How to Break in a New Baseball Glove

Baseball glove close up

When we get our first decent baseball glove, they are usually made of leather and are firm, not tending to open and close with ease. We usually tend to follow the older trends of breaking in the new glove, as they have been proven over time. However, if the manufacturer has a process included with your new glove on the proper way to break it in, you should follow those instructions.

Finding the Right Glove

Before spending all the time and energy necessary to properly break in a baseball glove, you want to make sure you’ve found the right glove. If you already know what you’re looking for, then by all means buy it and get started.

But if not, shop around a little. Buying a new baseball glove is a bit like buying a new pet — it’s a rather long-term commitment. Take the time to really find the right piece of equipment for you. Do research online and browse reviews. Sports equipment costs money. Would a gymnast be able to smartly spend the money to buy the best home gymnastics bar without first doing research on the top models? Of course not. It should be the same with baseball gloves. They aren’t cheap either, so being thorough with research beforehand will help you save money.

Here’s a resource that may be able to get you started on your search.

Steps to Breaking in a New Glove

One of the more popular methods of breaking in a new baseball glove is to place a baseball in the meshing, wrap a piece of string or a big elastic around the glove, and submerge the duo in a tub or sink full of room temperature water. You take the glove out after about 12 hours, and let it dry naturally, still tied closed. Repeat this process three times, and the glove should be almost perfectly broken in.

Baseball mitt

The next step in breaking in a new glove is to wear it, and to wear it a lot. Not just at the ballparks and when playing toss, but even when at home watching the NHL playoffs, MLB baseball games, or during what you do during whatever spare time you have. Once the glove is comfortable in your hand, it is ready for the ballpark, but not quite a game. You should give about a month to wear the glove in properly, or it may not form properly.

When to Start Using It

You should use your new baseball glove in practices and pre-game warm ups, and while playing pick up games. You do not want to use your new baseball glove before it is completely worn in and comfortable in your hand during game situations. When not in use, keep a baseball inside the webbing of the glove, and keep it tied shut. The glove is ready when it opens and closes with ease.

Extra Tips

Tips on breaking in a new baseball glove also include using oils, like leather softening oil or saddle oil, and wrapping a baseball inside the glove while not in use. Apply the oil liberally to a clean, cotton rag, or a chamois, and, using some elbow grease, rub the oil into the glove until the glove is pretty well dry, and all parts of the glove have been oiled well.

When using oil to break in your baseball glove, it is better to have pressure on your glove while the baseball is wrapped inside of it. Many players put their gloves under their pillows or mattresses, but any heavy object, or pile of objects that will press heavily upon your glove will do.

With a properly broken in baseball glove, you will notice a major improvement in your catching abilities.

Play ball!

How the Backs of Baseball Cards Made Me Good at Math

This article was contributed by Gerald Henley, an avid baseball fan for many years from Indianapolis, Indiana.

The backs of baseball cards in the late ’70s and early ’80s helped me hone my math skills. The other day my wife and I were figuring out some bills. My wife always uses a calculator to figure out the math. I typically do those figures rather quickly in my head. I thank the backs of baseball cards for allowing me to be so darn quick and accurate.

Why were the backs of baseball cards so important? There was everything you needed to know statistically about a player on the back of a baseball card. Let’s take a 1990 Fleer Bo Jackson for instance. The statistics on the back of this baseball card show one minor league season and four official pro seasons with the Kansas City Royals.

Within each season on the back of this 1990’s baseball card, you can look at how many at bats Bo Jackson had. If you take his number of hits that season and divide it by his number of at bats then you get his average. As a baseball fan as a youngster, I was always intrigued at what my favorite players hit for average. It astounded me that someone could hit such a low number and still be regarded as an incredible player. That’s a different story for a different day.

