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=Bonds, McGwire & Ruth's HR feats put into perspective=

=Bonds, McGwire & Ruth's HR feats put into perspective=

 
Old 10-11-01, 12:35 AM
  #126  
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I started posting a response to Sykes before the thread was locked and then my original post got lost (along with a lot of the stats I'd put together). I'm too disheartened to do all that work again so here goes some stuff off the top of my head.

The article about relief pitching was very interesting, but I don't think it says what you think it says... or possibly what the author thinks it says. Yes the article proves pretty well that the save isn't the most meaningful statistic because the number of close games that are blown in late innings hasn't changed much in 40 years. But that doesn't say that relievers are worthless, just that the role of closer has been over-emphasized. Also let me state my personal belief that a pitcher having a good game and only giving up a run or two or three should never be pulled before the 7th unless he's being hit hard and getting lucky in getting out of jams. Otherwise he's being effective and should be left in the game, unless he has a high pitch count. I don't think you can refute all the data that's been written up about pitch count being damaging to arms (possibly more on this tomorrow) either.

Here's data I would like to see. How many pitchers back in the 20s and 30s would give up 4-5 runs early and be left in the game when they were obviously having problems? How many times was he left in to allow 6 or 7 runs to score when quite possibly pulling him might have allowed his team to stop the bleeding and score runs? How many rallies fell just short because the pitcher was left to sit for to long? Yes I realize the offensive explosion in recent years makes this more likely to happen today, but starters are usually pulled when they find themselves in trouble. Obviously good pitchers back in the day didn't find themselves in this position very much, but I'm sure it happened to mediocre players and no matter what you say, by comparison some of them have to be mediocre.

Also I think '52 isn't really early enough for the study to look at. Why not go back to '32 when relief pitchers were used much less frequently. In 1952 every team had a staff of at least 5 starters and in almost all cases 2 dedicated relief pitchers, with several more who got in some relief work. True the rules weren't as clearly defined, there weren't dedicated closers, and people still pitched a lot of complete games, but the concept was already in place.

Also lets look at one of those 1952 pitchers, AL MVP, Bobby Shantz. He pitched 27 complete games in 33 starts (I think the highest percentage of any starter and 2nd in CG). His record was 24-7 and he struck out 152 3rd in the league that year (1st in wins). He pitched 279.2 Innings... a pretty impressive number. I think it's safe to assume this was a pretty hard throwing Lefty and definitely the best pitcher in the AL that year.

Now look at his record the following years:
1953: 5-9, 16 games, 6 CG
1954: 1-0, 2 Games, 0 CG
1955: 5-10, 23 Games, 4 CG

Bobby played through 1964 when he finally called it quits. Now maybe Bobby just had a magical season in '52 (in an incredibly good hitters park) but maybe he really was that good. Maybe after that pitching that many innings he injured his arm. He certainly was never the same pitcher again and by 1958 was used in primarily as a reliever where he had moderate success. Maybe if he hadn't pitched so many complete games he might have been the hall of famer he played like in '52. The history books are littered with statistics like this... and all you can point me to is the great pitchers who didn't blow out their arms (as I contend because they weren't throwing as hard although you're welcome to disagree). How many more great pitchers would there have been if relievers had been used effectively? Who knows... but I can safely say this. Pitching today is a much safer endeavor and when pitchers are pushed just a little to hard the results can be disasterous (i.e. Kerry Wood who sat out all of '99). Maybe instead of coddling our pitchers we're saving them from themselves.

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Old 10-11-01, 10:48 AM
  #127  
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On the speed of pitchers:

This is not my opinion, it is that of hundreds of coaches, scouts, former players, and analysts the baseball world over. Dave Campbell and Jim Kaat have expressed this evaluation a number of times on Baseball Tonight. I remember one scout (whose name I don't recall) said, "A kid who could throw 85 mph used to be average. Now, we rank him at the top."
Well here's a quote I found:
"There are two basic models of radar guns used to clock the speed of fast balls. The Jugs Speed Gun (Fast Gun) will pick up the speed of the fast ball after it has traveled 3.5 feet and the Raglan (Slow Gun) will pick up the speed after the ball has traveled 40-50 feet. A fast ball will lose 8 mph from the time it leaves the pitchers hand to the time it crosses home plate. The JUGS speed Gun is usually 3-4 mph faster than the Raglan. The average major league fast ball is 88-89 mph on a JUGS Speed Gun and 84-85 mph on the Raglan. Scouts will rarely if ever sign a pitcher who does not throw at least 85 mph on the JUGS Speed Gun."

and this from a "What MLB Scouts Look For" article:

"The following fastball velocities are Major League Baseball pitcher ratings

Very Above Average 94+ mph
Above Average 92 - 93 mph
Average 89 - 91 mph
Below Average 87 - 88 mph
Very Below Average 85 - 86 mph

(Left-handed pitchers are graded on the same scale, but fastball velocities are usually given less weight if their breaking balls and change-ups are effective.)
"

And then this, the scores normally used by scouts on their scouting sheets:
"The numbers below were compiled by Andy May from information he obtained from the MLB Scouting Bureau. We thank Andy for giving WebBall permission to reprint them from his site.

Scale Velocity
8 98 mph +
7 93-97 mph
6 90-92 mph
5 88-89 mph
4 85-87 mph
3 83-84 mph
2 82 mph -
"


Another unnamed scout said, when referring to outfield arms (which are now weaker for the same reasons) "Nobody throws well from the outfield these days. Arms are so weak we grade on a curve. Guys who are good, we grade great. Guys who are terrible--they're still terrible, but there are a lot more of them." (Sports Illustrated, 3/26/01) I have a wealth of anecdotal evidence which confirms this stance.
I'm certainly willing to believe this. I think the amount of outfielders (particularly high paid ones) willing to spend the amount of time trying to increase their throwing arms has most likely diminished which is a shame.

