White Sox

Former White Sox pitcher McDowell recalls '94 strike

White Sox
Jack McDowell

Major League Baseball hasn't given much hope on a timeline for when the season will start.

On Friday, the league postponed the first week of spring training due to the current lockout — the ninth work stoppage in MLB history — and fans, players and ex-players are unhappy.

Former Chicago White Sox pitcher and 1993 Cy Young Winner Jack McDowell went on 670TheScore’s “Parkins and Spiegel” show Friday and shared his thoughts about the situation. McDowell was an active player during the players' strike in 1994.

"The toughest part is getting ready to get ready for spring training," McDowell said. "'Cause you know what your normal projection is of when you should start throwing, when you should start getting ready physically to go to spring training and now if it's gonna be a month later, it might be messed up, so you don't know what to do. And back in '94, that's kind of where I was at. I wasn't really prepped for spring training. We didn't know anything. And then kind of just out of the blue, the whole thing ended. And they're like, 'Okay, we're gonna see you in spring training in two days.'"

McDowell and his wife had their first child in mid-February 1995 and traveled from Chicago to California to introduce the baby to their family. He received the call that the strike ended and that he had to gear up for spring training.

 

"I didn't even know if I was going to be still with the White Sox or the trade that was supposedly illegal, I was told it was illegal, that they made whether I was going to be on the Yankees or not. So I get a call from the Yankees like, 'You got to be in Florida in two days.' I was like, okay. So I'm going to go to spring training. I got to fly to Chicago to just grab all my baseball stuff and go to spring training. Where am I going to live when we go to New York, I had no clue. It's just a really tough way to begin a season that way."

On top of dealing with the stress of a newborn baby, finding out the strike ended, getting traded to another team and having to find another place to live, McDowell said he wasn't in as good of shape as he previously had been. The then 29-year-old didn't get off to a great start with his new team and ended up with an injury toward the end of the season. He said that his teammate Jimmy Key lasted two starts and then suffered a season-ending injury.

The beginning of this season's lockout somewhat resembles the 2020 season that was shortened due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The remainder of spring training games in March wound up canceled and the regular season didn't begin until late July.

The stop-and-start nature of baseball resulted in players not getting in their full workouts which led to injuries like McDowell mentioned.

"The injuries are up every year with all the stuff that they're jamming down these pitchers' throats.

"They do all this stupid overweight lifting and all this stuff that you're not supposed to do if you're a pitcher. And they're doing it all. And that's why the injury rate is up crazy every year now.'

McDowell doesn't believe pitchers should be lifting super heavy weights and throwing weighted balls. He said he sees a lot of it coming from high school, college and up.

"That is not the way to do stuff, but everyone thinks that velocity is the main thing," McDowell said. "It's actually command and being able to pitch, back and forth, up and down, in and out, is how you get people out. Ain't just you throw hard, but you know, it's just the way things are going right now. The metrics stuff, they think that that's so important, that that's what they're jamming down everyone's throats. So, real pitchers that know how to pitch and get guys out that ain't throwing 100 mph with their new technology that they're measuring with, you know, they didn't even get a chance to move forward."

In 1993, the year he won the Cy Young, McDowell had a decision in every one of his first 27 starts. McDowell talked about how the game lacked in fans not seeing starters pitch deep anymore.

 

"They're losing the maximization of your best guys," he said. "If you were one of the five starters, it's because you were one of the top five pitchers on your team and so you got used. Now they're gonna pay a guy $40 million and only throw him five innings a game... it doesn't make any sense.

"Nowadays the metrics people say, "No. The third time that they see a pitcher is the toughest time for that guy to make an out 'cause he's already seen your other pitches an all that.' Well, wait a minute. Why does that change? You're not even allowing the reality of real baseball to make its way there."

Back in his playing days, McDowell relied on the reality of his rhythm, something that today's baseball technology cannot measure. In addition to metrics, he believes that analytics are a joke in today's game.

"There isn't a single thing that they've come up with that actually does positivity towards anything in this game," he said. "It's actually taking away a lot of the positivity of a lot of things in the actual game of baseball."

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