The math lessons continued if you added up his career home runs. It might seem like simple math to add 2, 22, 25 and 32 to come up with 81. But for a kid learning different skills, adding up those figures quickly in my head and seeing the resulted total helped me become a very quick mathematician. You could add up the number of games played-or even subtract in your head from the major league total games possible of 162. That would provide you a good idea of how many games Bo Jackson missed. The guy was playing football with the Oakland Raiders at the same time. Yet, Bo knew football.

The backs of baseball cards allowed me to also figure out how many hits a guy would have needed to reach another plateau along the way. Bo Jackson needed 5 homers and just 3 stolen bases to join the 30/30 club in 1988. Can you even believe this multi-talented guy could achieve so much without being dedicated to baseball full time?

The idea that the backs of baseball cards aren’t as important to young kids these days kind of gets me down. I hope my son will be able to achieve the same math related skills by checking out the backs of baseball cards. Baseball cards are much more expensive these days than the bargains my mom and I must have picked up in the late 70’s and 80’s. Not only that, baseball cards are bought in hopes of some type of return investment along the way. It’s unfortunate that many kids won’t see the return investment the backs of baseball cards gave me in the world of math. There are computers that will help do the math these days. You can have a calculator on your cell phone, computer or watch. The days of learning math by studying baseball cards is probably long since gone. Still, it’s fun to reminisce and flip through cards and figure out the average before looking at it. And my wife still gets a little mad that I figure out those numbers for the bills before she can even finish punching in the same numbers on her calculator.

America’s Sport Spans the World: Baseball Is a National Pastime in Japan

With Japan winning the inaugural World Baseball Classic, Japanese players like Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui becoming fixtures on Major League Baseball All-Star Teams, and with baseball becoming the most popular team sport in Japan, the game is so highly associated with that nation that the connection seems completely natural. When one thinks about it, however, it is unusual for a country that embraces a sport as alien to Americans as sumo-wrestling to simultaneously be so enamored of a distinctively American sport like baseball.

While most Americans assume that the introduction of baseball to Japan came about during the period after World War II when American troops occupied that country, this is not the case. In fact, Japan’s history with baseball goes back to a time much closer to the Civil War than World War II.

During the “Meiji Restoration,” which lasted from 1867 through 1912, Japanese leaders made a concerted effort to modernize Japan. Part of this process involved the introduction and adoption of many Western ideas. Horace Wilson, an American professor of English at Tokyo University during this era, is credited with introducing baseball to the Japanese in 1872. It has been speculated that the Japanese immediately responded favorably to baseball in part because the one-on-one battle of pitcher versus batter carries a similar appeal to the conflicts involved in sumo wrestling and the martial arts. Further, the Japanese Ministry of Education felt that the necessity for extremely quick decision making and the harmony of mental and physical strength required when playing the sport contributed positively to national character. As a result, the Ministry encouraged baseball’s growth in popularity.

The first formally organized Japanese baseball team formed in 1878. In a phenomenon that might come as a shock to the highly paid professional players of today, for the first 30 years of organized baseball in Japan it was considered shameful to accept money for doing something that the players enjoyed.

As the popularity of baseball in Japan grew, this ethic was pushed aside as entrepreneurs began charging fees to see amateur games. In 1908, a number of professional teams from the United States toured Japan, matching up against amateur teams. This was the start of a tradition of American major league clubs and all-star teams “barnstorming” through Japan during their offseason. The most legendary of the teams to do this was a collection of players known as “Babe Ruth and the Lou Gehrig All-Stars.” Led by their namesakes, this team went 17-0 in their 1934 trip to Japan. Although the games on these tours were rarely competitive, they consistently drew large and enthusiastic crowds.

Amazed by the level of interest in baseball, a newspaper owner named Matsutara Shoriki founded the first Japanese professional baseball team, the Yomiuri Giants, in December of 1934. During the following two years, five other professional teams organized and, together with the Giants, formed the Nippon Professional Baseball League. Amazingly, despite the loss of a large number of its players to the war effort, and the general strain on the country, the Japanese professional league continued play through most of World War II. The games stopped during the 1945 season, during which some stadiums were used for ammo dumps. Upon conclusion of the war however, American officials in charge of occupied Japan permitted play to resume for the 1946 season in the hope that baseball could serve as a morale boost for a beleaguered population.

