Wednesday, June 3, 2009
We Need More Tough Guys
If you look at this awesome picture to the left you will see the man that is most commonly referred to as Tim Wakefield. Now, you might think that Wakefield relates to the title of this post because he is decked out in camo and carrying a cross bow. That is only partially true. The reason I chose Tim Wakefield for this post's picture is because in 1993 he threw 177 pitches in a game. This may seem crazy even for a knuckleballer, but it used to be very common for any pitcher. I wish there was some way that pitchers could return to this kind of conditioning. Nowadays, pitch counts, injury concerns, and front office orders have ruined the stamina of starting pitchers. We need to bring back some of the tough guys in Major League Baseball.
A few weeks ago I was watching the 1983 ALCS on the MLB Network. Several things struck me about this series; the White Sox uniforms, the fact that the game was at Old Comiskey Park and how young Cal Ripken and Pudge Fisk both looked. Perhaps the most striking thing that I saw though was the stat line for the White Sox pitcher in the game. The game was going into the 10th inning, and he had already thrown 143 pitches! I couldn't believe it. I can't remember ever seeing a pitcher throw that many pitches. It was unbelievable. I did a little research and found out that the record for pitches in a game is 228 by Tom Cheney of the Washington Senators. He pitched 16 innings against the Orioles in 1962, struck out 21 guys and picked up the complete game win. I can't even fathom this. Why can't we do this any more?
One reason why this probably doesn't occur anymore is that we have better medical care these days. Tom Cheney only pitched in 115 games in his career, probably because his arm was destroyed from throwing so many pitches without resting. Moreover, owners and managers have so much invested in these pitchers that they have to be very careful with them. I bet someone like Roy Halladay or Jon Lester could throw 130 or 140 pitches if they wanted to, but they are not allowed to. Because they are not allowed to/never have to throw that many pitches, they definitely lose some endurance in their arms. Moreover, the emergence of the closer at the end of games has eliminated the need for pitchers to go the full 9 innings, even if they are under 100 pitches. It's too bad. It would be cool to see the complete game come back to prominence in baseball.
There's something to be said for finishing what you've started. Unfortunately, this is not seen very often anymore in baseball. For a number of reasons, starting pitchers have become for the most part 6 inning at a time hurlers. It is really something to see the old videos of guys battling it out for the whole game. Even if they have given up 5 or 6 runs, they are in there for the long haul. I wish we could get back to that somehow in baseball.