Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Babe Ruth: Revolutionary My Ass
The conventional school of thought is that Babe Ruth was a larger than life character that completely revolutionized the game of baseball. Was he really revolutionary or just a very talented yet over rated opportunist?
Babe was the best home run hitter in a league that had changed the rules when he began his shift from pitcher to every day outfielder. The league was in transition with rules changes that included banning the spit ball, more frequent changing of used/scuffed balls, the change of the "foul ball on two strikes = an out" to the modern "foul ball on two strikes = another pitch", along with new and smaller ballparks sprouting up around the league.
The Fat Man even got his own stadium. "The House That Ruth Built" was really built for Ruth's strengths and to mask his weaknesses (mostly defensive). No one has ever had that advantage, ever, let alone for the entire prime of their career. It's no secret why old Yankees Stadium had such a short right field porch and such little space between the stands and the foul line in right field. The Big Boy loved to pull balls into right field and they didn't want to allow down the line singles to turn into triples. It would be the equivalent of the Yankees building New Yankees Stadium with less foul territory between home and third and shortening left field to speed up the "A-Rod race to the Home Run Crown".
When you have a rules shift that benefits offense and a change in the approach towards the game, the most direct benefactors are the young players who were never conditioned to play in the old fashioned (in this case "small ball") way. He was the best of the first wave and the best prepared to take over playing in a league that had shifted its focus to becoming more fan friendly, home run friendly, and offense friendly.
Bottle will have you think he revolutionized the game and that he hit 60 home runs when the next closest player hit 8 forcing everyone in the league to change what they were doing. The truth is that by time Ruth hit 60, Rogers Hornsby had hit 42 and the players in the game were fully entrenched in the less offensively inept game. A look at league total stats starting at 1918 through 1922 shows the following:
1918 - 7,382 Runs, 235 HR, 254 Batting Average
1919 - 8,668 Runs, 447 HR, 263 Batting Average
1920 - 10,761 Runs, 630 HR, 276 Batting Average
1921 - 11,928 Runs, 937 HR, 291 Batting Average
1922 - 12,057 Runs, 1,055 HR, 288 Batting Average
To me...looks like that's the way the league was trending and the talented and powerful Babe Ruth, was the best of that trend...not the innovator.
Now, in no way am I saying he wasn't great. The fact that his single season home run record was beaten out by a guy who had a fluke home run hitting year (Maris) and his career total was beaten by possibly the most consistent hitter in baseball history (Aaron), are testament to how great of a power hitter he was.
Note - I don't count any of the obvious juice seasons and neither should you.
All I'm saying is he wasn't a player who changed the game. He was a great player who was prepared to and took full advantage of the game's changes.
So to all old white men and Bottle, Babe Ruth was great, but he revolutionized nothing, and stop trying to tell me otherwise.
As told by Hater J