The lament of "today's pitcher" has been a popular subject for years now. Older sportswriters and ballplayers have been complaining that "pitchers today just aren't what they used to be" for almost as long as baseball's been around. In the 1940s, "today's pitchers" weren't as good as Christy Mathewson. In the 1960s, they weren't as good as Warren Spahn. In the '80s, it was Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson. The cycle will never stop.
I bring this up because of an article I found the other day in an older "Baseball Digest". The article was written by Tom Verducci in the August 1992 issue of the magazine, and it was called "Major League Pitching 'Aint What It Used to Be.'". With quotes from Don Zimmer, Lou Piniella, Jim Kaat, and other men from a different generation, the piece says exactly what you'd expect it to say. The reasons for the demise in pitching are explored a bit: relief pitching, the five-man rotation, injuries, a shrinking strike zone. Again, no real surprises.
Well, except one. Remember, this piece is from 1992. Here's the full excerpt:
What's that have to do with baseball? One of the most common complaints among the doomsayers of pitching is that kids don't throw enough growing up. They are not building proper arm strength.
"There are more and more things for kids to do," Stottlemyre said. "I grew up like a lot of kids, playing baseball almost every day. You drive through a neighborhood now and you don't see it. They still play in the organized leagues, but not outside of that. They're playing Nintendo, or basketball or skateboarding, whatever."
"That's why it's a special treat to go to the Dominican Republic," McIlvaine said, "and drive around the country and see kids with broomsticks and balls and bats. Everybody's playing baseball. It's what American probably was like in the '30s and '40s."
I love the "probably" at the end there.
I don't have much to add. I just really wanted to highlight the "Nintendo theory" that Verducci mentioned (and, again, that excerpt includes the entire "Nintendo" section from the article). It seems like a stretch to me… but, then again, most of these reasons are the same way. I guess I shouldn't be too surprised then. If only the internet had been around back then to have dubbed this the "Verducci Nintendo Effect." It has a nice ring to it.