Thursday, July 5, 2007

The Impact of the Perpetual Baseball Season

Following my last post, a lengthy thread about blacks and baseball erupted over at Baseball Think Factory. Eventually the discussion turned to the phenomenon of kids increasingly focusing on a single sport to the exclusion of others at younger and younger ages than they used to. Now, instead of using basketball season to get in shape for baseball season or vice-versa, kids are choosing to concentrate on a single sport, and are spending the "off-season" in camps, clinics, travelling leagues, and other forms of training.

While the effect of this phenomenon on black participation in baseball is debatable (and is being debated at BTF as I type this), early specialization may be yet another non-PED factor which has contributed to the offensive explosion of the past fourteen or fifteen years. Due to year-round baseball, today's major leaguers have had double or triple the development time than their predecessors did, which is bound to enhance one's ability to time and identify pitches, develop a good swing, and do all of the other little things that turn a punch and judy hitter into a masher.

This phenomenon would not be offset by the enhanced training of pitchers. To the contrary, I would bet my pension that year-round hurling at young ages is one of the factors, if not the key factor leading to the epidemic of pitchers' arm injuries despite the lowering of professional pitchers' workloads. Indeed, by the time little Johnny reaches rookie ball, he probably has pitched as many innings as Pud Galvin did in his whole damn career.

All of this means that we have hyper-trained hitters wearing body armor and wielding thin-handled bats facing an injury-depleted and diluted pool of pitchers hurling harder baseballs in ballparks with shorter porches and no foul territory.

But please mainstream sports media, please keep blaming steroids and steroids alone for the alleged destruction of the integrity of hitting statistics while saying little or nothing about their deleterious health effects on desperate, marginal talent.

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