Since the end of World War II, baseball has steadily grown into one of the most popularly attended and widely followed sports in Japan. While American greats like Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Cal Ripken are well known in Japan for their achievements, Japan has produced its own collection of great players whose records in many cases eclipse those of their American counterparts. For example, Sadaharu Oh, who played from 1959 through 1980 hit 868 career home runs, far outstripping the Major League Baseball record of 755 held by Hank Aaron. In addition, Cal Ripken attracted an unprecedented level of media attention from his successful quest to break Lou Gehrig’s major league record of 2,130 consecutive games played. Little notice was taken in the United States, however, when Ripken passed Sachio Kinugasa’s Japanese record of 2,215 games played.

While American players have played and starred in Japan for many years, it is only recently that the flow of talent has started to go in the opposite direction. The first Japanese born player to appear in the major leagues was Masanori Murakami in 1964. It wasn’t until Hideo Nomo, an established star from Japan, defected to the major leagues in 1995, however, that fans of the major leagues understood the tremendous talent of players toiling across the ocean. Nomo pitched so well in his first season with the Los Angeles Dodgers that he was named an All-Star and won the Rookie of the Year award. In addition, his appearances caused such an increase in attendance that the attention surrounding the pitcher was dubbed “Nomomania.” Since Hideo Nomo, numerous established Japanese players have come to the major leagues and starred here, most notably Ichiro Suzuki of the Mariners and Hideki Matsui of the Yankees.

For a country with its own unique cultural identity and popular sports of its own invention, it is unusual how completely the Japanese have adopted “America’s Pastime” as their own. As one Japanese writer famously put it, however, “baseball is perfect for us. If the Americans hadn’t invented it, we would have.”

How College Recruiting Can Learn from Major League Baseball

What if an organization thought like a baseball team? What if they thought about talent in the same way?

You will argue: “That is completely different.” No, it’s not. Sure, it has it’s differences, but the principles remain the same. You get young, raw talent and you build a team that wins.

What does a baseball team do that your organization needs to do? I will argue two major points.

Talent centric

Major League Baseball teams don’t care where you come from. They don’t care how you wear your hair. They don’t care that you have a tatoo of a Dragon on your back. The care that you are really, really good at playing baseball. Imagine if baseball teams hired a pitcher based on interview questions like where do you see yourself in five years instead of watching him pitch? Baseball teams care about two things: can this person execute on the field and will he be a great addition to the clubhouse. It’s that simple (performance +cultural fit). And, it is that simple for your organization as well. Quit talking with candidates and start watching them do work. Figuratively speaking, play catch with them.

Minor leagues

Your college recruiting team should create a minor league. Baseball teams have a group of minor league baseball players that they continue to evaluate based on, you guessed it, playing baseball! Duh. So why don’t you do this? Why don’t you create a community of students that are doing real stuff. Having a resume/application sit in your ATS is so pointless that it makes me want to scream. Have the applicants play and then choose the ones that perform the best. This isn’t rocket science, do it now.

The best part about this is that the right students will love it. Just like how young baseball players love to play baseball — young marketers love to market, young techies love to build code, young financiers love to put together deals. Give students the platform to do real stuff and you will be surprised.

Alterations of the Fastball

One of the most common pitches in baseball is called a fastball. Ranging from 90 to 104 mph, pitchers use this pitch to try and overpower the batter and prevent the ball from being hit. While some pitchers don’t have the power to throw one too hard, they use some movement on the ball to confuse the batter. Because the ball reaches the plate so fast, the batter has the least amount of time to react to the location of the pitch. There are a couple ways that pitchers can grip the ball in order to have different characteristics. The index finger and middle finger can be critical when putting movement on the ball.

One of the variations of the fastball is called the four-seam. This is used when the pitcher needs to get a strike, so can be used early in the count to get ahead of the batter. There is little to no lateral movement. This is the fasted pitch a pitcher can throw.

