What Hank said

Crazy idea: Hire Rick Peterson?
Hal 'shocked' by the rising sun

When I first posted my instant analysis on Chien-Ming Wang‘s injury on Sunday afternoon, I pointed my finger at the inanities of Interleague Play. The marketing gimmick, I argued before getting refuted by the commenters here, unnecessarily puts American League pitchers at risk. While these athletes are in fine shape, they aren’t used to the act of running the bases. It’s not one of the five tools for nothing.

While it’s hard to argue that Wang’s injury was directly a result of Interleague Play and his running the bases, it was only the second time in his professional career that Chien-Ming Wang found himself on base. That is not a comforting thought for anyone relying on the health of the Yankees ace. As luck would have it, the Yanks caught a very bad break, and Wang finds himself out until, by all indications, at least September.

While Yankee fans are being surprisingly stoic about this spin of the wheel of fortune, the Big Mouth of the Yankees, Hank Steinbrenner himself, had a few ridiculous choice words for the rules of the Senior Circuit. Said Hank:

“My only message is simple: The National League needs to join the 21st century. They need to grow up and join the 21st century. I’ve got my pitchers running the bases, and one of them gets hurt. He’s going to be out. I don’t like that, and it’s about time they address it. That was a rule from the 1800s…

“This is always a concern of American League teams when their pitchers have to run the bases and they’re not used to doing it. It’s not just us. It’s everybody. It probably should be a concern for National League owners, general managers and managers when their pitchers run the bases. Pitchers have enough to do without having to do that.”

Setting aside the fact that the DH is from 1973, and pitchers used to bat in both leagues for decades prior to that, Hank, through the bluster, does raise something of a point. When Major League teams invest so heavily in pitching and pay through the nose for guys at the top of the game, all General Managers must cringe in agony every time one of their hurlers takes a big hack or winds up on base. Whether or not that’s good for the game is another matter.

For Hank, this is just more of the same. He likes to sound off, and it doesn’t impact anything other than the number of papers sold in New York, the ratings of the FAN and the general perception of Steinbrenner in the eyes of everyone else.

From a practical matter, the Yankees are going to have to proceed carefully. As foot guru Dr. Philip Kwong told BP’s Will Carroll today, the Yankees have to make sure Wang’s injury is 100 percent healed before he does anything else because the risk of chronic injury is very high. Carroll speculates that the Yanks’ record will dictate how they rehab their young ace, and I would be surprised to see Wang pitch again this season. He’s just that important next year.

The injury was horrendously bad luck, and we can harbor resentment toward the NL. Maybe it’s time to revisit that age-old DH debate or maybe not. But one thing is for sure: Hank Steinbrenner makes for great copy.

Crazy idea: Hire Rick Peterson?
Hal 'shocked' by the rising sun
  • daneptizl

    Just wondering, but how much would Rich Harden net right now?

  • Chris

    I can’t think of an NL pitcher that has suffered a significant injury while running the bases. Maybe that’s just because I follow the AL mostly, but I think the risk of injury is much higher when a pitcher pitches than when they run the bases.

    • yankeemonkey

      Micah Owings rolled his ankle sliding into second earlier this season and has pitched like crap ever since.

    • http://riveraveblues.com Mike A.

      Mark Prior ran into Marcus Giles running the bases and dislocated his shoulder. That’s what started all the injuries for him.

    • Rich

      Except that NL pitchers run the bases on a regular basis (at least to a degree) while AL pitchers don’t, so I’m not sure that the NL is a useful point of reference.

  • Bo

    Name me one pitcher who has this injury from running the bases.

    It’s a fluke.

    • http://riveraveblues.com Mike A.

      I agree 100%. It was a fluke. If Gil Meche or Jarrod Washburn did this, no one would care.

    • Rich

      This particular injury aside (because the way Bruney sustained his injury was a fluke as well), I would like to know if AL pitchers have an increased incidence of any type of leg injury as a result of running the bases since interleague play started.

