Friday, June 08, 2007

Baseball Is All About Tradition

A few years back, I worked on a story about why there weren’t any major league players from Oakland County. It seemed strange because for years they had been so prevalent. Dick Radatz was from Berkley. Bob Welch from Hazel Park. Dan Fife and Tim Birtsas from Clarkston. Jim Burton from Rochester, Steve McCatty and Dick Billings from Troy. I played against four future major leaguers growing up - Kirk Gibson from Waterford Kettering, Steve Howe from Clarkston, Brad Havens from Royal Oak Kimball and Brian Clutterbuck, who pitched for the Milford in the American Legion league I was in. Some of them were great players, too. Gibby won an MVP, Howe was Rookie of the Year and Welch a Cy Young Award winner. Radatz was an All Star. McCatty led the American League in wins one season. Havens was talented enough to be traded for Rod Carew.
One of the people I interviewed for the piece was my coach at Birmingham Groves, Jim Crosby, who is still coaching. I made an off -the-cuff remark that kids just don’t play baseball as much anymore. And he corrected me, telling me they play a lot more - the kids who play. "They probably play twice as many games as you used to," he said.
I guess so. Organized ones, anyway. But you don’t see kids from this area making it to the major leagues like they used to, either. And it used to be the local college teams did better. Both Michigan and Eastern Michigan were powerful teams that advanced to the College World Series. Now it’s this monumental upset when Michigan wins a regional. Kids play the game more, but not for the same reasons. It’s the not biggest part of their life to the same degree it was back then. And not every kid plays baseball. Used to be just about every kid did.
The thing I have always loved about baseball, I think more than anything else, is its tradition. I have always been slow to accept change when it comes to baseball. I don’t believe this is an age thing, either, because I loved that tradition from the time I was little kid and I was at the Baldwin Library in Birmingham soaking in everything I could about the history of the game. I knew all about Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb when I was seven or eight years old. It’s the one thing I hope stays the same about the game, and why I tend to fight change. I am concerned kids don’t just go out in the street and start playing ball - the way we did when I lived in St. Clair Shores. Or up to the field to play on their own. I am concerned the designated hitter has unnecessarily changed the balance of the game. I watch a lot of baseball, and the National League brand is just better - even though the American League clearly has better players. Interleague player is fine in New York and Chicago and on the West Coast or in Texas and Ohio where there are natural rivals. The Tigers don’t have a natural rival, so often they left out to dry. Good the Mets are coming into town this weekend, but I’d rather see the Yankees and Red Sox on second trips in. To me, they are the Tigers rivals.
Baseball is the perfect game. It has perfect balance. I don’t like to see it tampered with. And I liked it better when kids played it for the right reasons around here - pure love of the game. I know that’s how I felt about it. Still do.

Random Thoughts

- Of the major golf tournaments, the one I like the best and feel is the most important is the U.S. Open. It is different because of the way they trick up the golf course. Some people would say that takes away from the shot-making of the world’s top golfers. I say it tests their skill more.

- The one thing good about Anaheim winning the Stanley Cup is that it means hard-nosed hockey is back. The Ducks are being compared to the Islanders of the late 1970s and early 1980s. A bit of a stretch, for sure, but the style is the same. The Ducks combine skill with a real toughness. You have to admit, the Ducks play hockey the way it was meant to be played. And to think the Red Wings should have beaten them...Oh well.

- Look, when I was on the Tigers beat, the only round baseball would reveal from its draft was the first round. They were so paranoid about college coaches finding out the selections of high school players and then recruiting them. It was a backward philosophy, so I guess the baseball draft being televised Thursday represents significant progress. The coverage, though, was a little underwhelming. They need a Mel Kiper-type to liven it up.

- I did like the Tigers No. 1 pick, Rick Porcello. It’s another high-ceiling prospect with signability issues. But if they sign him, they will have one of the top players from this draft from the 27th position. There is risk there, but it is minimal given the chances of the 27th overall pick starring otherwise. I just wonder when the Tigers will get burned by their continual dancing with agent Scott Boras.

18 Comments:

Anonymous Chief said...

Book,

Maroth is terrible. I think he won't be with the team when Rogers returns off the DL within 3 weeks.

12:16 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Chief,
I think he is struggling, but I don't believe they will release him. He may have to do a stint in the bullpen.
Caputo

12:24 PM 
Blogger Rick said...