For more concrete references, you may have to wait awhile, until I can have to time to pour through all of my sources. In fact, if you're really interested, you may want to write to the scouting/coaching departments of many ML teams with your query. You will find that they unanimously agree in the affirmative.
Well I couldn't find the e-mail addresses of any scouting departments (for obvious reasons) I did e-mail Rob Neyer, columnist at ESPN.com. Here was his response:

"Pitchers today, as a group, throw significantly harder than they did 75 years ago. There is very, very little doubt in my mind about this.

seeya,

rob
"

I'm sorry but I'm just not seeing much evidence that pitchers have been slowing down through the years. Also your claim that an 85 mph fastballer is now a top prospect doesn't seem to hold much weight.

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Old 10-11-01, 11:24 AM
  #128  
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Originally posted by Mordred

Here was his response:

"[I]Pitchers today, as a group, throw significantly harder than they did 75 years ago. There is very, very little doubt in my mind about this.


That's his opinion. He can't demonstrate that factually, just as I can't demonstrate factually that pitchers (on the average) threw harder once than they now do.

BTW: Just how accurate are those radar guns that they use today? I really don't know. I do know that I attended a Big 12 tournament game a last year and scouts were in the stands behind home plate using them. I was surprised by the variations that they got - three were in use.
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Old 10-11-01, 11:34 AM
  #129  
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Originally posted by classicman2
BTW: Just how accurate are those radar guns that they use today? I really don't know. I do know that I attended a Big 12 tournament game a last year and scouts were in the stands behind home plate using them. I was surprised by the variations that they got - three were in use.
I would assume they're reasonably accurate if used and aimed properly but with a certain amount of variation. I think they often use multiple guns and take an average to account for the innacuracies.

I remember watching a MLB game last year and oftentimes they'll show the speed of the last pitch. Somehow the gun didn't pick up the ball quite right and the pitch registered at 40 mph. That number was quickly moved off the screen but I couldn't help thinking what a changeup that had to have been

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Old 10-11-01, 11:47 AM
  #130  
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Sometimes clubs even set them up to "fudge just a little." They want to over impress the scouts from other clubs who are at the game.

I believe I read where Atlanta did just that when Smoltz returned to the mound after his injury. It seems the Atlanta gun was somewhat higher than those others that were used.
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Old 10-11-01, 12:09 PM
  #131  
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Is Fox using the same gun to measure Smoltz in Enron Field throwing 98mph fastballs that the Braves use in Turner Field, which is about the same as his hardest fastballs go in either stadium?
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Old 10-11-01, 03:05 PM
  #132  
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Originally posted by Patman
Is Fox using the same gun to measure Smoltz in Enron Field throwing 98mph fastballs that the Braves use in Turner Field, which is about the same as his hardest fastballs go in either stadium?
I don't know, but I'm a big Smoltz fan, and I was really surprised when he kept hitting 98 and even 99 once or twice. As I recall he used to top out at 96. Either they were fudging the numbers on purpose, by accident, or he can just put that much more on the ball when he doesn't have to pitch 6-8 innings.
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Old 10-11-01, 04:03 PM
  #133  
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Originally posted by uberjoe
I don't know, but I'm a big Smoltz fan, and I was really surprised when he kept hitting 98 and even 99 once or twice. As I recall he used to top out at 96. Either they were fudging the numbers on purpose, by accident, or he can just put that much more on the ball when he doesn't have to pitch 6-8 innings.
Now there's something I've wondered about. Say you're a fireballing pitcher with a top speed of 98 or so. When you start a game does your fastball reach 98 or can they relax just a little to 95 or so to save their arms a little longer? How much control does a pitcher have over their velocity? I know it's a muscle-memory kind of thing, but how accurate can they be? Do pitchers even really consider that all that much, instead throwing as hard as they comfortably can at any given moment in the ball game (obviously when throwing a fastball)?

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Old 10-11-01, 05:41 PM
  #134  
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Originally posted by uberjoe
You've been arguing consistently that the players of yesterday were more athletic overall than the players of today (I know a generalization of your argument, but stick with me). Examples of running faster to first, longer throws, longer fungo hits. All that stuff. So...

Why have all the Olympic records of that time been shattered? With very few exceptions, times that would have put someone in the top ten in the 20's/30's can now be approached by today's best highschoolers. Jesse Owens famously won the 1936 long jump with 26 ft, 5 1/4 in. The current record is several feet past that. I could list countless other examples, but I don't have the time right now.
1. Olympic and baseball athletic conditioning are two different animals, and incompatible for comparison. Both require strength, speed, agililty, and quickness, but in the employ of disparate skills; after which each respective conditioning program is oriented. A baseball player doesn't concern himself with hitting the jump ramp an inch behind the sand; or keeping his body perfectly perpendicular during the sprint. Likewise, an Olympic athlete with getting the head of the bat into the strikezone in .47 seconds; or staying on the top of the ball in his delivery. The musclegroups and mind-muscle connections which are being trained and developed are completely different, and incomparable.

2. Athletic compatibility with specialized conditioning improvements. Almost all of the advances which have been made in physical enhancement during the scientific era are in accordance with skills prized in every major athletic pursuit, save baseball. For all of it's other undeniable advancements, science has yet to devise a way to give the baseball player a comparable edge. The great technology god hasn't found a replacement for the ancient acts of hurling a spheroid or swinging a cudgel. Athletes who are not developed in doing either--no matter that they can lift a car, run like the wind, or jump the Euphrates--cannot play baseball.

3. A relentlessly higher branch to reach. It is a simple concept, really, that the limits of athletic achievement are always proportional to the benchmarks of greatness. Jesse Owens didn't set his sights on a tenth of a second short of 10; but with beating the previous record of 10.3 set by Eddie Tolan, if that would win him the race. (This is what makes Bob Beamon's 1968 long jump record still one of the most remarkable athletic feats in history; surpassing, as he did, the previous mark by nearly three feet.) Likewise, 10.3 seconds means nothing to Maurice Green, only breaking the tape early enough to claim the new crown.

