Yes, the Dodger analytic geniuses, with all their stats and shifts and theories, have evidently reached back into an era of Nellie Fox and Richie Ashburn and decided Joc Pederson, tape measure power hitter built to win the home run derby contest at all star break and become the greatest batting practice hitter of all time, needs some semblance of bat control if he is to stay in the big leagues.
A magnificent centerfielder and potentially great ball player, why hasn’t somebody notified him of the game of pepper before? His father taught him his swing, which has a slew of moving parts, many of which are haywire, and literally a crapshoot of connecting with a baseball thrown inside, but has the golfing arc to hit anything low a country mile, which is about the only thing anybody cares about these days.
So Joc Pederson is playing pepper, an exercise that baseball players were weaned on at one time but today is lost among the sports media hype of home run hitters that has seriously degraded the game. Every kid in the country should be weaned on hitting pepper. Pepper teaches and creates bat control as well as hand-to-eye contact. Pepper evolves to a point where the player controlling the bat can take a pepper pitch off his forehead and place it to the fielder on the right, and step across and smack a ball low and outside to the fielder on the left. Not that he will do this in a game, but it will train him to watch the ball into his bat and eventually guide it to where he wants, and eliminate any notion of future shifts.
Pepper is fun. It has tricks, schemes, challenges, dares, creates betting, as the row of fielders throw the ball low and high, inside and outside, soft and hard, faking and trying to fool the hitter, and at its best rivals the Harlem Globetrotters passing the ball behind their backs and between their legs among other tricks to the music of “Sweet Georgia Brown.”
Pepper includes throwing, catching, hitting. Pepper stresses a short, compact swing, which extends in real hitting to a quicker compact swing, a lightning quick swing that can reach the fences and is far more valuable than the big hard swings of today’s players. Check out three of the best compact swings in baseball—Utley, Trout, and Rizzo.
One never hears any commentary from media booth experts these days on pepper. It’s usually—“he kept his hands in, his front leg came down, his belly faced the pitcher after he completed his swing…” This is conjecture so confusing that hitting, the most difficult endeavor in all of sports, is complicated instead of simplified and ends up turning hitters into head cases similar to golfers thinking too much about where every body part is moving when they swing.
The way Joc Pederson holds his bat, the way he swings, one wonders if even pepper will help.
Who cares how many miles an hour a home run ball was going when it left the bat; and what significance does the distance mean?
The ball right now is obviously juiced. Bud Selig and his boys rejoiced in the home run derby of the 1990s when baseball was supposedly rejuvenated by the juiced up likes of Sammy Soda and Mark McGuire and just about everybody else, a farce that eventually turned out a disgrace as one player after another was found taking steroids while one time 180 pounders were hitting opposite field homeruns.
Slowly, the game returned to normalcy as the homeruns went down and teams like San Francisco and Kansas City and St. Louis won pennants not with home runs, but with base hits, moving runners, great base running, and terrific pitching and astute managing by the likes of Bochy, Yost and LaRussa that produced tremendous baseball at its best.
But these outcomes turned out to be too boring for fans, and the powers that be, trying to gratify younger fans with the attentions spans of hummingbirds, became whores again, became phonies and liars and got the ball juiced, and now the game is once again becoming a farce, a disgrace, the cheapening of a legitimate homerun appalling.
I watch a lot of baseball and see too many runners loafing down the line on infield pop-ups and groundballs, and most disgusting, even revolting, are these guys watching the flight of what feels to them like home runs, going into a sort of gloating home run trot, only to see the ball bounce off the wall and have to hoof it into second, sometimes getting thrown out, and sometimes having to be held to singles off the wall.
They should be fined by their ball clubs and yanked from the game by their managers. In a different era, when players played for a contract year to year and were actually hungry, they might have been sent down.
Mickey mantle, perhaps the greatest talent ever, ran the bases quickly after a home run, no matter how far it was hit, head down, as if embarrassed, never showing up a pitcher, because, if you did, in that era, you went down twice next time up.
The first half is nearly over and so far the Chicago Cubs have been huge, but they have flaws. They still strike out too much against good pitching, Arietta is proving human, the big lefty Lester can be run on in tight playoff games, and their bullpen is still suspect.
Speaking of Mickey Mantle, his career blossomed somewhat like his likeness, Mike Trout. Starting out in 1951, Mantle steadily improved, had good years, but everybody was begging for the big year, the apex of his enormous potential, and in 1956 it came—a triple crown. Trout has learned to lay off certain pitches and hit inside pitches he couldn’t hit last year. If he was on Boston or Baltimore, he could win a triple crown. Magnificent.
Lenny Dykstra was on Dan Patrick’s Show, explaining how as a small guy he needed steroids to make it through the 162 game big league grind, disclosing how beat up he was, etc, etc, excuse, excuse. Lenny, get out the record book and look up Nellie Fox, 5 foot 8 160 pound secondbaseman who was repeatedly knocked silly on double plays, never missed a game in almost 8 years, led the league in getting hit by pitches, won an MVP, and belongs in the Hall of Fame.
So Lenny Dykstra wrote a book, supposedly to entertain and tell it like it is and rat-fuck a few people in the past—once a lowlife cheating lying idiot always a lowlife cheating lying idiot.
To all those sports writers, experts and fans writing in to the LA Times second guessing Don Mattingly as manager of the Dodgers, calling him stupid and unprepared, eat your words and stick your tails between your legs. The once lowly poorly paid Miami team is right where the rich Dodgers are, and getting Barry Bonds hired to coach his hitters is one of the big winners of the season.
One could go on forever about the recent rules on catchers blocking home plate and base runners restricted from breaking up double plays, but what it all amounts to is the sanitizing of the game and marginalizing the good old Pete Rose type colorful roughnecks of baseball—it’s very essence expunged by the politically correct.