The Pampered 132

MLB Pitchers Are A Shadow of What They Used To Be

During the Phillies/Redsox game on Sunday, Philadelphia’s ace Roy Halladay took the mound, and I should have been delighted to see our big gun. But, I wasn’t. Instead, I was grossly annoyed, because for five days all anyone seemed to be talking about was the 132 pitches Halladay had thrown in his previous start.

I couldn’t read a newspaper (yes, happily they are still around), listen to the news, or watch a game without these words:

“His workload is too much!”

“How could his manager let him throw that many?!”

“Will Halladay be able to pitch well after throwing 132?!”

“Halladay pitches 132. Next, he will land on the Sun!”

And there must have been 132 more questions and declarations of amazement about Halladay’s “feat.”

All of this press about the 132 shows just how much the idea of a Major League Baseball (MLB) pitcher has become watered down. They are only a distant shadow of the hard-nosed, I’m-going-to-pitch-until-my-arm-falls-off mentality that filled pitchers of MLB past.

In March of this year, Hall of Famer Robin Roberts died, and it’s his death that probably best symbolizes the lost of expectations placed on pitchers from his time.

He won 286 games, had six straight 20-win seasons, and led the National League in wins from 1952 to 1955. His best season was in 1952, when he went 28-7 with a 2.59 ERA. His lifetime ERA was 3.41. What speaks to me most, though, are his 305 complete games. Such an accomplishment doesn’t even seem possible anymore. Phillies pitchers have a total of 300 complete games in the past 25 years. Roberts finished more than half of his 609 career starts.

To me, his greatest feat was his 17-inning complete game. This was a guy who took the mound, and wasn’t stepping down until either the 27th out or the 54th out was recorded.

It used to be about ownership. When a pitcher started a game, it was his, and no pitch count could take it away from him.

Could you see a 17-inning complete game, now? No. Never again. Nowadays, the starting pitcher better not blink wrong, or the trainer and manager will be out to guide him back to the bench.

Quite frankly, though, it does make sense.

With the overly inflated salaries of pitchers over the years, it’s no surprise they have lost their grittiness. It’s not completely their fault. Their grittiness, and ability to tough out a game has been put in a pampered cage by management, because their arms are worth millions upon millions of dollars. MLB pitchers are like that expensive chinaware tucked safely inside of a cupboard, only to be brought out when its needed every once in a while, and for no longer than 2 or 3 drinks at the most, for fear of it being shattered.

With so much money put into an investment, it’s understandable to want to protect it. But don’t glorify 132 pitches with 17 innings will forever be looking down from that mound on up high.

By the way, Halladay gave up seven runs on Sunday. Who to blame? No other than than the 132 of course.

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