Tuesday, December 1, 2009

8 comments Bert Blyleven Talks A Little Bit About Offseason Conditioning But Mostly Discusses Himself

When we last left Bert Blyleven he was telling us all that this offseason, unlike many of the past offseasons, teams are going to be looking for pitching. The time before that we learned a little bit about postseason pressure, but mostly we learned about Bert's accomplishments in the postseason. It turns out Bert's advice to A-Rod to just have fun in the postseason was spot-on. Of course it helped A-Rod's enjoyment that he had a terrific postseason and didn't get booed constantly by his home crowd, which was helped by the fact that he hit the ball well, which is what caused A-Rod to enjoy the postseason.

Today, Bert is back at it and discussing how offseason conditioning has changed through the years. We learn a little bit about modern offseason conditioning and what we learn even learn even more about is, wait for it, Bert Blyleven himself.

Much has been made this winter of the offseason training regimen of Pablo Sandoval, a budding star of the San Francisco Giants.

You mean the fact the Giants are attempting to get their 245 pound 23 year old third baseman to lose a little bit of weight. But why? Don't they want to exactly re-live the Kevin Mitchell experience where he literally grew out of playing third base?

(That Baseball-Reference page has Mitchell listed at 210 pounds. Apparently he stopped getting weighed when he hit 17 years of age.)

I would also like to take issue with the idea Sandoval is a "budding" star. He hit .330/.387/.556 for the Giants this past year with 5 triples (yeah...5 triples), 44 doubles, 25 homeruns and 90 RBI's. He is a star already.

Sandoval has loads of talent, but has caught plenty of heat for his portly physique. So he has dedicated himself to a difficult offseason program to get in shape and turn some of that fat into muscle.

Read that link again. Does it sound like Sandoval is "dedicated" to this program? The trainer called him a "poopy-pants" for God's sake.

It’s pretty rare for a player to undertake such a venture so early in the offseason,

Is it pretty rare for a player to undertake a venture this early in the offseason if he is trying to lose 10-15 pounds and gain muscle? I don't have access to player's training schedules but I am pretty sure Sandoval working out hardcore over a month and a half after his team's season has ended isn't that rare.

and really underscores how times have changed from when I played (1970-92).

There are the things I love about Bert Blyleven. A normal ex-player would just leave the sentence as it is, but Bert Blyleven includes a link to his Baseball-Reference page in case you need proof he played in MLB over those years. Or he includes the link to show us all how good of a pitcher he truly was.

What strikes me as funny is that the Baseball-Reference page has Bert listed at 207 pounds. I think Baseball-Reference needs to check on those weight measurements periodically. Does Bert look 207 to you in this picture? Eh, probably not. Of course Bert's weight can be deceiving because he has a special way of losing any air in his body. So after the game, he may have lost 10 pounds just in air.

The biggest reason things have changed over the years, of course, is money.

Yes, I am glad Bert realizes if a team pays a player $90 million dollars they are going to expect that player to attempt to stay in shape during the offseason.

I signed my first pro contract in 1969, and was invited to spring training in 1970. I made $500 a month after signing, and later about $1300 a month after being assigned to Triple-A. That obviously isn’t a lot, and you need to put food on the table.

I am glad we got the salary history concerning Bert Blyleven out of the way.

Bert Blyleven earned $1300/month in 1970 which is equivalent to about these amounts. That is obviously a lot in 1970 and is also a lot of money in 2009. Maybe I am missing something but I don't think the "food on the table" excuse in either era works when talking regarding that amount of monthly income.

Like a lot of players back then, I had to find work in the offseason to supplement my income, and couldn’t afford to do what Sandoval is doing this year.

I don't get this. $1,300 per month seems like a decent amount of money for 1970. Especially when you consider the fact players got money for meals and the like. Maybe I am overestimating how much $1,300 per month was in 1970.

Even when you make camp, like I did right off the bat,

I wonder if Bert Blyleven has ever pulled a muscle patting himself on the back?

you still only get meal money during that time.

