Thursday, November 12, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 11-11-20: Brief Everett Update, High Velocity Forever?, Reading History

1. The best news of the day: Christy spent several hours visiting with Everett after they hadn't seen each other for about a week and a half. Christy reports that Everett was in good spirits today. He enjoyed listening to Christy's news about Riley, things around the house, and other things and was an active participant in their conversations. Everett is retaining fluids, though.  I'm hoping to be able to provide a fuller update of this situation in a later blog post. 

2. I finished listening to the audio production of K: A History of Baseball in 10 Pitches. Along with finding the book's stories about players past and present fascinating and along with enjoying reliving certain moments in baseball history and imagining others play out in my mind, I think what I learned from this book about different pitches and how they travel to the plate, how they move side to side or up and down, will help me watch games with a sharper, more informed eye. 

This book also made me wonder if the current obsession baseball scouts, general managers, and owners have with pitchers' velocity will, one day, fade. How long will we see games featuring three, four, or more pitchers per nine innings, all pitching limited innings, so that they can throw pitches over 95 mph, one batter after another, never (rarely) seeing a batter more than twice in a game? 

Kepner's book reminded me that pitching has passed through other phases in the past. In the 1980s, thanks in large part to the influence of Roger Craig, the split finger fastball was all the rage. The pitch never stopped being used, but it gained a reputation for injuring pitchers' arms and fell out of favor. Likewise, the success of the Yankees' indomitable Mariana Rivera and his bat-breaking cutter inspired a surge in this pitch's popularity. Like the split-finger fastball, the cutter never stopped being thrown, but its use declined in the 2010s. For one thing, no one mastered the pitch like Rivera had and, in addition, hitters began to adjust to it, often waiting for a pitcher to heave a misfired cutter that would hang out over the plate, a mistake power hitters feasted on.

Many of the great pitchers over the years have not had stunning velocity. And some pitchers -- let's take Frank Tanana as an example -- started their careers as high velocity, overpowering pitchers, suffered arm trouble, and reinvented themselves as pitchers who relied on craftiness, pinpoint control, cerebral knowledge of hitters, and a variety of speed and different ways of moving their pitches up and down and in and out to baffle hitters.

I hope, in its lust for high velocity pitchers who also have one or two secondary pitches, that Major League Baseball doesn't render pitchers like Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Juan Marichal, Tommy John, Rich Hill, and many other low velocity pitchers obsolete, pitchers whose success lay in their ability to keep hitters off balance and fool them, not overpower them. 

Having listened to this book, I immediately reserved myself a copy at the public library. Now I'd like to go back and read and reread sections, sections I found especially instructive and others I found entertaining.

3. I changed gears later in the day. I'd read a thick book of historical fiction, The Pillars of the Earth; I read an absorbing baseball book, K; I decided to turn to history next. I subscribe to Boston College's Prof. Heather Cox Richardson's daily "Letter to America" and I enjoy her perspective and the clarity of her writing. Recently, she published a book entitled, How the South Won the Civil War. Cox is not arguing that the South won the Civil War militarily; she does, however, argue that prominent ideologies of the South prevailed (and prevail) in the United States, especially with western expansion. I've read her introduction and am quite a ways into her first chapter and I'm enjoying the clarity of her writing and the development of her thesis. I'm also enjoying an experiment: this is the first time reading a book on Kindle while simultaneously listening to it on audible. Heather Cox Richardson is the book's reader on audible. I've listened to her several times on Facebook Live and on YouTube and I'm enjoying listening to her reading  this book aloud. 

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