  • The Fallen Phoenix

    I posted this over in the comments over at LoHud earlier today, but what bothers me most about the DH/pitchers hitting debate is that, while proponents of pitchers hitting will talk about the need for pitchers to be “well-rounded athletes” who “can do everything well,” you’ll NEVER hear anyone suggest that hitters should be similarly well-rounded and, therefore, be good pitchers.

    I don’t understand why pitchers are expected to perform their roles competently– a role which is incredibly demanding and requires not just athletic ability and a unique skillset, but also requires a great deal of work to maintain such a high-level of performance *while* simultaneously keeping oneself healthy–while *also* taking on the additional burden of doing everything a position player can do well, in no-small part to having the time (and motivation) to improve those skills constantly. Yet all position players need to do in order to be hailed as “well rounded athletes” is field and hit, and they don’t even necessarily have to do both particularly well.

    I sense more than a little double-standard there.

  • CMB

    The other logical conclusion to reach is that AL pitchers should run the bases more often. Getting rid of the DH would eliminate the rule difference between the leagues.

    Running the bases is just part of the game. If Derek Jeter didn’t have to run the bases, he wouldn’t have hurt his shoulder a few years ago. Sh*t happens.

    • The Fallen Phoenix

      Running the bases is part of the game for position players. It’s not part of the game for pitchers–running the bases does not equate at *all* with what a pitcher’s job is, namely, to retire the opposing batter in whatever manner he can.

      Similarly, trying to throw a ball within a box that’s a few inches by a few inches without allowing it to be hit in play beyond the reach of a team’s fielders is not part of the game for position players. Rightfully so, position players are not expected to perform a pitcher’s duties *at all*, competently or not.

      So why make pitchers responsible for a position player’s duties at all? Let them pitch and field, and let them pitch and field *well*, and remove the possibility of injuring themselves (or likely sub-par performance) while they attempt to perform a task they don’t train for, don’t perform for, and indeed, haven’t developed the requisite skillset for.

      • Glen L

        Catchers have relatively dissimilar duties from other position players, at least in the same way that pitchers do … pitchers still have to make plays on the field .. yet catchers still bat

        • The Fallen Phoenix

          That’s absolutely right, but I think a catcher’s unique defensive duties don’t quite compare to the talent and work required to hone a pitcher’s unique defensive duties.

          Pitchers have, and always will be, pitchers first, whatever else they do (hitting, fielding) second. When a pitcher is considered for Hall of Fame honors, how successful a hitter or baserunner he was is *never* a question. A pitcher’s value is entirely tied up in his ability to pitch.

          Position players, on the other hand, whether they play the infield, the outfield, or catcher, have two equally important duties: their play in the field, and their play in the batter’s box. While the necessary skills to be a good hitter and a good fielder are not seamlessly complementary–and in no way am I trying to suggest that they are–the fact remains that position players can, and have, been successful at developing the skills necessary to field *and* hit successfully, regardless of position.

          Pitchers, on the other hand, simply haven’t demonstrated that ability. The pitchers who *are* successful hitters are far-and-away the exception and not the rule, and I think that speaks a great deal to the amount of time and effort necessary to hone the skills necessary to be a great pitcher. Period. End of story.

          I’m not saying that there is no place for a successful two-way player in the game. As a matter of fact, I’d love to see the DH rule ammended so that it does not have to stand in place for the pitcher, but for any position player. Alternatively, I’d have no problem abolishing the DH rule entirely and simply having lineups be eight-persons deep.

          It just seems absurd to expect a pitcher to accomplish duties other than his own with anything than borderline mediocrity. And the reality is, we don’t even do that! If a pitcher can hit above .100, it’s usually hailed as some sort of accomplishment. By-and-large, even when pitchers are provided the opportunity to “show their well-roundedness,” they fail. A lot.