Baseball players, on the other hand, concern themselves not with these more absolute indicators of physical achievement (3.0, 445'10", 447'); but with HRs, RBIs, runs, ERA, strikeouts--numbers which are all more or less arbitrary over the fabric of changing times. The number 60--which for so long represented the peak of slugging achievement--bespoke nothing of the fact that, for instance, Ruth had to clear fences which were almost consistently further from the plate than those today. Similarly, 73 tells us nothing about the strikezone parameters Bonds had to contend with.

4. Improvements in equipment and field conditions. If you've ever seen the movie Chariots of Fire (set at the 1924 Olympics), the advantages in attire, equipment, and field conditions enjoyed by today's athletes should seem all too obvious. Shoes are no longer weighed down by metal spikes, and are aerodynamically designed to combine maximum spring with weightlessness. Clothing is lighter and less modest. Track materials have taken a leap from loose sod to elastic, quicksilver prescription blends. Starting blocks have evolved from scooped divots of earth to titanium springboards.

5. Siphoning of top talent. No longer are Olympic sports amateur events. Gone are the days when the economy made it financially impossible for amateur athletes to opt out of abandoning their Olympic aspirations for baseball, or more respectable professions. Olympic athletes could now sublimate all other concerns to physical improvement. Corporate sponsorship has made possible an athlete like Michael Johnson, who became a Gold medal-winner only after ten years of dedicated, sponsored training.

6. Academic fudging and aid. It is becoming a distant memory the day when poverty or academic mediocrity kept a champion athlete out of our halls of higher education. Scholarships, grants, and academic fraud have thrown the doors wide open for athletes of all designations to aspire to worldwide glory.

7. Performance enhancing drugs. Last, but certainly not least, pervasive drug use at the professional and amateur levels is no longer a reality that can be disputed; and casts an undeniable cloud over nearly every Olympic achievements in the last few decades.

Required reading:
http://www.testosterone.net/html/body_124rock.html
http://www.testosterone.net/html/body_125game.html
http://sports.espn.go.com/page2/tvli...ranscript.html
So, if the best of the best keeping getting better, why is it so easy for you to dismiss the physical prowess of modern baseball players, what with all the conditioning and weight training? I've seen pictures of the great hitters of the past, and Sammy Sosa could break them in two. So could Bonds, McGwire, and hell, even some utility infielders. So why couldn't they hit more homeruns? Or run faster? Or do any of another number of things better?
You need to look beyond the material and superficial. Again, this is immensely too complex and comprehensive a subject to attempt to explain here.

Suffice it for me to repeat that I freely admit that today's players would dominate en masse the past players in power-lifting competitions. That is because the type of strength conditioning today's increasingly bulky players are concentrating on are conducive to the very heavy tasks performed by power-lifters (absolute and maximum strength)--not the explosive movements demanded by baseball.

"While measures of absolute and maximum strength tell you how 'strong' you are, they don't say much about how well you use that strength. In fact, research shows that absolute strength alone is a relatively poor predictor of performance. Many powerlifters with impressinve maximum strength are actually outperformed by weaker athletes when required to lift a much lighter weight for speed. Since most sports require movements using body weight or implements much lighter than a loaded barbell [baseball bat], powerlifters are often relatively unathletic in the use of their strength.

This points up the fact that, in most sports, effective use of strength requires figuring in another variable-
time. It's not enough to be able to apply force. You have to be able to apply force quickly."

--Explosive Power
, by Ed Derse (1993).

On the other hand, players of yore were developed largely, not after bulk, but explosiveness. Medicine balls, for instance, which were once so popular an exercise tool for old time athletes, were long ago deemed archaic and inadequate for building strength by sports scientists. Guess what? They're back, and are now recognized as an excellent plyometric training device.

In addition, as most ballplayers a century ago graduated from blue collar stock, they sprouted from such occupations as farming, mining, blacksmithing, lumberjacking, factory work--all demanding massive plyometric and explosive strength. Chopping wood and digging fence-post holes gave Cy Young the all-time Arm of Steel; and allowed him to burn 100-mph. fastballs past hitters for 7,354 innings without a twinge of arm pain. Hacking down redwoods during his adolescence with an 8 lbs. axe enabled Ken Williams to smash screaming line drives with his 54 oz. bat. Swinging a sledge hammer at the Baldwin Locomotive Works provided 5'6" Hack Wilson the sinew to blast baseballs to remote quarters. A 12-yr. old farmboy named Jimmie Foxx could lift a 200 lbs. barrel of nails over his shoulders without letting it touch his body; later on splintering seats in upper-deck regions across the American League.

As they say, there's more than meets the eye.

Last edited by Sykes; 10-11-01 at 05:48 PM.
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Old 10-11-01, 05:58 PM
  #135  
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Originally posted by Mordred
On the speed of pitchers...
The scout I quoted earlier was talking about "kids"--high school- and college-age prospects--not about major-league velocity fastballs, which your sources refer to.

Certainly, scouts do not hold still-growing boys to velocity standards of fully-developed pro athletes.
I'm certainly willing to believe this. I think the amount of outfielders (particularly high paid ones) willing to spend the amount of time trying to increase their throwing arms has most likely diminished which is a shame.
It has diminished because young American outfielders are not spending enough time simply playing catch--as Little Leaguers of all positions--pitcher included--are neglecting to do.
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Old 10-11-01, 06:32 PM
  #136  
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Originally posted by Sykes
The scout I quoted earlier was talking about "kids"--high school- and college-age prospects--not about major-league velocity fastballs, which your sources refer to.
This is true... however the 2nd source I quoted was from a resource on what MLB scouts looked for in High School players. So touche as they say

Another point of discussion:

No one can deny that there has been an offensive explosion in the late '90s. I read a university study today which was looking at why this has been happening. Unfortunately I can't find the link right now. I'll look for it tomorrow at work.

