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by user CardsDeck
I want to see if I'm the only one out there who thinks that something is missing from today's game. I'm referring to baseball's lost art, an art that in its true form can be absolutely mesmerizing. Sure, there are a handful of players left in the majors who can steal 50+ bases in a year, but how many of these players actually get a look unless they hit .375 in single A ball, or can hit 20+ home runs in addition to being lightning quick? Today's game is all about how far you can hit the ball, and while I think that's not a bad thing, I think managers are forgetting how deadly (and inexpensive) speed can be.
I'm so envious of all you Cardinals fans (and baseball fans in general) that were able to witness Whiteyball in the '80s. I was just a little boy back then, but I'll never forget names like Vince Coleman, Willie McGee, and of course, the wizard, Ozzie Smith. Now I realize that artificial turf was a big help in the success of these speedsters, but a solid contact hitter than can get on base some way in today's game 34-38% of the time can really change the complexion of a game. I also realize that a good pitching staff is needed in order to stay competitive, because some days runs may be hard to come by, but with the money you save on position players, you should be able to invest that much more into pitching. I think it's become fairly evident that good pitching can take a team to the top.
An example of what I'm talking about: The closest thing to Whiteyball that I can remember in recent memory is the combination of Juan Pierre and Luis Castillo while members of the Florida Marlins. In the 2003 playoffs, they had quite an impact; the two produced OBP's of .411 and .323, respectively. I know, I know, .323 is a pretty weak OBP, but with Pierre's outstanding OBP, Castillo's main objective was to move Pierre over in whatever way he could. He did this in two ways: sacrifice bunts, and working deep into counts allowing Pierre a chance to swipe a bag. Castillo was patient enough to draw 8 walks in the postseason, not bad for a guy that was hitting ahead of Ivan Rodriguez, Miguel Cabrera, and Derrek Lee. One would expect that Castillo would get quite a few good pitches to hit.
I think it's also the intangibles here that make speed so valuable. Pretend you're Kerry Wood for a minute (We'll assume at this point, you're actually healthy). Juan Pierre just slapped a single to left, and now you're facing Luis Castillo. You now have to keep Pierre close while worrying about a sacrifice bunt, a bunt which Castillo could very well beat out if you don't get your ass of the hill. Don't forget, you also have to worry about making good pitches at this point. Now, let's put Pudge Rodriguez on first base. Chances are slim that the Marlins will send Miguel Cabrera to the plate with the intention of bunting, so that doesn't even enter your mind. Keeping Pudge close isn't really necessary, since he likes to drag a piano around the bases with him. At this point, all you're focused on is making good pitches. Quite a relief after those first two hitters, right?
I get nervous every time a Juan Pierre or a Wily Taveras comes to the plate, because they can beat out an infield hit, turn a double into a triple really easily, bunt for a single, or work a walk.
I'm not saying that speed is the be all end all in major league baseball, and it must be incorporated for teams to be truly competitive. All I'm saying is, I hope managers don't completely forget about speed in the future, because speed is one aspect of this great game that never slumps. Is there anybody out there who feels the same way?
Mon 05/15/06, 5:32 pm EST