Baseball: a veritable anatomy lesson
One thing I find myself doing on occasion here in Germany is defending baseball to Europeans who find it boring. I don’t try very hard; my evangelical streak wanes as I age, and, frankly, I love baseball and don’t really need anyone else to like it. If, however, you like baseball, read on.
A few years back, I got sucked into fantasy baseball (curse you, Beau!) and find that it speaks to the analytical/number-crunching side of my brain. It’s also no-stakes gambling, so that factors into the appeal, too. Hmm, what if I pick up Gavin Floyd … will his next start stink as bad as his last one? That kind of question can occupy me for 10 minutes as I delve into past performance, etc.
One thing that fantasy baseball has taught me, or better put made clearer to me, since I’ve long known this about baseball, is that some baseball players are the fitness equivalent of the Michelin man, or of that guy next door who plays a few rounds of golf a month. In other words, pretty sorry. Never engage in a fitness contest with serious football players, hockey players, or hoopsters–they will beat you down every time, let alone what a triathlete or a climber could do. Baseball players, not so much. Granted, there are some super all-around athletes in baseball, probably many of them, but it’s ultimately a game that relies a lot on some pretty narrowly defined skills. Hitting curveballs, picking up 95 mph fastballs, painting the outside corner, digging a ball out of the dirt, judging a towering fly ball’s landing point: these are skills not everyone has nor can learn.
Sure, baseball players work out. Even a pitcher like David Wells, a lumbering blob of a man, surely hit the weight room to keep his arm in shape. It’s the general fitness that seems to be a bit lacking. My heavens, today it’s a strained oblique, tomorrow it’s a torn triceps, and the next day someone is having the fine connective tissues in their elbow/wrist/shoulder sewn back together. While I appreciate the ongoing anatomy lesson, would it hurt to focus, perhaps, a bit more on general fitness. 162 games is no joke, one must take that into account, but hockey players play 82, and if they make the playoffs a bunch more, and having played both sports I would say that one hockey game equals about ten baseball games in terms of physical abuse. Yet hockey players grind out game after game for the most part.
It’s not just the injury reports that point toward a need for better and more intelligent fitness training. Just watch the next game and count the beer guts and pudgy butts. They abound! Were I a GM investing millions of dollars in the future performance of players, I would surely like to see them eat better and keep those pounds off.
UPDATE: After I wrote this I thought maybe I had gone a little hard on ballplayers. Thankfully, this bit from today’s baseball news assured me I had it right:
“I’m not going to lie,” the 31-year-old shortstop said. “I got to third base and said, ‘I’m getting old.”’
31 and too old to run the bases four times in one game? Really.