The conclusions of the article was that park factor has not played a role as average park dimensions haven't changed in the past 10 years. Also they found that pitching dilution (at least over this period of time) was not a cause either. The three factors they determined to be the most likely causes for this explosion were:

1) drop in bat weight. Avg MLB bat weight has dropped from 33 oz. in 1990 to 31 oz. in 2000. This allows the batter to move the head of the bat through the strike zone at a much higher rate.

2) An increase in the amount of batters focusing on strength building programs in their exercise routine.

3) The diminishing strike zone which allows batters to crowd the plate, taking away the inside strike. And MLBs refusal to allow pitchers to throw inside in an attempt to brush back batters. Since pitchers have relatively little room inside to pitch to, they're forced to throw the outside pitch which, particularly when thrown high, is perfect for knocking into the cheap seats. This was cited by Sykes as one of the reasons for the change in offense and I tend to agree with him, at least on this point

4) This was an unproven (though likely in some cases I'd guess) assumption - The use of steroids or other performance enhancing drugs.

The study also concluded the ball has not been "juiced" as has been claimed as the conspiracy required to do so would be stretches the realm of the believable.

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Old 10-11-01, 06:35 PM
  #137  
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Chopping wood and digging fence-post holes gave Cy Young the all-time Arm of Steel; and allowed him to burn 100-mph. fastballs past hitters for 7,354 innings without a twinge of arm pain.
While I will say that Cy Young is probably the greatest pitcher to ever walk the face of the earth (though not the smartest!) I have to wonder... who was timing those 100-mph fastballs?

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Old 10-11-01, 10:05 PM
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Originally posted by Mordred
The article about relief pitching was very interesting, but I don't think it says what you think it says... or possibly what the author thinks it says. Yes the article proves pretty well that the save isn't the most meaningful statistic because the number of close games that are blown in late innings hasn't changed much in 40 years. But that doesn't say that relievers are worthless, just that the role of closer has been over-emphasized.
I'm going to have to learn to stop providing "bonus" material along with the information salient to my argument. I prefixed the article excerpt by warning that it had been slightly abridged (what's missing is a whole bunch of superfluous salary data pertinent to 1992). Unfortunately, I hadn't noticed that this restructuring mistakenly gives the impression that the author's bit on the "gratuitous save" was merely point B of a unified argument. It isn't. The article is actually divided into three tangentally-related studies of esoteric relief pitching data--a.) similarity of results in three different eras of late-inning pitching strategy (the focus of my argument); b.) lack of correlation between salary and effectivness of prominent 1992 relief pitchers; c.) largely gratuitous nature of today's inflated save totals. The save information is included purely parenthetically, and should not be used to interpret the pertinent late-inning data.

Additionally, the data does prove that specialized relief pitching has been an overrated factor in winning ballgames. No fewer close games were being lost back in the day when starters, or delegated journeymen, were called upon to close out games; than now, when "strong", fresh pitchers, who have been specially groomed for their role since school, are marched through a revolving door to put out the fire. You speculated earlier on how great a portion of yesteryear's hitting statistics were racked up in the late-innings against "tiring" old starters, or "washed-up" firemen. The data demonstrates that the starters were not worn or ineffective at all, quite the contrary. They set down cunning batsmen with the same pomp and alacrity as today's adulated hot-shot closers, such as Trevor Hoffman, Mariano Rivera, and Troy Percival.

Furthermore, the data suggests that the ever-increasing number of pitchers being used has, in fact, absolutely no bearing on offensive performance in today's late-inning periods. Thus, crumbles to the ground one of the most-cited alibis for the environment in which today's hitter functions. As Tony Gwynn says, "When you're going good, I don't think it matters who is going out there. The only thing that does is getting that bat head out to meet the ball."
Also let me state my personal belief that a pitcher having a good game and only giving up a run or two or three should never be pulled before the 7th unless he's being hit hard and getting lucky in getting out of jams. Otherwise he's being effective and should be left in the game, unless he has a high pitch count. I don't think you can refute all the data that's been written up about pitch count being damaging to arms (possibly more on this tomorrow) either.
Pitch counts have been the single greatest detriment to pitcher health and effectiveness that has ever been imposed on hurlers. Pitchers can only retain their effectiveness up to a certain point because they've been conditioned to do so. Kerry Wood blew out his arm, not in spite of strict pitch count guidelines, but because of them.

Pitchers in the old days were expected to run between three and ten miles a day in spring training; and shag flies for 1 1/2 to 2 hours daily besides. During the season, they lived at the end of a coach's fungo stick for every day they didn't start. They exercised their arms on these "days off" by throwing for 15 minutes at three-quarter speed, and 5 minutes at full speed. For many, who had left farms, ranches, and mines, to join the majors, this was a walk in the park. Don't you think that such endurance training made going nine innings a relative breeze?
Here's data I would like to see. How many pitchers back in the 20s and 30s would give up 4-5 runs early and be left in the game when they were obviously having problems? How many times was he left in to allow 6 or 7 runs to score when quite possibly pulling him might have allowed his team to stop the bleeding and score runs? How many rallies fell just short because the pitcher was left to sit for to long?
No more so than today. I have the boxscores and game accounts to prove it. Contrary to our usual caricatured and condescending understanding of how things worked once upon a time, our predecessors were no less astute at recognizing an ineffective hurler; or picking out a capable replacement; than we are now. If anything, we are less so, for our preposterous "by-the-book" doctrines of refusing to pitch a lefty against a righty, or sticking to the guidelines of the pitch count.
Yes I realize the offensive explosion in recent years makes this more likely to happen today, but starters are usually pulled when they find themselves in trouble.
And how often is their removal the correct solution? Not nearly as often as their proponents would like to believe. How often are their replacements able to stem the tide? How frequently could these starters have turned it around just at the point they are being hurried off to the shower? Again, data seems to suggest that these factors cancel eachother out.

