Tom Seaver thinks pitchers today should be like him and his Hall of Fame friends

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This is in keeping with my observation from the other day that, when talking about the pitchers of yesteryear and their heavy work loads, people almost always talk about the exceptional and other-worldly talented, not the ones who never made it because their arms blew out.

Here’s Tom Seaver talking to Bill Madden of the Daily News about how today’s pitchers get hurt because they’re coddled, and how his generation (and the generation before) was not coddled and look how good they were:

“Take a look at all of them, Marichal, Jenkins, Spahn, what do you think made them successful?” Seaver asked. “They conditioned their arms by pitching more, not less, starting from when they signed their first contract. Jenkins threw 300 or more innings half a dozen (actually five) times. Same with Palmer, Carlton and Marichal. I keep going back to that (July 2, 1963) Marichal-Spahn game when they both pitched 16 innings and threw almost 500 pitches between them.

“Neither one of them had any adverse aftereffects from it.”

No, they didn’t. And that’s one of the things which made them absolutely incredible pitchers. It’s quite possible, however, that there are tons of anonymous guys who would have come up in the 50s and 60s and had great careers — or even good careers — but never did because they blew out their arms in Double-A or two years into their major league career and were done for.

The point isn’t that coddling pitchers is the way to prevent injuries. Obviously guys still get hurt, so Seaver’s points about coddling not being the answer could have a lot of validity to them. His point that we don’t know what’s going to lead to injuries certainly has validity, because we don’t. The point is that Hall of Famers like him and Marichal and others are not the best examples of a better way of doing things precisely because they were, by definition, exceptional.

I am certain there are pitchers in the game today who could log the innings that those guys did and be just fine. Felix Hernandez? Justin Verlander? CC Sabathia? There have to be several. But there are tons of guys who fate and physiology are not going to allow to do that, just as there are guys who pitched alongside Seaver back in the day who could not do it either without blowing out their arms.

Teams and doctors need to figure out how to help those guys. How to tailor workloads and physical regimens to — if possible — prevent catastrophic injuries from occurring. Maybe that is futile. Maybe there is absolutely no way to prevent this stuff. But I feel like it’s worth trying to do that with the best information and evidence we can rather than to just throw up our hands, say “there’s no hope” and immediately go back to four-man rotations and 300 inning workloads for everyone.

Because while that did work for Tom Seaver and Fergie Jenkins, it didn’t work for a lot of Joe Shlabotniks whose careers were over before they began thanks to blown out arms.

Derek Jeter: no longer the media’s darling

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There was a time, not too long ago, where the baseball press practically gave Derek Jeter awards for providing them no information whatsoever. As a player, he turned not answering questions into an art form. To the point where, eventually, the press just stopped asking him substantive questions almost entirely.

Unlike a lot of players who shut out the media, Jeter did it rather politely, so he did not get that passive aggressive treatment — or, occasionally, the aggressive-aggressive treatment — the press often gives uncommunicative players. To the contrary. He was positively lauded for his lack of communication. Lionized, even.

Take this column from Jeff Peralman at CNN.com from 2014, under the headline “Derek Jeter: Baseball’s Humble Hero”:

Throughout the first 18 seasons of his career, Jeter has often been labeled “dull” by the media. His answers to questions are unimaginative and full of cliché baseball nothingness blather. In hindsight, however, such lameness is almost to be admired. We live in an era where too many athletes feel as if they need to draw attention to themselves — for confidence, for commercials. If you’re not tweeting trash talk, you’re texting trash talk. Or making bold promises. Or demanding money or respect . . . he’s a guy who merely wanted to be a guy.

How about this from the New York Times around the time of his retirement:

Jeter’s ability to maintain a posture of sustained inscrutability — or, if you must, dignified comportment — has extended especially to the spoken word . . . he has played his best defense in front of his locker: catching every controversial question thrown to him and tossing it aside as if it were a scuffed ball unsuitable for play.

In a major league career that dates to the Clinton administration’s first term — he is the only Yankees shortstop a generation of fans has known — inquiring reporters have gathered around Jeter in the clubhouse thousands of times. He has maintained eye contact, answered nearly every question posed to him — and said nothing. This is not a complaint, but rather an expression of awe; of admiration, even. His batting average and fielding percentage aside, this kid from Kalamazoo, Mich., entered the New York meat grinder two decades ago and came out the other end looking as sharp as Joe DiMaggio’s suit.

This opinion of Jeter was pervasive throughout his career, but especially pronounced at its end of it. Jeter was deified by the press for saying nothing to the press. Praised for making the media’s job harder by the media itself. That’s pretty amazing when you think about it.

Times, however, have changed.

Some minor grumbling about Jeter’s non-answers to media questions began soon after he took over as Marlins co-owner. Ken Davidoff of the New York Post wrote a column about it all back in October, saying Jeter’s “Crash Davis Rules of Media Relations don’t apply anymore.” Not too many people echoed that at the time, probably because it came in the wake of a pretty boring introductory press conference and the stakes were pretty low. I did wonder at the time, though, if the media was waiting to turn on Jeter once he actually started making moves in his new role.

I think we can now say the answer to that is yes.

In the wake of the Giancarlo Stanton trade, a lot of baseball writers had a lot of questions for Derek Jeter. Jeter, however, decided that he didn’t even need to show up here at the Winter Meetings to answer them, despite the fact that he lives just a couple of hours away.

On Monday morning Buster Olney of ESPN made conspicuous note of it:

Later in the day Jeter deigned to talk to the media via a conference call. As usual, he said mostly nothing, but unlike 1997, 2007 or 2014 (a) he got testy about it; and (b) the press made a note of it:

They likewise noted when he passed the buck to someone below him on the org chart:

Last night I think a dam broke, and I don’t think Jeter will ever be able to sweet non-talk his way out criticism again. It all happened at a football game:

To sum up:

  • Jeter is now bad for not talking to the press;
  • Jeter is not lauded for his composure anymore; and
  • Jeter is being called out as a poor leader who does not face the music.

What a difference a few years and a change of role makes.

All of which, one would think, would make me at least a little happy. I mean, I’ll totally own up to rolling my eyes at the kid glove treatment Jeter got back when he played. About how his attributes, however great, were elevated even above their actual greatness and how his faults were, perversely, spun into attributes. You’d expect that, in light of that, I’d be sorta pleased that the tables have turned.

I’m not happy, though. Indeed, I have something approaching sympathy for Captian Jeets.

Why? Because, while I’d like to see him face the press, defend his moves as owner and explain his vision to Marlins fans everywhere, I know that he cannot. I know that he has no good answers to any of the questions he might be asked because the real answer to all of them is “hey, we need to make money for the ownership group and everything flows from that” and that’s not an answer he’s prepared to give.

Have some sympathy for Derek Jeter. He’s really in a tough, tough spot. Even if he put himself into it.