Pat,

I like your reference to balance. One things that I think is wrong with baseball today is the unbalanced schedule. Sure, it's nice to play the Royals 19 times, but another visit from former Tiger nemesis Toronto would be okay, too. Whatever happened to the '80s—wasn't baseball great then!

Click Rick's Writing Again

1:46 PM 
Anonymous Brian said...

Pat,

Since your column about Oakland County players, wouldn't you include Jason Grilli. Or was he just born in Royal Oak?

And I wouldn't say Maroth is terrible. He's better then a lot of team's fifth starters. He just has to be on and he hasn't been.

I like this pick too. He was a top five prospect that fell to us because everyone is afraid of Boras. It seems like, ever since Dombrowski signed Pudge, we've been able to deal with Boras. We still pay, but at least we get the deals done.

Brian

4:03 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Brian,
Grilli was only born there. He grew up in New York state. I am talking about players who played youth or high school ball. A couple have made it since I wrote that. Joe Roa from Hazel Park (a second stint) and Andrew Good from Rochester. With all due respect to those guys, they weren't Gibby, Howe or Welch. And it is not just an Oakland County issue, but a Metro Detroit one.
Caputo

5:33 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Rick,
I agree with about the schedule. The Tigers had a great rivalry with the Blue Jays during the 1980s. The stuff in '87 was classic.
Caputo

5:34 PM 
Anonymous Andrew Winkle said...

Pat the Book,

When baseball was king? I believe the increased participation in youth hockey and soccer have something to do with the decline of the Little League. I have a ten year-old who plays baseball and hockey. His baseball season lasts two months. His hockey season lasts seven plus two more when he plays spring. I know when I was a kid our baseball season lasted at least three months and went to the end of July. His ball season is done before the end of June. Where are the priorities?

I call that hockey club from Orange County, CA "dem Dirty Ducks". Still a person has to give dem Dirty Ducks some credit. They played and won two critical games in their cup run without, not just one of their top four D-men, but one the top four defencemen in the NHL. (How da like that Canuck spelling?) Loved the banter of Hull and Cherry!

Tiiggerr baseball! Alas, poor Nate, we knew him well. That's what I get for praising Nate a few weeks ago ... the yolks on me. Who'd a thunk at the beginning of the season that Chad Durbin (go figure?) is arguably the Tigers number three starter. When Mr. Rogers gets back in the 'hood, Mr. Durbin shouldn't be sent to the pen. Unless, he gets bombed in tonight's start after I foolishly gave him some respect.

Excuse me while I turn off the radio. They started talking 'bout some downriver 'hos loitering about Allen Park. Ah, that's better. Less wasteland, more Leyland. Are you on the radio this weekend? Sometimes listening to Art's lil' bro is worse than fingernails on a chalkboard. Thank goodness D.P. offers a voice of reason and sanity. Still, I'm jonesin' for some "wall-to-wall" baseball.

5:48 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Andrew Winkle,
Baseball was king I would say until the mid-to-late 80s when it started to lose a lot of its luster. The strikes, I feel, really the sport - more than any other. The NFL was hurt by a nasty one during 1987. The Lions were drawing the 30,000s for home games late in the 1980s. They were rescued by Barry Sanders.
Caputo

6:28 PM 
Blogger maddog52 said...

Book,

The tigers are an interesting group and there are definately some decissions to be made. Personally I am pullying for Andrew Miller to do awesome his next to starts (just as he did the first). When Kenny comes back. I wouldn't be so quick to part with some pitchers cause there is no gurantee he will be on top of his game. When he does come back. I don't think Durbin should go. I mean he has been pretty consistent especially going at least 7 plus strong innings. The two I am concerned with the most is Maroth and Robertson. Maroth in my mind hasn't looked good and Robertson other then his first few starts has been awful. Hopefully rest will help. If Miller is lights out in both starts. I'd say see you Maroth and Robertson to the bullpen or where ever. Should be interesting what Dombrowski has up his sleeve.

8:51 PM 
Blogger Fred Brill said...

Book,

Baseball is flying on this side of the river. Every park is full. But what you don't see now is kids riding their bikes - getting their buds, and going to the park for a pick-up game. No grown-ups. That's baseball. Hockeys the same way - no pick-up games anymore. I think Andrew has a great point about kids in soccer.

But then Canadians are easier to control - eh?

I am a huge sports traditionalist. I still play golf with wood clubs - beauty red persimmons - and they don't go PING when I hit em.