Plus, I would argue that this "emergency cord" mentality has bred an entire generation of pitchers whose inability to stop the bleeding is the product of their overprotective sheltering from adversity. How can they develop resiliency and resolve if they are yanked at the earliest signs of trouble?
Also I think '52 isn't really early enough for the study to look at. Why not go back to '32 when relief pitchers were used much less frequently. In 1952 every team had a staff of at least 5 starters and in almost all cases 2 dedicated relief pitchers, with several more who got in some relief work. True the rules weren't as clearly defined, there weren't dedicated closers, and people still pitched a lot of complete games, but the concept was already in place.
Relief pitching strategy wasn't very different twenty years prior. Starters were still preferred to close out their own games whenever possible, and relief was brought in the case of waning effectiveness. Structured bullpens and pitch counts weren't yet a glint in Paul Richards' eye.

Moreover, the data shows us that there was only an average of 11 complete games per team more in '32 than there was in '52. I wouldn't call that "much less frequently". Also, I think it has already been proven the "dedication" of your relief staus is not commensurate to effectiveness.
Also lets look at one of those 1952 pitchers, AL MVP, Bobby Shantz. He pitched 27 complete games in 33 starts (I think the highest percentage of any starter and 2nd in CG). His record was 24-7 and he struck out 152 3rd in the league that year (1st in wins). He pitched 279.2 Innings... a pretty impressive number. I think it's safe to assume this was a pretty hard throwing Lefty and definitely the best pitcher in the AL that year.

Now look at his record the following years:
1953: 5-9, 16 games, 6 CG
1954: 1-0, 2 Games, 0 CG
1955: 5-10, 23 Games, 4 CG

Bobby played through 1964 when he finally called it quits. Now maybe Bobby just had a magical season in '52 (in an incredibly good hitters park) but maybe he really was that good. Maybe after that pitching that many innings he injured his arm. He certainly was never the same pitcher again and by 1958 was used in primarily as a reliever where he had moderate success. Maybe if he hadn't pitched so many complete games he might have been the hall of famer he played like in '52.
First of all, Bobby Shantz wasn't a hard thrower. A miniscule 5'6", 139 lbs. lefty (by far the smallest regular starting pitcher of the 20th century), he was known for his ability to change speeds, dancing knuckler and biting curve, pinpoint control, and--above all--far-ranging fielding abilities (four Gold Gloves). In the second place, he was, in fact, allowed more days of rest between starts than other staff aces around the league.
The history books are littered with statistics like this... and all you can point me to is the great pitchers who didn't blow out their arms.
Nah, I'd rather point to the careers of such modern dignitaries as Troy Percival, Mark Wohlers, John Smoltz, Kerry Ligtenberg, Pat Hentgen, David Cone, Tom Gordon, Bret Saberhagen, Bill Pulsipher, Kerry Wood, Jaret Wright, Charles Nagy, Billy Wagner, Darren Dreifort, Gregg Olson, Mark Leiter, Kevin Appier, Jason Isringhausen, Billy Koch, Ramon Martinez, Robb Nen, Norm Charlton, Matt Morris, Alan Benes, or Paul Wilson, whose careers were snuffed out by major arm injuries with scarcely a 10 complete game season among them. So, you see...

Oops! I forgot. We're always taking for granted the advancements of reconstructive surgery, aren't we?

Seriously, despite rhetoric about protecting young arms, more pitchers are going down with arm maladies than they ever have in the history of the game (maybe only the tortuous 1870s compare). So much for the pitch count.
How many more great pitchers would there have been if relievers had been used effectively?
The data seems to contradict any claims that relief pitchers have ever been used ineffectively.

Rather, the question should be, how many more great pitchers would there have been in Tommy John surgery had existed 100 years ago? Certainly "Smoky" Joe Wood would've won over 350 games. Ed Walsh would've tallied over 400. Amos Rusie, maybe 450.
Who knows... but I can safely say this. Pitching today is a much safer endeavor and when pitchers are pushed just a little to hard the results can be disasterous (i.e. Kerry Wood who sat out all of '99). Maybe instead of coddling our pitchers we're saving them from themselves.

Last edited by Sykes; 10-11-01 at 11:47 PM.
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Old 10-12-01, 08:45 AM
  #139  
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Sykes,

Many of the numbers you quote particularly those involving pitching velocity and base running times don't hold up to any real scrutiny. Ask any track and field coach about someone running 90 feet from a standing start on a dirt surface with 1901 shoe technology in 3.0 seconds and he will tell you its all but impossible. They will also tell you how stop watch times were and continue to be highly inaccurate. Not because of the stop watches themselves but because of the people operating them. During the NFL draft CNNSI did a story on inaccurate 40 yard times recorded at NFL combines and how every scout had a differing times for the same run, some by as much as a second. There were no real means of gauging a pitchers velocity either. So how can you say that they threw harder?

The stories about Babe Ruth being declared "superhuman" by doctors should not be taken seriously. Tall tales like those were the product of the love afair that the media and the public had with Ruth. Considering that the most technologically advanced tool of the time was a stethoscope, I wonder what kind of tests they could actually run.

Also your assertion that the low tech training methods for pitchers of yester year are superior to todays methods don't make sense. Most Latin American players of today grew up in the same conditions if not worse and using the same low tech training methods of the old era pitchers but they have the same arm problems as all the other pitchers. Nor do we see an abundance of dominant Latin pitchers in the major leagues. As would be the case if your assertion was true.