          And at bottom, you’re not asking a pitcher to display “well-roundedness,” you’re expecting a pitcher to be able to perform two disparate jobs; one he trains his entire professional career for, and the other, he does not. And even if you abolished the DH in every league, even if you had pitchers practice hitting and baserunning in the minors, do you really think they’d have pitchers dedicate the same time and effort to hitting and baserunning that everyone else, even catchers, do?

          • Glen L

            I completely understand that line of reasoning and your points have a great deal of merit and common sense woven throughout

            my point is, while pitchers are not judged on their hitting nor are they usually good at it, they ARE a defender and a player on the team … I don’t like that the sport gives them a free pass at something they are crappy at

            With that said, I do agree there’s no chance of the AL getting rid of the DH because of the union, and I also imagine the majority of fans disagree with my sentiment and would prefer to see the DH remain, if not instituted in the NL as well

            I guess i’m just one of those old-fashioned 25 year olds haha

            • The Fallen Phoenix

              And we’re right back where we started, when I ask why, if pitchers aren’t given a free pass for their hitting (and lack of ability thereof), hitters are given a free pass for their pitching (and lack of ability thereof)!

              I can be a traditionalist at times; certainly my personal lifestyle choices reflect someone who was probably born a few centuries too late, but that’s a story for another time. I can certainly understand your sentiment, and I can certainly understand why animosity towards the DH, and–more generally–against pitchers who do not hit, has fostered for so long.

              I just happen to think that, while this sentiment is easily understood, it’s just not a particularly compelling argument.

              In my opinion, at least.

              • Glen L

                I think your statement analogizing pitchers not hitting to hitters (read position players) not pitching is slightly off-base

                It would be more akin to giving pitchers a free pass at not playing center field, or third base, or catcher

                Or why give the first basemen a free pass at not playing shortstop

                • The Fallen Phoenix

                  I disagree, because pitching is an activity that is so far removed from “traditional” fielding, and an activity that requires as much time and effort to develop (perhaps more) than hitting does. The transition from one position to another, while difficult, is much easier than the transition from a hitter to a pitcher, or even a pitcher to a hitter.

                  I think the *nearest* analogy to a pitcher:non pitcher would be a catcher:non catcher (as you’ve already mentioned), but again, I think the skill requirements for a successful major league pitcher are more stringent than the skill requirements than a successful major league catcher.

                  In fact, many players who reach the major leagues begin their pro careers further north of the defensive spectrum than they end up in the majors, while very, very few will make the majors as a pitcher if developed as a non-pitcher, or a non-pitcher if developed as a pitcher. Granted, it happens in exceptional circumstances, but those are the exceptions, not the rule.

                  General rule is, as I’ve repeatedly attempted to maintain, the duties and responsibilities of pitchers and non-pitchers are so disparate, you cannot expect either one to cover for the other, and our expectation for traditional position players not to provide value in pitching roles is the correct (and natural) one. Our expectation for pitchers to provide value in non-pitching (traditional position player) roles, such as hitting and baserunning, is the abberation.

                  Bernie Go Boom further elucidates below the point I’ve been trying to make; I’m simply using the pitcher:non-pitcher dichotomy to demonstrate the disconnect between our expectations for both types of baseball players, as well as to demonstrate that there exists a serious, and real, dichotomy there.

  • Glen L

    A Pitcher is a defender on the field of play, he plays a position, fields balls and covers bases

    The DH in 1973 was a marketing gimmick like interleague is today … its a SPORT, the pitchers shouldn’t be coddled

    I would completely abolish the DH in the AL, the minors, college, everywhere

    Anti-baseball people complain about how ball players are pussies, constantly getting hurt in a sport with basically no contact, blah blah blah .. this is a silly argument … but seriously .. we can’t have pitchers bat??

    • Rich

      I’m fine with abolishing the DH, but until that’s done (or unless the NL adds it), there is a problem with some pitchers not knowing how to properly touch the bag with their foot as they round the bases.

      I think the reason the AL added the DH was to increase runs scored.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos

      MLB has a union. DH’s are generally big hitters making big money. There’s no way the union would allow the league to destroy 14 high-paying positions so that they could be replaced with extra middle-relievers or utility infielders.

