Tuesday, May 13, 2014

"What It Was, Was Baseball"


The 1965 Los Angeles Dodgers won the National League Pennant.  They did it without a single .300 hitter on their roster.  The team had such weak hitting that only a couple of position players were able to manage .270.  The Dodgers that year won more one-run games that any team in modern history.  

How did they manage to win 97 games that year with such "weak sisters" in the batting box?  Maury Wills would scrunch his 5ft 11 inch frame down at the plate and create a very tiny strike zone.  Most often he would draw a walk, steal second, steal third, then score on a hit to the right side of the infield or on a sacrifice fly to shallow center.  Wills might have to do that twice in a game if the team hoped to win.

Once the hitters had scratched out a run or two, $50,000 a year Sandy Koufax, or $40,000 dollars a year Don Drysdale, or $15,000 dollars a year Claude Osteen would begin posting goose eggs up on the score board....Dodgers 1, Opponent 0...Dodgers 2, Opponent 1....and they played that gambit for 162 games, winning 97 of them.

So, last night, May 12th, the Washington Nationals are in town to play the Arizona Diamondbacks.  The D-Backs are ten games under 500 and bringing up the rear in the National League West.  But this night the D-Backs are playing "over their head" defense, making three spectacular game saving defensive plays.  They scruff out six runs and go into the 9th leading 6-5.  

D-Backs manager, and World Series hero Kirk Gibson, brings in reliever Addison Reed.  Reed, in his last six appearances has given up a run in every one of the games he's asked to save.  His earned run average is over 6...and Gibson brings him in to save a one-run game, even though pesky Brad Ziegler had baffled Washington hitters in the eighth inning, their hitters swinging at low sailing fastballs out of the strike zone.  

So Reed, true to form, puts a pitch right over the heart of the plate, right in the batter's sweet zone.  Home run, game tied.  But even that's not good enough for Reed.  He gets one out, then throws another honey right over the middle of the plate and a .250 hitter drives it into the left field stands...Nationals 7, D-Backs 6.

Will Reed's mistake be redeemed in the bottom of the ninth inning?  The first D-Back hitter strolls to the plate and smashes a double to left center field.  He ends up on second base, with no outs.  So does "homer hero" manager Gibson call for a bunt to move the runner to third?  Has Gibson and his coaching staff even tutored the hitters on the bunt?  Do they spend 5 minutes a day in the batting cage working on the bunt?  Or do they flail away, trying to drive the ball into the right field stadium pool?
No one knows the answer to that.

But Gibson calls on Eric Chavez of the permanently injured knees.  Gibson does not order Chavez to bunt; instead he's going for "the bomb"...something that  will produce a dramatic come from behind home run.  So Chavez wails away with the long lumbering swing and hits into a double play.  Two outs.  Final score; Nationals 7, Diamondbacks 6.

You want to know what old Walt Alston, manager of those 1965 Dodgers would have done?  He would have schooled his hitters on executing the bunt....he would run them through practice until he was assured every hitter on the team could execute a bunt.  Then, with that runner on second, Alston would have called for a bunt down the first or third base line and moved the runner from 2nd to third. He would then call for a sacrifice fly to right, or, at minimum, an infield bash to the right side of the infield, thus allowing the runner on third to come home with the tying run.  The Dodgers would win 97 games in 1965.....The Diamondbacks are all on their way to losing that many this year.

In 1965 what it was, was baseball....I don't even know what they call it today.

Sad.  Damned Sad.


  1. I don't know, JR...this seems to be just stupidity and ignorance of good game management.