Bullpens full of sad animals
"You Gotta Be Kidding!"
by Mickey Charles, CEO Sports Network
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The old adage used to be, in words more
or less, "Pitching isn't the only thing, it's everything." To some degree,
that is true. Offensive-minded fans, players, managers, and broadcasters who
are not discussing those on the mound all the time, might tend to disagree
since, without runs, what is there for any pitcher to protect? So, it is a
combination of offense and pitching with the latter intended to protect the
former and set the tone for the game. Accepted.
But, unlike games "back in the day," where there was a starting pitcher and
bullpen reliever that donned his appropriate comic hero outfit and came into
the game to save the day, today's stalwarts in the bullpen are the technicians
one would normally find in industry or in the medical profession. In other
words, thank goodness for general family practitioners who actually attend to
all of your aches and pains instead of a right toe, left thumb, ache in the
back, headache, upset stomach, and so forth. Yes, of course, specialization
is necessary for many aspects of illness, but get there first.
Get to the point where you have to make the call to the bullpen, not because
someone with a clicker is counting pitches. The entire 100-pitch business is
insanity. It boggles the mind and insults the game, not to mention the
pitchers themselves. You have a no-hitter going but you have thrown 100
pitches so it is time to pass the ball to another?!?!? You have to be kidding
The late Paul Richards, known as a pitching guru, is generally credited for
paying attention to the pitch count in the middle 1960s, and establishing the
importance of 100. Richards, a former big league catcher, was the general
manager of the Houston Astros and wanted to protect Larry Dierker, who had
signed out of high school. So, because of that, a small item escalated and
blown completely out of proportion, we now have critical mass achieved in
baseball for athletes that have every benefit, resource and advantage known to
man to increase their physical prowess. And, yet, their abilities are
questioned, their stamina seemingly put to the test, their endurance on the
edge, and their staying power debated in the shadow of the 100-pitch clicker
that prompts the dialogue.
Did anyone ever count how many pitches are thrown when one warms up, pre-game,
or in the bullpen? Are they considered as well, or are they noted as
demeaning and lessening one's talent? Do you know how many practice balls
Tiger Woods hits a day? How many he hits before the US Open gets underway
compared to how many he will hit once off the first tee? How about how many
laps Michael Phelps swims in practice or warming up? How many miles does
Lance Armstrong cycle in preparation for a race? You have the idea. They do
it to be ready.
The entire concept of 100 pitches being the paradigm, the red light, the call
to 911, is incredible. Pitchers are better conditioned than ever before and
their predecessors of years past were capable of tossing 200 per game, as well
as over 300 once or twice back in the Twenties. That's right, 200-300! It is
not a typo. Then it came down to 125-150. Still, not 100 and panic setting
Which brings us to the bullpen. That is where the phone once rang to save a
game, to replace a pitcher that was admittedly warn out. To accept the ball
from someone that had just been used for batting practice by the other team.
Not because of a clicker.
Before becoming one of the greatest closers in the game, Mariano Rivera was the 8th-inning specialist for the Yankees.
We have an eighth inning pitcher, these days, the set-up man. Perish the
thought that the man on the mound, with a one- or two-hitter, is asked how he
feels. Then comes the closer, the man being paid millions, tens of millions,
to pitch one inning, maybe two. And, for many teams today, with rare
exceptions, the bullpen is overflowing with sheep and wusses that come in and
immediately blow the lead their team had until moments ago. If they do not do
that, they make it a heart-wrenching experience. The team at bat welcomes
their entry into the game with jubilation and mental applause.
The Yankees' manager, Joe Girardi, is still holding tryouts and has the
imagination of an elephant in a stampede. He just looks straight ahead and
charges, by the book, the one that says the starter comes out and we toss in
another batting practice entry that should be selling hot dogs in the
stands...with rare exceptions out there. They, the New Yorkers, are not the
only team with this malaise and a manager who works with a vacuum between his
The requirement is to pitch one inning, maybe to only one or two batters, to
be a heart specialist at that precise moment and, all too often, the patient
perishes. That is when a wuss makes his entrance, not a bull. And, the
starter has to sit in the dugout and watch his efforts fall apart because he
went over the magic number by three or four.
There are lots of reasons to remove a pitcher from the game - getting shelled,
exhaustion, injury, losing his "stuff" that was working so well - but doing so
due to a pitch count and then applying an even lesser number to someone from
the bullpen has denigrated the sport and those that participate in it.
Since there is little likelihood of the 100-pitch guideline going away, the
supporting option is to fill the bullpen with bulls, not sheep and wusses.
Will there, on the other hand, be someone out there, some GM that will put
down the clicker and just let the games go on; let the pitcher call his own
tune regarding his physical being, march to his own drummer? You gotta be