    • Chris

      And maybe we should force football teams to play their players on both offense and defense? How come Eli can’t play linebacker?

  • LiveFromNewYork

    I find it frustrating that Wang was hurt doing something he has hardly ever done. He IS our ace and he was damaged doing something we don’t expect him to do. That is what sucks so much.

    Moose said pitchers are conditioned and they can run but they are not expected to run bases and don’t have a lot of practice stepping on the bag.

    Wang looked terribly uncomfortable out there on the bases…but he’s a gamer and he was trying his best. That he got hurt is really a tough thing to swallow.

    I thought Bruney’s injury was unfortunate and freaky but he was doing what he is paid to do and trained to do and it happened. How did Phil get hurt or Kennedy? Who knows?

    But we saw Wang get hurt and the fact that he got hurt doing something he really doesn’t know how to do after pitching brilliantly for six innings (the thing he is paid to do and does well) is really frustrating.

    I think the whole Interleague play thing is stupid when it’s not the local team. New Yorkers love the subway series but there’s no reason for us to be playing the Astros in regular season.

    It obviously pumped up the attendance at their park and took down our ace. Nice turn of events. Thanks so much.

  • tommiesmithjohncarlos

    Interleague play is an unqualified success. Sorry, but CMW suffering a freak injury related to him doing something he doesn’t do often is not justification for impugning a baseball innovation that has brought new fans and new revenue streams into the game. Interleague play lets Mets fans and Yankee fans have bragging rights every year and allows fans in smaller markets to get to come see the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Braves, Cubs, etc. in person. For a sport that needs to worry about doing the right thing to continue to draw in young fans or risk becoming irrelevant, abandoning interleague play would be incredibly stupid.

    I do concur with Hank, though… having a DH in one league and no DH in the other is also incredibly stupid. Arcane territorialisms like this are one of the reasons the sport remains inaccessible to casual fans. Baseball should venerate and honor its history, but not be held hostage to it. Basketball added the 3 point shot and many bitched and moaned, but it ultimately made the game better and more accessible.

    And adding the DH to the NL makes more sense, from a competitive, labor-relations, historical, and quality of play standpoint than trying to kill the DH in the NL. You won’t win that battle, so don’t fight it.

    • Andy in Sunny Daytona Beach

      That’s what she said…..

  • Troy142

    I would like to see the owners use the DH in the National League as a bargaining chip in the next round of union negotiations. Draft slotting systems, increased drug testing, trading draft picks, non-guaranteed contracts (ok, I can dream), or whatever the owners think they need. Getting the union to drop the DH in the AL is the definition of impossible. The game of baseball has changed rules many times since the mid 1850 to increase scoring. There was even a big debate in the late teens about the sanctity of the game because Babe Ruth was trying to hit home runs instead of sacrifices prefered by the Ty Cobb crowd. Good thing we didn’t listen. The sky won’t fall if pitchers never bat again.

    • Chris

      Except I’m not certain that the union is the only one holding up the move to the DH. I don’t know for a fact, but I would guess that Bud dislikes it, considering the way he engineered the Brewers leaving the AL to go to the NL…

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos

        Bud is the commissioner of Major League Baseball, so he serves as the voice of the OWNERS, not of BASEBALL. Owners are anti DH because eliminating the DH will save them money.

        Bud volunteering his own team to be the sacrificial lamb in the AL-NL swap was his entrance dues to becoming the full-fledged commissioner, nothing more. Had nothing to do with his position or lack thereof on the DH.

  • mike

    who wants to see a batter who is most certainly a sub-.200 hitter who can neither walk, nor steal a base nor do much more than sacrifice bunt for 10% of the at-bats I watch a year?

    For all the talk of the game – its the personalities which let you speak to your kids/ younger folks and pass along the game’s heritage.

    I, for one, would have loved to have Mantle or Mays squeeze out a few more years so I could have seen them swing at a live game, and I thank the DH for being able to see Reggie / Aaron /Yaz play a few more years, giving millions of fans the ability to enjoy their contributions.

