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Et tu, Rickey?

Jun 28, 2012, 3:05 PM EDT

Rickey Henderson

Nothing I hate more than when an old timer talks about how people don’t play the game as well/right/hard/whatever now than they did back in the day. I didn’t figure Rickey Henderson would be one of those guys — I figured he’d be one of those “Rickey was ahead of his time, and the game is finally catching up to Rickey” people — but I guess not:

• How has the game changed since you played?

RH: “The game has changed a lot. Modern technology, computers. They know about all the players on every team. To me the game has changed too much because we share so much information with the kids that they’re losing the ability to trust themselves. That’s what’s making the game not as well-played as in my era.”

I think a Rickey Henderson in-his-prime would dominate today just like he did in the 80s and early 90s because he’s an inner-circle, all-time talent. But I think it’s kinda hogwash to say that the game is not as well-played today as it was in his era.  Defense is much better. Conditioning is much better. Scouting is much better. Training techniques and video makes everyone better. Everything. Just ask this guy.

Indeed, it seems like baseball is the only sport where people tend to default to the “it was better in the past” mindset. No one does this with track and field, swimming, basketball, football or anything else. Yet we are to assume that baseball is the one athletic pursuit where people aren’t better overall than they used to be? Bah.

Oh well, still a good interview because he’s Rickey after all and I’ll never not love Rickey.

(link via BTF)

  1. cur68 - Jun 28, 2012 at 3:09 PM

    Hey! Don’t be criticising Ricky! Ricky got twentyure. He can say whatever hogwash he wants.

  2. brewcrewfan54 - Jun 28, 2012 at 3:12 PM

    How did having less information back then mean the game was being played better? I would think the opposite actually.

    • danaking - Jun 28, 2012 at 3:14 PM

      Debating that with Rickey would be like arguing with Bluto when he said the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor. Never mind. He’s on a roll.

      • brewcrewfan54 - Jun 28, 2012 at 3:25 PM

        You sir, are correct.

  3. kkolchak - Jun 28, 2012 at 3:20 PM

    Actually, Rickey’s right. I’m not sure if the quality of play has declined at all, but baseball was a lot more FUN before every little aspect of it started getting analyzed to the nth degree. You’ll never again see a Rollie Fingers three inning save, or Mike Marshall pitching in 106 games in one season, or Wilbur Wood throwing 376 innings in one season, or Herb Washington pinch running, or Rickey stealing over 100 bases a year. The game has become too regimented and scientific, and that has made it less interesting even if the athletes who play it have never been better.

    • ezthinking - Jun 28, 2012 at 3:24 PM

      Don’t watch then. The things you cite aren’t necessarily a positive. Well, the 100 swipes is kind of cool.

      • chadjones27 - Jun 28, 2012 at 3:59 PM

        Didn’t pitchers start pitching from the stretch because of Rickey? It’s easy (well, easier) to steal second when a pitcher is going through the whole wind-up.

      • stlouis1baseball - Jun 28, 2012 at 4:01 PM

        I think a 3 inning save is also pretty cool.

      • bbil2012 - Jun 28, 2012 at 6:39 PM

        I could watch Wilbur Wood pitch all day.
        Um, come to think of it, I probably did.

    • brewcrewfan54 - Jun 28, 2012 at 3:27 PM

      There’s a reason teams don’t do that anymore. It’s proved to not be the best way to utilize a 25 man roster.

  4. Kevin S. - Jun 28, 2012 at 3:22 PM

    “No one does this with … football …”

    Clearly you’ve never heard Chuck Bednarik talk.

    • bigharold - Jun 28, 2012 at 9:59 PM

      Concrete Charlie might have a point.

  5. snakeeyes11 - Jun 28, 2012 at 3:37 PM

    Rickey is right. But don’t get me wrong – I like MLB the way it’s played today. There’s nothing wrong with it. But to Rickey’s point, the game is better when it’s just about the game, when it’s about the fun, when it’s about the spirit in which it was initially conceived. In Rickey’s day, things were less complicated. And I’m not talking about just the computer analysis. And in the generations before Rickey, it was even simpler.

