•Protecting the Investment. Simply put, with so much money at stake, clubs are not willing to risk a long-term investment for a short-term gain. In another era, for instance, the Mets might have sent Gooden out there with his tired right arm, but he is one of their most valuable assets, and should be for years to come. "If you're management, you're going to play it more conservatively," says House. "You're going to put a guy on the disabled list quicker."
The flip side to that argument is that it's the player who's unwilling to risk his future financial well-being. Says former Yankee manager Dallas Green, "When we played, we were afraid of losing our job if we stayed on the DL too long. Now players go on the DL, and you can't send them down. And they've got a guaranteed contract for the next three years, so they're going to get paid anyway, and they're not risking anything."
That leads to the next argument...
•The Wimp Factor. The old school says that players just don't play hurt anymore. "Now I know this isn't going to sit well with some people," says Chicago Cub manager Don Zimmer, "but there's just too many small injuries that keep players out of the lineup these days. I've heard guys in the last 10 years say, "I've got a head cold. I can't play today.' What does that mean? You tell me a guy can't play with a head cold?"
Brewers trainer John Adam begs to differ: "I hate to hear people say today's players don't play hurt. We've got guys who play hurt all the time. I'll put them up against anybody. People wouldn't say that about players if they still made $25,000 a year. But it's only natural when you pay a lot of money for tickets, and the guy you come to see says he can't play because he's hurt. Good for the old-timers, but was it smart to play every day back then with broken fingers and things like that?"
Does anyone want to tell Cal Ripken Jr., who moved into third on the alltime list last week for playing his 1,208th consecutive game, or Gibson, one of the guys who has been on the DL twice this year, that today's players are wimps?
•Too Much or Not Enough? Many baseball people feel that the players overdo off-season conditioning. "Maybe they ought to let their bodies rejuvenate," says Schuerholz. "Maybe there ought to be more down time for muscle fibers and tissues and ligaments and tendons and all that. I was kidding with Brooks Robinson and Frank Malzone the other day in the pressroom. I said, 'We're going to institute the same kind of workout program with our guys this winter that you guys used.' And they belly-laughed because they did nothing, absolutely nothing."
Says Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog, "Mickey Mantle didn't lift weights. Hank Aaron never lifted weights. Willie Mays never lifted weights. And they didn't have any problems hitting homers." Herzog is particularly sensitive about the subject because his own centerfielder, McGee, embarked on a weight-training program in the off-season and has missed a total of 83 games this season with a variety of injuries.
"There has been a very inappropriate emphasis on bulk-weight development," says Schuerholz. "That is to say, looking good in a T-shirt, looking good in a bathing suit, looking good in a baseball uniform. While that may have some short-term benefit to a particular player, I think it is debilitating in the long-term, because baseball muscles have to be long and flexible. They should not be shortened. They should not be tightened."
Some knowledgeable observers think that the ligaments and tendons simply cannot carry the increased bulk. "With the overload of muscle mass," says Trebelhorn, "there's a tendency for the ligaments and tendons not to develop elasticity and flexibility necessary to support the added bulk. There's a conscious plan of weight training but not a conscious plan of maintaining the full range of baseball motions."