Friday, December 9, 2011

Great Mechanics Lost To the Steroid Era

Federal prosecutors requested yesterday that a judge send Barry Bonds to prison for 15 months for obstructing a grand jury's steroid investigation. Sentencing for our alleged home run king is next Friday. Meanwhile, Roger Clemens continues to face charges that he lied to Congress about his own suspected use of performance enhancers. The seven-time Cy Young Award winner's second trial is scheduled for April 17th.

What a shame. When I started teaching hitting and pitching, Bonds and Clemens were among the primary examples I used for how to swing a bat and pitch a baseball. And as much as their credibility and success has been tarnished, their mechanics were exemplary.

This swing clip of Bonds, posted by Dan Gazaway at The Pitching Academy, is a thing of beauty. The legs are perfect - fully braced front leg at contact with a 90 degree back leg and back heel up. The swing is compact with a direct path forward to the ball, the back elbow in and forearm coming up under the bat. The hips are fully rotated and then some. Contact is made over the front foot, head is over the back knee, hands finish over the shoulder.

This pitching clip of Clemens is a clinic. Simple but powerful. Up, down, forward. Palms away at separation. Long stride. Elbows shoulder-high at landing. Chest to the glove and over the front knee. Follow through low.

But what a shame. Some of our best teaching examples are now more associated with steroids and questionable integrity than they are with being among the best ever. It's probably best to stick with the stars of today anyway - Pujols, Braun (narf), Justin Upton, Verlander, etc. There are many great examples for young players to learn from on a regular basis. You can learn a lot by studying the best. Even Bonds and Clemens.

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