    It makes me angry when people lump in the game of baseball in with MLB. Baseball was around a while before the MLB came into play. MLB has it’s challenges but the game as a stand alone institution will always be great when you separate it from money, contracts, media deals etc. As my kids grow up I will have to constantly remind them that baseball is baseball and MLB is MLB.

  6. bigleagues - Jun 28, 2012 at 3:38 PM


    Generally I agree with you. But something is not much better or we would not have the spate of season ending arm injuries that we have seen over the last few seasons . . . particularly this year.

    I hold out hope for a study that proves we are seeing some sort of periodic anomoly play out – but its seemingly been across the board, old young and in between.

    • brewcrewfan54 - Jun 28, 2012 at 3:50 PM

      How does an increase in arm injuries mean the game as a whole isn’t being played better? Maybe the arm injuries haven’t increased as much as the reporting of them has. Either way the amount of Tommy John surgeries is a bit alarming I agree, but it doesn’t have much to do with the game being played worse.

      • paperlions - Jun 28, 2012 at 4:04 PM

        Exactly, in the 80s, most of the guys would have taken whatever they had to take to get back on the field and kept pitching with a screwed up elbow and had a shorter career. Now, they can get guys patched back up and pitching within a year. “Back in the day” arm injuries were just as common (if not more so), but they went undiagnosed. Guys just pitched until they couldn’t anymore…end of career, which was much shorter than it would be for the same guy today.

      • bigleagues - Jun 28, 2012 at 6:58 PM

        Feel free to re-read what I wrote and ask yourself where I wrote anything that stated that the game is being played worse.

        I did not say anything of the sort.

      • bigleagues - Jun 28, 2012 at 7:23 PM


        Perhaps. In fact, I tend to agree with you.

        Look, pitching causes unnatural stress on the ligaments, cartilage, muscles and joints of the shoulder, arm, hip, and knee. We all know this.

        There are a couple of ways to mitigate that stress.

        1) Seek out and hone the perfect pitching mechanics (proverbially chasing rainbows – that is until many hundreds or thousands of years from now when bio-engineering and/or adaptation begin churning out perfectly tuned baseball pitchers.)

        2) Keep all of the muscles used to pitch strong and loose so as to keep the the shoulder stable and reduce the stress on things like ligaments, rotator cuffs and labrums. But also to help prevent the kind of freaky and hard to detect injury that Jhoulys Chacin experienced.

        I don’t that there is any fool proof way to maintain strength. Everyone gets dead-arm periods. But some pitchers throughout history have managed to stay healthy and avoid serious injury. Maybe its superior genetics, mechanics and nutrition working in perfect harmony. Maybe its freak luck. I tend to believe its more the former than the latter.

        Having seen first hand how many top prospects “take care of themselves”, I don’t believe that they truly take their profession as seriously as the few who eat right, seek ways to train better, etc . . .

        If you haven’t seen the excerpt of a 14-year-old Dylan Bundy training on youtube yet. I encourage you to do so. I have no idea what kind of nutritional program he is on. But if his work out routine is any indication – I’m sure he is very careful about how he eats. But just as important, Dylan Bundy does/did things that people who train for martial arts do – to strengthen, toughen and condition joints and muscles – like hitting the heavy bag repetitively for extended periods of time.

        But mostly . . . no one exercise or exercise program can replicate the muscle training that throwing does. Beyond the biceps, triceps and lats, there are many more smaller, but all-too-important muscles and ligaments in the shoulder and arm. And with all of the carefully planned throwing programs we see . . . are organizations trying to force a one-size-fits-all system onto varying body types, deliveries, and individuals who may or may not eat properly and thus deprive their bodies of the high quality nutrients and building blocks that a professional athlete needs?