What? You only get meal money from your employer during this time? What kind of harsh, work-camp like conditions were these teams running in the early 1970's?

I got a job pumping gas at a Texaco Station, and I would work out in my off hours.


Even as my career progressed and my salary increased, I still often worked in the offseason. One year I stayed up in Minnesota and sold pool tables. Other years I went on the Twins’ offseason caravan, where we would spend three months going to banquets, doing speaking engagements and making hospital visits, thanking fans in the outstate areas.

Bert Blyleven never needs to write an autobiography, that's what he has his NBC Sports column for!

And I was actually one of the lucky ones as I was called up to the majors in June 1970, my first season. There are so many minor leaguers who toil away and never make it to the big leagues, or take forever to get there.

I don't know if Bert Blyleven just writes his sentences suspiciously like he is bragging intentionally or not, but it just seems that way doesn't it?

"I am so lucky because I never had to spend much time in the minor leagues like other players who never become as good as I was."

When I was playing, many players would come into spring training maybe 60-70 percent ready, and use camp to get ready for the season.

Nice. I love to hear stories of the professionalism of baseball hitters and pitchers in the past. Hearing stories like this is what makes me feel better when I claim that pitchers like Walter Johnson could potentially just be an average pitcher in today's Major League Baseball. I know it is not respectful of the past to say this, but given Bert's comments on previous the previous generation of baseball player's work habits, I can't help but wonder how the old timers would have handled today's game.

I may be wrong, but a player that comes into camp overweight or out of shape is now the exception rather than the norm.

At the Twins facility in Fort Meyers, Fla., there are guys working out now, and many more will start showing up around the first of the year. And even established players like Joe Mauer will be there working out long before spring training arrives.

Being a baseball player is a year-round job, just like many other people in the world have a year-round job. Athletes are now treating sports as if it was a job, because it is, and they can afford to focus on that job for the entire year. This trend has been happening for a long time now. I think Bert is a few years late on the "offseason training is becoming popular" train.

It’s not that I think guys nowadays work harder,

They work harder at being in shape for the game of baseball. That's pretty much a fact. Players may be able to afford to avoid having a 2nd job, but they do work harder in the offseason at being a good baseball player.

All of these spring complexes are amazing, with four or five fields, plus a main field for games. You have six or seven batting cages, all of them covered so you can still hit when it rains.

What crazy technology these players have these days. They have multiple batting cages AND batting cages with covers on them? When will technology stop amazing me? I bet pretty soon they will even have stadiums with covers on them!

In 1970 we played at Tinker Field in Orlando.

I understand a writer using his playing experience to convey what it is like to be a baseball player to the audience, but Bert Blyleven takes it to another level. He talks about him and his playing days for about 35-40% of one of his articles.

You had 60 guys playing on one field and another half-field across the street. We had two hitting cages down the right field line. If it rained, you just went home.

If it rained, all the players just went home? No wonder everyone wanted to play for the Seattle Pilots.

And we didn’t have a weight room, just some dumbbells in the training room.

Well, it's good to see things haven't changed that much. There are still a bunch of dumbbells in a training room.

(Third grade joke alert!)

Nowadays guys get ready on the field, do all the workouts required as a team, then they go to the weight room. They put a lot more time into their bodies, thanks in part to the facilities.

But thanks mostly to the fact players want to put more time into their bodies so they can compete at the highest level of baseball. I am sure the facilities have something to do with it too, but players are a little less lazy now when it comes to the weight room. Also, I would like to mention that there were such thing as weights when Bert played, players and teams just didn't use them as often.

Players today are in better shape, as they have more money and time to focus on conditioning.

I don't know if players today have more time or not. The baseball season has actually gotten progressively longer since Bert's playing days and even players who don't make the playoffs still have other commitments to tend to in the offseason.

When I came to camp, I studied established pitchers like Jim Kaat and Jim Perry. Wherever they went, whatever they did, I tried to follow. If they ran 20 laps, I would try to run 22.