Another variation of the fastball is the two-seamer. This is also called a sinker or a tailing fastball. This is because it has more movement. This pitch is much harder to have control over, but makes it hard for the batter to hit due to the combination of speed and change of direction.

Third, a sinker is a pitcher that is thrown in the same manner. However, the thumb is shifted underneath the ball, so the ball will result in being slower than a two-seamer. Greg Maddux, Derek Lowe, and Pedro Martinez are mainly known for their dominant use of the two-seam fastball. Because sinkers tend to sink, the result from throwing this pitch will be an increase in groundballs.

On the other end, a rising fastball has the opposite traits. While this is considered a baseball myth, some batters have stated they saw a fastball rising. Players that faced Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden reported they saw this. However, scientifically, this pitch is near impossible. This is because the amount of backspin needed to overcome gravity is very large. A more definitive explanation is that a pitcher threw a fastball, then threw another fastball in the same manner but more explosive. Therefore, a batter expects the ball to arrive slower than it actually does. Plus, tall pitchers have encourage this perception, as they will throw higher fastballs than a batter will normally see.

A cutter is similar to a slider, but uses the same grip as a four-seamer. This will create more spin on the ball. This will cause an unexpected motion to fool batters. Mariano Rivera is most known for throwing a lethal cutter.

Finally, a splitter is thrown with an adjusted grip. This ball does not have the tight spin like a fastball. This will have more characteristics of a knuckleball, but will be faster.

How to Bring More Parity to Major League Baseball

Angel stadium in Anaheim

When a product becomes extremely profitable in an industry, there is a standard response: more businesses enter the industry. This is done in order to steal a portion of these excess profits. More and more businesses enter until additional entries will not result in a net profit.

This process does not guarantee that every company will make the same profits; rather, it makes profits attached closer to quality. The companies with the best products rise to the top.

The MLB as a Business

In Major League baseball, this process has been hindered. The structure of team placement has artificially created 30 monopolies. Shielded from competition, their enormous profits are not the result of supplying a superior product.

With rare exceptions, teams within the MLB do not compete with each other. To illustrate, how many people decide between attending a Pirates game or a Yankees game? Very few. The people living in New York are not going to spend an entire day driving to Pittsburgh to see the Pirates lose. They would not do this even if the Pirates were the greatest team in the history of the game. The 30-minute trip from their apartments in New York City to the ballpark ensures they will attend a Yankees game or a Mets game instead.

This means the Mets and Yankees compete, correct? Yes, but they compete for greater than 19 million people in the New York Metro Area, at least. Assuming the Mets and Yankees each attract 50% of this population, that leaves them with approximately 10 million potential ticket-purchasers individually. The Pittsburgh Metro Area has fewer than 2.5 million people! Even if the Pirates won 100 games, they will never be able to make as much money in ticket sales as a New York team. This does not even factor in the potential revenue from television deals.

The same holds true across the country. Many teams have an entire market to themselves, but they belong to small markets with a low ceiling to their profitability. The markets where two, or maybe three, teams actually compete for the fan base have the luxury of massive populations.

Fortunately, modern technology has helped make teams more accessible to out-of-town fans. Nonetheless, fandom remains closely tied to location. Even if the Internet and TV packages topple the barrier to watching any team on any night, a fan has one or two options when it comes to attending games on a regular basis. Barring the invention of teleportation, this problem will not be solved soon.

The close correlation between population and revenue ultimately dooms a franchise like the Pirates or the Royals. Even if the ownership pumped money into the team and created a 100-game winner, the increased number of fans attending the game or watching on TV will be marginal. The increase would almost certainly not be enough to earn a significant profit on the additional money spent.

This has led to a large and vocal group of people calling for a salary cap. The intentions of this move are pure, but display a tremendous lack of creativity. The end result may be more parity, but the dominance of the same teams year after year in sports with salary caps provides evidence to the contrary. (Philosophical side note: Should the big-market teams, which represent a larger population, be forced to suffer more losses so that the smaller population represented by small-market teams can win more games? Aren’t more people happier when the Yankees win a championship than when the Marlins win?).

