LADY AT THE BAT: Kay To A-Rod Haters: Gehrig Had Advantages Not Available To Today's Players

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Kay To A-Rod Haters: Gehrig Had Advantages Not Available To Today's Players

Before he called last night's game against the Yankees and Braves, Michael Kay did his daily radio show and, on it, he had some very interesting things to say about Alex Rodriguez's historic grand slam earlier this week. He was responding to tweets some of his followers sent him, basically saying that because of his PED use, Alex Rodriguez should not be mentioned in the same breath as Lou Gehrig, whom Rodriguez is  tied with in career grand slams.

While stopping short of defending A-Rod's use of PEDs, Kay brought up some great points about Gehrig that should make one think twice before putting that proverbial asterisk next to Alex Rodriguez's feats:

* Lou Gehrig never played against African-American or other minority players. No one will ever know if he really faced the best competition he possibly could have during his career.

* Lou Gehrig never had to travel to the West Coast. There were no divisions when Gehrig played. Travel was much easier.

* Lou Gehrig never had to play a day game after a night game. Stadiums had no lights when he played, so all his games were during the day. 

Kay concluded his argument by saying that every single player has something that might warrant an asterisk next to his accomplishment, be it PEDs, an unfair playing advantage or something else. 

Very interesting comments. I agree with them 100%. Want to hear what Kay said for yourself? Click here. The segment should start around the 12:00 mark.


kevin said...

Wait just a minute, this is krap! Give me a break, your saying ballplayers have it tougher today than they did 85 years ago! First of all let me debunk the travel theory. I believe the Gehrig Yankees traveled by train, NY to Chicago is about 19 hrs. NY to LA by air is 6 hrs. Day games/night games/no minorities, that's some real nitpicking...and yes Arod used performance enhancing steroids, poor Arods got it rough. I don't agree with Kay at all, I can't believe you agree 100% but we are entitled to our opinions.

kevin said...

...I forgot, Arod has such a huge disadvantage because he doesn't have Ruth hitting in front of him!

kevin said...

...and also, it took Arod 300 more games to tie the record.

Anonymous said...

The Iron-Horse against A-Roid

Michael Kay is a joke of an announcer and pathetic as a radio talkshow host. Too bad Gehrig did not have the medical staff, training equipment and technology that we have today. Those guys had to actually work real jobs in the off season as well. Kay is doing what most all ESPN talkshows do, create a pointless debate. He's a clown and a coward, as well as a tool for ESPN and The Yankees. Look forward to the Hank Aaron homerun topic again when he breaks it to. The point is all the advantages/disadvantages cross out.

There is no asterisks in baseball. If Arod hits another Grandslam he will hold the record

Anonymous said...

But Gehrig had to travel by train so a trip to Kansas city to play the A's was a bit longer than a trip by chartered jet to California!

Anonymous said...

It also isn't any more difficult to hit a Grand Slam off of a Black pitcher than it is a White pitcher so it really isn't relevant that there weren't any blacks playing in Gehrig's time

Bernadette Pasley said...

All interesting points, guys. Thanks for reading. :)

Uncle Mike said...

Gehrig didn't have to face the split-fingered fastball, or even its predecessor the forkball. He had to face very few knuckleballs.

On the other hand, he played hardly any night games, meaning that if it was getting dark, there were no lights to turn on, thus the ball would be harder for him to see. He played in parks with much more distant fences. Never mind steroids, back then players didn't know anything about proper nutrition and exercise, and weight training was actually discouraged. And there was much less compunction about hitting a batter on purpose. And in addition to having Ruth hitting in front of him early in his career, he had Joe DiMaggio hitting in front of him late.

Let's also keep in mind that, when Gehrig was the age A-Rod is now, he was dying.

And let's not use race as an excuse. The ratio of good-to-not-so-good pitchers among blacks is roughly the same as it is among whites. For every Satchel Paige and Smokey Joe Williams who would have been as good as today's CC Sabathia or Roy Halladay, there were 10 guys who were no better than John Maine or Oliver Perez. And, like Ruth, Gehrig DID face black players in postseason barnstorming tours, in which case they faced the best available, and research shows that they weren't any more able to stop the Bambino and the Iron Horse than the white pitchers of the time. The best in any era would excel against the players of any era; it's the marginal player, someone like Joe Dugan, the Murderer's Row third baseman, who would likely have lost his job to a Negro Leagues star.

Thomas Slocum said...

I'm with Kevin on the travel issue - riding the rails for 2-3 times the hours it takes today's players to arrive at their furthest locations can't be considered a cake walk. Day games after night games? Unless it's a day game on the West Coast after a night game on the East Coast (at best rare), don't see that as an issue. Any night game would typically end by 11PM or thereabouts (barring extra innings) while the subsequent day game would start no earlier than 1PM. So shower, dress and out by midnight with the requirement to report back by about 10-11AM the next morning would still allow the disciplined player to grab 7-8 hours of sleep. The fact that the players of Gehrig's era did not face the very best players in the world has some merit. However the growth of the other major sports (i.e. football, basketball) has certainly meant that baseball no longer has an automatic claim on the finest athletes of any particular ethnic group. One aspect of the comparison (always difficult between eras) that was not addressed concerns the issue of pitching specialists. How many times did Gehrig jack a bases-loaded homer in the late innings off a tired starter? A-Rod would have always had less of an opportunity along those lines as, from the 7th inning on frequently, he would be facing a fresh pitcher who almost certainly would be a right-hander with a different look from the starter/last pitcher faced. That's no small potatoes.

