Sun, Oct 03, 2004 - Page 23 News List

Rookie sensations shame veterans

By Paul Huang  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

The level of competition in the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) has reached an all-time high as new players flock the traditional weaklings in the league to help balance the talent pool and improve the competitiveness of the games.

The last time that the best and worst team in the league were separated by five or fewer games in the standings this late into a season was in 1992, when the Brother Elephants held a five-game lead over the last-place former Weichuan Dragons to close out that season.

Although leveling the playing field is good for the sport in general because it makes each game much more exciting to watch, the alarming fact that local rookie players that are making sizable contributions to their teams' recent success as it is perhaps the veterans who are slipping. In the end, all that will be left is one mediocre league.

With all due respect to the La New Bears' local rookie trio of Wu Si-yo (吳偲佑), who went 4-0 with a 0.90 ERA in September, Shih Chih-wei (石志偉), who won the Offensive Player of the Month honor in May with a .375 average and eight RBIs, and Lin Chih-sheng (林智盛), who recently broke a 15-year-old record for longest hitting streak by a rookie with 22 and counting, we ask ourselves an honest question: Are these guys really that good, or has the quality of competition in the league gone south?

Other rookies whose level of play far exceeds their years of experience in the league are the Macoto Cobras' "Chens' Brothers" -- of no relation: outfielder Chen Yuan-jia (陳元甲) (batting .259 with 8 RBIs in just 16 games) and catcher Chen Keh-fang (陳克帆) (knocking in 12 RBIs in 16 games), and the Chinatrust Whales' pitching sensation Wang Guo-jing (王國進) (2.67 ERA with 113 strikeouts in 108 innings).

How can so many rookies do so well at the professional level so soon? And where has the transition from being an amateur to a pro gone?

"The order of the draft that favors the weaker teams has definitely helped us in getting solid players who can contribute right away to our system, but no one expected them to blossom the way they did," a high-level La New official who wishes to remain anonymous told the Taipei Times. "Maybe the gap between the pro's and the amateurs has shrunk."

Others quickly point out, judging from the 12-7 victory by the All-Star rookies over the top amateurs in this year's Future All-Star Game, that there is still a sizable gap between the amateurs and the pros. This year in the CPBL may be an exception where an unprecedented number of outstanding rookies have entered the league.

If the gap between the amateur and professional level has shrunk over the years, then the league must immediately find a way to improve its overall quality of competition. The last thing that a resurging professional sport such as baseball needs is to become a dead end for its participating players who work hard to reach the top, only to become too comfortable to excel in their chosen profession.

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