November 23, 2013 by NowhereButPop
“It is high!!! It is far!!! It is….”
I can’t really say more probably for fear of copyright infringement. But if you are a Yankee fan or a baseball fan, you can tell what that means. It’s one of the many calls used by baseball commentators to signal that a home run has been hit.
We all know what a home run is. Home runs have been important in baseball probably since the day baseball was invented or “born”. If it wasn’t for home runs, Babe Ruth would’ve been an average player at best. If it wasn’t for home runs, we wouldn’t have had the amazing race of Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle vying for the single season home run record. If it wasn’t for home runs, we wouldn’t have had another amazing race of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa not only vying for the single season home run record but just to see how many home runs can they hit. If it wasn’t for home runs, we wouldn’t have two African-Americans as the top two all time leaders in home runs in Major League history, with no one en route to even being close to breaking the record. A lot of significant games in Major League history wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for home runs. Heroes would’ve never been made in many franchises if that ball never made it out of the park.
This is not about the significance of the home run ball. That would be too long of an article. You’ve heard the term “Chicks dig the long ball”. Well…not so much now. After hearing on 11/20/2013 that the Detroit Tigers traded Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler, this got me thinking a lot, making me want to write this article. This trade made me realize that hitting the home run is not the major factor of winning the World Series, hence winning games at all. It seems like it’s all about pitching and defense now, which actually makes sense.
There are three points that show that defense really does win championships
Remember when Alex Rodriguez signed a contract for 10 years and over $252 million? You should because he did it twice. He first did it with the Texas Rangers and then did with the New York Yankees. Alex Rodriguez was supposed to be the baseball phenom to break every single baseball record. At one point, he was on a course to really do that. But he started to decline with his stats and now he’s at the point where he might not even play baseball again.
Remember when Albert Pujols signed a 10-year contract for $240 million to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim? Now he might be past his prime and is declining as a player. Now look at Prince Fielder. He signed a 9-year contract worth $214 million in 2012. He is considered one of the most dangerous home run hitters today. He’s the youngest player to hit 50 home runs. I could put up all the home runs stats and accolades Fielder has achieved in terms of home runs. The only thing is that there isn’t a ring on his finger (World Series ring).
Recent history is showing that signing a big bat for huge amounts of money and long term isn’t the best solution to winning championships. Did you know that nine out of the ten largest sports contracts are baseball players? Six of them are considered home run hitters. Would you believe that three of those home run hitters have only won the World Series once? The only one with multiple rings is Derek Jeter. You can sign a bunch of home run hitters to your team but that isn’t going to win championships. It seems like no team wants to do those long term contracts because it’s obvious that it isn’t going to work in the long run.
Now, it seems like the pitchers are getting the big contracts to win championships. CC Sabathia has the biggest contract in MLB history for pitchers and he has won one World Series. Cole Hamels, Johan Santana, Barry Zito, Mike Hampton, Matt Cain, and Kevin Brown are next in line for big contracts for pitchers, respectively. Cole Hamels, Matt Cain, and Barry Zito have won at least one World Series. You can kind of see a trend that more teams will sign a pitcher long term instead of a power, home run hitter. It’s obvious that pitching is more valuable than hitting. But it’s baseball though. Anything can happen and a lot has happened in baseball. And to prove this point, the Tigers did trade Prince Fielder so they could have more room to sign Max Scherzer, the 2013 AL Cy Young winner. I’m not saying that signing a pitcher long term is better than signing a hitter long term. Nobody knows. It’s just interesting how the Tigers traded Fielder after just two years and hoping to sign Scherzer for the long run; it shows pitching is now a major factor.
Another point I would like to make is Prince Fielder’s stats. You can argue that the playoffs is the second season of the MLB year and that whatever you did in the regular season doesn’t matter. What you do in the postseasons may weigh on you more in your career. In his nine year career, Fielder hit 30+ home runs in six of them. That sounds pretty good right? In eight postseason series, Fielder has hit only five. I’m pretty sure none of those home runs affected the outcome of the games played. Alex Rodriguez is another player who has had a horrid postseason career. I would go into detail but I think I’ve heard enough about Rodriguez being a New York Yankee fan.
The Boston Red Sox hit 178 HR (6th in MLB). Their ERA was 3.79 (14th). They allowed 156 HR (15th). Their fielding percentage is .987 (tied for 7th). Their defensive efficiency was .694 (13th). If I were to do the same stats for the Tigers, actually, they are statically better in all the categories (except for HR hit). But the Red Sox went on to win the World Series. Last year, the San Francisco Giants hit the least amount of HR but allowed the 6th fewest. The Tigers did do better in the same stats but the Giants won the World Series last year. One can make a case the pitching and fielding and defense have been the reasons for the past World Series championships. It has been a while since the World Series was determined by a home run. There have been home runs that have impacted games to win World Series. It just goes to show you that having a big bat isn’t all that.
The last point that supports the fact that home runs don’t mean much anymore is the entertainment value of the MLB. I wasn’t going to include this but I got the idea from someone and I want to elaborate on it because it’s kind of important.
Baseball is considered America’s past time. It is possible that that torch is going to be handed down to American Football. Yes, defense does win championships but nobody wants to watch sports where the game is ONLY or MAINLY defense. Since the mid-2000s, it is always been noticed by baseball experts, statisticians, and sabermetrics geniuses how the offense and home runs have dropped down drastically. All they talk about is how pitching and defense is becoming more valuable in baseball. It’s the fact that low scoring games with good pitching and defense are more frequent. You see more 1-0, 2-0, 2-1 games than 7-5, 8-3, 10-9 type games. Look at the Oakland A’s in the past two seasons. There isn’t one batter on that team that is considered a home run hitter. Yet with pitchers as Tommy Milone, Jarrod Parker, A.J. Griffin, and even Bartolo Colon, they’ve won the AL West two years in a row. Let me remind you that the AL West had the Texas Rangers with Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre, and Nelson Cruz; it has the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim with Albert Pujols and Mike Trout, always picked to be in the playoffs and go far but haven’t shown it yet. Hence, home run hitters aren’t as valuable has pitching.
Nobody likes low scoring games (except for real baseball fans). As you can see, football is watched more often because of all the offense. We like high scoring games where the quarterbacks go back and forth in scoring touchdowns. We like basketball games where two or three players from each team are scoring points and making/creating alley-oops and dunks. The ratings even show that nobody cares about the defense and pitching in baseball. Baseball ratings keep declining and declining, while football and basketball games keep rising and rising. Nobody is watching the World Series anymore. A Sunday afternoon NFL game gets like twice as much rating as a World Series game. A Wednesday night basketball game does much better than a World Series game. Even a Jacksonville Jaguars game gets a better rating than a World Series game. Okay maybe not because it is the Jaguars but you see my point? Why spend your time watching a pitcher’s duel for about three hours when you can watch a high scoring football game where the quarterbacks have 5 touchdowns each?
So it seems that chicks don’t really dig the long ball anymore. They seems to like the long pass, the touchdown, and even the alley-oop dunk. I can understand all the changes in the sports world when it comes to baseball.
I’m still a baseball fan and will love baseball more than any other sport. Then again, how long will that last? I guess it’s time to bring McGwire and Sosa back…or something that begins with an “s” back into baseball.