In today's game, would more fans rather see an 11-10 slugfest or a 1-0 pitcher's duel? Does that represent a shift in culture from the past, and if so, where do you place the blame? Does your personal preference differ from that of the masses? (Are high-powered offenses more exciting than dominant pitching?)
As a general rule, it seems that most fans would prefer to see a slugfest. Homers and doubles and stolen bases and run scoring are all a lot of fun to watch, and you can't blame fans for enjoying the action in a game that consists largely of waiting for something to happen. There are a lot of people who get paid a lot of money to know what the public wants, marketing experts and the like, who all seem pretty convinced that offense, and home runs in particular, are what the public wants to see. They don't have a Strike-Out Derby at the All-Star Game, do they? I don't think that's a shift from the past so much as it's a recognition and exploitation of of a trend in major league baseball.
With that said, I think almost anyone who's seen a pitching duel, particularly when one of the pitchers flirts with a no-hitter or some similar feat, would say that such a game can be extremely exciting, and not just for experienced fans of the game. Even a novice can appreciate a tense game for what it is, and enjoy the moment despite the low score. When it comes right down to it, really the tension is what makes the game exciting, not the scoring or lack thereof.
Two of the most exciting games I've ever attended in person were at the opposite ends of the offensive spectrum. The first was back in September of 1996, a Yankees-Red Sox game in the Bronx, during the stretch drive. Neither starting pitcher survived the fifth inning, and the two teams used 15 total pitchers. There were four steals, and 34 hits, including five homers (four by the Yankees) and 18 total walks, plus three hit batters. The lead changed hands only twice. The Yanks went up 1-0 in the third, but were down 6-1 going into the bottom of the fifth. They never gave up, though, and kept chipping away, even as the Red Sox attempted to pull away. Though they left 20 men on base over the course of the game, the Yankees eventually won it, 12-11, on a bases loaded-single by eventual AL Rookie of the Year Derek Jeter in the 10th inning.
The other game, a pitchers' duel between Roger Clemens and Eric Milton (remember when he used to be able to take part in pitchers' duels?), was just as exciting, though for different reasons, of course. It was August 16th, 1999, the first baseball game I ever took my future wife to (though we weren't even dating yet at the time). There were no homers. For that matter, there were only seven total hits, and two walks, by both teams combined. Clemens and Milton matched zeroes for eight innings, until an error, a hit and a sacrifice would plate two runs for the Yankees in the ninth inning, and the game would end that way, 2-0. Another great game, exciting because it could have gone either way, just like that 12-11 slugfest I saw in 1996. Personally, whether it's the hitters or the pitchers doing the best work, I just like to see a well-played game. Scoring or not, just give me a pitcher who works quickly, spare me the walks and errors, and let the game unfold.
When he finally hangs up his spikes, what will Alex Rodriguez' legacy be? Does he deserve to discussed in the same breath with the all-time greats? Would a few strong (or weak) seasons change your mind, or has he already cemented his place in baseball history?
Alex Rodriguez is already one of the dozen greatest players in history. He's already got two MVP awards, and he should have at least two others. In 1996, his first full season, he hit .358 with 36 homers, 123 RBIs, 15 steals, and a MLB-best 141 runs scored, but he was edged oout for the Award by Juan Gonzalez because even the two beat writers in Seattle did not recognize his greatness for what it was at the time. He should have won it in 1998, when he became the first (and so far, only) infielder to his 40 homes and steal 40 bases in a season. In addition to the 42 homers and 46 steals, he had 124 RBIs, 123 runs, and a league-leading 213 hits (.310 average). But it was deja vu all over again, as Juan Gone walked away with his second MVP award.
In the year 2000, his last in Seattle, he finally started walking more, taking 100 free passes that year, to go with his 41 hoomers, 15 steals, 132 RBIs and 134 runs. He finished third that year, behind Jason Giambi and Frank Thomas, though at least this wasn't robbery like to two that went to Gonzalez. During his three seasons in Texas, he averaged better than .300/.390/.600, with over 50 homers, 125 runs, 130 RBIs, 14 steals, plus he won two Gold Gloves as a shortstop in that span. However, the rest of the Rangers kinda sucked at the time, and he left Texas with only one MVP Award. He won another one in his second season as a Yankee, and may be on track for a third this year. There's an exellent chance that he will finish this season with 500+ homers, and if so, it will make him the youngest player ever to accomplish that feat. At age 32, he could easily play another ten seasons and finish his career with more records than Wolfman Jack, but even if he retired tomorrow, he deserves to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Read others' responses to these questions on MVN.com's RoundTable Page...
22 April 2007
Posted by Travis M. Nelson at 4/22/2007