Spring Training thoughts

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged and I owe several of you for your kind comments reacting to my posts. It’s a fun way to connect with you, and I’m sorry I can’t take the time to answer all of your questions.

Spring Training is winding down and the season openers will be here this week. I still think we are losing that special feeling baseball has had over the years of having the first opener in the daytime in Cincinnati and the others a day later. In Japan? And at night? Stop it! Forgive me for being so traditionally minded. I’m all for progress that is in the best interest in the game, but this is not it for me. I know, TV swings the hammer and I have made a nice living from talking baseball on TV but I still think there could be some compromise instead of always deciding in favor of the financial benefits and not common sense. My grandchildren will never know how special Opening Day of baseball season should be because of the current approach. Okay, I’m off my soapbox.

How about the ridiculous injuries suffered by players this spring! I wouldn’t even mow my own lawn with a power mower because of the injury former lefty, Curt Simmons, suffered in the 50s. Nipped off some toes mowing his lawn. I remember Bobby Grich, All-Star second baseman, who signed a lucrative contract with the Angels and injured his back carrying an air conditioner up the stairs. Please guys, think about your career and your team and the investment the organization has in you before you do things that could ruin your life and your career — or your career and your life. Either way.

I enjoyed playing a little raquetball and basketball in the offseason, but it was for conditioning and recreation and I felt like I was in pretty good control of my actions.

Too much emphasis on stats, scores, and radar gun readings. Who cares? My point of reference would be the spring of 1975. One of my last spring starts befoe the season started was against the Red Sox in Winter Haven, Florida. Chuck Tanner had to take me out in the 2nd inning. I was hoping to go six or seven. Gave up nine runs, three or four home runs. Deron Johnson hit two, I think maybe Jim Rice and Freddy Lynn had one also. All the infielders played a few steps deeper than normal. Outfielders were out of breath chasing down the extra base hits.We all had a good laugh about it. I was 36 years old.

Today some would be up in arms saying things like “Is his velocity way down?” “Is his career coming to an end?” I started that season 5-0, went to 9-1 and then 13-5 at the All Star break and made the 1975 All star team.Do any of you Cardinal fans remember what David Freese‘s spring stats were in 2011?

My point is, the wind blows out in a lot of ballparks in Florida in the spring. Fly balls become home runs. Pitchers are just getting their arms conditioned. There is no incentive to win a game. It’s just practice, for crying out loud. Don’t worry about stats and wins and radar gun readings.

Let’s start paying attention when the bell rings, which for me is the first game in Cincinnati, no matter what the schedule says. I’m prepping for my season opener, which will be April 12 on MLB Network with Bob Costas. Marlins at Phillies. Hope it’s Halladay vs. Johnson.
PLAY BALL!!

12 Comments

did the fist game of a new season, always open in Cincinnati?

I agree, the youth are messing out on day games, traditional doubleheaders, world series day games during the week. Wish MLB would do that more often.

Good hearing from you Kitty.

Hi Jim, I feel very lucky to have discovered your blog. As a kid growing up in Up-State New York in the 50’s I always looked forward to Opening Day! Gene Woodling was my hero in those days. Did you ever pitch against him & what can you tell me about him? Looking forward to your next post!

Kitty….I was 12 in 1982 when you were a big part of the Cardinan pen. Have been a huge fan ever since and absolutely LOVE your opinions on the game. Wish I could see you more on play by play. You are a true throwback with amazing perspective. Thanks so much for all you have given us over the yrs.

I was 12 yrs old when you were a big part of the Cardinals WS champion bullpen in 1982. Been a huge fan ever since. Not just because you were a player but because you are so insightful. Absolutely love to hear your opinions. Whenever I know you are doing a game on MLB Network I tune in. Miss you on the old CBS broadcasts with Jack Buck. Just wish we hear you more. A true throwback that can bridge the eras. Thanks for all you do.

whoops…thought the first one didn’t post. sorry to repeat

Jim,

This is the first I’ve read your blog (didn’t know you had one until today!) and I’ll be following you going forward.

