Monday, May 30, 2011

Hometown excuses about emotional damage: O'Sullivan and the gopher ball, Pena and the tag; has baseball come to this? Emotional damage? Really?

One more ridiculous excuse from the local newspaper, unfortunately from usually reliable Sam Mellinger:

“I’m getting more and more concerned with Yost. I’m fully aware of what the theoretical logic is – save the bullpen, especially when a game is lost. But how do you factor in the emotional damage done to the pitcher who has to keep serving up gopher ball after gopher ball?

This, it must be said, is just plain silly. Are we really to be worried about the"emotional damage" of leaving a pitcher in the game when the roof caves in? Has baseball really come to this?

While I don't agree with Ned Yost's obsessive desire to save the bullpen -- for what? -- I think the idea of coddling pitchers like children is as misguided as coddling children. Both pitchers and children are capable of much greater resiliency than common wisdom suggests.

Maybe it is because both have short memories.

In the case of pitchers, short memory is a matter of survival. Standing on the hill in the center of the diamond is a place of great import, whether your wife is sitting on the steel bleachers with four other wives or 40,000 screaming fans are arranged in three bowls and you feel like a bullfighter. Most pitchers are performers. They love being out there. Hell, I even love being out there in the circle in slow-pitch softball though I'm just 50-some feet away from a crushed eye socket. Pitchers are pitchers because they have extraordinary arms, they develop extraordinary legs, and they love being on the hill at the center of everything.

But, baseball being baseball, they are going to get whacked now and then, even the very best. And when a pitcher is whacked, he or she has no place to hide. That's why pitchers take so much offense at hot-dogging, even in slow-pitch softball. Nobody on the field is so guaranteed to be embarrassed several times a night than a pitcher.

If Mr. O'Sullivan can't take it, he should learn to play right field. Period. Same for the young minor league pitcher Yost left on the mound to rot a week ago. Look at the list of Royals' pitchers who have given up 15 hits in a single outing. O'Sullivan is in very good company -- You'd say most of those guys were pretty tough minded... and successful.

My question is why he didn't sit some Rangers on the seat of their pants. Back to back homeruns happen. Can you imagine back to back to back homeruns off Bob Gibson? Neither can I.

My real complaint is that Mr. O'Sullivan doesn't seem to have anything in his arsenal to get major league hitters out. There is a reason why he gave up "gopher ball after gopher ball," Sam. If you want to blame anyone for exposing Mr. O'Sullivan to the possibility of emotional damage, blame the general manager for making him a major league starter.

Talk about emotional damage is silly. Especially when you are talking about catchers. Was catcher Pena afraid of contact at the plate yesterday at the game's most critical point? Had he seen too many replays of Buster Posey? Was his psyche damaged? Do we need a change in the rules (yes)?

Come on. He's a catcher. He crouches behind the plate, inches from the bat, ordering 98 m-p-h fastballs thrown at his face. Do you really think in the heat of the moment he's afraid of a baserunner? He's a catcher, dammit.

Besides, he's wearing armor. He's got the ball in his hand, which is like holding a club if you do it right.

The problem here -- again -- is not emotional. It's physical. Like Mr. O'Sullivan, it has to do with skills. Now, I think Brayan Pena should be the everyday catcher. His bat is making a case for such. But he takes forever to apply the tag. Watch him do it and you'll see he hasn't mastered the instinct of slapping the tag down quickly. Some middle infielders also suffer this malady. You just let the momentum of the throw carry your glove to the ground and you've got the job done.

He can learn. But this intrusion of pop psychology into major league baseball writing destroys the true grit nature of the game. Save it for Parent magazine. Or, maybe not.


No comments:

Post a Comment