THE LOST ART

THE LOST ART

Back in the day, people would go to the ballpark with a transistor radio in one hand, and a few pencils in the other.  For 50¢ or a buck, you picked up an official scorecard, you grabbed a dog and a beer, took your seat, and only got up to pee (in a trough) and for the 7th Inning Stretch.  For the other 3 hours, you watched the game and kept score.

For the older readers out there, here are some memories:

Blog_Program_As   Blog_Program_Braves

Blog_Program_Cubs             Blog_Program_Giants

Blog_Program_Orioles               Blog_Program_Phillies

Blog_Program_RedSox               Blog_Program_Yankees

Blog_Program_TwinsBlog_Program_Cards 

Can you remember the walk from the vendor to your seat, flipping through that program?  You got the other team’s full roster; height and weight; birthdate and home town.  Sometimes they had pictures, but more often it was just a list of players.  I remember many times when it was just a single page insert, but no matter, you had all the information at your fingertips.  And when the Cubs or Red Sox or Yankees were in town, you always knew who was who.

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Man, in simply writing that previous paragraph I can smell the beer (which I wasn’t yet drinking) and taste the mustard.

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You took your seat, got yourself situated, and prepared to take notes (not school notes, mind you, but things that really mattered – the history that was being made on the baseball field).  The starting line-ups were announced and then displayed on the scoreboard.  You quickly wrote the names down – in pencil if you were careful, and in pen if (a) you were confident or (b) that is all your mom had in her purse.  You took off your cap for the National Anthem, the first pitch was thrown, and now you were officially a part of the game.

After a tough groundball into the 5-6 hole, you would check the corner of the scoreboard to see if it was a “H” or an “E”.  When a ball scooted between the catcher’s legs, your eyes went to the same spot looking for either a “WP” or a “PB”.  Waiting for that determination was painstaking as it affected what you jotted down.  Was it a straight horizontal line (see below) or an E6?  You had to know.  Today, you are lucky if that information is displayed during the same inning.

Ah, the lost art.

Chances are, but for Little League, the vast majority of people wouldn’t even know what “keeping score” means, let alone have the ability to do it.  And it is so much easier today, with the scorebooks laying everything out for you.

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Back in the day, you had to be prepared to make horizontal lines, and write very small to account for what happened to each player on each play.

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I guess there is no need to do any of this any more.  You can Gamecast on your phone; get full, live, and complete box scores with up-to-date statistics from a dozen websites as the game is going on.  And, even if you are inclined to do it, your pen-to-program sureness can really be messed up when a player calls up to the Official Scorer mid-game to get a call changed.  I sure hope you have erasable ink.

When I was a kid, I was a score-keeping madman.

One summer I played an entire Strat-O-Matic season with cards, dice, and a scorebook I bought in the sports aisle at Thrifty (where I also got my inaugural first baseman’s glove – a Rawlings/Keith Hernandez Fastback with a basket web).  What I would give to find that book (or that glove).  Not for nothing, but that 13-year old summer checked off both boxes of Keith Olbermann’s trope: “If you are scoring at home, or if you are alone . . .”

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I am not embarrassed to tell you that I used to sit in my family room with my trusty book and keep score of the College World Series back before the general population even knew that such a thing existed.  Somewhere I must have Pete Incaviglia’s stats from Rosenblatt Stadium vs. Cal State Fullerton and Arizona St.

(Side note: I am not sure anyone ever hit a ball harder or farther than Inky did with a metal bat.  48 dingers in a 75-game college season?!?  To this day I am shocked that one of his lasers back through the box didn’t kill some sad sack pitcher.)

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My days of keeping score went the way of the dodo bird when I started bringing young kids to the ballpark.  Bathroom breaks – repeated bathroom breaks – and ice cream runs are not conducive to a full and complete scorecard.  And the idea of trying to catch up – as anyone sitting in the stands at a Little League game can attest – is a fool’s errand.

To be totally honest, my days of keeping score at the ballpark ended when the game became more social and less about the action on the field.  And guess what, there is nothing wrong with that.  I put this in the same category as even though I no longer have to iron my shirts, it is important that I possess the ability to do so.

So the next time the home team coach looks up into the stands and asks, “Who can keep score?,” raise your hand high, grab a pencil, and proudly say, “I do, I can, I will!”  And just think, you can make sure that every time your kid hits a dribbler down the third base line, it will “look like a line drive in the scorebook”.

