What would former baseball players prefer their successors would improve?
“Fundamentals,” Fred McGriff said. "The way the game is played."
“Base running,” McGriff said. “Little things at the plate, understanding man on first, you got to pull the ball. Or man on second, get him over to third. Nowadays the game has changed so much that they are rushing kids up to the big leagues. So they don’t learn that stuff.”
Another recent slugger — for whom McGriff was traded in 1990 — agreed.
But he has another explanation.
“I don’t see all the giving yourself up for the team,” Joe Carter said. “Getting the guys over from second base, hitting behind runners. The base stealing is almost obsolete now. It used to be that guys like Vince Coleman, Rickey Henderson, Tim Raines would have 100 stolen bases. Now 50 leads the league.
“Everyone wants to hit the three-run home run because that’s what makes the most money. With the salaries the way they are now, everyone is just driven by their salaries, how can I get that big $250 million contract? Rather than thinking ‘How can I help my team win a championship?’ ”
Carter won a couple of championships, including one in 1993 that he secured with a walk-off World Series home run. He wasn’t such an expert in doing something else, but that doesn’t stop him from bemoaning the slippage in its execution.
“Bunting,” Carter said.
Carter had 10 sacrifice bunts in his 16-year career.
John Smoltz, whose primary task was to pitch, had 136.
“I mean, executing a bunt is not hard. It’s one of the easiest things to do, and hardly anybody takes the time to do it,” Smoltz said. “We took pride in it. That was the big thing.”
After five decades in Major League Baseball, as a player, manager, coach or instructor, Frank Howard has concluded that “they make them bigger, faster, stronger and better educated,” and that “it’s a new improved product.”
Still, he’s witnessed declines in a few areas: pitcher’s fielding, hit-and-runs, bunts (from sacrifices to squeezes) and base running. All kinds of base running.
“Get through the bag at first base, get around the bag at first base, the ability to go from first to third, scoring a runner from third with less than two out,” Howard said. “Don’t assume, as talented as these individuals are, that they know how to play baseball the way it’s supposed to be played.”
Don’t assume, as talented as they are, that they’ll put in the same night’s work.
What irritates Hall of Fame pitcher Don Sutton?
What he doesn’t see.
“Pitchers going nine,” Sutton said.
In the 1970s, you’d need to record roughly 25 complete games to lead the league. Since 1999, only James Shields has hit double-digits in any single season.
Pitchers aren’t being asked to summon the same stamina.
Nor to practice the art of pacing themselves.
“There should be a mindset,” Sutton said. “We’re encouraging mediocrity and we’re getting it. We’ve lowered the standards and guys are performing up to our expectations.”
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