America's pastime: Baseball royalty talks playoffs

(CBS News) As baseball's post-season gets underway, baseball royalty paid a visit to "Face the Nation" to talk about the contenders, the surprises, and the future of America's pastime.

Former Cardinals Manager Tony La Russa and former Dodgers Manager Tommy Lasorda agreed that pennants, playoffs and World Series championships are won or lost in the bullpen.

"The team that has the best bullpen is going to be the team that's going to win it," Lasorda said. "Cincinnati with Chapman, he's an outstanding one, and if Strasburg was pitching, that would make Washington a pretty good favorite."

But Strasburg's strong sophomore season, of course, was shut down in early September. In what proved to be a topic of hot debate, Nationals management insisted early on that the starting pitcher would not finish the season as he continued his recovery from Tommy John surgery.

"They're only pitching six innings and they're still getting hurt," La Russa said. "Even though we're using the last three innings with relievers, the starting pitchers, almost all of them, are finding some surgery at some point in their career. Sometimes more than once."

The panel also discussed the importance of baseball's slow evolution - the changes necessary to improve the game and preserve the deeply-seeded attributes that make baseball unique.

One topic of note: The designated hitter rule. In the American League, which possesses a DH rule, pitchers never bat. If a game is played on an AL team's field, the DH rule applies to the visiting team, even if they're from the National League (which has no DH rule), and vice-versa. MLB Network's Peter Gammons said the rule makes the World Series something of an aberration.

"One team doesn't play by the same rules they played under during the season and I think that's really important," Gammons said.

La Russa has played the game with and without the designated hitter rule, but said he preferred to play without.

"Some fans like the extra scoring," he said. "You see more of the game when you have the pitcher in the lineup. But I just know that right now baseball is riding a crest of popularity...you like the old time attributes and the fact that baseball is slow to change."

Extra scoring, especially from big hitters, has changed baseball stats immensely from where they were decades ago.

Jane Leavy, author of the Mickey Mantle biography "The Last Boy," compared the 1951 September stats of both Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays to two current rookies, the Nationals' Bryce Harper and the Angels' Mike Trout. She found that Mays batted .233, hardly the reason the Giants beat the Dodgers for the pennant that year, and Mantle was sent down in August due in large part to the fact he was striking out too much.

"If you look at Trout and Harper, Trout had the magnificent year, but he tanked in September," Leavy said. "Harper, after the Nats lost five games and Davey Johnson called that team meeting, took off. He hit .330, he had 60 points higher than Trout, and he had a slugging average 200 points higher. They are going to be the Mantle and Mays of the future. They're two fabulous players."

Post by Courtney Jay

  • Courtney Jay

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