728 x 90

Home runs are overrated, Lehner an inspiration

img

I don’t know if other oldtimers are like me, but I miss the days when Major League pitchers actually threw complete games and batters knew how to hit for average.
Pitching has become so specialized that it is hard to enjoy a game when a pitcher is getting the hook after facing just one batter.
When I was growing up, starters could go seven, eight or even all nine innings with no trouble at all.
Canadian Hall of Fame hurler Fergie Jenkins finished his career with 267 complete games and had eight seasons in which he went the distance at least 20 times, including a career high 30 in 1971.
Most starting pitchers today will never get to 20 complete games in their entire career, let alone in one season.
When it comes to hitting, home runs have become the glory stat for most fans. But home runs are overrated.
Now all of a sudden every home run is measured by exit velocity, launch angle and distance. You never used to hear about any of that.
But if a batter literally hit the ball a mile, guess what? It would still only count as one run. That’s it.
And because home runs have become the darling stat for fans, hitting for average is quickly becoming a lost art.
Heading into Monday night’s games, only 23 players in the Major Leagues were hitting .300 or better. Not even one player per team.
And, because everyone is swinging for the fences, strikeouts are up. Way up.
Of course, in recent years, teams are giving hitters an opportunity to hit for average when they employ the shift. That is, they move all or most of their infielders to one side of the diamond, usually the batter’s strong side, hoping he will hit the ball right to a fielder.
Matt Carpenter found a way to beat the shift, recently, when he bunted for a double.
Yes, you read that correctly. He bunted for a double.
Miami had moved all their players around to the right side of the diamond and up the middle. His bunt ended up going into the outfield with only the pitcher to chase after it. By the time he got to the ball, Carpenter was jogging into second.
It boggles the mind that hitters don’t do that more often. It is a sign of the times that batters would rather hit for power than average.
A .250 hitter could all of a sudden hit .300 or better if he bunted to beat the shift.
Not only would he up his batting average, he would also show he is a team player, by trusting his teammates to bring him around to score.
No, baseball isn’t what it used to be. But what is nowadays.
•••
It was so nice to see New York Islanders goaltender Robin Lehner win the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, awarded to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey.
Lehner struggled with mental illness, which led to alcohol and drug addictions, as well as thoughts of suicide.
He finally got clean last summer and was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
This was Lehner’s first sober season of his career and it allowed him to show how good he really is, helping the Islanders improve their defence and winning the William Jennings Trophy with teammate Thomas Greiss for allowing the fewest goals against.
It is not easy battling with mental illness. Most of us have at some point in our lives. But Lehner said in his speech, “I’m not ashamed to say I’m mentally ill, but that doesn’t mean mentally weak.”
If you are suffering with a mental illness and need help, turn to a friend or family member, someone you trust. Help is out there. Show your strength by seeking it out.

img
Doug Zywina
REPORTER