If they took 4 "greenies" a day, Bert would take 5 "greenies." If they spent $400 at the strip club, Bert would spend $425.

I grew up in Southern California so there were always guys available to play with in the offseason. I’d pitch against high school of college kids, in scout leagues, pretty much pitching year round.

I love how Bert Blyleven columns always have a similar structure:

"Here is what is happening in the game of baseball today, now let me tell you what used to happen, and more specifically let me tell you everything about myself and my accomplishments."

If you’re a young guy, you have to be 100 percent ready to go for camp. You want to make an impression right off the bat so if the team needs a player later they will think of calling you up.

Great advice even though, according to Bert, players use to never show up to camp in shape.

That happened to me in 1970. Twins manager Bill Rigney fell in love with me as I came to camp physically ready. I left a good impression, and when they needed a pitcher in June of that season, I got the call.

Except for Bert. He used to always show up in shape to camp. I am sure the manager fell in love with Bert because he was in shape and not because he was already a great pitcher. I am sure it had much more to do with the physical conditioning of Bert Blyleven than the pitching skill he had which caused Bill Rigney to fall in love with him.

You just know what you have to do. You might sacrifice going out with the buddies, or going out to parties. You know you have to get up early in the morning to run, your mindset is to get ready for spring.

The end.

It's pretty obvious Bert wasn't exactly sure how to end this column. I think it would have been more typical of Bert if he had just linked his Baseball-Reference page again and then just written, "Make me stop telling everyone how good I was and just put me in the Hall of Fame already."


The Casey said...

I will say this, as far as players not really working out before the mid- to late-'80's. The prevailing thought was, especially in baseball and basketball, that if you worked out, then you would get musclebound and lose all your agility. Nobody really saw any middle ground between "'roided up dude who can't lift his arms above his shoulders" and "natural athlete whose only exercise comes on the field". So I don't think it's so much that guys were lazy, but I'm sure a lot of them were specifically told by their coaches to avoid lifting weights.

Can you imagine how much worse Blyleven will be when/if he gets in the HOF? Gah.

Fred Trigger said...

Ironically enough I'm reading "Lords of the Realm" right now, and while $1300 might have seemed like a lot back in the day, I'm pretty sure it was well below his value to the owner. Not to mention he was good, if he wasnt good he would've had his salary cut or he would have been given his outright release. Reading this book just gives me more and more dislike of the owners. Its amazing how stupid they were/are.

In what world is $1300 a month decent money in 2009? Thats $15600 a year. That would barely cover making rent at an apartment. Oh man, I just reread it and you said it was "a lot of money". Ben.........WHAT? Wait a minute....upon reading it again, you said it would be alot of money with the inflation. Which makes more sense, and will help me sleep better tonight now that I know you arent as insane as I thought you were for a second.

Bengoodfella said...

You are probably right Casey, I remember players back then didn't have much muscle and they were afraid if they did get muscle it would hurt them in other aspects of the game. I still think Blyleven is a few years late in talking about this.

Blyleven is going to be horrible when he gets in the HoF, though I am going to want to hear his acceptance speech. His columns are all about him.

Fred, I wasn't aware of all that information that he would take a salary decrease if he didn't play well. I wonder how much PED use would be seen in MLB if that was still the case? Based on the inflation table I was looking at $1,300 wasn't a lot back then but it certainly looked like a liveable wage.

I wasn't saying that $1300 a month was liveable now, though my employer certainly would disgree apparently...they probably think I should pay them to work. That's beside the point, but you can sleep well knowing that I don't think that is a lot of money. I am not insane, though I do think it is funny that MLB players made a wage that was decent but not great in the 70's but now they are in the top of their income class.

Martin said...

Bert...he sure loves him some him!

Bengoodfella said...

He's his best friend.

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mark said...

every one loves bert.....bengoodfella IS A BIG A HOLE.........BERT BLYLEVEN IS TWICE THE MAN, PERSON, WHATEVER YOU WANT TO CALL IT.....

scott olson said...

Bert is a plert