This is a monumental batch of letters. We cover complete games and their enemy, pitch counts, a ballplayer who wants to be an astronaut and another who's not giving up runs, and introduce a new segment that we're sure is going to be a regular so long as a particular team stays atop the National League Central.
Your words first, then mine in italics.
COMPLETE GAMES ("Lost art of pitching")
In your "Lost Art of Pitching" article, you completely ignore the largest factor. The shrinking strike zone is by far the largest factor in the diminution of innings.
Not sure about the largest, but it certainly was worth mentioning. It's too bad scorekeepers didn't keep track of balls and strikes until recent years, because it would be interesting to see whether the strike zone had any kind of effect.
Still, pitch counts are absolutely the No. 1 reason for the death of complete games. Managers are afraid to keep pitchers in because their bosses, general managers, are afraid of injuries because their bosses, owners, spend so much money on pitching.
If you want to relearn the art of the complete game, check out pitching sensation Yu Darvish in Japan.
Or just Japan, period.
Darvish, with whom I'm well familiar, leads Japanese baseball with four. But Hideaki Wakui's got three. And so does Naoyuki Shimizu. And Masahiro Tanaka. And Kenji Ohtonari. Nobody in the major leagues aside from Roy Halladay, who pitched his fourth straight the day the story ran, has more than one.
That was a great column on the decline and fall of the complete game but you missed an opportunity to pay tribute to one of the great all-time baseball records. Just after the turn of the century Jack Taylor threw 187 consecutive complete games for the Chicago Cubs. Among records that could possibly be broken, I believe that is the most secure.
San Ramon, Calif.
Even more than 2,632.
ADAM WAINWRIGHT ("Count on it")
So Roy Halladay threw 117 pitches in a game. Did you write an article questioning the Blue Jays' handling of pitchers when he did? Just wondering why when Wainwright does it, you question whether it is abusing the pitcher's arm, but when Roy Halladay does it, you question the rest of the league about the lost art of pitching?
Because it's a conspiracy, I tell ya! A conspiracy!
Have you ever written anything positive about the Cardinals?
BRIAN BARTON ("Cardinals' Barton is a space case")
Excellent article on Brian Barton and thanks to you for writing such a positive article.
Thank you for the article on St. Louis Cardinals player Brian Barton. It's good to hear the positive things about athletes in the midst of all the negative. I can appreciate Brian's efforts in learning and being positive, and your efforts for bringing the positive forward.
That's a lot of positive, Rob.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I'm almost 100 percent sure Brian Barton won't be able to become an astronaut. I interned at NASA this past summer and witnessed some of the very strict astronaut selection process. Every astronaut is damn near perfect physically and academically. Most importantly for Barton, any reconstructive or significantly invasive surgery automatically disqualifies you for service. I was told by one of the selection committee members that I would be ineligible due to a surgery I had on one of my toes, which is certainly not as big a deal as a knee. No matter how well his knee is performing now, that will always be a red flag should he apply. I wish that weren't the case, but when you have 10,000 applications for 10 to 20 spots, NASA can choose to be that stringent.
And I'm supposed to be the downer …
Two flights ago, a professional athlete, Leeland D. Melvin, flew into space. He was, for a very brief time, a Detroit Lion. Just goes to show you that Barton can do it too. Heck, almost anyone of us who works on the shuttles would jump on in that cockpit in a second.
Cape Canaveral, Fla.
ERVIN SANTANA ("Santana makes another promising start")
Cliff Lee of the Indians has been the most dominant – by far. This coming from a Phillies fan.
I was planning this whole argument about how Santana has thrown two more games, more innings and against better teams, and then I watched Lee do this against the Yankees on Wednesday night:
So to the 100 or so readers who yelled for Lee … you're right.
He's having a great year and pitched a great game. Best in the past 20 years? I think to qualify for this distinction you need to pitch against a major league team, not the Triple-A Royals.
This one I'll argue. I didn't call it one of the best. I called it one of the most impressive, and I absolutely believe that. Do you know how hard it is to throw 97 pitches and strike out a batter an inning, all the while tossing a shutout? About a half-dozen-times-in-20-years tough. Anyone who can combine two E's – efficiency and excitement – is a winner in my book.
I read your Ervin Santana column and I think that it is a little off. He has not been the best pitcher in baseball due to the phenom Edinson Volquez.
James Kap Jr.
Deer Park, N.Y.
Phew. For a minute there, I was beginning to think Cliff Lee was the only pitcher in the big leagues.
Oh, and to all the Lee fanboys, Volquez threw seven shutout and struck out 10 against a powerful Cubs lineup, lowering his ERA to 1.06. Has a trade ever worked out better for both teams than the Volquez-for-Josh Hamilton swap?
NATIONALS ("Weak attendance could be a National emergency"")
Bob Short didn`t move the team to Texas for no known reason. As much as Washington area fans and the local scribes like Tom Boswell don't want to admit it, the fans never supported the team then and they are not supporting it now. MLB should have moved the Expos to a different city.
I spoke with an MLB official prior to writing the story and asked if anyone was worried Washington was going to fail again. The response: "Not yet."
This should be no surprise to anyone. The stadium was built in D.C. so that Congressmen wouldn't need to go far for a photo op. However, any first-year business student could have told you that building the stadium in Fairfax or Loudoun County would give it a fighting chance to succeed. People in this area hate to go "downtown" (regardless of Metro access) and without the fans in the suburbs, baseball will not flourish in the nation's capital. Despite being over 30 miles closer, I'd still rather drive to Baltimore.
Potomac Falls, Va.
Northern Virginia, the MLB official added, was a big reason that Washington was so appealing. I presume, from other letters, that Lee is in the minority. Virginia seems to have glommed onto the Nats pretty good. But his point is well-taken – the Anacostia is neither the most picturesque place nor the most easily accessible.
Comparing attendance at other new stadiums to that here in Washington is comparing apples to oranges. Those cities had long-established teams and had a developed fan base. Washington has been without a team for almost two generations and essentially has had to create from scratch what others have had decades to build. It's going to take time to cultivate the loyal fan. I think D.C., the Lerners and Kasten are doing it right.
So long as the Nationals weren't basing their expectations on selling out the ballpark every night, I think they'll be just fine. But if money considerations in any way push back the plan, the revolt will come hard, and that brand-new ballpark will be empty in no time.
I find it repulsive that there's no dismay over Washington's poor attendance. As a lifelong Expos fan it makes me sick.
ANGRY CARDINALS FAN LETTER OF THE WEEK
Wow, Jeff, it makes me feel so much better that you questioned my IQ rather than my passion for the Cardinals. Try this on for IQ: I was raised a Cubs fan, then converted to Cardinal Nation after seeing the error of my ways. By the way, I see that you're a Syracuse grad. As an Indiana University graduate, I have two words for you: Keith Smart.
Jen Del Carmen
St. Louis, Mo.
And I two for you: Kelvin Sampson.