Revenue-sharing exists as a second-best solution. This policy takes money from the high-payroll teams and distributes it to the low-payroll teams. With a salary cap, the teams have to at least draw crowds to earn money. A simple redistribution such as this could give an incentive for teams to spend less of their own money to earn more of the rich teams’ money. Obviously, this could be worked around by developing a system that factored both revenue and winning into the equation for doling out funds. Nonetheless, a revenue-sharing program is not the best possible solution.

The optimal solution arises from the insight at the beginning of this article. When a market draws excess profits, it needs new entrants. Two teams already exist in New York City, but why not one or two more? The same is true of the Chicago and Los Angeles Metro Areas. The Pittsburgh Metro Area cannot be increased, unless the U.S. government takes a page out of China’s playbook and utilizes forced migration. However, the markets of these large Metro Areas can be dispersed across a greater number of teams. The Yankees will not like the competition, just as Coke would prefer not to compete with Pepsi, but the fans with a brand new stadium built closer to them will quickly attach themselves to this new team: the New York Subways, sponsored by Subway.

This policy of improved team placement would most effectively level the playing field in the MLB, without the downsides of the other proposals. Unlike a salary cap, additional teams will not distribute money from players to billionaire owners. Contrary to revenue-sharing, bottom-feeders cannot make a living off of more successful teams. Allowing more teams to compete in large markets will create markets that are all approximately the same in terms of profitability. This policy would make team revenue closely correlated to winning, not market size.

Top Five Most Influential Figures in Major League Baseball History

The history of Major League Baseball is rich in tradition. The game has changed many times throughout their history, and has left an unforgettable impact on us all. Baseball has survived during tough economic times in the United States as well as many wars that players served in.

But through it all, the game has seen many memorable moments that gave fans a reason to watch. Then there are five men who have influenced the game like no other, and will never be forgotten.

So here is the top five most influential figures in Major League Baseball history:

5. Curt Flood

Flood is one of the most pivotal figures in the history of the game. Flood was a great defensive player in his playing days, but that is not why he made this list. Flood is most remembered for challenging the reserve clause and helping to bring free agency to the sport. Flood eventually took his case to court to challenge Major League Baseball for what he thought was an unfair ruling when denied the right to become a free agent. Although Flood lost his case to the Supreme Court, he is the one most responsible for the reserve clause in baseball being done away with in favor of free agency.

4. Alexander Cartwright

Cartwright belongs on this list for obvious reasons. Cartwright is credited for inventing the modern game of baseball. He was a member of the New York Knickerbockers, who played a game of stick-and-ball game in the mid-1850’s. It was in 1845 that Cartwright, with the help of a committee, drew out the rules and guidelines for this new game. Some of the rules laid out by Cartwright still exist in today’s game such as 90 feet between bases and four bases in a square diamond. Though the game has changed rules in many ways throughout history, Cartwright left a mark that still is remembered by lifelong fans who love the grand game of baseball.

3. Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth in 1918

Babe Ruth is arguably the most dominate player in the history of the game, and certainly one of the greatest to ever live. In his early career, the game struggled because of World War I as well as the beginnings of what would later become the Great Depression. In addition to that, baseball had lost touch with many fans as the Black Sox Scandal had given the game a bad image that could have really crippled the sport. When Ruth was sold to the Yankees from the Red Sox before the 1920 season, he was a pitcher and played the field on days when he did not take the mound. Ruth then played the field throughout the rest of his career with Yankees, and had changed the game with hitting many more home runs than the rest of the players at the time. Ruth out-homered many teams by himself during his seasons with the Yankees, as this also helped to bring fans back to the game after they had lost trust with it. With all that Ruth did, there is no question that the game would have suffered more scrutiny without his contributions that forever changed baseball.

