Thursday, March 27, 2008

Opening Day is coming soon

Opening Day for the Yankees is just a few days away. This is my favorite time of year. Hope springs eternal as the Yankees have not yet lost a game, and they have a chance to win 162 games. I know it won’t happen. In fact, the greatest teams in history lost 50 games or so in the year they established themselves with great seasons. Losing 1 out of 3 games will make for a record setting season.
The game has changed a lot since I was a kid. In fact, it’s not the same game it was 20 years ago. It’s become totally different as a starter pitches 6 innings in a game. When Gossage was the dominant closer in baseball, a closer usually pitched 2 innings or more to earn his save. Now, Rivera, Papelbon, and most closers are one inning or so. Starting pitchers, who as recently as the 80’s, used to pride themselves on finishing what they started. I remember when I was a kid, a starter pitched 40 games, and went 300 innings. Today, that is unheard of. Middle relievers were guys who either were washed up starters, or rookies just trying to impress. Today, they are an integral part of the game, and considered nearly as important as having a good starter and closer. Back in the 70’s, Wilbur Wood, a knuckleball specialist, even started both games in a doubleheader. He relieved a few games in between starts. As Casey Stengal said, “You can look it up.” Teams had a “Big Four” and a spot starter for doubleheaders.
Now we have 5 starters and several middle relievers and at least one closer.
By the way, what ever happened to the double header? Nothing was better than to go to the ballpark for a double dip on Sundays. But big money contracts have made the freebie game a thing of the past. The day-night double header just isn’t the same. I used to enjoy the strategy a manager had to use to be prepared to play two. Couldn’t burn out the staff in game one, and had to decide which catcher to use to best advantage to win them both.
Just one more thing given up for money.