May 02, 2002

Back to Back homers. Back to Back Homers.: What is up with the softball game in Chicago? Not to mention, Mike Cameron added two more himself. Bring out the juiced ball theory because I don't think this is the last time this will happend this year.

posted by brent to baseball at 10:27 PM - 7 comments

Yeah, but he totally slacked after the fifth. I mean, four innings and no homers? C'mon!

posted by kirkaracha at 12:19 AM on May 03

Man, I was hoarse in that 5th inning- when he hit that 4th one, I leaped from my chair and screamed "YES! YES! YES!" at the top of my lungs for a full minute. Amazing! Pissed me off that he got hit in the 7th, and knew immediately in the 9th from the sound of the bat that he didn't get an unheard of 5th homerun. It was sounding like a cannon for those four shots he did hit, but that one- as close as it came- just didn't have that same pop. Better still, he's on my fantasy team, and I was about to trade him yesterday- but the person wouldn't give me what I was asking (DL'ed Griffey along with Guillen and Lowe), so he rejected the trade. Don't think I'll be putting him on the trading block again this season for any reason. :) As for the "juiced ball" crap, I give it no truck. The fact is, the players today are better athletes and better trained; the pitchers will catch up- this game not withstanding, we're seeing a lot of 1- and 2- hit performances these days as well. If we magically transported Babe Ruth to 2002, he'd be above average at best; if we transported Barry Bonds to 1920, he'd hit 80-90 homeruns easily against those shitty drunken players (assuming we gave him a pigmentation overhaul). It seems unfair to pull out juiceball theories and the like, because it's an attempt to diminish the amazing accomplishments of some phenomenally talented players.

posted by hincandenza at 04:27 AM on May 03

Whoa, whoa, whoa-- I agreed with you on the ballplayers these days are great athletes (I can't stand the "things used to be better argument in the past" in sports). You lost me on the "all old ballplayers were crap" part. Especially in baseball: of the four major sports, I'd say baseball is the least changed from its past. It's still a guy with a bat versus a guy with a ball. And I can't believe there will ever be a team that couldn't use Honus Wagner. If you're saying he (or anyother real deal HoF'er) couldn't compete in today's game, please explain how you arrived at that. Who would have taken that roto trade? I still can't get over Cameron's power surge in the past two years.

posted by yerfatma at 07:39 AM on May 03

I didn't say "all old players were crap". What I mean is that with a smaller population, lack of inclusion of black athletes, lower status of the game as an occupation, lower pay, no little league, no minor league farm system, no real statistical analysis or measurement to properly evaluate talent, no international scouting, the talent pool was much much thinner than it is today. I've been meaning to write up a full article on this for a while, but I've no place to put it if I did (unless the SpoFi folk will accept a submission). See, Babe Ruth was a great player- in his day. Look who he played against- no Ichiro, no Pedro, no Sammy Sosa. Ruth was playing against a talent pool that was triple-AAA at best; with the lack of good scouting and analysis, all the great players weren't in the league; a few got through (like Ruth, Wagner, Johnson) but that only meant they'd dominate statistically in a way today's players could never do. They say that the great Jimmy Foxx was scouted because a scout was driving by a field where Jimmy was plowing, and asked him for directions for any nearby baseball fields. Foxx lifted up his plow with one brawny arm and pointed off to the distance, and was immediately signed by the scout because of his obvious strength. An apocryphal story, to be sure, but compare that to today when every 13-year-old kid in the dusty streets of the Domincan Republic who can throw the ball 60+ mph is getting invited to a year-round sponsored training camp in his home town where he gets the best instruction available. How good is the competition? That's what determines how good your numbers are, how successful you are. Players of yesteryear were not the very best players the planet could offer. Sure, some of the very best by sheer chance were in the group of players that ever had a chance of playing in the majors; but many more never even knew about baseball. That situation is changing every day, and the modern game is closer and closer to the ideal of finding the 700 best players on the planet to populate the rosters- and not just the 500 best white players you happen to stumble across in a drive through the Mid-west. Oh, as for the roto-trade; it might seem lopsided, but remember: Griffey is on the DL for the 3rd time in 3 years without a clear timetable for his return, while the roto player had both Guillen and Lowe on his bench because he didn't need them (he was terribly pitching heavy and had Nomar as his current SS). He practically begged me to tell him how he could get Cameron, and that's the trade I offered after much haggling; I'd be giving up a surefire centerfielder for one who might not even play much of the season along with two players he wasn't using. Not a great trade, but still...

posted by hincandenza at 04:15 PM on May 03

Quick note hincandenza: There were minor leagues back in the days of Ruth, Wagner, Johnson, etc. They just weren't affiliated with the majors at that time. They were more independent than they are today. It just meant that the best teams from these "minor leagues" were available to every team in the majors. It just came down to signing the players and paying the teams some times. Otherwise, I agree completely with your position about modern/historic ball players. I've been preaching that sermon for years to my less educated co-workers, but they all insist that "baseball players aren't as good as they were in the old days". Sigh. I think this book should be required reading for anyone who wants to argue about baseball.

posted by grum@work at 04:57 PM on May 03

True- I meant as you suggest the kind of well-structured system that (I believe) started with Branch Rickey where it provided a path for young talent to develop at a steady pace into full-blown major league players. I have the Bill James historical abstract on my shelf, actually; his last one (what, 15 years ago?) made quite an impression on me, opening not only the old world of early baseball, but a more thoughtful analysis of the game itself.

posted by hincandenza at 06:23 PM on May 03

Or to be more particular: if I read one more Joe Morgan column at ESPN where he blathers incoherently that if Willie Mays played today he'd hit 80 homeruns, I'm gonna scream. :)

posted by hincandenza at 06:24 PM on May 03

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