SI Vault
Take Back the Plate!
Richard Hoffer
May 15, 2000
In a game rigged for offense, pitchers have but one recourse
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
May 15, 2000

Take Back The Plate!

In a game rigged for offense, pitchers have but one recourse

View CoverRead All Articles

There are still some people who admire a two-hit shutout. They're called pitchers. The rest of us, of course, want Arena football scores. And baseball, being what you might call revenue-sensitive, has accommodated our tastes. So it has given the hitters juiced balls, bandbox ballparks, thin air, hormone therapy and (thanks to the DH) more at bats. The purists—pitchers?—may think baseball has become a vulgar game, but, hey, you gotta sell tickets. "The mind-set of the game today" says Royals manager Tony Muser, "is try to pound the other team into oblivion and win 12-11 and say, 'Man, what a ball game!' " Exactly! Home runs are up, scoring is up, attendance to follow. Maybe.

Who could have a beef with this magnificent trend? Just pitchers, the poor saps who have to walk into a place like Houston's Enron Field and watch hopped-up balls clear Little League alleys. "The poor pitchers turn on ESPN," Muser says, "and they see 28 minutes of balls reaching the seats."

There's not much most guys can do about it. Well, there has been this recent bit of guerrilla warfare, wherein the pitchers, now wound as tight as their Rawlingses, have been trying to take back the plate. They call it pitching inside—we call it chin music—but anything to restore their rightful place in baseball seems to be the idea.

It hasn't worked as well as they might have hoped. Now we have 24 minutes of balls reaching seats and another four of players spilling out of dugouts and onto the field. The latest run of bench-clearings, including a doozy of a brawl at Comiskey Park on April 22 when a couple of guys got hit by pitches and it seemed that the whole South Side of Chicago poured onto the diamond, are examples of inadvertent and decidedly vulgar entertainment. Certainly the incidence of two-hit shutouts hasn't increased: The White Sox won that little duel with the Tigers 14-6.

The poor pitchers. All they mean to do is return a little style to the game, and what do they do instead? They create even more fan-friendly hoo-ha. Home runs! Beanballs! Fights! Nobody need ever be bored by baseball again. If, that is, you still want to call it baseball.