In R.I. baseball you better like pitcher's duels
On Monday afternoon, I got to leave the office early and take in the Cranston East-Cranston West baseball game at 1 p.m.
It was a nice change, having a game that early in the day, and it was the first of our inexplicable, back-to-back days in the mid-80’s. Suffice to say, I had no complaints about how I was spending my afternoon.
Sunglasses on, scorebook in hand, I sat in the bleachers for most of the game and watched a pitcher’s duel. West won the game 3-2.
It was exciting at the end, as West shortstop Rob DeCosta hit a walk-off solo home run in the bottom of the seventh to lift the Falcons to victory.
I walked on to the field to do my interviews, and I left soon afterwards thinking that I should be feeling pretty good about the way the whole day went. After all, a lot of other people were stuck inside working on a Monday afternoon, and I was sitting in the sun watching baseball.
But then I listened to my interviews and I realized why I was feeling a little bit unfulfilled – the interviews sounded exactly the same as all the other interviews I had done so far this baseball season.
And it finally dawned on me: every baseball game I’ve covered this year has been almost the same game, on loop.
They’ve all been pitcher’s duels.
Three-quarters of the questions I’ve asked, in every interview, seemed to revolve around how effective the pitcher was, how strong the defense was and whether or not the team has fully adjusted to the new BBCOR bats that replaced aluminum this season.
I’ve covered four baseball games so far this season. The East-West game was 3-2, Warwick Vets-Cranston East was 3-2 in extra innings, Johnston-Ponaganset was 5-4, but five runs were scored in the first inning, and Johnston-Woonsocket was 8-2, but the game was scoreless through the first four innings.
The home run that DeCosta hit on Monday was also the first long ball I’ve seen so far, whereas it wasn’t uncommon to see two or three in an inning just last year.
Remember that old commercial with Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, about how chicks dig the long ball? They’re going to have to start digging small ball, because the days of the long ball seem like a thing of the past.
The BBCOR bats, designed to slow down the speed at which the ball flies off the bat itself, are doing their job.
Unfortunately, it’s taken some of the more exciting aspects of the game away, although I’m not sure there was an alternative –aluminum bats were too dangerous.
But it’s a shame, because as much as people want to talk about the bats bringing baseball back to its small ball, National League-style roots, home runs and extra-base hits are just as much a part of the game as bunting and hit-and-runs.
It just all needs to be in moderation. Now, it’s completely slanted towards small ball.
West head coach Rob Malo told me after the game that he wouldn’t have hesitated to bunt his No. 4 or No. 5 hitters had the situation called for it.
And really, I don’t blame him. The odds of somebody pounding a ball out of the park – or even into the gap – are slim these days. The bats, coupled with the strength of kids only in high school, don’t allow for the power aspect of baseball to exist anymore in these parts.
Now I love a good pitcher’s duel. For my money, I would rather go see the Red Sox at Fenway and watch two guys put up zeroes all the way into extra innings then watch a 10-8 game (or an 18-3 loss, like Tuesday’s game…but that’s another story).
I just don’t want to see it all the time.
I suppose I might just be selfish, but for all the good that the bats do in terms of safety and emphasizing key parts of baseball like taking the extra base and sacrifice bunting, I think there is some bad thrown in there too.
There is some hope, though. Hendricken scored a combined 31 runs in two games between last Friday and this past Monday, and there have been other games with that type of run production around the state over the course of the season’s first few weeks. It could be just a matter of getting used to the bats before offense is on the upswing again.
But I doubt it. Just listen to the ball when it comes off these new bats – it sounds like it’s coming off the branch of a tree. That’s not likely to change.
I guess it’s simply time to adjust to the new world of Rhode Island high school baseball, where small ball reigns supreme.
Hopefully the chicks aren’t too disappointed.
Kevin Pomeroy is the assistant sports editor at the Warwick Beacon. He can be reached at 732-3100 and firstname.lastname@example.org.