Still a fan, but …

The Philllies are in first place in their division. The Yankees have slipped to second in theirs but have the third best record in baseball and sure look play-off bound.
And while my team, the St. louis Cardinals, are fading and fading fast, I am enjoying the heck out of this baseball season. The Phils and Yanks get all the credit.
There’s just something about living around here when the Phillies and Yankees are winning. There’s a buzz that cannot be denied.
That said, I am so disappointed about the way the game is now played.
Major League baseball has boiled down to two things: home runs and strikeouts. The latter, they say, is only natural if what we want is the former. And that’s the problem. I don’t want more of the former. And neither does any of my old buddies who love the game. Home runs are exciting, but give me a high batting average any day. I’d much rather see a hitter flirt with a .400 average than one chasing down the 60-homer mark. Don’t get me wrong, that would be fun too. But not if it means enduring record strikeout numbers.
Today’s hitters do something our Little League coaches used to try to knock out of us: the upper cut. I can still hear coaches screaming, “You’re swinging up at the ball. Level off! Level off!”
The upper cut, they say, is more likely to result in a home run. Maybe. But I remember reading a piece about Mike Schmidt when he was in his prime. All he wanted to do when he stepped into the batter’s box, he said, was to hit the ball hard somewhere on the ground. The homers, he said, would come. And did they ever. He hit 548 career homers. And while his lifetime batting average of .267 did not set the world on fire, he did hit .316 in 1981 with 31 homers and .286 in 1980 with 48 round-trippers.
Another thing that bugs me nowadays is the diving catch. So many times when watching the Top Ten plays on Sportscenter, I will see an outfielder diving to catch a ball and can’t help but think, “Willie Mays would have put that one in his back pocket.”
Speaking of Willie, he played 22 seasons and compiled a .302 career batting average. He also managed to knock 660 pitches out of the park. He won 12 Gold Glove awards for his fielding.

Ed Ackerman