Dr. Mike Marshall's Pitching Coach Services

March 05, 2009 Sports Business Journal

Sports Business Journal
Sports Industrialists
Published March 05, 2009

THE DAILY Goes One-On-One With Former MLBer Mike Marshall

  MIKE MARSHALL broke into the major leagues in '67 with the Tigers. Fourteen years and eight teams later, he retired, but not before making his mark as the game’s most durable relief pitcher.  In '74 he appeared in 13 straight games and won the Cy Young Award after he set single-season records for appearances (106), relief innings (208) and games finished (84).

Marshall, who earned a Ph.D. from Michigan State in kinesiology (the study of muscles and their movements), has devoted over 40 years to researching the art and science of pitching.  He has been an outspoken and tireless critic of the traditional pitching motion and an advocate for a training program he devised that he claims puts no stress on a pitcher’s arm.  But he said he cannot get an audience with a major league team to discuss his findings.

Marshall spoke with SportsBusiness Journal N.Y. bureau chief Jerry Kavanagh prior to the Spring Training reporting date for pitchers and catchers.

Favorite vacation spot:  No, once I've seen something, that's great, whether it's a place or book or a movie, I don't need to see it again.  I want to see something else.

Favorite piece of music:  I'm stuck in the '60s and '70s.  I'm a MUDDY WATERS fan.

Favorite book:  I'm not a novel reader.  I read more scientific journals kind of stuff.

Favorite quote:  EINSTEIN's definition of insanity:  "Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

Favorite movie:  "Cadillac Records."

Best baseball movies:  "Bull Durham" and "Field of Dreams."

Worst baseball movie:  "The Babe Ruth Story."

Superstitions:  No, I'm too scientific for superstitions.

Regrets:  If you're not trying, then you're not making mistakes.  But if you make mistakes and you learn from them, then there's nothing to regret.  You do the best you can.  I wish I had done some things differently, but I did the best I could with the information I had at the time.  And that's about all you can do.

Most influential persons:  WILLIAM HEUSNER, my kinesiology professor, opened my eyes to things I didn't know existed.  As a result of that, I had a Major League career I never would have had.  And GENE MAUCH gave me a chance in the Major Leagues.

Toughest opponent:  JOE MORGAN.

Any pitchers today you admire:  GREG MADDUX.

Q:  What's your assessment of the business health of baseball?

Marshall:  Well, I'm not involved that closely.  And when I was a player rep, the owners didn't tell us too much about the business part of it.  Of course, the big business that they're in now, and one that I predicted back in the mid-'70s, is cable television.  That's a huge revenue source for them.

Q:  You saw the future in that in the seventies?

Marshall:  Oh, yes. I was sitting with TED TURNER there in the old ballpark and we were talking about the different ideas that he had.  He mentioned that he was going to put his team on cable television.  I told him the thing I hate when I get on the radio is it's all music.  I want to hear news.  I'd like an all-news station.  He sort of took that idea pretty good.

Q:  Are you suggesting that you gave him the idea for a cable news network?

Marshall:  (laughing) I wish I had.  I'm not going to say that that led directly to what he did, but certainly he thought well of the idea.  We were talking, and I had come up with a contract negotiation technique where I would negotiate the money but then I would loan the money back to the team at prime rate, which was certainly better than what the teams usually got.

He liked that idea, and then we started talking about different things in business that he was doing.  I guess he thought I had some ideas about how to do things a little bit differently from what was being done then in baseball.  The idea of loaning money out and making interest on it made sense to me.

Q:  You might have been ahead of your time.

Marshall:  I always felt that baseball was an industry that could have done a heck of a lot more, and still could.  Where I got into trouble was as a player rep.  I kept recommending to my side of the negotiation that we should stop negotiating individual salaries and distribute the salaries ourselves by having the teams pay their percent of the total revenue into the Players Association, and then we'd come up with an equitable way to distribute the salaries that would follow a bell-shaped curve.

That more than anything else is what got me out of baseball.  It was more the Players Association than it was the owners that finally got me out of Major League Baseball.  The idea that the agents wouldn't make any money if they didn't get to take their 5% for basically adding nothing to the value of baseball.