Now there's something I've wondered about. Say you're a fireballing pitcher with a top speed of 98 or so. When you start a game does your fastball reach 98 or can they relax just a little to 95 or so to save their arms a little longer? How much control does a pitcher have over their velocity? I know it's a muscle-memory kind of thing, but how accurate can they be? Do pitchers even really consider that all that much, instead throwing as hard as they comfortably can at any given moment in the ball game (obviously when throwing a fastball)?
The approach of the relief pitcher is different from the approach of the starter. It was once described by a major league pitching coach as such: A reliever pitches as hard as he can for as long as he can. He isn't concerned with endurance, only making outs. A starter will in key situations reach back and throw his hardest but for the most part they don't. Coaches even discourage starters from maxing out to much as it leads to short careers and shredded arms.
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Old 10-12-01, 08:51 AM
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A request of our friend, Sykes

Could you find it in your heart to shorten the length of your responses? Us older folks, with failing vision, and a shortened attention span, are finding it extremely difficult to follow.

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Old 10-12-01, 10:56 AM
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Originally posted by Dead Gods
Many of the numbers you quote particularly those involving pitching velocity and base running times don't hold up to any real scrutiny. Ask any track and field coach about someone running 90 feet from a standing start on a dirt surface with 1901 shoe technology in 3.0 seconds and he will tell you its all but impossible. They will also tell you how stop watch times were and continue to be highly inaccurate. Not because of the stop watches themselves but because of the people operating them. During the NFL draft CNNSI did a story on inaccurate 40 yard times recorded at NFL combines and how every scout had a differing times for the same run, some by as much as a second. There were no real means of gauging a pitchers velocity either. So how can you say that they threw harder?
First of all, the sprint to first was not initiated from a standing start. As per today, these are times to first on bunts. The watch is started the instant the bat meets the ball, and stopped when he hits the bag with his foot. As you may have seen in today's game, very often the batter (LH) has already initiated his momentum towards first by the time he has his bat out to receive the ball.

Again, we are deferring too much to our own supposed superiority! I see that the skeptics are having a hard time casting dispersions on the records for longest throw and fungo--set a good 44 and 72 years before 21st century technology, respectively--as our predecessors' ability to measure distance cannot reasonably be called into question. Instead, the more arbitrary task of timing a runner has become the eager target for the naysayers. These ad hominem attacks on our forebearers conveniently skirt the evidence at hand, and are condescending to the "nth" degree.

No, timing runners is not an exact science. However, the newer figures were established on arbitrary terms absolutely no different to those recorded 100 years ago. Fallible man is still operating the watches a century later (as demonstrated in your tidbit about the NFL combine). Therefore, consideration of these numbers is absolutely legit and comparable. Ichiro Suzuki and Tom Goodwin, at 3.7 respectively, are ML baseball's ostensibly-swiftest contemporary players to first. Extensive tests have established that any margin for error in this time is extremely narrow--certainly not one-half of a second. Yet, this is less than their actual deficit to "Ginger" Beaumont's time--of which extensive testing also ascribes a similar margin for error.

Since I have yet to see evidence that science has ever added distance or velocity to a baseball players throwing arm, we must consider the technological consideration null and void. This being the case, the old-timers must be ascribed at least equal footing with their contemporary counterparts in this aspect if one is to claim objective status. Mreover, all of the distance throwing marks are prejudiced in the old-timers' favor. Enough evidence is present to conclude that throwing arms--pitcher included--were, as a group, stronger in the past than today's. In 1886, Cincinnati pitcher Tony Mullane (who was never considered among the fastest in his day) threw a ball 434 ft. According to Yale professor Robert K. Adair, the "muzzle velocity" required to make possible Glen Gorbous' 445'10" throw approached that of the very fastest pitchers, 120 mph. Since Mullane's throw fell a mere 11 feet shorter than Gorbous' (whose mark was probably set at a higher altitude), we can then safely conclude that Mullane's velocity was impressive as the best flamethrowers 115 years later.
The stories about Babe Ruth being declared "superhuman" by doctors should not be taken seriously. Tall tales like those were the product of the love afair that the media and the public had with Ruth. Considering that the most technologically advanced tool of the time was a stethoscope, I wonder what kind of tests they could actually run.
Answering perceived hyperbole with more hyperbole makes a poor argument.

FWIW, neither do I nor the scientists who examined Ruth accept the term "superhuman" with a straight face. However, the test figures speak for themselves; and should be taken with as much seriousness as today's motor-skill diagnostics.
Also your assertion that the low tech training methods for pitchers of yester year are superior to todays methods don't make sense. Most Latin American players of today grew up in the same conditions if not worse and using the same low tech training methods of the old era pitchers but they have the same arm problems as all the other pitchers. Nor do we see an abundance of dominant Latin pitchers in the major leagues. As would be the case if your assertion was true.
They won't make sense to someone who will not suspend their blind faith in technology.

Proper conditioning at one stage of development is not mutually exclusive to the other. The training program a player who reaches the bigs toils under is every bit as vital to their full development as whatever regimen they followed in adolescence. A young pitcher who enjoys running and throwing between starts, but is prevented in doing so by the time he enters the pros (which is the prevailing practice), cannot maintain the same level of physical fitness at this stage as he had earlier. The Atlanta Braves (not coincidentally, the most pitching-rich and injury-free team of the '90s) remain the only existing system which allows their young hurlers to build their arm between pitching days. Since the pervasive doctrines of legendary coach Johnny Sain have taken over baseball, the extensive running programs of the past are all but extinct. The simple fact is pitchers are no longer expected to be as fit as they once were, regardless of your age or country of origin.

Physical fitness is a lifetime occupation, not vice versa.
The approach of the relief pitcher is different from the approach of the starter. It was once described by a major league pitching coach as such: A reliever pitches as hard as he can for as long as he can. He isn't concerned with endurance, only making outs. A starter will in key situations reach back and throw his hardest but for the most part they don't. Coaches even discourage starters from maxing out to much as it leads to short careers and shredded arms.
Is this what all our technology has taught us: that effectiveness is wholly commensurate, not to the pitcher's ability, but to how hard he throws?