Bernadette Pasley said...

Good argument, Uncle Mike.

Kay said he was being bombarded about this on Twitter. I wonder if anyone threw these responses at him. Thanks, again, guys.

WayneD said...

The level of abject ignorance displayed in some of these comments is mind-numbing.

Gehrig NEVER had to travel to Kansas City to play the A's; they didn't move to KC from Philadelphia until 1955 (!), long after the Iron Horse was dead.

Gehrig and players of that era never traveled further West than about Chicago, folks. Get your facts straight before you make absurd comments.

Secondly, someone made the rather ridiculous comment that "isn't any more difficult to hit a Grand Slam off of a Black pitcher than it is a White pitcher so it really isn't relevant that there weren't any blacks playing in Gehrig's time."

That's either an ignorant statement or one that masks the writer's inherent bigotry. Not having to face the best black and (to a large extent) Hispanic players of his era was, indeed a huge advantage for MLB players of that era. Great pitchers, such as Gibson, CC, King Felix, and many others would not have been allowed to play in the majors in that era. So, yes, that was an advantage for players of that era. While that wasn't Gehrig's or Ruth's fault, it certainly worked to their advantage as players.

Someone also noted that many of the Yankees faced black players in off-season exhibition matches. This is true. Ruth was ahead of his time in giving black players the opportunity to play against MLB players. But it's also true that in many of those games the black players out performed their MLB counterparts. So, yes, it was a Big Advantage for players of that era to not have to compete against black and most Hispanics. (By the way, for the record, I'm white.)

As for the PEDs issue. A-Rod was wrong to try them, but it's obvious to any logic thinker that he didn't use them to the extend that Bonds and Mac did. Their HR totals went up exponentially when they used them.

Bonds went from averaging 37 HRs a year for the 5 years prior to the time he started using them to averaging 56 HRs a year after he used them, an increase of 19 HRs a year!

A-Rod averaged about 42 HRs the 3 years prior to using PEDS (while playing in a notorious pitchers park in Seattle), and averaged 52 HRs during the period he used PEDs in Texas, a hitter's utopia. That's 10 HRs more a season, but that doesn't factor in how much easier it is to hit HRs in Texas than Seattle.

Playing in Texas is worth at least 10-15% more HRs because of how the ball flies out of the stadium in the Texas heat. So A-Rod MAY have got 4-5 more HRs a year because of PEDs. If A-Rod had used as extensively as Bonds and Mac, he would have easily hit 65-75 HRs in the Texas heat, which he didn't do.

It is also worth noting that A-Rod averaged almost 46 HRs a year from 2003-2005, long after he stopped using PEDs, based on his passing repeated drug screenings for PEDs.

Bottom line is this: it's absurd to diminish A-Rod's accomplishments because of either bigotry or his ill-advised and, apparently, limited use of PEDs. His accomplishment in NO WAY diminishes Gehrig's magnificent career; the Iron Horse was unquestionably one of the greatest of all time, and he was just as magnificent a person. But A-Rod is also unquestionably a great player.

Bernadette Pasley said...

They were the Philadelphia As when Gehrig played? Interesting, WayneD.

I don't think A-Rod played any games in Safeco as a Mariner. If he did, it wasn't many. As a Mariner he hit most of his HRs in the Kingdome, where it was actually easier.

Anonymous said...

The biggest factor in hitting Grand Slam home runs is that you have to come up with the bases loaded so it is irrelevant how many games it took, you should look at the opportunities to hit with the bases loaded rather than the number of games. A-Rod came up 232 times with the bases loaded and has 263 RBI and a ,347 batting average to go along with the 23 grand slams. I cannot find stats on how many time Gehrig came to the plate with the bases loaded but either way... A-Rod has tied the record. Anyone arguing that Aaron had 4000 more ABs than Ruth and only hit 41 more home runs so he shouldn't hold the record? I am!!!!

Anonymous said...

No one should be surprised by Michael Kays position on A-Rod and Gehrig. Michael has shown a love affair for A-Rod since A-Rod arrived in NY. Just listening to Michael gush over A-Rod every time he gets a hit is sad. What is even sadder is Michael Kay can't see that since A-Rod came off the PED's he has not been a dominant player. Every team see it, as they walk batter after batter in front of A-Rod. A-Rod in no longer a threat. At $25M, there are at least 10 players better than A-Rod. I for one will never recognize any record he breaks.

Anonymous said...

back in the day the Yankees played in St.Louis which is a tad west of chicago and there were no comforts that todays players have, sun glasses, air conditioning, and top of the line club houses and they played thirty double headers a year!!! while Gehrig faced no black pitchers there were only 16 teams in the big leagues, so imagine half of todays ballplayers still in the minors. in any event 23 slams is amazing.