Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Why don’t more teams develop knuckleballers?

It’s a question on the lips of MLB experts up and down the leagues, and one that’s often dismissed with the retort that the minor league roster spots are too valuable.

Sure, it requires general managers and staff to broaden their horizons a little bit and break the modern baseball mould, but it’s worth taking a chance on when you consider the possibilities.

Take the Rockies, for argument’s sake, there is an opportunity for gains to be made if the powers-that-be would only open their eyes and consider just how little they have to lose.

If we saw more teams adopting this way of thinking then it’s certain we’d be seeing more batters taking their frustrations out on the dugout facilities, having seen a would-be floater inexplicably transform in mid-air for a strike.

So why aren’t teams teaching pitchers how to deliver a knuckleball? Well, part of the reason is that there’s a perception that it’s a difficult pitch for catchers to stick to.

But that’s nonsense, as those who enjoy betting on baseball have seen in countless World Series-winning campaigns and even the showpiece games themselves.

But you need a mentor, one of the real MLB picks, and somebody who knows the skill and can impart that knowledge with enough authority and will to instill it as part of their student’s game.

Unfortunately there aren’t many of these ‘knuckle-masters’ about, although those who do hold this particularly skill in their armoury are typically eager to pass on their knowledge to the younger generation.

Throwing a knuckleball isn’t easy, and many who show a passing interest are often reluctant to throw their weight into the practice, out of fear of restricting their options.

And that’s certainly a reason why we don’t see many of them thrown in the modern game, but surely that’s not a good enough reason for the skill to be so wantonly overlooked?

It cannot be a last resort following a string of failed fastballs, sliders and curveballs, but unfortunately the knuckleball does not come attached with the same glamorous tags at its more commonly utilised brothers.

But this is where the teams come in. It’s time for coaches at junior level to invest their time and resources into teaching their youngsters this important skill.

History tells us that the ones who have mastered the knuckleball have gone on to enjoy long and fruitful careers. Niekro, Wakefield, Wilhelm, Dickey, Charlie Hough, Wilbur Wood - there aren’t many poor knuckleballers.

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