    Who would have remembered the at-bat Mike Witt would have taken? How many fond memories do you have of a pitcher’s at bat ?? Give me Reggie taking a big swing every time!

  • Joe

    2 Things – A. Haven’t most rules of baseball been around since the 1800’s? Please think before speaking Hank! B. While I agree it stinks that Wang got hurt running the bases, he could have just as easily been injured covering first. Just a freak thing. Enough already.

  • Yankee Clipper

    How about doing away with interleague play? Nobody cares about it except the teams in NY and Chicago, who actually have intra-city rivals. I don’t count the Angels and the Dodgers. Even in those two cities I think interest is waning. It was something to get the fans interested in the game again after the strike. It has run its course.

    • LiveFromNewYork

      The Astros sold out their stadium for the first time when the Yankees came to town and some tickets were being scalped for over 2000.00 when the highest face value is less than $100.

      Not only do the Yankees and a paltry few other teams pay luxury tax and revenue sharing but they bring plenty of people to opposing team’s parks. No matter how much the rest of MLB and Selig hate the Yankees, they are the best thing that baseball has to drive revenue.

      They want the Yankees in as many parks as they can get them into and Interleague will never end.

  • LiveFromNewYork

    And despite the Yankees contribution to baseball in revenue they are given this horrendous road schedule where they’re playing night games on get away days and then day games the next morning. They have one of the worst schedules in the MLB.

  • brad k

    Forget about Wang for a minute and take a look at Inter-League play. Why do we do this in the first place. Oh right so teams like Huston can gouge their fans by as mush as 50% over regular season ticket prices when the Yanks come to town. What do the Yanks get in return? The loss of one of their hitters for 3 games. What do the Astro’s get when they come to NY…an extra hitter. It’s as if the MLB Marketeers who drew this plan up simply ignored the fact that there are significant differences between the NL & AL.

    It’s not just the investment teams make in pitchers, although that clearly factors in, but also the investment AL teams have in the DH. Often the DH is an expensive and integral part of the offense. Can you think of another situation except the WS where one team is required to forgo a key member of the offense in order to play a game on the opposing teams field? It’s obvious that the NL team is capable and willing to filed the extra hitter in the AL park so why not make that a rule across the board? Oh wait maybe we should add that to the list of spoils for the All Star winner.

    The MLB has backed itself into another one of those corners with this whole idea. Just kill interleague and be done with it.

    On a separate note:

    Why is it that RAB seems intent on attacking the Steinbrenner family? Where do you think the Yankees would be with another owner? Lets say someone like Tom Hicks or Ewing Kauffman or better yet how about Robert Nutting? Or maybe you would prefer a family like the Wilpons. Hank maybe a loud mouth like his father but if you are old enough to remember the days before George bought the team you might have a different take on things. Lay off.

  • http://nyyu.blogspot.com/ Mike @ NYYU

    21st century, only the NL lets pitchers hit. Hank is right.

    How can an NL team use the DH in the minors then expect their pitchers to hit when the come to the majors?

    • Glen L

      But then you lose interesting facets of NL ball … double switches, pinch hitting for the pitcher in general, what to have the pitcher do when he comes up to bat in different out/runner scenarios in various innings

      on an intellectual level, its (IMHO) more interesting to have a pitcher bat (even if he bats .187)

  • http://www.johnhanna.blogspot.com Bernie Goes Boom

    I don’t think Wang’s injury necessarily makes the case for the DH rule; but it presents a circumstance allowing for the discussion.

    The DH was and is an excellent rule change that the NL “purists” won’t permit. I know a number of people who regard themselves as “progressives,” who, when it comes to pitchers hitting, suddenly start acting as it were an eternal law written into the fabric of the universe.

    Pitchers can’t hit. Each time a pitcher comes to the plate, we observe a non-MLB caliber competition take place. There’s nothing at all interesting about having the 7-hitter smack a double with 2 outs, sending the guy on first to third, then watching the 8-hitter intentionally walked so that the pitcher can strike out on 4 pitches.

