The New Normal is a Big Whiff

Nobody asked me, but…

I don’t like the “New Normal.” And I’m not talking about this virus matter.

I’m talking about baseball.

The Boston Red Sox won yesterday, 5-0 over Tampa Bay. The press is crowing about the well-pitched game by Martίn Peréz. Hey, good for him. But it’s not a game he pitched. It’s barely more than half a game, five innings.  Same for Ryan Yarbrough, the losing pitcher.

Peréz was declared the winning pitcher because he was the pitcher of record when the winning run was scored by his team. And he pitched five innings. A starter still has to go five innings to get a win. At least he did the last time I looked. Whatever.

Pitching Summary Boston vs. Tampa Bay August 5, 2020

Look at the accompanying box score. Identical patterns in innings pitched. The starter goes five. Then comes a parade of nearly-anonymous denizens from the bullpens. One inning each. LEGO pieces. Pitching by committee.

And don’t forget that pitch count!

This doesn’t do it for me.

Nor does the designated hitter. But that horse is long gone and the barn door is still hanging open. So too, I’m afraid, is horse that was once known as “complete game.”

And while we’re at it, let’s not forget the character known as the closer, and the ersatz accomplishment known as the “save.”

To wit (from MLB.com):

“A relief pitcher recording a save must preserve his team’s lead while doing one of the following: Enter the game with a lead of no more than three runs and pitch at least one inning. Enter the game with the tying run in the on-deck circle, at the plate or on the bases. Pitch at least three innings.”

Blech. Talk about a non-achievement.

“Lies, damn lies, and statistics.” Benjamin Disraeli supposedly said this, but whoever actually did was right. Had to be a baseball fan.

Finally – and Yankee fans gonna hate this – had I been on the Hall of Fame Committee I don’t know if I would have voted for Mariano Rivera. He was probably the most renowned closer of all time, with 19 years and 652 saves.

But he was a one-inning-only marvel. He pitched 1283 total innings, or 67 innings per season.  Hardly a workhorse. If the opposing team happened to score on him, he was in deep doo-doo. So was his team. Just ask Kevin Millar, Dave Roberts, and Bill Mueller.

Okay, I probably would have come around to vote Mariano in. He did last 19 years in the majors. That’s impressive. But my vote would have come his way been because he was such an outstanding guy, the kind of professional athlete that everyone who plays sports should aspire to be. Nobody represented baseball better than Mariano Rivera.

So he has his niche in the Hall of Fame. I hope he’s the only one of his category – the closer – who ever makes it.

And who knows. Maybe we won’t ever see another pitcher from this New Normal era enshrined. Pitchers used to be the crème de la crème , the hoi aristoi. Now they’re the great unwashed, the hoi polloi.

“Search the public parks and you’ll never find a monument to a committee” goes another unattributed but pithy quote. In future years, it ought to be

“Search Cooperstown and you’ll never find a monument to a bullpen.”

Baseball’s New Normal. That’s all I have to say about that.

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