That's where baseball is traditionally more sound than golf - which also a sport that treasures its history - but everything goes ping now. In the MLB you still hear CRACK. You can still gauge the hit by the sound of the bat. I don't mind the inter-league play - what I don't like is the DH. I always thought of it as a screwy rule added to the game like the 3 point line or the shoot-out.

Remember when you were a kid - the best players on your team until you were 14 was the pitcher. He was the best pitcher, fielder, and hitter. Make that guy hit. I think the NL has one up on us there. They have more situations to think through.

Thats what I think "Mr. Doubleday" was anticipating.

Imagine if the Babe couldn't bat when he was pitching - I don't know if there is anything to this, but the Yanks might have passed on him.

Confirmed that "Zoom-by-Ya" is out for the season now. I wonder if he can hit? Bet he can.

Mets beat us 3-1 in opener. I bet we take the next two. Any takers?

I agree that the US Open is the ultimate skill challenge. I agree that the British is the ultimate mental challenge. But I love the Masters. Its the ultimate emotional challenge.

It's my Easter.

Masters week - I hang my green lights outside - my masters tree in the den, and green jackets by the fireplace for little Bobby Jones to fill with lost Titleists Masters-Sunday-Eve".

Ok, I do drink the left over green beer from St. Paddys day.

Baseball in the 80s? All the players had big hair.

9:38 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Fred Brill,
The persimmons heads were good. I had a 3-wood and 5-wood I loved. They got down through the ball better off the fairway, kind of gave the benefit of a short iron and a wood at the same time. Problem was repairing the club when the wood rotted. I took it it to a top-notch club repair place and they did everything they could and it fell apart. I agree with you about the major tournaments. Each has it own unique appeal, except the PGA - and that probably has the strongest field.
Caputo

9:31 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Maddog52,
Maroth and Robertson are definitely in danger of being removed from the rotation if Miller shines and Rogers comes back. That depth helps and they could use some help in the bullpen, although Grilli has been much better.
Caputo

9:33 AM 
Blogger maddog52 said...

you know to book a lot of people are ripping this bullpen (most part rightfully so). At the same time you have to give these guys some credit. What made them so dominant last year was that the pitchers would go 7 innings most nights. They went a huge stretch where they barely got work in. THat hasn't been the case especially early on. That bull pen was called upon much earlier and often.

6:26 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Maddog52,
I wrote my column for Sunday's paper about how Andrew Miller might be a huge "X" factor both for the rotation and the bullpen. I agree - especially Robertson and Maroth seem to struggle that way. Bonderman nearly blew a lead Saturday. Then again, the bullpen is rough. That eighth inning by Fernando Rodney was awful. He threw 29 pitches. 29 pitches!!!!!
Caputo

9:19 PM 
Blogger Fred Brill said...

I am convinced after the most recent ride on the Tigers Bull Pen roller coaster that Miller's start today against Glavin will be the Groundhogs Day for our Tiges. If he makes it through 5 innings strong (he doesn't see his shadow) and we turn the corner with Maroth moving to middle relief. Otherwise we have at least six more weeks of scary rides.

I think it would be a miracle if Rogers pops back into the rotation in starter form without rehab time. But miracles do happen. Start praying to the deity of your choosing!

Right now I would take Zoom-by-ya throwin from the left rather than see Rodney anymore. Sorry Fernando - you gotta get it done - and you are not!

Still though we are in better shape than 90% of the rest of MLB.

But after yesterdays National Fox broadcast - I had calls from family down south calling to inform me our bull pen sucks.

Duh.

11:12 AM 
Anonymous Danny said...

Pat, nice column in the Oakland Press about putting the domino effect of the injuries in reverse. Looking forward to Miller this afternoon.

So Leyland admits the possibility of him staying up permanently now. That's new, I think.

If he pitches the way he is capable of pitching up here, can "it's Miller time" be far away? :-)

Cheers,
Danny

11:18 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Fred Brill,
That's all Jim Leyland wanted to talk about after today's game, too, is their bullpen. But they did win by eight runs. I can remember nights in 2003 when Alan Trammell wouldn't have minded losing some of those games by "just" eight runs (LOL). I think Grilli better get his act together soon or he will be replaced. He was awful today.
Caputo

7:14 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Danny,
Thanks for the compliment. I appreciate it. Miller should a lot today by getting through the five innings despite the three-run homer and getting into a jam. If he pitches well, it would be a huge boost to the Tigers.
Caputo

7:15 PM 

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