March 29, 2005


The state of baseball - Questions abound as countdown to season continues (George Kimball, March 29, 2005, Boston Herald)

Babe Ruth was 19 years old when he appeared in his first major league game. So were Lou Gehrig and Mickey Mantle, a couple of other Yankees legends. Ted Williams broke into the big leagues when he was 20, as did his National League counterpart Stan (The Man) Musial. Al Kaline played in his first game for the Tigers at 18, and, trivia buffs will remind you, Joe Nuxhall pitched for the wartime Cincinnati Reds six weeks shy of his 16th birthday.

Take a guess how many of today's major leaguers are under 21?

Zero, that's how many.

Which is why baseball has managed to avoid the embarrassing meltdown of basic skills that has plagued football and especially basketball.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 29, 2005 10:20 AM

Felix's very poor performance yesterday underscores this. He'll be ready someday--someday soon. Just not yet.

Posted by: Timothy at March 29, 2005 3:14 PM

And just how many NFL players under 21 do you think there are? If I had to guess, it would be zero, maybe one or two. Football hasn't had an "embarrassing meltdown of basic skills" comparable to the NBA.

Posted by: Brandon at March 29, 2005 3:56 PM

Like Brandon, NFL has better athletes (bigger, faster) and they are considerably better trained than ever before. So that "meltdown of basic skills" doesn't ring true with me.

The improvement in cornerbacks is obvious compared to pre 1970.

Posted by: h-man at March 29, 2005 5:08 PM

They don't finish college and don't listen while they're there because they now wield the hammer of leaving if they're annoyed. Blocking, tackling, route running, catching, etc., have all deteriorated.

Posted by: oj at March 29, 2005 5:37 PM

But the skills necessary for important things like end-zone dances and post-interception taunting are better than ever.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at March 29, 2005 5:48 PM

I disagree that those basic skills have deteriorated. Most NFL players finish four years of college. Of the ones who don't, most are superstars or are sent to spend time in NFL Europe.

Blocking skills have been impacted by the late 80's rule change that allowed lineman to extend their arms. That put a premium on size. And with five 300lb linemen there isn't room in the interior line for old-style pulling and trapping.

Tackling skills have sucked for decades. I can remember as a kid yelling at the TV for them to wrap their arms instead of slam into people. The Redskins were a pioneer in this nonsense as early as the George Allen years.

Route running must be simplified when your receivers and DB's all have 4.3 speed. There isn't the space.

Catching? I can't think of any reason to think that larger receivers with bigger hands would be worse at catching a football than their predecessors.

Posted by: Brandon at March 29, 2005 7:05 PM

It's not about speed and size.

Posted by: oj at March 29, 2005 7:10 PM

I can't speak for the NFL, but compare a college game from 30 or so years ago with one today and I'd say basic skills might perhaps be a little bit improved in our own time. You can always find someone to say they don't play the game like they used to.

Referees don't call pass interference like they once did, though. Ditto for holding refs stopped calling even the more serious stuff around 1997.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at March 29, 2005 8:29 PM

Sure it is. Unless you want to believe that the players were more skilled when they only worked out during the preseason, drank all the time and had part time jobs that occupied most of their time. If you think I'm joking, read Distant Replay by Jerry Kramer and Fatso by Art Donovan

Posted by: Brandon at March 29, 2005 10:16 PM


Yes, they were more skilled, less athletic.

Posted by: oj at March 29, 2005 10:28 PM