Who better to end this with:

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PLAY BALL!!

USE YOUR HEAD…BY USING YOUR FEET

USE YOUR HEAD…BY USING YOUR FEET

At the risk of sounding like Nancy Kerrigan:

“Why . . . why . . . why!?!?”

Why do players insist on sliding head first – into any base.  I know there are a ton of people who disagree with me on this, and to them I will simply say, “You’re wrong!”  (See below)

I was coaching third in a game a few weeks ago and an 11-year old kid came ‘round second and slid headfirst right into third base; and then walked feet-first right into the dugout, as Little League rules are smart and strictly prohibit sliding on your belly (excluding, of course, going back to the bag).

When I asked him “who taught you that?” he responded with: “I taught myself.”  I highly doubt that, but no matter.  It is crazy to me that players who make their livings (millions and millions of dollars of livings) with their hands, wrists, and shoulders, still take this unnecessary risk, day in-day out.

There are some of you reading this shaking your head – who say that it is I who is wrong, that it is faster and safer to slide headfirst.  To you naysayers, I present to you:

The National Institute of Health:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12855927

The American Journal of Sports Medicine:

http://ajs.sagepub.com/content/30/6/834.abstract

My biggest issue is with guys who dive into first base.  David A. Peters, Ph.D. of the McDonnell Douglas Professor of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, settles this one for us.  He says the only advantage of any slide into first base is to avoid the first baseman’s tag when he has to come off the bag to spear an errant throw.  Sliding does not get a player to first base more quickly.  Professor Peters stated that: “Mathematically, you might think there’s an advantage, but leaving your feet is actually a detriment because you’re no longer pulsing (pumping your legs) and you start to decelerate.  When you’re running, your get your feet out in front of the center of gravity, so you’re getting maybe three or four steps of an advantage.”

Don’t believe Dr. Peters, how about the guys at Sports Science:

I guess MLBers don’t subscribe to Dr. Peters’ journal or watch Sports Science, because many of the players listed below must still think diving is faster than remaining upright.  And so they continue to slide headfirst; and they continue to get hurt.

It happened again . . . on Opening Day.  John Jaso – the Rays catcher who came over in a trade from Oakland and who was supposed to be a mainstay of the rebuilt ball club – decided to dive headfirst into second base and, shock of shock, sprained his wrist.  Goodbye first two weeks (at a minimum), hello disabled list.

Here is a totally not comprehensive list of guys with questionable base-running decision-making over the past few seasons:

Josh Hamilton, while playing for the Rangers, broke his humerus diving headfirst into home plate on a foul pop.  This play was bad on so many levels that I have chosen not to discuss any of them – it is simply too annoying.

But Josh was not through.  While playing for the Angels, and pocketing 5/$125M, he dove headfirst into first base.  Result: Torn ligaments in his thumb, out 47 games.  (In other words, he was paid $7.25M to sit on the bench due to his bone-headed play.)

Early in 2014, the Wild Horse (‘s Ass), Yasiel Puig, strained a ligament in his thumb diving into first base.

On Opening Day, 2013, Dustin Pedroia tried to beat a throw at first by diving into the bag.  He tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his thumb.  He refused to go on the DL, and played the entire season with the injury, but his numbers were down; he required off-season surgery; and didn’t recover as quickly as he had hoped.  As a result, he had another off year in 2014.  If you are scoring at home, that is two years of lost production to try to save (and to actually lose) 10 milliseconds on Opening Day.  Was the risk worth the (lack of) reward?

This one is priceless.  After being hit by a pitch in 2011, Shin Soo Choo had surgery on his thumb.  So, how did he go about protecting that injury?  In 2013 he slid headfirst into first.  This, of course, resulted in his spraining the same thumb.  He had this to say:

“Stupid play.  I tell myself, and I tell a lot of players, the worst play is the headfirst slide into first base and home plate.  But I did it.  I don’t know why I did it.”  Wise words from a wise man.

Michael Bourne didn’t get injured on his actual dive into first base, rather he was spiked when Matt Thornton (covering on the play) came down on his hand.  He missed 20 games.

Absent trying to avoid a tag coming down the line, what about this play ever makes sense?  This really may be the worst play in all of sports.

But first base isn’t the only culprit.

