As a fan of baseball my whole life I have learned to appreciate all aspects of the greatest game ever invented. I have no trouble enjoying a home run filled 13-11 game as much as I enjoy watching a 1-0 pitching duel. The game is beautiful either way in spite of today's leadership trying to kill it with nutty rule changes.
I thought about pitchers last night while watching Kyle Hendricks put on a clinic against the San Diego Padres. Pitchers today are trending towards the size of tight ends in football with velocity that approaches 100 MPH for the five innings they are being asked to pitch. Hendricks couldn't hit 100 MPH in a Corvette, in fact I'm going to guess he drives a Lexus sedan.
They call him the professor, respectfully, because of the way he thinks his way through a game. He is most often compared to the great Greg Maddux in both style and personality on the field. Both of them were, and are, pitchers not throwers. Moving the ball up and down, in and out, always keeping the hitters uncomfortable and confused.
This is the art of pitching and when you see someone in control on the mound and the hitters off balance it is almost a spiritual experience. As a fan you get mesmerized yourself watching them work. You are so into what they are doing that suddenly you realize it is the 8th inning and they are leading 2-0 and you wonder what the hell happened to the time.
Back in the day watching Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, and Fergie Jenkins pitch was a special moment. You knew the hitters had no chance, they knew they had no chance, and watching these future Hall of Famer's go about their task was breathtaking.
A well pitched game is more an orchestral concert while a slugfest is more a heavy rock concert. Both are enjoyable, but one is calming and subtle, while the other is heart racing and in your face. Guess what? You can have fun at both if you just let yourself get caught up in the moment and appreciate the beauty of each.
I love the power pitchers of today like Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom, and Clayton Kershaw just as much as I do Kyle Hendricks. They are different pitchers, but when they are on, their dominance is a thing of beauty to see. Blowing fastballs by hitters or wiping them out with a slider low and away is just as magical.
The powers to be in baseball want to eliminate this part of the game and I think they are missing the whole point of the game by doing so. Instead of trying to introduce more runs in the game, or making the game move along faster, why not spend a few dollars and teach today's kids the beauty of a well pitched baseball game.
I was lucky enough to have a father who loved the game and spent time teaching me about how a master pitcher like Sandy Koufax was just as special as Willie Mays playing center field or Stan Musial hitting. They each brought something different to the game but each was the best at their craft and it was a treat to see them work.
Look, there are thing I would like to see baseball do to improve the game, starting with not allowing batters to wear batting gloves so that they aren't stepping out of the batters box after each pitch to adjust their gloves, even when they didn't swing. Talk about slowing down the game.
But I digress.
Pitching is pretty fundamental to the game of baseball. Without it you would have to put a ball on a tee and let the players hit it that way. Then it would be golf. Talk about slowing the game down. Let pitchers pitch. Teach your kids about the subtlety of pitching and what they are trying to accomplish. Listen to the former pitchers now doing color analysis on TV or radio as they talk about the art of pitching and get the inside scoop on how they are thinking on the mound.
A pitchers duel is a beautiful thing to watch. If you understand the process and the craftsmanship of a great pitched game it can be more moving than seeing five home runs hit in a game. Broaden your horizons in baseball by understanding, and enjoying a well pitched game. It will be life changing for you and you will always love the game even more.