Last edited by Sykes; 10-12-01 at 11:07 AM.
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Old 10-12-01, 11:00 AM
  #142  
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Originally posted by classicman2
A request of our friend, Sykes

Could you find it in your heart to shorten the length of your responses? Us older folks, with failing vision, and a shortened attention span, are finding it extremely difficult to follow.

So sorry. Brevity is neither my strong suit, nor possible in discussing the issues involved.

In fact, I may bow out of this discussion soon; for the reasons that there seems to be no end in sight; the topic has veered helllishly far from the intent of my original post; and my explanations have only demonstrated the inadequacy of a forum message board in doing justice to the issues involved. I hope my readers will understand.
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Old 10-12-01, 11:09 AM
  #143  
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Originally posted by Sykes
They set down cunning batsmen with the same pomp and alacrity as today's adulated hot-shot closers, such as Trevor Hoffman, Mariano Rivera, and Troy Percival.
Flowery prose may have gotten Tinkers, Evers and Chance enshrined, but alas it's effect is diminished on me.

Kerry Wood blew out his arm, not in spite of strict pitch count guidelines, but because of them.
I think your sorely mistaken on this point. Kerry Wood blew out his arm because he had a manager who didn't pay any attention to pitch counts... like a lot of other managers who didn't pay attention to them 3 years ago. Now I agree with leaving Kerry in for his 20K game (it was after all possibly the greatest pitched game ever, at least by the unscientific methods we have to judge such things) but I think continually giving him 120 pitch games was ridiculous. Here's another nice story for you. There was an ace local pitcher from a small town in Texas. Sadly I can't remember his name anymore. 3 years ago he was one of the top pitching prospects in the country, continually mowing down batters right and left and posting an era under 2.00. Sadly this kid played for a small town where he was the only quality pitcher the team had and he virtually carried them the whole season. In the league playoffs he threw around 120 pitches and then followed that up with an incredible 13 inning 150 pitch game which his team eventually won. Two months later he received Tommy John surgery. Needless to say he is no longer a top pitching prospect and his hopes and dreams of being in the majors have most likely been dashed.

If only his coach had forced him to pitch more on his off days he would've been fine.

Nah, I'd rather point to the careers of such modern dignitaries as Troy Percival, Mark Wohlers, John Smoltz, Kerry Ligtenberg, Pat Hentgen, David Cone, Tom Gordon, Bret Saberhagen, Bill Pulsipher, Kerry Wood, Jaret Wright, Charles Nagy, Billy Wagner, Darren Dreifort, Gregg Olson, Mark Leiter, Kevin Appier, Jason Isringhausen, Billy Koch, Ramon Martinez, Robb Nen, Norm Charlton, Matt Morris, Alan Benes, or Paul Wilson, whose careers were snuffed out by major arm injuries with scarcely a 10 complete game season among them.
Yes pitchers like Kerry Wood (20), Jaret Wright (24), Alan Benes (25), Scott Williamson (24), Jason Isringhausen (24), Norm Charlton (29), Dwight Gooden (29), Tom Gordon (31), Kevin Appier (30), John Smoltz (33), etc... all had serious arm injuries. The numbers beside their names are their ages when they got injured. Now you'll notice that many of those numbers are very low and for those that aren't you'll notice that almost all to a man were pitching 150-200 innings a season by the time they were 22... racking up large pitch counts in the mean time.

For far too long, managers have ignored pitch counts and it's only been in the last 10 years that it's started to matter to anyone, and I'd argue it wasn't until Kerry Wood's injury that it really became a big deal. Even five years ago they weren't discussing pitch counts in broadcasts as anything more than a casual statistic, now scarcely an inning goes by without the pitch-count being displayed. No amount of "Cy Young never needed surgery" is going to convince me that this is anything other than a good thing.

Now once a pitcher reaches around his late 20s pitch counts don't seem to matter as much. The arm is usually strong enough to take it, usually without any serious side effects. In the case of a veteran pitcher they really don't mean as much. But when discussing young arms they certainly do.

Pitchers in the old days were expected to run between three and ten miles a day in spring training; and shag flies for 1 1/2 to 2 hours daily besides. During the season, they lived at the end of a coach's fungo stick for every day they didn't start. They exercised their arms on these "days off" by throwing for 15 minutes at three-quarter speed, and 5 minutes at full speed. For many, who had left farms, ranches, and mines, to join the majors, this was a walk in the park. Don't you think that such endurance training made going nine innings a relative breeze?
Well how do pitchers today train? Granted I don't know for sure, but it seems ridiculous to assume that they don't touch a ball in between starts as you seem to be asserting.

Seriously, despite rhetoric about protecting young arms, more pitchers are going down with arm maladies than they ever have in the history of the game (maybe only the tortuous 1870s compare).
This is true. But look at any other sport and you'll see the exact same trend. You're willing to concede that athletes are pushing themselves to new levels in every other sport, yet somehow this doesn't hold true for baseball. Quite possibly pitchers today are throwing harder than ever and destroying their arms in the process.

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Old 10-12-01, 11:20 AM
  #144  
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Originally posted by Sykes
So sorry. Brevity is neither my strong suit, nor possible in discussing the issues involved.
I feel i'm guilty of this too.

the topic has veered helllishly far from the intent of my original post
How can you say this? Bonds is obviously better than Ruth because he's on a pitch count!

Allow me to bring it back along the lines of the original topic. Are there any players today you feel could have competed 75 years ago, or is it your opinion that even the greatest modern players would have been sub-par? You seem to give some respect to the Randy Johnson's and Greg Maddux's yet not the Bonds' and A-Rod's.

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Old 10-12-01, 11:45 AM
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Originally posted by Mordred
This is true... however the 2nd source I quoted was from a resource on what MLB scouts looked for in High School players. So touche as they say
Yes, I originally failed to notice the tell-tale scouting numbers (2-8) appending the velocity figures.

