Welcome to this Navigate the Chaos blog post. To hire Michael for a keynote speech, workshop, or presentation be sure to visit the Contact page. You can also purchase a copy of the latest Navigate the Chaos collection and download the Google calendar for free.

How often do you adjust when the rules are changed?

Today is October 26 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you adjust when the rules are changed?” In his 1906 essay published as The Book of Tea, Japanese author Okakura Kakuzō wrote “The art of life lies in a constant readjustment to our surroundings.”

While navigating the chaos of life, you will most likely need to readjust to your surroundings if you wish to make forward progress and translate your dreams into reality. Man has never lived in a static world. Progress has been part of the human existence from the beginning of time. One such person who had to adjust when the rules were changed was Bob Gibson.

Hall of Fame pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, Bob Gibson was one of baseball’s most dominating pitchers, winning 251 games in 17 seasons with an intimidating fastball and an attitude to match. Through the summers of the 1960s and early ’70s, Gibson proved a relentless force, and he was at his best in the World Series.

As Richard Goldstein reported in the New York Times obituary of Gibson on October 2, 2020 “Gibson was concerned that his dominating demeanor might have overshadowed his brilliance in the eyes of some. But he conceded that his reputation for toughness was well deserved.”

“I never hit batters for the sake of hitting them,” he said. “In my day, pitching tight was a fundamental element of strategy. It was a matter of doing what was necessary to get the batter out; and if that made me mean, then what the hell, I guess I was mean.”

He won both the National League’s Most Valuable Player Award and the Cy Young Award, as the league’s best pitcher, in 1968, when he won 22 games, struck out 268 batters, pitched 13 shutouts and posted an earned run average of 1.12, the lowest in more than 50 years (and a record that remains unmatched).

Gibson started 34 games that 1968 season and went the full nine innings in 28 of them. He had 13 shutouts and 268 strikeouts. In one stretch from June 6 to July 30, he won 11 straight starts — all of them complete games — and allowed only three runs. But Gibson was only the tip of spear in baseball's first "Year of the Pitcher." Twenty-two pitchers had sub-2.00 earned run averages.

Since the game, according to some, had been reduced to a pitching throwing to a catcher, and thereby becoming less interesting to watch, Major League Baseball decided it needed to make the game more exciting. "There is ample evidence that the public is getting a wee bit tired of all these 'pitchers duels,'" wrote The Washington Post's Bob Addie in late 1968.

To that end, the league voted to lower the mound from 15 inches to 10, shrinking the strike zone to the top of the knees to the armpit (rather than shoulders and knees) and to be extra vigilant against doctored baseballs. The changes were made, according to one wire service, "to add more enjoyment for the fans and more offense in the games which the pitchers dominated in both the National and American leagues this past season." In the end, it worked, with offense jumping from an average of 6.84 runs per game to 8.14.

With the mound lowered and the strike zone tightened, Gibson still dominated in 1969 (20-13, 2.18 ERA, 28 complete games), but didn’t get so much as a sniff while Tom Seaver won the Cy Young with 23 out of 24 votes; Phil Niekro got the other in what turned out to be the final year with only one name per ballot. Even with a less-dominant showing in 1970, featuring a run-support driven 23-7 record, a 3.12 ERA, and a career-high 274 strikeouts, Gibson took back the award with 23 out of 24 first-place votes.

Gibson put together three more strong seasons from 1971-73, between 35-37 years of age, the highlight of which was his August 14, 1971 no-hitter against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Three Rivers Stadium. He walked three batters and needed 124 pitches to do the job but finished in style by whiffing Willie Stargell, his 10th strikeout of the night.

Gibson adjusted to the lower pitching mound and tighter strike zone. In so doing he become one of the game’s greatest pitchers.

  • How often do you adjust when the rules are changed?

  • If you are unable to adjust why do you think that is?