Everybody already assumed as much, but Cardinals general manager John
Mozeliak finally confirmed it on Saturday when he said his willingness
to hire Mark McGwire as the team’s new hitting coach was contingent upon him addressing his past use of performance enhancing drugs:
“He needed to be honest,” Mozeliak told the media during a press
conference at the 14th annual Winter Warm-Up. “He needed to say more
than just that statement, ‘I’m not here to talk about the past.’ … He
needed to not have a line or a sentence that he was going to stand
This isn’t much of a revelation, of course, but in a surprising moment
of candor, Mozeliak said that he was ready to develop an “exit
strategy” if McGwire did not agree to an appearance to answer questions:
“My concern was early on in this process that we would never get
there,” Mozeliak said. “I had a lot of concerns. How it would be said,
and what would be said. … We had to have more than we had in 2005.”
While “coming clean” has found McGwire new employment, it probably won’t make a difference as far as the Hall of Fame is concerned.
The New York Times surveyed 35 Hall of Fame voters, and found that his
confession won’t make a difference with those who have voted against
him in the past. If anything, writes David Waldstein, “McGwire might
lost a vote or two.”
“Work fast and throw strikes” has long been the top conventional wisdom for those preaching pitching success. The “work fast” part of that has increasingly gone by the wayside, however, as pitchers take more and more time to throw pitches in an effort to max out their effort and, thus, their velocity with each pitch.
Now, as Ben Lindbergh of The Ringer reports, the “throw strikes” part of it is going out of style too:
Pitchers are throwing fewer pitches inside the strike zone than ever previously recorded . . . A decade ago, more than half of all pitches ended up in the strike zone. Today, that rate has fallen below 47 percent.
There are a couple of reasons for this. Most notable among them, Lindbergh says, being pitchers’ increasing reliance on curves, sliders and splitters as primary pitches, with said pitches not being in the zone by design. Lindbergh doesn’t mention it, but I’d guess that an increased emphasis on catchers’ framing plays a role too, with teams increasingly selecting for catchers who can turn balls that are actually out of the zone into strikes. If you have one of those beasts, why bother throwing something directly over the plate?
There is an unintended downside to all of this: a lack of action. As Lindbergh notes — and as you’ve not doubt noticed while watching games — there are more walks and strikeouts, there is more weak contact from guys chasing bad pitches and, as a result, games and at bats are going longer.
As always, such insights are interesting. As is so often the case these days, however, such insights serve as an unpleasant reminder of why the on-field product is so unsatisfying in so many ways in recent years.