I don’t much care for modern baseball. I rarely watch games on television anymore, and I gave the recent World Series only passing consideration. It just didn’t interest me that much. I’d rather read a book.
I used to worship the San Francisco Giants. Their teams of the late ’80s and early ’90s probably were nothing that spectacular, but even just thinking of guys like Will Clark, Kevin Mitchell and Robby Thompson puts a smile on my face. What I wouldn’t give to relive a game at Candlestick Park.
I don’t feel the same about the current generation of players, even the current Giants. Granted, I check ESPN.com nearly every day during the season, to keep up on statistics. But I feel apathetic whenever I contemplate turning on a game. If I do put one on, I quickly lose interest and change the channel to some movie on TNT or Comedy Central that I’ve already seen a hundred times. When in doubt, Boyz n the Hood trounces the Braves and Phillies every time.
Perhaps it’s easier to be nostalgic and re-envision something, forgetting whatever about it is unseemly, dull, or just plain ordinary, rather than to love it and accept it for whatever it may be, warts and all. Or perhaps my perspective has simply changed with age. Jim Bouton, the author of Ball Four, grew up rooting for the Giants, when they were still in New York. He wrote in one of his books:
I loved the Giants. I loved Alvin Dark and Dusty Rhodes and Sal Maglie. Even now, thinking back, I can remember exactly how I felt about these men. There is still that same rush of good feeling when I think about them and what they meant to me… But I think there are two Sal Maglies, two Alvin Darks, two Dusty Rhodes… So I think it’s possible that you can view people as heroes and at the same time understand that they are people, too, imperfect, narrow sometimes, even not very good at what they do.
With that said, the current game still seems lacking. Past generations had Hank Aaron, Joe DiMaggio and Willie Mays. Talented though Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Mark Teixeira may be there really is no comparison. Greatness is about more than just gaudy statistics. After all, Don Baylor on steroids probably could have hit 50 home runs in 1998.
I can think of only a few current players with the combination of class and talent to compare to past greats. They are:
- Joe Mauer
- Ichiro Suzuki
- Tim Lincecum
- Derek Jeter
- Ken Griffey Jr.
Mauer reminds me of Ted Williams, Suzuki of George Sisler, and Lincecum of Lefty Grove. Jeter and Griffey make the list for putting up fine career numbers without, presumably, using steroids.
Beyond that, this era is a real crap shoot. Then again, it’s not much worse than anything else in the past 40 years. And maybe baseball’s always been this way and I’m just noticing.
Still, I long for bygone eras.