Editor’s note – This is a guest post by friend of the site Mack Ade, Founder of Mack’s Mets and Draft Eligible. If you’re a fan of either the minor leagues or the draft you already know about Mack’s work. If you’re interested in learning more, you should definitely check out his other writing.
I went to my first baseball game in 1957. It was at Ebbets Field, in Brooklyn, New York, and the Dodgers played the Chicago Cubs. The pitcher was Danny McDevitt, who could hit 100 but had a lot of trouble finding the catcher. My brother Bob, Billy Fitzmaurice, and I sat in the upper deck and watched the Bums lose by about 12 runs, but we stayed until the last pitch. I remember taking the A train from Liberty Avenue, but I can’t remember what stop we got off to get there. I also can’t remember that last name of another friend named Mucho, who was murdered by Billy about eight years later. Fitzy got life and I was hooked on America’s pastime.
Everything in those days was about who was the best center fielder in New York. Sadly, Duke Snider always came in last when fans discussed it, leaving the real argument over Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays. The stats that year were:
Mickey Mantle – .306/.431/.611/1.042, 37-HR, 99-RBI
Willie Mays – .347/.419/.583/1.002, 29-HR, 96-RBI
Duke Snider – .274/.368/.587/.955 40-HR, 92-RBI
The 40 home runs must have been the size of the stadium.
We got to the park very early so we could watch the Symphoney Band play next to Happy Felton and the Knot Hole Gang do their thing down by the bullpen in right field. Right field was also where there was a sign that, if a player hit it, they would win a new suit. Yes, a new suit. Not a Lexus or a three –year extension to their one-year contract. A suit.
Shea Stadium and Citi Field were a swamp, Scott Boras wasn’t born yet, and Gil Hodges was only a converted catcher.
We also learned that day that, if we left J.H.S. 171 early, hopped on the 22 bus on Atlantic Avenue, and ran to the stadium, we could sneak into the home of the Dodgers for the last few innings of that day’s game. The ticket takers were either long gone or smoking over in the corner of the poor excuse for something they called The Rotunda.
That was my baseball. No knowledge of a draft or the minor league system of the team (I could look it up but I think the AAA team where strange ballplayers came from was in Montreal). One-year contracts that were mailed to each player in the off-season so they could find out what they were going to be paid before signing. No option to play for another team. No strange handles like LOOGY or closer and especially no stats like WAR, BABIP, and OPS.
No, it was runs, hits, and errors, followed closely by homers, and trailed by runs scored and runs batted in. No one every argued about which center fielder knocked in more runs. It was what he was hitting and how many times the ball left the field.
Today, it’s all pitching. I talked to a coach at a prominent High School last year and he told me that there would be far less power hitters in baseball in the future. It seems that everyone in their sophomore year that stands taller than the rest of the team is being converted to a pitcher. Home runs are something they can hit on their off days that they play first base.
There also is an over-saturation of minor league knowledge. Not only do Mets fan follow every move of a player like Wilmer Flores, but they’re already on the Vicente Lupo bandwagon. Web sites were no longer places that spiders hung out and thousands are dedicated to following only the professional ballplayers that don’t write about the major league players. Tell that to Fitz and he’d kill Mucho again.
You’re in the beginning stages of a major transformation of the sport you love. Teams in 2020 will have five SP1s, all of which will throw six innings a game. They will be followed by four more capable starters that will throw two more innings, followed by what we today call the Closer. The difference is there will be three or four of them. The 25-man will be the 29-man, Yankee Stadium will bring the fences in even more, and the Havana Bananas will win the World Series against the Yankees, featuring the pitching of Lucas Giolito and Jamie Moyer.
But, what do I know?