Now that the All-Star Game is over we have officially passed the half way mark for baseball season. Amazing. It feels like we just started and here we go around the bend heading toward fall. The Dodgers are having a fabulous year (I hope that statement doesn't jinx it. I know it doesn't take much to alter the Dodger juju).
Justin Turner and Clayton Kershaw are breaking records and Alex Wood, Joc Pederson, Corey Seager, and Kenley Jansen are all performing in high gear. Meanwhile, the new kid on the block, Cody Bellinger, at just 21 years old, continues to amaze and delight fans and holds all the promise for great things to come in future seasons.
We all miss Vinnie, but Joe Davis' play-by-play has actually gotten better lately. When he first started he spoke in boring monotones that almost put me to sleep, now his voice modulation has really improved and he is sounding much more engaged with the game and his audience. I don't know if someone (Scully?) talked to him or if he realized it on his own, but the change in his tone has made a real difference.
I just don't know why we need two (or sometimes three or more) people talking about the game at the same time we're watching it being played. I happen to enjoy the suspense and gamesmanship of each pitch and each play of a game. Listening to a color announcer drone on about things other than what is going on directly on the field at any given time is aggravating and takes me out of the moment. I'd prefer to simply listen to Joe calling the pitches and the plays with a bit of human interest and history thrown in from time to time. You know, like Vin Scully did for almost 70 years.
People are still talking about shortening the length of the games.
Last year all sorts of changes were proposed to speed things up but as far as I can tell, nothing has taken root or made a difference. They considered limiting the number of visits by coaches and managers to the pitcher's mound. They suggested putting pitchers on a time limit between pitches (even so far as using a pitch clock). They considered banning infield shifts. They thought about limiting the times a batter could step out of the box.
This year the big idea on how to shorten games is to actually cut the play time on the field to seven innings from nine. That would change "the seventh inning stretch" from getting up to sing "Take me out to the Ballgame," to a stretch to the parking lot to leave the ballpark entirely. We could sing "Take me HOME from the Ballgame" as we drive out.
I don't think too many real baseball fans will go along with the seven innings suggestion. Turning Major League baseball into nothing more than a series of Little League games isn't a viable option.
A recent piece in The Wall Street Journal by former baseball commissioner, Fay Vincent said it best in my opinion. "Baseball is the only major sport without a clock," he wrote. "Baseball and time creep along side by side, yet never intersect. The game is played only in the present. Baseball is never about yesterday or tomorrow. What happened yesterday is done. We know we cannot take tomorrow for granted. Today's game is all that matters."
Then he said, "Baseball exists outside time." And my wife reminded me of another thing that is unique to baseball, she said baseball is the only major sport where the current players and the old-timers happily interact and respect one another.
And sure enough, at the last Dodger game before the All-Star break, Sandy Koufax sat in the stands watching as Clayton Kershaw tossed a six-hitter against Kansas City to become the majors' first 14-game winner.
Kershaw struck out 13 on 99 pitches, becoming the first pitcher in major league history to strike out at least that many in a complete game with fewer than 100 pitches.
"I wanted to do it for him," Kershaw said referring to Koufax. Kershaw and Koufax have become quite close, even going out to dinner together from time to time. "It was a good way to end the first half," he said after his first complete game of the season and 25th of his career. "It felt good to get out there and finish a game."
Clayton wanted to do it for Sandy. That's respect. That's love. And that's baseball.
Oh sure, it may take a little longer to play than other sports, but it's so worth it.