Friday, September 27, 2013

Back To Normal

The baseball season is winding down and things seemed to have returned to normal. Like in my formative years, the Phillies are near the bottom of the division and the Braves are playoff bound. Another year and another losing season.

However, given the recent success of the organization, this season has a certain sting to it. I am not one of those people who can just flick the switch and start watching football like the summer never happened. Baseball has always been and will always be my favorite sport so a bad season doesn’t sit well with me and will continue to fester until spring.

While baseball may have always been my sport of choice it doesn’t mean that I was any good at it. I did not have the athletic gene passed down to me. But it is a game that I have studied my whole life, mostly when I was younger, and I have a deeper understanding of the details of the game than most. Basically, I can tell you more than just a player stinks; I can explain why a player stinks.

With that said my passion for the game has wavered some over the last decade. While most fans were enthralled with the homerun records and the strikeout pitchers I was watching as the game I treasured was changing before my eyes and not for the better. The grittiness of the game was beginning to disappear, the strategy became more black and white, and the norms of the game began to morph into a sport focused on entertainment rather than athleticism.

This year I began to see things revert to some of the old ways which got me to pay a little more attention even though the Phillies looked like they should be playing in Williamsport rather than South Philadelphia (I even started posting blogs during the second half of the season). While pitchers still can pitch inside without being tossed, they seemed to be relying on pitching rather than striking batters out. And not just pitching, pitching to the situations and not being afraid to put a ball just beyond the black.

We are still a long way from what the game used to be just a couple decades ago but that will hopefully change in the near future. Maybe the league will realize that pitching inside is part of the game. Maybe the strike zone will once again be larger than a thimble. Maybe coaches will abandon the absurdity of the pitch count. Maybe we can go back to reality.

Some things have changed in the batter’s box too. Homeruns seem to be a natural occurrence again. Hitters seem to realize that there are two sides to the field not just the pull side. And players seem to be taking pride in base running again.

These players also have a lot to work on. It used to be a shameful feat to strikeout more than 100 times in a season yet not countless players pass that mark without flinching. Running out a routine ground ball should be a given not a surprise as it is today. These are pervasive on the field and I don’t know if these will change.

So, just a weekend series to go before I start thinking about spring training. I don’t know if I will be able to root for anyone in the playoffs but I will certainly be paying attention to what happens. Do I think the Phillies will return to the winning ways of the last decade? I doubt it but I can still hope (remember 1993?). But even if they lose, and lose badly, it will always remind me of my childhood and something that can do that for you can’t be all that bad.