Bock’s Score: Adam, How About Keeping Your Big O Shut

If only Babe Ruth could look down on baseball today and listen to the observations of some modern players about the game he dominated, the Babe would enjoy a huge belly laugh.

Ruth, of course, is baseball royalty, a slugger of legendary proportions who hit 714 home runs, the third most in history, and essentially saved the game following the 1919 Black Sox scandal.

He still holds a fistful of records, scores of years after he left the game. And now, a currently unemployed relief pitcher has decided to trash one of the game’s greatest players.

Adam Ottavino was trolling his way through baseball’s winter meetings, looking for a job, when he took time out on a podcast to express his opinion on Ruth. After watching some video, Ottavino dismissed the slugger.

“With that swing, swinging that bat, I got him hitting .140 with seven homers,’’ Ottavino said. “It was a different game. The guy ate hotdogs, drank beer, did whatever he did. It was just a different game.’’

Ottavino is right about that. Ruth swung an oversized 42-ounce bat, much heavier than the ones used today. He also was rather carefree about staying in shape. He did not work out in the off-season and he did not think much about proper nutrition, since hot dogs and beer was so tasty. Today’s players are much more concerned with taking care of their bodies.

Ruth was a man of excesses, a man of his time, a different time in the game. A road trip on a railroad Pullman car took forever, not a couple of hours in an airplane. There were no strength and conditioning coaches hovering over players, no nutritionists designing clubhouse buffets. There were no hitting coaches analyzing swings, no video technicians filming every move.

The Babe did what he did – a .342 career batting average, 2,873 hits,  2,213 runs batted in, second most in history  – on his own. He hit over 40 home runs in a season a record 11 times. His .690 slugging percentage remains the best in history and his .471 on base percentage is second all-time. Much of that was accomplished after he posted a 94-46 record and a career 2.28 earned run average as a pitcher.

He was arguably the most dominant figure in the history of the game.

With that in mind, it might be a good idea for Ottavino and other modern players to think twice before choosing to diminish Ruth’s accomplishments. Today’s game was built on the shoulders of the players who came along before they did. Most of those stars are in the Hall of Fame, right there alongside newly elected Harold Baines.

Ottavino is well removed from that honor, although he will earn a hefty salary when he signs his free agent contract because teams are hungry for quality relief pitchers.

So he likely was feeling pretty perky when he added one more thought to his Babe Ruth analysis.

“In today’s game, I would strike out Babe Ruth every time,’’ the pitcher decided. He’s probably right about that, since the Babe turned 123 years old last February.

About the Author

Hal Bock

Hal Bock is a contributor with NY Sports Day. He has covered sports for 40 years at The Associated Press including 30 World Series, 30 Super Bowls and 11 Olympics. He is the author of 14 books including most recently The Last Chicago Cubs Dynasty and Banned Baseball's Blacklist of All-Stars and Also-Rans. He has written scores of magazine articles and served as Journalist In Residence at Long Island University's Brooklyn campus where he also served on the selection committee for the George Polk Awards.

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