I mock the old “If The Boss was still alive” cliche New York journalists use all the time, but there’s another, even more prevalent cliche that has come to the fore over the past couple of years. It’s the “if Bob Gibson and Don Drysdale were still pitching” cliche, and it’s trotted out pretty darn regularly.
The idea is that those two no-nonsense pitchers from a bygone era would not stand for the shenanigans of today’s young whippersnappers. Why, if you flipped your bat, took a slow home run trot, didn’t hitch up your trousers properly or played the loud hippity-hop music when coming up to bat they’d throw a ball at your head. In Gibson’s specific case, actually, the construction is almost always “would plant a ball in your ear.”
We see it trotted out ALL THE TIME. Comment sections (I found nearly 200 HBT comments from the past year invoking them in this way), on Twitter and even from the mouths of players and managers. Here’s Joe Maddon talking about David Ortiz the other day, after his little argument through the media with Rays pitcher Chris Archer:
You’re silly, Joe. Bob Gibson hit a batter for every 158 he faced. Don Drysdale hit a batter for ever 94 he faced. Chris Archer has done it every 82 times. So your two historical avatars would be even less likely to do something about it than your man Archer, there.
And yes, I know what you’re going to say: “but they would brush Ortiz back more!” Well, cool. Then brush Ortiz back more. Or, I dunno, pitch as well as Drysdale or Gibson and don’t give him the chance to hit bombs off of you. Short of that, quit using Gibson and Drysdale like this. Drysdale is dead and should be left to rest in peace. Gibson is an older, retired gentleman and probably has things he’d rather do than to have the memory of his playing days used to fight your battles.
But more generally, whether you’re invoking Gibson, Drysdale, Steinbrenner or anything else, quit pretending that things were better back in the day than they are now. Because in baseball as in life, that’s almost always never the case. And when you do it, you just sound like an old fart who can’t enjoy new things or adapt to a new era.