However, prospects are still graded on a curve. Notice that, while the numbers remain the same, whatever guidelines exist to intepret the value of those numbers remain completely arbitrary to the coach's discretion. 85 mph may not qualify as an 8, but it is no longer a realistic option for a pitcher to reach these top numbers.
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Old 10-12-01, 12:08 PM
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Originally posted by Mordred
I think your sorely mistaken on this point. Kerry Wood blew out his arm because he had a manager who didn't pay any attention to pitch counts... like a lot of other managers who didn't pay attention to them 3 years ago. Now I agree with leaving Kerry in for his 20K game (it was after all possibly the greatest pitched game ever, at least by the unscientific methods we have to judge such things) but I think continually giving him 120 pitch games was ridiculous.
You're right, it was ridiculous, because Kerry Wood hadn't been conditioned to throw more than 100 pitches when he was in the minor leagues. Under the tough throwing and running regimens of the old days, Kerry could've handled these 120 pitch games with relative ease.

I remember seeing Sandy Koufax's manager interviewed after one of his great games. When asked if he was concerned for his ace's stamina in the late-innings, he replied, "No, I knew he wasn't tired because he had only thrown 150 pitches.
Yes pitchers like Kerry Wood (20), Jaret Wright (24), Alan Benes (25), Scott Williamson (24), Jason Isringhausen (24), Norm Charlton (29), Dwight Gooden (29), Tom Gordon (31), Kevin Appier (30), John Smoltz (33), etc... all had serious arm injuries. The numbers beside their names are their ages when they got injured. Now you'll notice that many of those numbers are very low and for those that aren't you'll notice that almost all to a man were pitching 150-200 innings a season by the time they were 22... racking up large pitch counts in the mean time.
In fact, the majority of these injuries did not occur under high-pitch-count conditions, but rather the opposite. Bryan Harvey, a dominant closer in the early '90s, once blew out his arm 11 pitches into a new season.
For far too long, managers have ignored pitch counts and it's only been in the last 10 years that it's started to matter to anyone, and I'd argue it wasn't until Kerry Wood's injury that it really became a big deal. Even five years ago they weren't discussing pitch counts in broadcasts as anything more than a casual statistic, now scarcely an inning goes by without the pitch-count being displayed.
And no fewer arms are being blown out now than before Wood's injury.
No amount of "Cy Young never needed surgery" is going to convince me that this is anything other than a good thing.
That's your prerogative.
Well how do pitchers today train? Granted I don't know for sure, but it seems ridiculous to assume that they don't touch a ball in between starts as you seem to be asserting.
They throw warm-up in their days off, but not for gain (except the Atlanta Braves). For lower-body, they usually content themselves with a few pole-to-pole wind sprints. (Granted, what constitutes a "sprint" has relaxed considerably over the years. Well into his late '30s, Bob Feller was dropping the tongues of his younger staffmates to the turf with the toughness of his regimen. "Nowadays they jog like old men," he complains now.)
This is true. But look at any other sport and you'll see the exact same trend. You're willing to concede that athletes are pushing themselves to new levels in every other sport, yet somehow this doesn't hold true for baseball. Quite possibly pitchers today are throwing harder than ever and destroying their arms in the process.
The majority of injuries in the contact sports can be acribed to the increases in player size and weight (plus the use of steroids which overtax muscle-fibers). I don't see that there has been a comparable increase in non-contact sports, except for baseball.
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Old 10-12-01, 12:11 PM
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Originally posted by Mordred
Are there any players today you feel could have competed 75 years ago, or is it your opinion that even the greatest modern players would have been sub-par? You seem to give some respect to the Randy Johnson's and Greg Maddux's yet not the Bonds' and A-Rod's.
Allow me to refer you to an earlier comment of mine:
I'm saying that for today's players to succeed in the old days, they would have to do so against conditions which go against many of the strengths they enjoy under today's.

Could they adjust to faster and better pitchers? Could they adjust to much larger fields? Deader balls? Bumpy, pock-marked fields and concrete walls? Could they adjust to the absence of hitter protection? A more aggressive style of play? Lack of batter's backdrops? Heavy wool-flannel uniforms? Primitive clubhouse conditions? Interminable rides on non-air-conditioned trains? Lodging in non-air-conditioned hotels?

I don't know. But it is my firm belief that it would be infinitely easier for the players of yore to step effortlessly into today's relatively cushy game than otherwise.
If you will forgive me, I think the time has come to retire this conversation. As mentioned earlier, I can only sketch at the ideas I would like to convey at a forum for communication as limited as this one; and it has been monopolizing far too much of my time the last few days. I am cool with the idea of agreeing to disagree. It has been a stimulating ride. This is surely one for the archives.

Last edited by Sykes; 10-12-01 at 12:19 PM.
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Old 10-12-01, 12:19 PM
  #148  
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Originally posted by Sykes
Allow me to refer you to an earlier comment of mine:If you will forgive me, I think the time has come to retire this conversation. As mentioned earlier, I can only sketch at the ideas I would like to convey at a forum for communication as limited as this one. It has been a stimulating ride. This is surely one for the archives.
Well said. It's been fun and I can honestly say I've learned a few things. One last question if you don't mind me asking: how old are you? You seem to possess a pretty damn good knowledge of events which transpired a long time before I was born... which makes keeping up with you a little difficult at times.

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Old 10-12-01, 12:22 PM
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Originally posted by Mordred
Well said. It's been fun and I can honestly say I've learned a few things. One last question if you don't mind me asking: how old are you? You seem to possess a pretty damn good knowledge of events which transpired a long time before I was born... which makes keeping up with you a little difficult at times.
Sykes is ageless.
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Old 10-12-01, 12:24 PM
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Originally posted by Sykes
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That's one assertion I have no recourse but to accept.
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