2. Jackie Robinson

What Jackie Robinson endured as a player in Major League Baseball is immeasurable. Robinson was the first African American to ever play in the Major League Baseball, and it was not an easy transition from the Negro Leagues by any means. He was verbally abused by fans and teammates as well as opposing teams. Finally, Dodgers’ management had told players who did not approve of him playing that they could find another job. Robinson had broken the color barrier once and for all, and his heroic way of handling the pressure of doing so will never be forgotten.

1. Branch Rickey

There shouldn’t be any doubt that Rickey is number one on this list after what he did for the game on and off the field. The biggest achievement as a Major League Baseball executive was the signing of Jackie Robinson, which broke baseball’s color barrier. Later on in his tenure, he signed the first Hispanic superstar player in Roberto Clemente. Rickey was also very instrumental in developing the foundation of the minor league farm system. Minor league baseball had seen a steady decline in attendance throughout the 1930’s, and it was Rickey who was most responsible for many teams later adopting the farm system in their own organizations. According to most historians, this is the single biggest reason why minor league baseball exists today after many hardships that it had endured.

These five men forever impacted the game to what it is today like no other. Without all of their contributions on and off the field, baseball would be a far different game today. Major League Baseball has a very proud history, and it is these guys who were the most helpful in preserving that for all fans from the past to the current game.

How Would Major League Baseball History Be Different If Steroid Users Forfeited Their MVP Titles?

Baseball and steroids

There was an interesting article on today. The article decided to take away every MVP trophy won by an accused steroid user and instead give that MVP to the player with the most votes that has so far never been accused of steroids. I want to take it a step further though and take a look at how different history would be if that did occur. If the Major League Baseball MVPs were given to the “rightful winner” then who would we look at completely differently?

First let’s note which Major League Baseball players have been accused of steroids by at least one source and also won a MVP, and also who that MVP would fall to if we eliminated them.

Old Major League Baseball MVP Winners

  • 1988 AL MVP Jose Canseco
  • 1996 AL MVP Juan Gonzalez
  • 1996 NL MVP Ken Caminiti
  • 1998 AL MVP Juan Gonzalez
  • 1998 NL MVP Sammy Sosa
  • 1999 AL MVP Ivan Rodriguez
  • 2000 AL MVP Jason Giambi
  • 2001 NL MVP Barry Bonds
  • 2002 AL MVP Miguel Tejada
  • 2002 NL MVP Barry Bonds
  • 2003 AL MVP Alex Rodriguez
  • 2003 NL MVP Barry Bonds
  • 2004 NL MVP Barry Bonds

New Major League Baseball MVP Winners

  • 1988 AL MVP Mike Greenwell
  • 1996 AL MVP Alex Rodriguez
  • 1996 NL MVP Mike Piazza
  • 1998 AL MVP Derek Jeter
  • 1998 NL MVP Moises Alou
  • 1999 AL MVP Pedro Martinez
  • 2000 AL MVP Frank Thomas
  • 2001 NL MVP Luis Gonzalez
  • 2002 AL MVP Alfonso Soriano
  • 2002 NL MVP Albert Pujols
  • 2003 AL MVP Carlos Delgado
  • 2003 NL MVP Albert Pujols
  • 2004 NL MVP Adrian Beltre

So what does it all mean. If all the Major League Baseball MVP trophies were taken from the old winners and given to the new winners (by the way, I’m not saying Major League Baseball should or will do this, I don’t) then what would it matter? What would be different?

The biggest travesty of the steroids scandal in Major League Baseball is all of the players that were clean and were cheated out of something they deserve by players that cheated. If Mike Piazza has a MVP I don’t think many people think of him differently because he already is known by many as the greatest offensive catcher. Pedro Martinez is already known as one of the best pitchers of all-time during his dominant years and Derek Jeter, well, everyone already thinks he is God.

