Derek Jeter’s Mr. November home run, Pujols’ home run knocking out the “I” in the “Big Mac” sign or Jack Morris’ 10-inning shutout, but like I have stated several ways here, it is nothing like what it used to be.
Finally, pitch counts are an atrocity. If your pitcher is dealing, there is absolutely no reason to take him out because they are over 100 pitches. Take them out when you need a pinch hitter or when they are not making successful pitches, not because your bench coach can’t count higher than 100.
Nolan Ryan had it right when he stated that his pitchers will not be limited by pitch counts. I could not believe that Yankees skipper Joe Girardi considered taking CC Sabathia out last season when he had a no-hitter going into the 8th inning because his pitch count was high. I know it is for the purpose of preserving arms, but way back when, pitchers were expected to go 8 or 9 innings regularly. A complete game was as common as a quality start nowadays, not to mention they pitched every third or fourth day, not every fifth.
It drives me crazy when players like Carl Pavano or Adrian Beltre only produce in their contract years. In the real baseball, players took a sense of pride in their performance, the money was just extra, they played because of their love of the game. I have only been around to witness the steroids era and the post-steroids era, but from what I have been told and what I have read, today’s game is an absolute shell of what baseball used to be. These players can not hold a candle to Ruth, Snider, Robinson, Musial or any of the old greats. These men oftentimes sacrificed so much to be able to play baseball, and yet today players have just about everything handed to them and they still complain. I understand that there are several exceptions and that times change, but for the most part, today’s game is nothing compared to once upon a time when baseball was so simple, poetic, grand and heroic.
What used to be a sport for grown men that boys emulated, has now become a boy’s game where grown men are babied and pampered.