I didn't really plan on getting old.
I guess no one does, but the reality is with all the illnesses I had growing up, I never thought I would make 20, let alone 60.
So, here I am, pushing 62, and ready for my turn at Social Security, and what do I have to reflect upon?
How about Instant Replay and an epidemic of Tommy John surgery that is bordering upon insane.
Mind you, I don't want to sound like a curmudgeonly old codger, screaming "baseball is a pussy game compared to when I was young."
I thought about this the other night while watching the Giants game, whereby the bay area officially kissed The Stick goodbye.
On hand, along with ex-Giant Mike Krukow, were Willies Mays and McCovey, Roger Craig (too bad the Niners player of the same name was not there to toss out the first pitch with the former Mets hurler) Orlando Cepeda, and a number of San Francisco players who had performed at the old, cold venue that is being put out to pasture.
Whenever I see greats like Mays and McCovey, I do feel lucky that I got to see them play in their prime. Like I saw Hank Aaron and Sandy Koufax and even Stan Musial and Frank Robinson and the other stars of the era. When I think of that, it reminds me of that goofy cycle of life, and though I missed seeing the Gehrigs and Robinsons, I did see the players mentioned.
Just like that, though, the DH and inter-league play and the playoff wild cards are normal to the newest generation of baseball fans, and these are variations that were beyond foreign when I became enamored with the game in 1959.
I guess that makes Tommy John surgery another thing that post-1973 fans also simply accept as part of the game. I do think there is a rash of TJ operations now, just like everyone else, but what puzzles me more is what has happened to players--or is it human beings or athletes--over the past 40 years?
Between 1962 and 1980, the leader in innings pitched in the Majors always tossed more than 300 innings. Since 1985, when Bert Blyleven chalked up 291 innings, only knuckleballer Charlie Hough has exceeded 280 innings in a season, with most top starters going around 240 innings.
If that is 60 innings less on a sort of average, that is a little over five more complete games that have been lost over the years. Or, these days, nine more starts of six innings.
What puzzles me is when I was growing up, teams had four-man rotations and the dog #4 starters did 250-plus innings.
Now, I am not begging for those days, but I do wonder what has happened to our arms that make them now break and need a surgery no one had considered in 1964?
I wonder too about hamate bones and rotator cuffs, neither of which was identified as a specific diagnosis back then? Were players tougher, or did those kinds of injuries get tossed off and guys played through them, or what?
Is it the difference between being full-time athletes now, working out daily, having more finely tuned, and perhaps vulnerable, musculature that makes the ligaments and bones and system more vulnerable? Because if that is the case, it is counter-intuitive that a bunch of summer time ball players who sold insurance and major home appliances during the off-season--as most ball players before the free agent days did--had bodies that were more durable.
It just doesn't make any sense to me.
Speaking of which, I have to chime in on the new instant replay rule: I hate it.
I do hear all the rationale about baseball and fans and the game "wants to get it right," but that is a lot of crap (kind of like pretending that voter registration laws are about voter fraud).
My case in point is the Rays game of earlier in the week when Ben Zobrist made a pivot at second and dropped the ball, ostensibly during the transfer, after stepping on his bag for a force out. The problem was that because of the muff, the runner going to second was ruled safe, even though the replay looked like Zobrist stepped on the bag before the transfer.
This was obvious to the Tampa announcers, who were clear the call would be overturned, especially in deference to the clear safe support the replay showed.
Only the umps, after review, upheld the call.
So, the Rays broadcast crew, happy to have the replay rule before the judges supported the call to make things right, suddenly were all over the umps and process, saying they made the wrong call and it was unconscionable.
Well, how different is that from what happened before replay? I say not at all.
Meaning no matter what, there will always be questions about whether calls are right or wrong, no matter how the play is adjudicated.
If that is the case, why not just let a game played between human beings be judged by human beings in real time?
Now you might think this is a bad idea, but I ask: has your team ever been victimized by a bad call?
I am sure the answer to that is "yes."
However, I would also ask: "Has your team ever been able to take advantage of a bad call?"
Well, I know the answer to that is similarly "yes."
And there you have it, for over the long haul, the good and bad breaks work out.
Plus, as we know, most of the time, the umps and refs get the calls right.
Now again, I understand change and I accept the DH and all the changes that have been invoked in the years since I began watching baseball.
Similarly, I think the beauty of the game is the game. Hitting the ball, fielding the ball, and throwing the ball.
It is, as said, that simple game.
Why do we need to keep messing with it?