After the Yankees' Chien-Ming Wang injured himself running the bases during a 13-0 rout of the Astros, the typical reply could be heard well before it came out of Hank Steinbrenner's fool mouth.
"My only message is simple. The National League needs to join the 21st century," Steinbrenner said. "They need to grow up and join the 21st century."
"Am I pissed about it? Yes," Steinbrenner added. "I've got my pitchers running the bases, and one of them gets hurt. He's going to be out. I don't like that, and it's about time they address it. That was a rule from the 1800s."
It is a pastime of sports analysis to worry about athletes doing something deemed unnecessary or beyond their normal job description. "What if during preseason Tom Brady gets sacked and breaks his leg? What then, America?"
Mike Mussina, Wang's teammate, adds, "We don't hit, we don't run the bases. You get four or five at-bats a year at most, and if you happen to get on base once or twice, you never know. We run in straight lines most of the time. Turning corners, you just don't do that."
Turning corners!? Holy crap! What tragedy has befallen you to make such a difficult maneuver! What exactly do you do when you cover first base? That requires not one iota of this extremely athletic "turning" you speak of, not to mention agility.
But I forgive Mussina for this one, because if I remember correctly, the American League famously banned pitcher-covering-first in 1987 when the Royals' Bret Saberhagen injured his shoulder slamming into the Twins' Kent Hrbek. The American League then called a conference banning things like "fun" and "love." We were entering a new era, and the American League was there to pounce.
As a result, in all American League parks there is now a designated fielder who just hangs out by the mound who picks up weak grounders and blow-dries the pitcher's hands and runs errands.
The fact is, athletes can get hurt doing almost anything, and it never seems fair. The problem is, even if Wang didn't get hurt running the bases, let's say he got hurt on a line drive back to the mound, inter-league play would still be blamed.
Steinbrenner would lament, "This would have never happened in Boston or Seattle, towns renowned for their American League sensibilities and family values."
My biggest problem with the whole thing is the idea that "we don't do it that much." As if running the bases is a break dancing competition or escaping from quicksand.
Every pitcher growing up and playing pee-wee through college had to bat and run the bases. Now that they're professionals they've suddenly forgotten how to run 90 feet per-base in a counter-clockwise rotation.
It's not that they don't do it that much, it's that it could happen (and does, many times) to anyone and it bit Wang this time, who happens to be an American League pitcher.
It's also happened to position players in both leagues throughout the history of baseball. I certainly wish it didn't happen, but there's no reason to be stupid when it does, blaming the National League for it.
I wonder what that pitcher Babe Ruth would have had to say about all this.
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