Q:  What's right about baseball?  What does it do best?

Marshall:  I don't think it does anything best.  It doesn't train its pitchers; it doesn't play the game the best.  It's all entertainment; it's all star-driven.

Q:  You had a 14-year MLB career with nine teams, won the Cy Young Award, taught for 22 years in college.

Marshall:  Things went pretty well for me, much better than I ever expected.  Teaching was a great joy, but I only did it where I could also be the head baseball coach.  I've never been interested in being solely a professor, even with the opportunity to do research.  I couldn't have stayed away from the baseball field if I wanted to, which is why for the last few years I've been running my own baseball team:  just dealing with baseball pitching.

Q:  That is the Dr. Mike Marshall's Pitchers Research and Training Center?

Marshall:  Yeah, but I just turned 66.  I've essentially shut that down.  I'm training out those guys who are continuing into the second year of their program.  As soon as these guys are gone, I'm done training baseball pitchers.

Q:  Who is it that comes to you for training?

Marshall:  Over the last 10 years or so it's been pitchers who did not get an opportunity to play college ball.  And then there would be the injured players.  Some were involved in college baseball, others in professional ball who were injured and released.

Q:  These are pitchers who still hope to get a shot at the major leagues?

Marshall:  Yes.  The purpose I had when I started it was to introduce my ideas into the pitching motion.  I wanted the opportunity to take pitchers and have them try new ideas out ... to see if we can't improve baseball pitching.  The primary problem that I've run into over the years is the rejection by the traditional baseball pitchers of anybody using my motion.

Q:  Were pitchers trained more effectively in the past?

Marshall:  Who are the pitching coaches?  Check their academic backgrounds.  Pitching coaches are ex-pitchers.  Do you think they are going to invent anything new?  They're going to do what the guy who won the first game 130 years ago did.  Scientifically, it is absurd what they teach.

Q:  Your contention is that the traditional pitching motion is essentially flawed and leads to injury?

Marshall:  If somebody wanted to invent a pitching motion that was inherently dangerous, that had all the elements of all injuries -- you could ruin your hip, your knee, your lower back, the inside and outside of your elbow and the front and back of your shoulder -- use the traditional pitching motion.

Q:  And you support this from first-hand major league experience and from a career studying the subject?

Marshall:  Oh, yeah.  And on my Web site I have a list of all the pitchers who were injured last year and on the disabled list.  It averaged out to over six per team.  That's over half of your pitching staff.  How in the world can you not understand that there's something wrong with what you're doing!

Q:  You sent a letter to all 30 MLB teams in the mid-'90s offering your services.  How many teams responded?

Marshall:  Zero.  In each letter I said I wanted to talk to them about the training program I had.  I said that I can eliminate all kinds of pitching injuries, yadda yadda yadda, and I let them know that I had the doctoral degree and the playing experience, that I've done the research since 1967.  I was the first one to bio-mechanically analyze the pitching motion.  I think I know what I'm doing, and I'll challenge anybody to demonstrate that anything I do is wrong.  But I can't even get anybody to say that.

Q:  You set a number of relief records, and in the '70s you averaged two innings per appearance.  Nowadays, most relief pitchers don't throw two innings, and some of them don't even throw one inning on successive days.

Marshall:  That's because they're improperly trained.  When I pitched 208 closing innings in 1974, I was never stiff, sore or tired.  If I hadn't thrown the night before, I'd throw at least 10 minutes of batting practice the next day.  I could have pitched easily in every single game; I believe I could have pitched two innings in every single game.  Of course, the hitters might have had something to say about that.

Q:  Not to minimize what closers do now, but they enter the game in the ninth inning with the lead and the bases empty and just have to get three outs.

Marshall:  Go ahead and minimize it.  You've got a lead, so if you know how to pitch, you don't give up home runs.  If you pitch fewer innings, [the hitters] don't get to see what you do as often, and it's hard for them to make adjustments.  So, pitching 80 innings one inning at a time with a lead?  That's a walk in the park.

