Over at BP Unfiltered, David Laurila has a nifty Q&A with Brewers bench coach, Ted Simmons, who was one of the most vital figures in the Players Association back in the 1970s, and a near Hall of Fame catcher to boot.
DL: You played in the 1970s and 1980s. How different is the game now?
TS: The players are far more educated than they were when I first played. When I came up to the Cardinals in 1970, I had spent two years at the University of Michigan. Dal Maxvill had an electrical engineering degree from Washington University. We were really the only two, at least that I can recall, who had spent any time in a four-year institution. Today, almost all of these kids have formal educations — minimally at the junior college level. Almost all come from major educational backgrounds. That is the biggest change that exists in major league baseball with the players themselves. They’re far more educated and far more sophisticated; they’re a far different band of people.
DL: How does the game differ on the field?
TS: I think it has changed dramatically with the statistical analysis that’s come about and applied itself at the major league level and at the minor league level. You have a whole group of people who have identified, and recognized, statistical trends that are directly applicable to the field. Whether it’s offensively, pitching, or defensively, there are applications that exist now because of the ability to convey information quickly — things you can take on a daily basis and apply in a game. There’s no question that’s been the biggest change.
DL: Have you adapted well to the statistical revolution, or do you view yourself as more of an old-school baseball guy?
TS: I think that dinosaurs die hard, and they die fast. If one doesn’t take the best of the objective perspective, and the best of the subjective perspective, and incorporate the two into one place — however one has to do it — if you’re not prepared to do that, you’ll soon be out.
Simmons’ bit about dinosaurs brings to mind something that the Yankees have had me thinking about recently, the classic line from Annie Hall where Woody says, “A relationship, I think, is like a shark. You know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark.”