Two keys to enjoying baseball: stay humble and curious
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If you think fielding at the major league level has fallen off, Len Kasper says you should think again. In 1950 the error rate was nearly 1 per game, while it was at 0.62 per game in 2012.
So, not to go all Louis CK on you, but I'm 42 and having more and more moments of seeing the effects of my advancing age. Physically for sure and, yes, mentally sometimes too.
But there always is a little voice in the back of my head that reminds me to continue to "think young." And being around the game of baseball every day is incredibly helpful in that regard.
It is the era of advanced statistics, young Ivy League-educated general managers and kids like Mike Trout and Bryce Harper bursting onto the scene.
I won't claim that old school vs. new school is only about age, but baseball people, for the most part and like in most other areas of life, tend to process things along generational lines.
This is not inherently bad. I have learned a ton about baseball from the likes of Lou Piniella, Ron Santo, Jack McKeon, Jeff Torborg and lots of others nearly twice my age. And there are many things about the game from 50 years ago that still apply to today.
Having said that, there are times when I catch myself nearing some easy traps that I hope to never fall into.
I don't ever want to be that guy who thinks everything was better way back when — the players, the ballparks, the game itself. Baseball people are a particularly nostalgic (and stubborn) bunch, but today's players are a lot better conditioned, we pull the best talent from a much larger (i.e., global) landscape, and many more people attend and watch games than ever before.
And I also don't buy the argument that today's players aren't as tough or fundamentally sound as the players of yesteryear. I know many retired players who claim to have had mentally fragile teammates decades ago.
And while it's so easy to boast that "players in my day never made silly mistakes like they do today," I am guessing if every game were televised back in 1950, we probably could have found our fair share of missed cutoff men, bases-loaded walks and errant pickoff throws.
And because we have wonderful tools such as Baseball-Reference.com these days, we can actually go back and look.
In 2012, there were .62 errors committed per MLB game. In 1950, there were .95 errors, almost 1 per game! Whether you want to blame that on bad gloves, bad fields or simply bad defenders, you can't really claim with a straight face that teams were fundamentally better defensively 60 years ago.
I also don't ever want to be Mr. Crotchety, who knows what he knows and that's the end of it. I am a gatherer of information first and foremost and I hope to always be a listener before being a talker.
Lastly, and this is closely connected to my intellectual curiosity, I don't ever want to be afraid to say, "I don't know." That is a terrifying phrase for a lot of us, especially the baseball lifers, but it is unrealistic and silly to expect to know everything — about baseball or otherwise. Further, it is downright disingenuous and pompous to claim to have the answers for everything.
Yes, I admit, there are rare moments when I feel like I have it all figured out because I am around the game every day. But then the next minute I have no explanation for some crazy event or a really intelligent baseball person teaches me something new and I am reminded that staying humble and constantly curious is always the best way to go, no matter how much I think I know.
• Len Kasper is the TV play-by-play broadcaster for the Chicago Cubs. Follow him on Twitter @LenKasper and check out his [URL]blog entries;http://wgntv.com/news/stories/len-and-jds-cubs-baseball-blog/[URL] with Jim Deshaies at wgntv.com. To post comments or questions for Len, click on the comment link with his column at dailyherald.com.[/URL]
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