There’s No ’88-ing’ in Baseball

This photo of Jon Lester is from 2007, which is obvious because the Tampa Bay Rays in the background are wearing green instead of blue in their uniforms.

This photo of Jon Lester is from 2007, which is obvious because the Tampa Bay Rays in the background are wearing green instead of blue in their uniforms.

[cb_profit_poster Lottery1]Clinton, S.C., Thursday, October 24, 2013, 9:57 a.m.

Heck, I don’t know what to write today. Boston won the first game of the World Series, and I’m excited about that, but I’ve likely overexposed the Red Sox to my social-media followers, many of whom would be infinitely more excited if Dale Earnhardt Jr. played shortstop instead of Stephen Drew.

There's no baseball in Dale Earnhardt Jr. (HHP/Alan Marler photo for Chevrolet)

There’s no baseball in Dale Earnhardt Jr. (HHP/Alan Marler photo for Chevrolet)

Nothing against Junior, but I’d hate for the Red Sox to have a No. 88. Xander Bogaerts wearing “72” is bad enough. The number is great for racing, or for football, or for, I don’t know, track and field, but I can’t remember a single No. 88 in baseball, and I’m sure whoever wore it didn’t wear it long.

But … Don Drysdale wore “53.” Yasiel Puig wears “66.” Bill Voiselle wore “96” (he was from the South Carolina town of that name). Barry Zito wore (I think he just retired, didn’t he?) “75.”

Besides, Earnhardt doesn’t play shortstop and has expressed no such desire, and, at 39, it’s a little late to make the switch. It’s a moot point.

As noted, I don’t know what to write today.

10:05 a.m.

David Ortiz hit his 16th post-season home run last night, which, on the one hand, is one more than Babe Ruth, but, on the other hand, wow, does that mean almost nothing.

All 15 of Ruth’s homers were in the World Series. That’s because, when Ruth played, there were no other playoffs. The all-time record for World Series home runs is 18, by Mickey Mantle, who also never played in an ALDS or ALCS.

Manny Ramirez hit 29 post-season home runs. Four were in World Series, and only one was with the Red Sox. Granted, Mantle and Ruth hit lots of World Series home runs, in part, because they were in so many, but, as NASCAR fans say, yes, “That’s part of it.”

So many people in sports willfully withhold important details. It’s like that day at Homestead-Miami Speedway, after Kurt Busch won the first Chase, when a NASCAR release said it was the closest “in the history of the current point system.”

At the time, it was also the only race in the history of the current point system.

When Jim Brown rushed for 1,863 yards in a season (1963), that season was only 12 games. Last week, after Florida State clobbered his Tigers, 51-14, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said his team could still be the first at Clemson to win 11 games in back-to-back years. Well, that’s true, but the majority of Clemson’s history has consisted of nine- or 10-game schedules; then they started playing 11 about 40 years ago, and then it became 12, and there’s a conference championship game, which could make it 13, and a bowl game makes 14.

The comparison of money earnings, in most instances merely presented in dollars with no accounting for inflation, is so absurd that it merits no further consideration here.

No one ever accounts for rule changes. In NASCAR, it’s almost “see no evil, hear no evil.”

“Oh, everybody talks about the good old days, well, guess what? In the good old days, Ned Jarrett won the Southern 500 by 14 laps! So, uh, don’t tell me about how great the good old days were.”

Sorry, but I will. Stock car racing is highly competitive now, but it’s ridiculous to compare the basic numbers of 1965 with this year’s, in part, because race cars are much more durable now, but mostly because the current rules make it almost impossible for any car that isn’t hopeless crippled to stay off the lead lap.

I don’t think anyone would win the Southern 500 by 14 laps (that race had 23 lead changes, by the way) today, but if not for free passes of one form or another, occasionally a driver would lap the field.

That’s the reason the rules changed, of course. Once upon a time, a race was a test of skill and endurance and the top priority was to make sure the victory was just. Today, thanks to TV, vapid overexposure, a wider fan base, social media and a half-dozen other factors that don’t occur to me now, the emphasis is on excitement, and, as it turns out, excitement is an unquenchable thirst. Almost every analysis of a NASCAR race these days involves “oh, yeah, well, before the last few laps, it was boring as hell,” or, conversely, “the racing was all right, but the ending sucked.”

Watch what you ask for, NASCAR …

Hype is wonderfully useful, but some perspective is in order.

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About Monte

For 20 seasons, I mostly wrote about NASCAR. I'm still paying attention, but I'm spending more of my time these days writing novels and songs. I try to blog regularly on whatever happens to strike my fancy.
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2 Responses to There’s No ’88-ing’ in Baseball

  1. Mark Wilson says:

    I wonder how many World Series the Yankees would have won if they had to win two rounds of playoffs just to get there? I’m not trying to belittle anything those teams won, just noting that getting to the WS is more difficult now. And yes, I am a Braves fan.

  2. Monte says:

    One of those debates difficult to weigh. Only World Series, but only eight teams in each league, too, till the ’60s. Baseball still has quality playoffs. All the teams in there this year were excellent. The unfairest part is a wild-card round with just one game. That’s wrong in baseball.

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