    Yes, I know pitchers get a fluke hit once in a while that gets people excited the way I recently did watching my one-year old take his first steps. But the reaction only serves to substantiate the fact that no one actually takes pitchers seriously as hitters.

    Pitchers also can’t run the bases. The only thing anyone hopes when a pitcher is on base is that he won’t get in the way of any runner that comes up behind, doesn’t tire himself out to pitch the next inning and (yes) that he doesn’t get hurt.

    The idea that pitchers not hitting makes them incomplete ballplayers is tired rhetoric. The fact of the matter is that a pitcher controls the outcome of each game he participates in in a way no one else on the field does. The essence of the game is the pitcher-hitter matchup. Pitchers are rightly evaluated on their ability to pitch and not on a bunch of either stuff they, as athletes, do awkwardly and, quite frankly, embarassingly.

    As for “strategy,” the double switch and all its variations are not that complicated and not really interesting. In addition, a pitcher should stay or leave the game based on his pitching effectiveness and not whether his spot happens to be coming up in the batting order.

    In the days when the NL was ascendant, it was somewhat understandable that the league’s high self-regard would cause it to look askance at the DH. But now that the NL has been getting abused (not because of the absence of a DH) every which way for the past 15 years, maybe a little humility and reasonableness are in order.

    • monkeypants

      Hey, you posted this exact same comment on Bronx Banter, or you plagiarized it from Jorgie Juiced One. You’re cool.

      • http://www.johnhanna.blogspot.com Bernie Goes Boom

        Excuse me, Mr. Pants, but I may have to report you for stalking.

        Actually, I was hoping to elicit a bit more of a response here. But apparently the folks on River Ave in particular find my musings as relevant as those in the Bronx in general. Nevertheless, I continue to have a high opinion of my opinion (shocker), since it obviously makes an airtight case for the DH (in my opinion).

        • monkeypants

          I responded to your post on Bronx Banter, but you were silent after that.

          • http://www.johnhanna.blogspot.com Bernie Goes Boom

            I was away for a while, and by the time I returned it was clear that what the Yankees should do to replace Wang was the predominant topic.

            I think your point about the number of pitchers on the roster was somewhat off point. Basically, you’re of the opinion that the pitcher should be treated in the same manner as any other position player. While I think the starkly unique character of his role in the field and incompetence batting/running makes a compelling case for the DH.

  • http://amvassallo@gmail.com Tony V

    Two comments:

    I don’t like the d.h. I never have and I had the honor to watch the very first game that featured the inept fielder Ron Blomberg batting for the Yankees. The d.h. is a lame excuse to keep overweight, unathletic players who can only hit (can you hear me Edgar Martinez and David Ortiz) in baseball. It was poorly conceived as a solution to the hitting woes in the late 60’s and early 70’s. It would be like the NFC taking away the blitz to improve the passing game while the AFC keeps it.

    Also, Wang’s injury proves another point about baseball players as athletes — the guy breaks his foot running the bases. What a sissy. It’s bad enough to think that most baseball players are about as athletic as fire hydrants but Wang takes the case. Do you ever see lumbering defensive linemen break their foot when running with a fumble? Oh, you might say, he wasn’t running a straight line! Really, unless he has osteoporosis, he should be able to maneuver a run around the bases. If a player like Keith Hernandez can sit in the dugout smoking cigarettes like a chimney and be considered an all-star, then that’s all you have to say about baseball players being athletes.

    Hockey players, basketball players, tennis players, football players, soccer players, rugby players, WNBA players must be laughing their asses off.

    • pete c.

      Tony V actually Michael Strahan had the same injury about 3 seasons ago, and lo and behold he’s a defensive lineman.

  • pete c.

    Don’t harbor resentment toward the NL harbor resentment toward Bud Selig for interleague play and the unbalanced schedule. Both are a disgrace.