Darwin Would Have Loved Baseball

Don Zimmer was a baseball man who lived his whole life hungry for the game he loved. Here's the cue for us all. - If you want to have some fun in life, spend it with people who really enjoy being who they are. The fallout lessons are wonderful.

Don Zimmer was a baseball man who lived his whole life hungry for the game he loved. Here’s the cue for us all. – If you want to have fun in life, spend it with people who truly enjoy being who they are. The fallout lessons are wonderful.

The thing I always hated the most about the “DH” was the fact that it seemed to change one of the natural laws of baseball. Just as the sun always rises in the east, the pitcher always bats for himself. Baseball isn’t one of those games that we made up last summer and are still refining. It’s been around a long time, like the earth itself, and players have been adapting to its conditions over time or perishing for their inabilities to do so for as long as most of us can remember. Baseball, in effect, is the purest example of Darwinian thought that creatures either adapt to the laws of chemistry and physics governing this world – or else, they fade away as a surviving species. We are not here today in large numbers in a place called Houston, for example, because God or nature suddenly reversed the laws governing our Houston August heat. – We are here because some of our smarter members invented affordable home and car air-conditioning, the adjustment condition that made full-time life in Houston tolerable for most people who didn’t grow up here.

The real laws governing baseball are more like the laws of nature than any other sport. Our best players aren’t always the most able, or even the most intelligent. Most of those who survive as ten-year, .265 MLB hitters are there because of their adaptability – and our sport even has some masters at the cockroach level of adaptability when it comes to finding ways to survive as ballplayers that some club will want at any given time of that player’s still usable ability capacity as a either a player or mentor.

Look at all the guys like Earl Weaver, Sparky Anderson, Tony LaRussa, and Bobby Cox, for example. – Those guys had so much to give that each made it to the Hall of Fame, but those guys truly were gifted. The real cockroach-level adaptables  are not Hall of Famers, per se. They are just the street smart, adaptable, and, usually, quite likeable baseball people. The limited player and thinker Don Zimmer, for example, may have been the biggest cockroach of all time. Look at all the benches he occupied – and look at all the uniforms that Zimmer wore during his lifetime. He even prided himself at never making a penny of doing anything for a living outside of playing, coaching, or managing in the game.

And what are the qualities that set apart these “baseball cockroaches” from all others. It’s not enough to simply say that they are all survivors. I say it’s more like this: baseball is their food – and they are always hungry. If they want a job in the game with a certain club – and the door is closed and turning others away – they will simply wait until dark and scramble under the clubhouse door’s crawl-space to find a place on the bench. Then, if things work out, they will be smiling at the manager’s side when the awards and new contracts are passed out. – If not, and things go south on the field, and some media types turn the light on to that condition, they also will be the first to take note and be slithering their way out the same crawlspace they came in – and faster than anyone may need to call Orkin – but always popping up elsewhere once the dust clears – and none the worse for wear – in successful search of their next meal.

Having now read the current interview in the Wall Street Journal with new Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, I was taken favorably with his reflective perspective on the need for caution with any action imposing radical change upon the almost scientific antiquity of the rules that govern baseball. That is exactly why I am now less concerned that he would step in and try to impose a rule which would restrict or prohibit a defense from pulling a shift on a talented, but stupidly stubborn pull hitter. The cockroach pull hitters will punish defenses that try to impose a shift upon them – even if the most talented, prideful pull hitters continue to wing outs into the net that awaits them. To the prideful, the shift defenses almost seem to be taunting them: “Hey, mister! Please don’t hit the ball into this briar patch! Our gloves aren’t too good and you just might hurt us if you hit the ball  too hard!”

http://www.wsj.com/articles/a-q-a-with-baseballs-new-commissioner-1427991663?mod=WSJ_hpp_sections_sports

Four balls is a walk. Three strikes is an out. Three outs ends a time at bat for each team. Visitors bat first, Each team gets nine innings to bat, if needed, to try and get more runs than the other team. Whoever has the most runs at the end of nine innings, wins the game. If the game is tied after nine, you keep playing extra innings until an inning occurs that finds one team leading the other. When that happens, the team with the most runs is the winner. – Nine men per team, each playing a different position, but setting themselves up on the field where their manager thinks they will do the most good under the circumstances, Each man bats in an order that does not change – unless a substitution is made. Once you leave the game, you can’t go back. Just give it your best while you’re n there. Play the game as though your heart was in it. Don’t spit on artificial surfaces, if you can help it. And don’t step off the mound or away from the plate just to tug at your underwear.