  7. bigleagues - Jun 28, 2012 at 3:38 PM


    • Gobias Industries - Jun 28, 2012 at 4:19 PM

      *randomly-placed words preceded by an asterisk

  8. blabidibla - Jun 28, 2012 at 3:44 PM

    Rickey don’t know what comes out of Rickey’s mouth until the words have already crossed home plate.

    Rickey was a phenomenally talented player blessed with the brains of a donkey. Love to watch him play, and always gritted my teeth when he opened his mouth.

  9. natinals10 - Jun 28, 2012 at 3:46 PM

    My favorite Henderson story; In 1987, when Henderson missed a chunk of the season with an injury, Reynolds led the AL with 60 stolen bases for the Mariners. After the season Reynolds got a call from Henderson: “The phone rings. ‘Henderson here.’ I say, ‘Hey, what’s going on, Rickey?’ I think he’s calling to congratulate me, but he goes, ‘Sixty stolen bases? You ought to be ashamed. Rickey would have 60 at the break.’ And then click, he hung up.”

    • brewcrewfan54 - Jun 28, 2012 at 3:53 PM

      I enjoy the one where Rickey is talking to John Olerud about how he played with a guy in Toronto who also wore a helmet while playing in the field. Olerud then informed Rickey that it was him and they were teammates that year.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jun 28, 2012 at 4:07 PM

        Unfortunately it’s not true, but it’s still such a Rickey Henderson story that you almost WANT it to be true

      • brewcrewfan54 - Jun 28, 2012 at 4:13 PM

        Not true? Really? Everything in life I’ve believed up till now comes into question.

      • dondada10 - Jun 28, 2012 at 4:54 PM

        A cop once pulled Rickey over for speeding. Rickey lowered his window slightly and extended a folded hundred dollar bill out.

  10. buffalomafia - Jun 28, 2012 at 3:49 PM

    Salute’ to Rickey!

  11. natinals10 - Jun 28, 2012 at 3:50 PM

    Is anyone else reading every comment in hendersons voice?

    • bigharold - Jun 28, 2012 at 10:04 PM

      Absolutely, .. Big Harold could do no other!

  12. stlouis1baseball - Jun 28, 2012 at 4:06 PM

    I gotta’ share my favorite Rickey Henderson story (as told my formers Padres GM Kevin Towers).
    in the late 80’s…early 90’s….Rickey was holding out AND REPRESENTING HIMSELF AS AN AGENT.
    After a lengthy holdout Rickey (er…”Player Agent: Rickey) calls Kevin.
    (Kevin Towers) = “Hello.”
    (Rickey) = “Kevin? This is Rickey…calling on behalf of Rickey. Rickey wants to play some ball.”

  13. protectthishouse54 - Jun 28, 2012 at 5:31 PM

    They do that with basketball and football all the time. We’re always hearing from former players about the “wussification” of today’s game.

  14. thetruth702 - Jun 28, 2012 at 6:16 PM

    basketball is a girl sport now. the NBA is a joke the way people flop and the ticky tacky fouls and flagrants. back in the day if you shoe boat they knocked you on your butt. now you tap and it is a foul.
    ever since jordan cane in tge league fouls are ridiculous. you saw the drewm team movie last week. magic says you cant get to close to MJ it’s a foul. waaaaack.

    • sdsockers - Jun 28, 2012 at 8:25 PM

      You don’t read and spell very well, do you?

    • rooney24 - Jun 29, 2012 at 10:07 AM

      truth702 – Beyond your poor writing skills, you also don’t seem very open minded. Calling basketball a “girl sport” is disrespectful of girls and women everywhere. You are obviously using the “girl sport” thing as a slam, so therefore you don’t consider girls/women worthy of any respect on your part.

      I can agree with your point that I hate the flopping and inconsistent foul calls. But, you didn’t need to knock women to make your point.

  15. hisgirlgotburrelled - Jun 29, 2012 at 9:27 AM

    My first pair of batting gloves were lime green Mizuno’s.

    I think this happens in football much more than any other sport. QB’s being protected too much, not being able to hit defenseless players, passing too much because of those changes to the rules, you never stop hearing about how football is getting worse.

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