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Saturday, June 02, 2001

Days of the true leadoff hitter giving way to the power game (6/01/2001)

In my day, the men were men; bread cost five cents a loaf; kids played baseball in the park twenty-four hours a day; and Maury Wills didn’t know what he was talking about.

Jim Furtado Posted: June 02, 2001 at 03:40 PM | 4 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. The Original Gary Posted: June 03, 2001 at 04:46 AM (#69079)
I do miss the excitement of watching little ball. Home runs are the least exciting play in the game.
   2. Robert Dudek Posted: June 03, 2001 at 06:49 PM (#69080)
Little Ball is making a comeback.

The Yankees and Mariners games have usually been closely-fought battles - and these teams have used their ability to steal a base to good effect.

It should also be noted that the Mariners have not hit a lot of homeruns. Take a look at their rank in team OPS - they've pulled off a minor miracle by leading the league in runs by a comfortable margin while being middle of the pack in OPS.

They take walks, they steal bases, they don't GIDP. They've been cashing in their runners on base at an extraordinary rate. McLemore is something like 17 for 17 in steal attempts.
   3. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: June 03, 2001 at 11:23 PM (#69081)
If you had taken Maury Wills out of the Dodgers lineup between 1959 and 1966, they very likely would have won one pennant (1963) rather than the four they did. (And no, I'm not saying he was more valuable than Tommy Davis or Sandy Koufax.) All Wills did was bring the stolen base back to the game to a degree not seen since the dead ball era. It is very well to cite Pete Rose's or Tom Tresh's superior OBP, and Wills certainly would have been even more valuable had he drawn more walks, but there is the little matter of what Wills did when he did get on base. Wills' 1962 MVP selection, over extremely tough competition (Mays, Tommy Davis, and Frank Robinson) was an acknowledgement of just how important he was to his team. The Dodgers of that era had some of the weakest hitting of any post-1918 pennant winners, yet they came up with three world championships and four pennants in eight years, at a time when the National League had perhaps the most disproportionate share of star talent in history. The key to all this was the pitching staff, but those few runs they got had to come from somewhere. And to a great extent they came on runs that Maury Wills created. He wasn't Rickey Henderson (who is?), but the Dodgers would have been perennial also-rans without him.
   4. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: June 04, 2001 at 12:28 PM (#69083)
Fair enough. This is why smart jocks should hire ghostwriters who can surreptitiously feed them lines while they're doing interviews, so that Wills could have said something along the lines of, "My job is to win as many games as I can like this: Eighth inning, 3 to 3, I get on with a swinging bunt, steal second, go to third on a groundout, and score on a sacrifice fly. You know this doesn't sound like much, but if you count up the number of games where something like this happened, you'll find that we won an awful lot of close games this way. Probably a lot of games that wouldn't have been won if I hadn't been able to do this at those crucial moments. Now I know they don't have a statistic where each time this happened I got a particular number assigned to it, like OBP, so it could be referred to at a glance forty years later by someone who never saw me play, but if you ask anyone who did see me play, they'll tell you that those games added up to at least three extra pennants. And pennants, my good man, are what it's all about. The accumulation of pennants is what distinguishes the finer teams, such as the Los Angeles aggregations I was fortunate enough to be associated with, from their lesser adversaries, for instance the Giants, who never would have won any of them but for the untimely loss of control by Stan Williams on one fateful October afternoon."

Dan Daniel used to make the entire Yankees roster sound like that. Which may be one of the leading subliminal reason why so many old-time readers of The Sporting News hate the Yankees to this day.

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