But imagine if you’re some of the other Major League Baseball players on this list and you didn’t use steroids. If Mike Greenwell, Moises Alou, Luis Gonzalez, Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Delgado and Adrian Beltre all had a Major League Baseball trophy on the mantle then it would completely change their resume, they would be looked at in a whole different light. Some of those guys weren’t great for very long but if they had that one MVP trophy it would be something and for players like Luis Gonzalez and Carlos Delgado, who had productive careers, that MVP trophy might raise and extra level or two on the possible Hall of Fame candidates list.

Steroid use is no secret. But its use should not go without punishment.

Even though Pedro Martinez will always be revered without winning a MVP trophy in Major League Baseball can you imagine how special that accomplishment would have been. When was the last time a pitcher won the MVP? 1992? How many pitchers have done that in the history of baseball? 10 – 20? Pedro Martinez would be in a pretty elite class. Pedro Martinez probably should have won the Cy Young over every player on steroids that season anyway. 313 strikeouts and 34 walks? Ridiculous.

The player whose reputation could benefit the most from these MVP trophy changing hands is Frank Thomas. During this steroid era many great players have been chopped down and it seems Ken Griffey Jr. is the last one remaining, but let’s not forget Frank Thomas. Frank Thomas was a great hitter, a great power hitter, extremely feared and won two MVP trophies. Don’t forget, we’ve now taken away 4 of Barry Bonds’ MVP trophies. That means the record for MVP trophies in the history of Major League Baseball is 3. If Frank Thomas was awarded the 2000 AL MVP trophy then that would be his third MVP. Frank Thomas would be tied with the likes of Mike Schmidt, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle for the most MVPs in Major League Baseball history…until 2008.

Barry Bonds no longer has 7 MVP trophies. Bonds now has 3 MVP trophies along with Frank Thomas and others. Albert Pujols has two MVP trophiess. If Albert Pujols was awarded Barry Bonds’ 2002 MVP and 2003 MVP then he would now be at 4 MVP trophies. Albert Pujols would have record for most MVP trophies in Major League Baseball history and he is only turning 29 years old this year.

5 Best Closing Pitchers in Baseball History

Historic pitcher

Perhaps no other job in sports is as stressful as that of a closing pitcher in baseball. Often, the difference between being a hero and being a goat comes down to one swing of an opponent’s bat.

Being a closing pitcher in baseball is like a kicker who is expected to kick a 45-yard game-winning field goal in dozens of games each season, or a boxer who is expected to deliver a knock-out punch in the last round of every boxing match.

Nonetheless, the history of baseball is full of men who have lived up to the challenge, and here in my humble opinion is a list of the best closing pitchers to ever play the game.

1. Dennis Eckersley. Although only being fifth in all-time saves, Eckersley belongs on this list because he was the very epitome of a closing pitcher. A Hall-of-Famer, the “Eck” piled up 390 career saves; no small feat considering that he was never labeled as a closing pitcher until he was traded to Oakland in 1987, a full eleven years into his pitching career. Had Eckersley been used a closer during his early years in Cleveland and Boston, there is no doubt he would be the all-time leader in saves. Eckersley was also a 6-time All-Star, another reason why he is number one on this list.

2. Rollie Fingers. Fingers revolutionized the position of relief pitching. In an era where starting pitchers rarely left the mound, Fingers managed to accumulate 341 career saves, placing him 10th on the all-time list. Another Hall-of-Famer, Fingers was a 7-time All-Star, and 3-time World Series Champion.

3. Bruce Sutter. Despite only playing eleven seasons, Sutter managed 300 career saves. This number is incredible when you consider the fact that he only pitched in 661 career games. Sutter was elected to the Hall-of-Fame in 2006, and was a 6-time All-Star.

4. Trevor Hoffman.
He is baseball’s all-time leader in saves with 554, but Hoffman’s numbers reflect the modern era of pitching, where closing pitchers are no longer a specialty, but a necessity. Unlike Eckersley or Fingers, Hoffman played the majority of his games as a closing pitcher. Nonetheless, Hoffman is a 6-time All-Star and a future Hall-of-Famer.