I happen to agree with you on the daytime Cincinnati opener. Cincy’s distinguished as the first professional baseball club, and long had been the tradition of Opening Day starting in Cincinnati. At age 37, perhaps I’m somewhere between the new generations and those of your own, yet I place value on tradition in baseball in order to honor the many, many players and years that have passed since professional major league baseball began.

When I see 49 year old Jamie Moyer become the number 2 starter for the Rockies this spring, it really brings a smile to my face and reminds me of your statement about spring training… it’s practice! Stats don’t matter, velocity doesn’t matter unless a guy is hurting (e.g. Pineda). Spring training is and should be about getting reps in, establishing the routine, working on the feel of pitches (especially if you have added a new pitch or changed mechanics or the grip on the ball for a particular pitch).

Getting a glimpse of the Curt Simmons mower tale, I smile at the many, many stories all current and former players eventually accumulate. It’s a rich tapestry of Americana, the tales of this player here, that moment there,

Here’s to hoping you get a call to Cooperstown as the great player you were! For all the naysayers out there, longevity definitely counts. The fact you transitioned from starter to reliever successfully late in your career just shows how talented a pitcher you were and your ability to adjust in a game of adjustments. How many pitchers are good enough to even be afforded the opportunity to switch to a relief role?

Six pitchers are ahead of you in career wins while still being below 300 victories. Of those, two (Bobby Mathews and Tony Mullane) pitched prior to the Gold Glove award. Of the remaining 4, 3 are already in the Hall of Fame (Fergie Jenkins, Robin Roberts, and Bert Blyleven). The other pitcher is one whose career is one to whom your career is compared – Tommy John. None of those 4 pitchers ever won a Gold Glove, and you won 14 straight!

It’s difficult when writers ask the question “Was this player the dominant player at his position for a decade?”. When you are a contemporary of both Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson, writers look at those numbers and see the greatness of those players and seem to miss the fact that you had longevity neither of those players possessed.

In closing, I just want to add my voice to those who support your enshrinement in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and to way attention to what you say about our national pasttime.

Regards,
Marc C

I played baseball from LL to Div III college. As far as initial training goes It seems to me that batting requires timing just as the pitchers require loosening, But once you learn to field you just don’t lose that.

Apropos of nothing, I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed reading “Still Pitching” a few years back. It was very enjoyable and I’d have to put it up there near the top of all the baseball books I’ve read. Jim Kaat is one of my favorite pitchers, commentators and, yes, writers. I used to love him on the Yankee games. Miss him a lot. I watched him pitch against the Dodgers live in ’65 (?). Great body of work, Jim. If I had anything to do with it, you’d be in the HOF (shame?)

Enjoyed those Sunday doubleheaders when you and Joel Horlen would have those 2-1 games. YOU were a man among boys most of thetime. Greatmemories.

Kitty….great to see and hear you again! Reminder of the “tough luck” days!!!

Kitty, I agree with you about how Opening Day has lost something since they abandoned the Cincinatti day game tradition in favor of revenues. Aren’t there any values left besides the dollar? As a big Twins fan since Oliva’s rookie year – I enjoy seeing the superb Jim Kaat in the broadcast booth. Compliments, Ross Vachon, Malibu, CA

I don’t mean to age you Kitty, but I was your biggest fan back when you pitched for the Phillies. I was about 11 or 12 at the time. I wrote a letter to the column of one of the writers for the Press of Atlantic City telling him how I thought you should be an All-Star that year (I think you started out about 5-1 or 6-2 that year at the time.) The columnist brought my letter to you to answer and it was the biggest thrill of my young life! You, of course, were modest and was talking about Tug McGraw having a great year and being worthy. But I always appreciated it and think about it everytime I see you on TV or read about you. I’m glad I found your blog and just signed up. Thanks again for being such a great person!

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