NBA FOULS, PITCH COUNT

May 29, 2009

Bruce Jenkins talked about a possible reason for the slow down in playoff games: “The NBA’s obsession with technical fouls will backfire if Dwight Howard gets another one, because it will be his seventh in the playoffs, drawing an automatic one-game suspension. Maybe two of those technicals have been deserved; the rest have been the kind of ticky-tack nonsense that have befouled this year’s playoffs from the start. It seems a crackdown order came down from NBA executive Stu Jackson, who never did get it: not as a player, not as a coach, not as an executive. Anyone who cracks down on trash-talking has absolutely no sense of NBA reality or the culture of the game.”  Then he turned to the Magic: “That’s one of the most lifeless offenses ever unveiled in the playoffs, just a bunch of guys standing around the perimeter and firing away. I’d rather watch a bunch of blindfolded kids taking hacks at a piñata. But things really changed in the overtime. The ball went inside to Howard, he delivered in devastating fashion, and he showed — at least in this game — that he can be trusted at thee-throw line.” Ray Ratto talked about a possible cause of all those techs- “Bennett Salvatore. As in, “Salvatore missed that foul,” or “Salvatore called a foul that wasn’t
there,” or the ever-popular “Salvatore screwed us.” Your kid can now tank that chemistry final and look cool to his friends by dropping the new rage in
cheap alibis.                                                                                                                                      
Salvatore is one of the uber-veteran NBA officials who has come to represent the shortcomings of the officials during this year’s playoffs. Before that, it was
Joey Crawford, who allegedly offered to throw down with Tim Duncan (it turned out not to be so, but why let a good story be damaged by an explanation?). Before that, well, you all remember Tim Donaghy.                                                                                                                                  Don’t get us wrong, the games have been spottily adjudicated, in large part because three of the four remaining teams seem fine with playing rugby and the fourth, the Lakers, whines incessantly about everyone else playing rugby while trying desperately to avoid having to answer contact with contact.                                                                                                                                  Which brings us back to Salvatore, who keeps getting big games in large part because the league doesn’t have that many officials who are better. He’s become the major target for the ire of fans who like to think they understand officiating way better than they do, and as such is becoming a national “kick-me” sign. One which we believe enterprising children across America will soon be utilizing for all difficult social situations: I didn’t clean my room because Bennett Salvatore missed that three-second call. “I didn’t call you after the prom because Bennett Salvatore doesn’t want the Lakers to win.  Why must you always be in my business? Are you some sort of Bennett Salvatore? And for kids in a hurry, the catch-all, “Oh, Bennett Salvatore.”     
                                                                                  
Conlin wrote, in the Philly Daily News, about the evil and demonic existence of Dave Duncan’s pitch counts. “Some revolutions begin quietly, a few
individuals seeking change in a back room as opposed to thousands marching on a palace. A month ago, Nolan Ryan, president of the Texas Rangers, sent
a directive to the entire organization, banning use of pitch counts as a way to regulate how deep starting pitchers went in games.                                                                                                                                                         
And Citizen Ryan, who one season threw 5,684 pitches in 333 innings pitched, is doing something about it. By the way, the season was 1974, when Ryan was 22-16 for the Angels, leading the American League with 202 walks and 367 strikeouts. He averaged 135 pitches for 41 starts. That insane workload ravaged his arm so severely his career only lasted 19 more seasons. Ryan was still throwing in the 90s when he finally retired at age 46.                                                                                                                                            
He will expect Rangers pitchers to become more fit, to make stamina and mechanical correctness the new balance point of their careers, not a half-baked theory based on absolutely zero empiric evidence that throwing fewer pitches on a given day somehow will reduce arm injuries. It is the only athletic endeavor where a pitcher does less to prepare for his event – think the ubiquitous between starts bullpen sessions – than he will do in the game itself.
Imagine Andy Reid pulling Donovan McNabb when he reaches 25 attempts or a boxing trainer throwing in the towel when a fighter absorbs his 50th punch.                                 
Pitching is an activity for the strong and durable of arm, not the weak and fragile. And when you see Brett Myers possibly kiss the bulk of his season
goodbye with the new designer injury – the frayed labrum – Ryan’s push for better conditioning takes on a little more urgency. Put some of the blame on
Brett’s skewed mechanics.                                                                                                                                                       
In case you’re wondering what the emerging new breed of pitching is all about, look no farther than long-striding Giants phenom Tim Lincecum, who at 5-11, 170 can deal 95-98 heat all day, wrapping his fastball around a Brad Lidge slider and Cole Hamels change. It is fashionable to call Lincecum “The Freak” because he can twist himself into a pretzel and do back-flips. But his “momentum” mechanics are attainable by any pitcher who cares to investigate adelivery change that maximizes arm speed and minimizes
strain on the arm. Lidge himself uses a long-striding, less-contorted, version of Lincecum’s, his also built around a long-striding, explosive push off the
rubber and smooth acceleration of the delivery from relatively low-kicking body turn to dynamic finish. But it’s hard to keep in synch with an achy push off and landing knee. Other momentum deliveries to watch include Kansas City’s “Game Over” Zack Greinke, Yankees right hander Joba Chamberlain and, San Diego State’s soon-to-be-No. 1 draftee, Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg has been clocked at 103 mph and has a 17-strikeout no-hitter on his 2009
resume.                                                                                                                        
Nolan Ryan is weary of seeing innings taken away from the best pitchers in the game and handed to guys who in his time would have performed mop-up
duty.                                                                                                     
Good for Citizen Ryan. Long live the Revolution of the Throwletariat.”

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