5. Lee Smith.
With 478 career saves, Smith ranks third on the all-time list. Despite being a 7-time All-Star, Lee Smith is not in the Hall-of-Fame, a fact that leaves many people scratching their heads. The only possible reason for Smith’s exclusion is the fact that he pitched in an era where closing pitchers were becoming common throughout baseball. If there is ever a place in Cooperstown for Trevor Hoffman, Billy Wagner, or Mariano Rivera, there surely will be a place for Lee Smith.

How Popular Fashion Has Infiltrated Baseball

Known as America’s pastime, baseball has developed an ethos that has, until recently, transcended both time and pop culture. Pushing through the effects of two world wars, the Great Depression, segregation, and seemingly countless other economic, social, and political challenges, baseball has remained essentially the same in regards to its style and grace. With the exception of the designated hitter rule, the unpopular instant replay, and skyrocketing salaries, the heart of the game-the passion and substance-continues to draw fans to the park. In essence, each trip to the park is both a modern extravaganza and a reflective history lesson.

However, what has escaped the unseen preservers of baseball’s customs and has started to penetrate the game itself is the absurdity of the sloppily worn uniform. Yes, the old school pinstripes still adorn each Yankee who runs out of the dugout, and Dodger blue remains ever-present in the afternoon sun, but styles have changed. Gone are crisply worn caps, bent at just the right angle to obscure the glare of a high sky; the long solid stirrups, undercut by pure white sanitaries, and held up by slim-fitting pants that slid just inches below the knee; the well-preserved jersey, buttoned near the top and smoothly rounding out the shoulders while falling directly to a tight tuck inside the belt.

Until recently, baseball has appropriately failed to embrace the fashion trends fluctuating through regular society. While the 1920s saw men dressed in pressed suits and dual colored leather shoes with a young flapper attached to an arm, never did the third base coach wave a runner to the plate wearing the latest fedora and toting a tommy gun for intimidation. While the 1960s and early 70s revealed a society riddled with an individualistic coming of age through protest and drugs, never did a team send its players out onto the field with tie-dye button-up shirts and large peace signs as belt buckles.

The current game, however, has slacked, and, as a result, the once steadfast uniform has begun a less than holy transformation. Players now stretch pants to their shoe tops, even going so far as to use elastics to bind them to the shoes’ souls. Rather than looking like ballplayers, they resemble marching band members attempting to win a cavalcade and earn a trip to an area college bowl game. As fans, we can only pray that the low-slung drawers seen on city streets and hip-hop videos do not weasel their way in; if so, we will quickly come to know exactly who is wearing his lucky golden thongs.

Like the pants, hats have altered in appearance. Many position players and pitchers alike have elected to wear pin-straight brims. In terms of functionality, this rigid-brimmed style serves no purpose; instead, it makes a societal fashion statement, much like the overdone gold chains of the once-popular Mr. T or the flamboyant orange anti-sperm shorts worn by Richard Simmons. Soon players will go so far as to leave the stickers and tags on, so they can flap in the wind and possibly judge air speeds and direction, much like the weather probes dropped inside tornadoes on any one of three Discovery Channel shows. Good thing many have decided that a quality doo rag is a critical part of the headgear for baseball. This way, if their hats fall off from playing too hard, they will remain cool, phat, and off the hook.

Baseball has a charm and allure that will slowly disintegrate if the popular world has its way. Imagine a CEO walking into a meeting with the Brooks Brothers tag hanging off the lapel of his suit, or the cuffs of his Armani pants strapped to the bottom of his shoes. Envision Bill Gates walking out on stage to launch his newest Windows application, yet all the attention going to the multi-colored doo rag he has riding atop his head, complete with the Microsoft logo stitched into the side. If this sounds absurd, it is because it is, and baseball should take steps to protect itself from becoming the next runway for fall and spring design. Before we know it, Joe Buck will turn to Heidi Klum for color commentary and Tyra Banks for on-field analysis.