Debunking an Old Myth
The American League pitching staff for last week's All-Star Game featured a number of hard throwers, including Texas's Kevin Brown (box, page 58), Boston's Roger Clemens, Toronto's Juan Guzman, California's Mark Langston and Chicago's Jack McDowell. The National League countered with more of a finesse staff, including Atlanta's Tom Glavine, Houston's Doug Jones and St. Louis's Bob Tewksbury. All three of those National League soft tossers got shelled in the American League's 13-6 triumph. So much for the widespread perception that the National League is full of fireballers who constantly challenge hitters, while the American League is loaded with slop-ballers who nibble incessantly and throw mostly changeups. Just about everyone who has switched leagues in recent years agrees that the pitching is the same in the two leagues.
"It's a myth" that National League pitchers throw harder, says Blue Jay All-Star Joe Carter, who played for the Padres in 1990. "That may have been true back in the days of Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax and J.R. Richard, but not anymore. When I went to the National League, people told me it was a fastball league. Yeah, right. You don't even see fastballs on 2 and oh, 3 and 1. There are as many breaking-ball pitchers in the National League as in the American League."
Carter's opinion is shared by Mets hitting instructor Tom McCraw, an American League player and coach for 21 years, who is back in the National League this season for the first time since 1985. "I've seen more breaking balls and changeups this year than I saw in the other league," says McCraw. "They say pitchers challenge you here, but I haven't seen it."
Pitcher Bud Black, who played in the American League for 10 years before joining the Giants in 1991, had heard all about the big difference between the two leagues. "It's ridiculous," says Black. "Who says that? Old National League guys, right? I hear that all the time. When I came to this league, I thought I had a pretty good changeup. Now, I'm way down the list. You've got [Tom] Browning, Glavine, [Bruce] Hurst, [Randy] Tomlin and Zane Smith—and those are just the lefthanders."
Many baseball people think the National League's transition from a power-pitching league to more of an off-speed-pitching league was probably spurred by the success of John Tudor and Bob Ojeda, two former Red Sox junk-ballers. Tudor, who came over to the National League in 1984, anchored the Cardinals' staff when St. Louis won the pennant in 1987. Ojeda joined the Mets in '86 and was one of the big reasons why they won the World Series that year.
Doug Jones laughs at the notion that the pitching is different in the two leagues. "How many consistent 90-mile-per-hour throwers are there in baseball?" he says. "You can count them on two hands. After they made an out, guys used to yell, 'Come on, be a man, challenge me!' I'd say, 'Hit the ball like a man, and I'll throw it like a man.' "
Lost and Found
Comeback player of the year? The Giants' Cory Snyder is among the leading candidates. He is "our MVP," says San Francisco manager Roger Craig.
Through Sunday, Snyder was batting .287 with nine homers and 37 RBIs, and he had started games at first base, third base and all three outfield positions. Last year Snyder hit .175 with three homers in 71 games for the White Sox and the Blue Jays. Afterward Snyder was jobless, his swing was a mess, and questions had been raised about his willingness to work with hitting coaches. An '84 Olympian and one of the hottest young players in baseball from 1986 to '88, Snyder was thought by many observers to be washed up at age 29.