Rafael Furcal broke his thumb sliding headfirst into third base.  The injury was so bad that he considered retiring, and he hasn’t played regularly since 2012.

Yunel Escobar made an appointment with a neurologist after he collided with Andy LaRoche’s knee at third base.  Diagnosis: Concussion.

How about this one.  A player who, by all accounts, has abundant potential, but a chronically bum shoulder.  So what does he do: slide headfirst, of course.  Only, as luck would have it, Ryan Zimmerman didn’t hurt his shoulder.  No, he tore an abdominal muscle that required surgery and caused him to miss six weeks.

Ben Zobrist missed a few weeks with a dislocated thumb diving into second.

Not to be outdone, Alex Gordon missed four weeks with a broken thumb after diving into second base.

Jason Heyward sprained his thumb diving into third.  He avoided the DL, but hit .172 in his next 24 games.

Billy Hamilton jammed his middle finger diving into second base.  If I have to give anyone a pass, it may be Billy Hamilton.  This guy is so fast and runs so low to the ground – a la Ricky Henderson (kids, ask your parents) – that his momentum truly carries him forward (see this play from last week).

Carl Crawford injured not one, but two fingers with a dive into second base (a double-whammy of stupidity).

Ryan Ludwick tore his labrum, and missed 116 games, after diving into third.

Bryce Harper required surgery on his thumb and missed two months, also at third base.

Nolan Arenado missed six weeks after diving into second.  Thus denying us 37 games where he could potentially make plays like this:

Ian Kinsler suffered a stress reaction (one step below broken ribs, but worse than an oblique injury) diving into third.  He missed 25 games.

Early last season, Mike Napoli dove into third base.  He dislocated his ring finger.  He went on the 15-day DL, and had to tape his hand before every at bat for the remainder of the season.  I really only included this injury so I could show this picture:

I could keep going, but I think you get the idea.

Davey Lopes was able to steal 557 bases in his career, making him one of the greatest if all time.  And yet, to hear him tell it, “I never slid headfirst, ever.”

If none of the above is enough to convince you – to convince you to convince your kid – that sliding headfirst is a bad idea, how about this coup de grace:

Medical studies have confirmed that “sliding headfirst poses a far greater risk of serious injury because of the exposure of the head and neck.  Anything from a concussion to a cervical strain or even spinal-cord injury might result, particularly when there is contact with a player blocking the path.  In addition, the propensity for upper-extremity injury is heightened, not only because of the mechanics involved and collisions that are likely, but also because these joints are more vulnerable than the sturdier joints of the lower body — which have a greater preponderance of injury with feet-first slides.  Even the abdominal muscles are at greater risk for strains with headfirst slides due to the outstretched position of the body.”

Or, to keep it simple, ask yourself how many injuries you have seen, read, or heard about, when a player slides feet-first.

And with that, the offense rests.

PLAY BALL!!

THEY’RE BACK

THEY’RE BACK

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Forget all this nonsense about the Monday after the Super Bowl; and forget ESPN’s world dominance and their creation of “Opening Night” the Sunday before.  Opening Day – Monday – should be a National Holiday.  A day when kids are off school (oh, right, they are already), and parents have freedom from meetings, and phone calls, and what’s that thing called, “work”, and everyone has the G-d given right to head over to the ballpark and enjoy this (hint: it’s the D-Backs’ new dessert, the Churro Dog):

I guess the one benefit of “Opening Night” is that the Cubs get to actually “start” the season 0-1.  The more things change . . .

. . . The less they stay the same.  There were exactly 158 days between Alex Gordon being left 90 feet from the promised land of a tie game in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7 of the World Series, and Jon Lester’s first pitch (a strike) at the corner of Sheffield and Waveland (where, apparently, there are no bleachers and not nearly enough working bathrooms).  The times, the ballparks, the rules, the teams, they are a changin’!

If you are not like me (and hopefully you are not nearly as obsessed), you kept only half an eye on the Hot Stove, you read a few columns (hopefully even this Blog), and you heard a few rumors.  Well now that the 2015 baseball season is upon us, allow me to highlight some of the changes you may have missed, overlooked, or simply forgotten about.  These are provided with commentary, but in no particular order:

Hot Topic: Pace of Play.  Batters must keep one foot in the batter’s box at all times.  There are enough exceptions to this rule that it will probably be legally not enforced more often than not.   Don’t tell that to Adrian Beltre.