And, even if some of us are getting used to the DH since the Astros went over to the AL, write the Commissioner if you can think of any way to get rid of it. After all, it was an aberration of the natural conditions governing baseball. And write him anyway. He also needs to kill that stupid rule that awards home team advantage in the World Series to the league that wins the All Star Game. As in life, no team should be awarded an advantage that they didn’t earn directly for themselves.

Entitlement and baseball are like oil and water. – Remember that one?

And have a great and joyful Good Friday, everyone – even if you are only waiting on the Easter Bunny.

Easter Addendum: If we have to have the “DH”, I like the suggestion that Larry Dierker made to me by e-mail, but both of his ideas here have great merit:

“Two more things: in baseball you can’t emphasize your best offensive players as in other sports. Each hitter must wait his turn and have a greater or lesser chance to produce depending on the base/out situation.

“As far as the DH, how about you can hit for the pitcher anytime you want but must not use that hitter thereafter in the game. Would make for a lot of tough decisions by the manager early in the game. Union would protest because it would eliminate a high salary. Give them a 26th roster spot in return. The way managers use pitchers these days, they need it.”

~ Larry Dierker

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3 Responses to “Darwin Would Have Loved Baseball”

  1. gregclucas Says:

    While I agree with you…(No DH and end of All Star Game as Home field determining factor) I will add more. No team aligned in a division more than one time zone away..UNLESS a fully balanced schedule returned–like we had back in the days when Atlanta was part of the NL West.

    Get the Astros back in the National League. Geographically (time zones) Arizona or Colorado make more sense. Texas should be in the AL Central for that matter but we do have a lack of cities in the Pacific or Mountain time zones to give both leagues five team Western Divisions.

    If we need a “gimmick” to determine home field for the World Series–and there is great doubt we do- why not just have the league with the best inter-league record gain the honor? Otherwise just alternate as we once did OR– the team in the field with the best regular season record going into the post season.

    While we are at it…put Pete Rose on the HOF ballot…same with Joe Jackson. Don’t let Pete work in baseball, but let his achievements be remembered. (Might not get elected anyway since the same voters who are ignoring players with PED pasts or suspected PED pasts or had muscles and hit home runs aren’t getting much consideration now.)

    Concerning the DH I long advocated a compromise solution that seems to have no chance so I won’t go into it here. But if it is “either-or” I am in favor of elimination of the DH EXCEPT in the All Star Game and exhibition games where it is more important for players to get at bats to prep for the season.

    I totally agree that extreme shifting will die on its own as soon as players learn how to beat them. If they can’t learn that then what in the name of Willie Keeler are they doing in the major leagues in the first place?

    • Tom Hunter Says:

      If more modern ballplayers had bat-control-the kind of thing you learn in pepper games- and could “hit ’em where they ain’t,” the shifting would stop. I assume the major obstacle to ridding the game of the DH is the players union, which wants to protect players who can’t play defense, but can still hit.

  2. Bill McCurdy Says:

    If we have to have the “DH”, I like the suggestion that Larry Dierker made to me by e-mail, but both of his ideas here have great merit:

    “Two more things: in baseball you can’t emphasize your best offensive players as in other sports. Each hitter must wait his turn and have a greater or lesser chance to produce depending on the base/out situation.

    “As far as the DH, how about you can hit for the pitcher anytime you want but must not use that hitter thereafter in the game. Would make for a lot of tough decisions by the manager early in the game. Union would protest because it would eliminate a high salary. Give them a 26th roster spot in return. The way managers use pitchers these days, they need it.”

    ~ Larry Dierker

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