The great George Plimpton once observed that there was an inverse relationship between the size of the ball used and the quality of the writing about the sport using it. In baseball ‘small ball’ has a more specific meaning and describes a way of playing that focuses on getting men on base and moving them around the base paths with walks, stolen bases, singles and doubles and a very small reliance on home runs.
My beloved Mets are finding that small ball is winning ball. They have discovered this by necessity rather than by design. Their two principle long ball hitters Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran are on the disabled list. The third, David Wright has hit just four home runs this season, around one third of his total this time last year. Additionally, Citi Field, their quite splendid new home appears to be a pitcher’s paradise in which, in vivid contrast to the new Yankee Stadium, almost no one has cleared the fences with ease and regularity.
The happy news is this. Small ball is more fun to watch; it is more tactically complex, and somehow speaks to the traditions of a bygone age when the balls did not fly so far and the pharmaceutical profession had less influence on player performance.
Small ball makes the home run the exceptional moment that the biggest hit should be and makes heros of speedsters, little guys, and those that give their all on the way to first on an infield hit. It also makes the defence sharp, it needs to be. The double play, the force out, the run down and the pick off, the throwing catcher are all propelled in prominence when the game is played this way.
Anne, Lisa; take me out to the old small ball game whenever you like.