The first pitch of an inning must be thrown within 2:25 of the last out of the previous inning if the game is only televised locally; and within 2:45 if the game is national.  Got that?  And remember the ol’ 8 warm-up pitches?  Well, they only exist if you can get them in before the clock strikes the :30 mark.  If not, you forfeit the rest.  Violation of these rules will result in no discipline until May 1st, and then will consist of warnings and fines.  Good luck with that.  Not for nothing, a future installment of Baseballcraziness will deal with the pace of play (stay tuned).

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The Front Office Move DuJour: Andrew Friedman, the 38-year old wunderkind from Tampa got 5/$40M from the Dodgers – not to pitch or play centerfield or hit home runs – but to make player personnel decisions.  I guess in a world where CEOs make $50M/year, this is not such a bad deal.  But, come on, that is a lot of money for a guy in khakis.  And the Dodgers still have Ned Colletti on the payroll as a “consultant”, a new GM (Farhan Zaidi, from Oakland), and a new Sr. VP of Baseball Operations (Josh Byrnes, from the Padres).  Chavez Ravine is rocking quite the “C” Suite.

So go the dominoes.  When Friedman left the Rays, it made available an opt-out clause in Joe Maddon’s contract with the Rays – a clause by all accounts he didn’t know or forgot he had.  Traveling across the country in his Winnebago, Maddon decided to test the market and landed on the North Side of Chicago for 5/$25M.  In keeping with the AL East to the NL Central theme, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer (formerly of the Red Sox), along with Crazy Joe (formerly of the Rays), were able to woo Jon Lester (formerly of the Back Bay) to the Friendly (if currently unsightly) Confines.  I guess familiar faces and $155M have a way of making that type of transition a skosh easier.

Image result for joe maddon jon lester  Blog_Lester_Cubs

Back in L.A., Friedman immediately went about cleaning house, spending Guggenheim’s money, and remaking the ballclub in someone’s image.  In baseball there is an adage about being strong up the middle.  I guess Friedman and Company think the same way.  A new catcher (Yasmani Grandal from San Diego, by all accounts a defensive upgrade over A.J. Ellis, although Ellis did get a 1-year deal to catch Clayton Kerhsaw every 5th day); a new 2B (Dee Gordon out in a “sell-high” move; and their neighbor to the south, Howie Kendrick, in for at least 1 season); Hanley gone in an effort to avoid the expensive long-term deal knowing that they have a stud knocking on the door in AAA, and J-Roll in from Philly to hold the fort for a few months – potentially the whole season (and rewarding the faithful with a game-winning three-run jack on Opening Day, and two painful errors in Game 2); and the merry-go-round in CF is over, with Joc Pederson taking over full-time duties (service time be damned (and if you don’t know what that means, maybe it should be the topic of another article down the road when Kris Bryant and Addison Russell make their debuts)).

As a side note, when 70% are not watching the Dodgers, it is easy to forget that the Dodgers have Juan Uribe at 3B, they signed Hector Olivera for $60M+ to play where, exactly?, they still have Alex Guerrrero ($28M) who has a contract that allows him to refuse to go the minors (which is just as well as he got his ear bitten off there last season), Justin Turner, and Kiki Hernandez, all to play the infield.  And we cannot forget that, even with all of the off-season moves, there are still 4 outfielders for what I count as 3 positions, which means that Andre Ethier will be the most expensive pinch hitter in baseball this season (3/$55M).

Moving on . . .

As previously discussed on this site, Max Scherzer went to the Capital.  And, living up to the hype, nearly threw a no-no on Opening Day (only to suffer a loss because Ian Desmond forgot how to play baseball over the past few months).

After finishing last (for the second time in three years), the Red Sox yanked out their checkbooks to the tune of nearly $200M for the Panda to play 3B and the aforementioned Hanley Ramirez to (a) gahd the Monstah and (b) try to live up to the legacy of another dreadlocked right-handed slugger by the name of Ramirez who played LF for the BoSox and (c) remind all Red Sox fans what they missed when he was traded to the Marlins for a young hurler named Josh Beckett (who, helped the Red Sox win a World Series, was then traded to the Dodgers as part of a blockbuster deal two years ago, and retired this off-season).

