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The National Pastime Today – April 5, 2018

It’s been quite a week. MLB action is under way. There have been snow outs. Yankees fans are already booing Giancarlo Stanton. As is our custom around these parts, in TNP Today we link the links, providing a current story with a historical perspective piece. Enjoy!

April 5, 2018
Babe Ruth, 1921

Shohei Ohtani is Showin’ Us Something Already

1 start: 1 win. 3 games: 2 Home Runs. I don’t think anyone thought things would start this well, this fast for Shohei Ohtani. So what happens next? The possibilities are fascinating. Might Angels skipper Mike Scioscia allow Ohtani to hit on a day that he starts as pitcher? Will Ohtani become an everyday player? It will be fascinating to watch. To a certain extent, this is a DH and Babe Ruth story. The DH, as Craig Calcaterra reminded us, is no longer new. It’s been around since 1973. It was first proposed in 1947. The main point of the DH was to increase offensive production and draw greater crowds. Were there no DH, Ohtani might simply be a hard throwing outfielder. Regarding Babe Ruth, Shohei Ohtani helps us with that timeless question: How would Babe Ruth fair today? A pitching ace who hit homeruns. Who would have thought it? Sure the comparison is a bit forced, but it’s a fun one nonetheless.    

Tommy Pham: Evidence that Curt Flood Still Matters

Kudos to Sports Illustrated for a wonderful piece on the delayed career of Cardinals outfielder Tommy Pham. Pham has finally made it to the Bigs. He contends the system held him back, that he was trapped within an organization that didn’t really believe in his abilities. Finally, though he persevered. The personal side of the story is captivating. Pham has risen up through hard work and perseverance. But the fact that Pham, now at a place that would seem to offer great financial rewards, will not be able to negotiate as a free agent until 2021—when he’s 33 years old—points back to Curt Flood. Flood fought for the rights of baseball players to capitalize on their talents. Pham demonstrates that there’s still work to be done.

Baseball’s Long and Slow Pace of Play Debate

The debate about baseball being too slow and the games too long, is itself too slow and too long. We’re still talking about it; changes have been difficult to come by. But as Forbes suggests that not enough has been done, it might well be useful to re-center the discussion back on the fan. Why do people come to ballgames? What do they want? How can baseball, within reason, cater to its fans? In thinking about such questions, consider the “My First Ballgame” stories of notable baseball writers such as Marty Appel, Scott Ferkovich, Rob Neyer, Jacob Pomrenke, and Tim Wendel. The game still has that same ability to enrapture new generations of fans. Right?