"That's a hell of a way to think," snorts Mauch. "What's Tony Gonzales supposed to do, root for Callison to bat in only 60 runs so he can beat him with 61?" Nobody has accused Pepitone of leading the league in thinking, but the attitude is not exclusively his. Eddie Mathews of the Atlanta Braves, a man of fierce pride and clear mind, has evaluated the hitter's objectives from a pragmatic viewpoint. "Suppose a guy does hit .300," says Mathews, who did three times and could have more often, "and he bats in only 40 runs. What good is it?"
What good, indeed? Houk wouldn't like to see Pepitone spraying the ball as long as there's the short porch in right field, and Mauch, though he believes Callison could hit .300 and be more help to the team, isn't pressing the point. The Dodger management hasn't done anything forceful about Willie Davis' persistent swinging for the mountains, when Dodger Stadium's geography could make him a batting champion if he turned it to his advantage.
"Today," says Red Sox Pitching Coach Sal Maglie, "you handle the players with kid gloves." Joe Gordon, who watched his players break their willowy bats on dinky sliders, wistfully agrees. "When the game starts they forget everything you've told them," says Gordon. He was asked what he considered to be a good average for an in-fielder. "Two sixty is all right," said Joe Gordon, who hit 253 home runs but found a way to have a .322 season.
"The whole standard is lower," says Haddix, "and I mean the pitchers, too. They win 12 games and think they did a hell of a job."
"I don't believe," says Harvey Kuenn, "that they have any idea of going nine innings when they go out there." If they have, they shouldn't. At least one relief pitcher, and usually more, appeared in 97.2% of the 1,623 major league games played last year. There were 45 grand-slam home runs hit, and a bases-loaded home run is still supposed to be something of a rarity, yet there were only 44 games in which both pitchers went the full distance. Hoss Radbourn is rotating in his resting place and Iron Man McGinnity's views of group-plan pitching would be unprintable, but whatever may have happened to pitchers it is a unanimous opinion in baseball that pitching is better. And not in spite of the fact that they don't go nine anymore, but because they don't.
"No, I will not hit .361 again," says Norman Cash of the Tigers who, of all people, may be the last of the American League's .350 hitters. "And neither will anybody else. Every time you look up they're bringing in a new pitcher, and one throws harder than the other."
"That's the biggest reason why nobody will ever hit for high average," says Henry Aaron, who has hit .355. "You don't get to see a guy three or four times anymore. I don't mean a guy weakens in the late innings necessarily, but you have a better chance to hit him because you've seen him. Now you just get a good idea about a guy and he's gone."
"The philosophy of the game has changed," says Groat. "A pitcher gives it his best as long as he can, and then they have a guy who comes in and closes the deal. Everybody has one these days."
"It used to be," says Mathews, "that a guy was in the bullpen because he wasn't good enough to start. Now they're specialists."
It is also a slim-majority opinion that the pitchers, individually, are improved. "They are smarter, stronger and better instructed," says White Sox Manager Eddie Stanky. "They throw harder," says Groat. "You used to go into a town and face two good starters, then one or two you could handle. Now every kid who comes up to the majors has a good fast ball. The scouting systems are bigger, for one thing."