But the Red Sox were not done.  Because they have 7 outfielders (Hanley, Mookie, Shane, Allen, Daniel, JBJ, Rusney Castillo for $72.5M), they decided to try to match that by spending $72M for an infielder who will not – any time soon – displace Panda at 3B, Xander at SS, or Pedey at 2B.  I guess it’s good to be rich.  And yet, they didn’t spend any money to get a #1 starter.  They did, however, dole out $82.5M for Rick Porcello on Opening Day – that’s $20M+/year for a guy with a career 4.30 ERA.  Yes, it is really good to be rich.

Staying in the AL East, Russell Martin went home to Canada, and Alex Anthopoulos brought in one of baseball’s most underrated stars, Josh Donaldson, to play 3B.

This is the first Opening Day since 1996 that Derek Jeter was not on the Yankees roster.  In his place, Didi Gregorius.  And Stephen Drew to back him up.  Bronx Bombers?!?

Nelson Cruz took his talents to the Great Northwest, and made the Mariner bandwagon the most popular place to be in March and April.  It will be interesting to see how many seats are available come the Dog Days.

Ervin Santana got busted for the juice – I guess baseball’s drug problem is not in it’s past.  No matter, while he gives up about $7M in salary for 80 games, he is still guaranteed another $47M+.  Who says cheaters never prosper?

Hopefully this guy is true to his word, as Giancarlo Stanton – as previously written – signed the richest contract in sports history.  And it certainly doesn’t look like getting hit in the face has had any effect on his power stroke.  Query: How soon until Schutt starts marketing custom faceguards for the Little League set?

As previously written about here, the Cardinals’ present and future slugger, the guy with the million watt smile and million dollar personality, Oscar Tavares, died while driving drunk in the Dominican Republic.  His girlfriend also died in that car.  So tragic.

As morbid as it sounds, the Cards found themselves in need of a new right fielder, so they acquired Jason Heyward from the Braves.  He repaid them with 3 hits on Opening Night.

A-Rod is back.  He scribbled out an apology note to anyone who cared to decipher his handwriting. I guess bygones aren’t always bygones: “Batting seventh for your New York Yankees: Alex Rodriguez . . .”

Torii Hunter is back home.  He signed a 1-year deal with the Twins rather than retiring to watch his sons play baseball and football.

Pete Rose wants back in.  Is this funny or tone deaf (I vote the former):

I saved the best two for last:

The San Diego Padres went out and hired a G.M. with what some might call a checkered past with respect to playing by the rules.  They then decided to forego honoring their long-time play-by-play guy, Jerry Coleman, and instead honor the departing commissioner, with his own special plaza in Petco Park.  The fans loved this idea so much that they started a petition to strip the commissioner’s name from the area.  The Pads were two for two.

But then the Winter Meetings started, and like a drunken sailor stumbling into the Gaslight with a fist full of hundies, A.J. Preller went to work.  In short order he acquired:

  • Matt Kemp to play RF;
  • Will Myers to play CF;
  • Justin Upton to play LF;
  • Will Middlebrooks to play 3B;
  • Derek Norris and Tim Federowicz to catch; and
  • Brandon Morrow and Josh Johnson to round out the pitching staff.

But wait, there’s more.  When no one else was willing to step up and sign Big-Game James Shields, Preller pulled out his Black Amex and ponied up 4/$75M for the horse.  Okay, their work was done, now A.J. could take a breath.

What’s that you say, “the season hasn’t started yet, there’s still time”?  Well, okay, then.  Moments before the first pitch in Wrigley on Sunday night, the Padres acquired the best closer in baseball, Craig Kimbrell, and gave Justin Upton (and the Braves) a nice gift by bringing in his lousy older brother, Melvin, Jr. (nee, B.J.), and the remainder of his $72.25M contract (just $46M left to be paid).

That is a lot of work for the first few months on the job.

And the best story of the off-season happened in one day, in 5 parks, in the Arizona desert.  That is when Will Ferrell decided to go all Jose Oquendo (or, for you local types, Derrel Thomas) and play 10 positions in 1 day – but he added the flair of doing it for 10 different teams.

And he did it all to raise money for cancer research.  Stay classy, indeed!

So there you have it, 5 months synopsized in under 2000 words.

Crack out this mug . . .

Blog_Mug

And, as Mike Winters said at about 7pm CDT Sunday night . . .

PLAY BALL!!!