September 19, 2006 – Well, the inevitable has happened. RyanHoward, the National League’s leading MVP candidate, is getting the Barry Bonds treatmentÃ¢Â?Â¦in both ways!
It is a very unfortunate part of baseball, but it is what it is. A team can select not to pitch to a player in order to pitch to a player of lower athletic capabilities. Quite frankly, I think it is the most absurd facet in all of sports. It takes away from the spirit of competition. Afterall, doesn’t every fan want to see their favorite player, or the best player, in the most desperate of situations, taking the big shot, throwing the clutch pass, or defending the other team’s best player? Of course they do, and every athlete wants to be able to perform in those clutch moments. But for some reason, baseball allows for the biggest players to be absent from the biggest moments in sports.
It all started with the Phillies against the Marlins in earlier this month. It was the top of the 10th inning, the score was tied, and
RyanHoward was the plate with 2 runners on and 2 outs. The Marlins, having lost off RyanHoward’s homerun the previous night, decided not to pitch to Howard this time and walked him on 4 intentional balls, much like Barry Bonds has been walked over the past 5 seasons. Now, do not get me wrong. I am not going to blame the manager of the Marlins for electing to do so, because it is perfectly within the rules, and if people in sports did not stretch and manipulate the rules, we would not have some of the innovative strategies and tactics that we have today (for example, the forward pass in football). However, in what other sport can you intentionally take away a player’s ability to have an effect on the outcome of the game, especially in the remaining moments of a contest?
In football, you cannot say that you don’t want TomBrady to throw a pivotal pass on 3rd and long. Imagine the Carolina Panthers in the 2004 Superbowl, and picture them saying they would rather Brady’s backup come in and throw those pivotal passes in the 4th quarter, or requesting that the Patriots have to run the ball on that last drive. Or even worse, envision the Panther’s saying they do not want AdamVinatieri to kick the game winning field goal, but they would rather the 2nd string kicker “step up to the plate.”
What if in hockey you could elect to have WayneGretzky not take any shots on goal in the 3rd period of a playoff Hockey game? Do you think he would be the legend that he is now? Of course not.
Say in golf that instead of letting Tiger Woods drive the ball 300 yards, the other golfers elected to make Tiger place the ball on the average driving distance down the fairway. Which of course is a lot like baseball, where instead of allowing a great hitter the opportunity to get 4 bases, pitchers can elect to just give a player the average 1 base.
In basketball, you cannot elect to make BillWennington take the shot over MichaelJordan. Imagine if in the ’98 NBA Finals,
ByronRussell could have said, “I don’t want MJ to take the shot, I would much rather defend DennisRodman ‘s jumper.”
But that is exactly what they do in baseball. By intentionally walking somebody, as the Marlins did Howard, they are saying I don’t want MJ to get an At-Bat, but I want the Rodman (a lesser player) to take his swings. Why is it that baseball allows for this to happen, while in any other sport this approach cannot be taken?
To me it is just a wimpy and lazy practice. It’s wimpy because the team on defense is just outright saying that they cannot defend certain batters. It is a lazy practice because for all the standing around and paucity of exertion that goes into playing defense in baseball, when somebody who actually poses a threat to make somebody run after a line drive or jump over the fence, teams want to walk him and essentially take the easy route.
In light of all of this, I have come with an idea to eliminate this pusillanimous and indolent practice. Due to the fact that a pitcher is not perfect and is going to walk people on occasion, you cannot automatically just say that you are not allowed to intentionally walk hitters. Also, a pitcher could just throw 4 ugly balls that a batter would never swing at, and say that he was trying to get it over the plate and just missed. Thus, the solution to the intentional walking of good hitters has to be solved with a two-fold situation. The first statute to be implemented is that a hitter who is walked prior to the 7th inning, must be awarded a three bases minus the number of strikes thrown. That way, a pitcher must throw the ball over the plate, and if he shows a valiant effort at doing so and gets to a full count, he still on gives up first base.
A batter is walked and the official end count is 4 balls and 2 strikes, then the batter is given first base (3 bases – 2(the # of strikes)=1).
A batter is walked and official end count is 4 balls and 0 strikes, then the batter is given 3rd base (3 bases- 0(the # of strikes)=3).
This plan only works in innings that are not crucial to the end of the game. That is because if it is late in the game, and there are 2 outs on the board, then a pitcher who gets ahead in the count may elect to walk the batter from that point on, knowing that a slugger (who is perhaps relatively slow) will only be awarded 1st or 2nd base.
Thereby, after the 6th inning, my second statute to be implemented would be that if a hitter is walked, he should be given 3rd base. It will make pitchers pitch, and will eliminate the nullification of a baseball player’s great skills, of which the fans pay good money to see. It is about time that this archaic practice of walking great hitters be removed from this classic game. It is truly hurting the performance and the numbers of the players that kids and other fans are truly appreciative of.
The second of the two ways in whichRyanHoward is being treated like Barry Bonds, is that questions of possible steroid use are being cast upon him. However, the truth is that nothing has been found to ascertain that either of the two of them have used steroids to enhance their performance. In the case of Bonds, yes, there is Grand Jury testimony out there that was supposed to be confidential and still doesn’t prove intentional use (even though I am skeptical to that excuse). So for that reason, I can understand the questioning of Bonds. But there is no such testimony on the part ofRyan Howard , and there is no reason to believe or prove that he has used steroids. He is just a big kid, with natural strength and the body fat percentage to prove it, who hits a lot of homeruns. Sounds a lot like some fat guy who used to play for the Yankees a long time ago, doesn’t it?