Q:  It's easy?

Marshall:  BILLY BEANE made a point.  He said that if you want to get something for nothing, find a guy that can throw a little bit good and throw strikes, use him in a closing role and pump up a lot of saves, and then you can sell him for something very valuable because that's not a very difficult man on your team to replace.  He's right!  It's the easiest gig in baseball.

Q:  Pitchers today are nurtured very slowly and pitch count is tabulated religiously.

Marshall:  Yeah, and that's causing the pitching arm injuries too because they aren't fit.

Q:  You paint a bleak picture for the future of pitching.

Marshall:  Yeah.  It's going to remain as bad as it is today as long as people continue to teach and believe in the traditional pitching motion.  But back in 1976 or '77, I got a telephone call from BILL VEECK.  He said, "Hey, Marshall, I want to know what you know."  He was in Chicago and I was in East Lansing.  He showed up the next day and we spent the whole day talking about baseball pitching.  I showed him my high-speed film studies and explained everything.  At the end of the day, he said he wanted me to become his pitching coach.  I was a free agent and was about to sign a rather large contract for that time.  I told him I'd love to do it as soon as I was done pitching.  Of course, he sold the team before that.  But that was as close as it came to actually having some proper training in professional baseball.

Q:  Original thinkers like Veeck have been looked upon skeptically.  You need another original thinker now.

Marshall:  You don't think the owners are going to let one in there, do you?

Q:  Can you concede that there might be an owner with some imagination?

Marshall:  MARK CUBAN ...  is an original thinker.  If he were to find out that I know how to train pitchers, he just might let me do it.  Nobody else will.  It's not going to happen.  I don't know if the owners are still mad about me getting free agency into baseball or what, but they're not going to let it happen.

Q:  Can you send baseball a Candygram and kiss and make up?

Marshall:  I wish I could.

Q:  All right, hypothetically, if you were baseball commissioner, what would be the first order of business?

Marshall:  To take out the part of baseball that ruins it the most: to make sure the pitchers are able to pitch without injuries.  The fans can't enjoy the game if their pitchers are injured.

Q:  You obviously have this passion for what you preach.  You have offered to give away what you have learned.  What is your motivation?

Marshall:  I love baseball.  It's the greatest game in the world.  No question about it.  I was 5' 8 1/2" tall at my tallest.  Now, at age 66, I'm 5' 6 1/2".  I was able to pitch Major League Baseball and finish in the top seven in the Cy Young five times.  That can't happen in any other sport.  I can't play professional basketball or football or any of the other major sports.  But baseball is a great game:  the most skilled, the most intelligent game there is.  I love baseball and I don't like injuries.  There's no reason for them.  And it's so simple to me.  I can make just three or four suggestions and eliminate all pitching injuries.  Nothing major, nothing complicated.  Things you can learn in less than two weeks, and you'll never injure your arm.

Q:  It must be very frustrating.

Marshall:  I stopped worrying about what other people think back when I was 6 or 7 years old.  My obituary is written.  Nothing I do from now on is going to make any difference.

Q:  What's the first line in your obituary going to say?

Marshall:  The first closer in the game to win the Cy Young award.  That's what's going to be my obituary.

Q:  When in the obit will it get to your pitching theory?

Marshall:  Never.  Never.  They don't know about it, don't care about it, aren't interested in it.  It will say I had this prickly personality, that I tried to force my own ideas about pitching on everybody else.  What a jerk he was there.  But, boy, he did win the Cy Young award.  He wasn't good enough, of course, to be in the Hall of Fame even though he owns all the closing records and did more than any other closer in the history of the game has done.

I'm not upset.  I know the politics of life.  Life is not fair.  You're taught that.  You think it is, and then you find out that it isn't -- and it isn't.  The Peter Principle is alive and well.  People rise to the level of incompetence and that's where they stay for the rest of their lives.

Q:  Maybe we can get a Little League mom to be baseball commissioner.

Marshall:  (laughing)  That would be a start.  But if there are kids out there who are throwing my way and enjoying themselves and are pain-free, great!

Happy Pitching Everybody
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