So Taguchi had 11 steals for the Cardinals in the 2006 season. He was the team leader in stolen bases. Stolen bases used to be how a team manufactured runs in the past, particularly in St. Louis. They called it Whitey Ball back in my day, and players like Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee, and Vince Coleman tore up the basepaths. I think Vince Coleman stole like 100 more bases in 1986 than So Taguchi did in 2006. That’s crazy.
Jack Buck used to say “and the rabbits are loose” when the Cardinal speedsters hit the bases running. Side note: the Cardinals went to three world series in the 80s and won one of them, all with speed.
My point, you ask? It comes in the form of a bold prediction which is that speed and the stolen base will once again rise from the ashes of baseball history. The speed game will usurp the power hitters of the juiced ball, juiced hitter era.
But before the transition, let’s take a moment to reflect on where baseball would be had McGwire and Sosa not bailed the sorry sport out of its self inflicted doldrums back in 1998. As the Hall of Fame recently shunned Big Mac by not letting him in, everyone needs to stop and recall for a moment that most of us wouldn’t be watching baseball today had he not done what he did when he did it. So what if he used steroids. So what if he looked like a fool in front of the congressional hearing. So what if the guy juiced up. He saved the game and we all know it. Period. Add him, Sosa, and Barry Bonds (who is still an asswipe, but a damn great hitter). in fact, every owner in baseball should personally thank Mark McGwire for the extra money he made them. Not before nor since have people shown up in droves for batting practice like they did for McGwire. Just the extra concessions revenue he generated were worth his admittance into the Hall and all of you (owners) know it.
Baseball was in the shithouse and nobody cared about it. There was a strike and even those most loyal fans had pretty much had enough of the BS between the players and owners and all the money-grubbing crap that went along with it. But then people started to notice that Mac and Sosa were killing the ball and suddenly, there was a reason to watch again. I have to admit that it was those two who got me excited about baseball again. I don’t care if their story was a devious trick totally planned by owners and players to lure fans back. No matter how you feel about the steroid issue, you have to admit that watching Mark McGwire take batting practice was WELL WORTH the ticket price and getting to the game two hours early just to see him. It was like watching John Henry drive steel or Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. The man could hit a baseball and give you chills.
As much as I agree that the steroid thing is a black eye for sports, it is what it is. No single person is any more or less guilty than anyone else. The market demanded what happened, it happened, and now some people are claiming some sort of moral high ground to make sure the very people who saved the game are banished from it’s ultimate accolade.
It is the official position of holySmith! that Pete Rose, Mark McGwire, and even (as much as it pains me to say it) Sammy Sosa belong in the Hall of Fame. Barry Bonds, too. If they don’t make it in my lifetime, it is sad. It is as sad as that strikeout I saw at Bank One Ballpark in the 2001 playoffs versus the Diamondbacks, which was Big Mac’s last ever at-bat. He limped up there, took a few pitches and limped back. It was painful to watch the way it was painful to watch Walter Payton tell everyone he was dying.
Had we exposed the “greats” of baseball’s past to the media and scrutiny of today, not a single one of them would be the untarnished gem that everyone thinks they are. Mantle was a slobbering drunk. Ruth was a fat slob. Everyone had a past and some dirt to dig up — even the Presidents of the United States had dirt that would have given the public a collective heart attack. FDR was a cripple, JFK a man-whore, and the earlier ones either slept with their slaves, beat their wives, or drank like fish (or all of the above). Nobody is that clean, least of all the media.
But I digress back to my original point now that I have veered so very far off my original topic. Speed kills. The fast teams will start making a comeback this year and into the seasons ahead. I think if we add speed to the game now, particularly with guys like Albert Pujols hitting behind them, the run production will be more like backyard Wiffle Ball games rather than English soccer games.
In other words, it’s time we honored the juiced up power hitter era by putting McGwire and eventually Sosa and Bonds in the Hall. And throw Pete Rose in there for Christ’s sake. Who gives a crap if he bet on baseball when he was a crappy manager for the Reds. He should be in the Hall for what he did on the field as a player. The rest is irrelevant. Did you know that Pete Rose once played for the Montreal Expos? I actually saw him play in an Expos uniform, so I know it’s true. Look it up if you don’t believe me. Then put his ass in the Hall of Fame. He was a speedster, and the speedsters will rise again. Mark my words.