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Monday, April 27, 2009
I've enjoyed Doug Glanville's New York Times' pieces quite a lot since he began them last season. As one of the rare ballplayers who was an intellectual without being marginalized or considered an eccentric (See, Bouton, Jim and Lee, Bill) he provides a unique view into the game. Unlike so many other retired players, he can tell us how it was and how it is, and we always feel like we're getting some straight, thoughtful dope.
But even Glanville has a blindspot, it seems, and that's former teammate Marlon Anderson, whose release from the Mets Glanville laments:
Marlon Anderson has been the quintessential utility man. He started as a second baseman and, within a few years, he’d quietly changed opinions of his defensive style from “unorthodox” to “revolutionary.” While he was my teammate on the Phillies, I watched him play the equivalent of “short right field,” robbing power-hitting lefties from hit after hit because he could rely on the ball getting to him quickly on the Veterans Stadium Astro Turf. Opposing hitters like Chipper Jones looked on in disgust many a day as Marlon jumped up to snare a line drive the right fielder was expecting to catch. What was he doing so far from the natural position of a second baseman?
I don't begrudge Glanville using his NYT space to honor a good friend of his. And to be sure, the piece isn't some crazed rant about a friend who was done wrong. But Glanville does gild the lily a bit.
There was a reason why Anderson used to play such a deep second base, and that's that he had some serious range limitations, and by playing deeper he was able to take more forgiving angles on balls. Sure, this led to fewer errors, but it also led to a lot of balls hit to his zone that, while fielded cleanly and thus not error-worthy, were not converted into outs. Moreover, just because Anderson was used almost exclusively as a pinch hitter in recent years didn't make him a "premier pinch hitter," to use Glanville's term. Rather, it made him a very limited player off the bench in that he wasn't trusted to play a lot of defense. Worst of all, that one job he was tasked with doing -- pinch hitting -- was no longer within his skillset either. After some success in 2006 and 2007, he hit 210/.255/.275 in that role in 2008, which is awful by any measure, and at age 35 you can't bank on him doing any better going forward. Releasing him was one of the few things the Mets have done right this year.
Again, I don't mean to come down too hard on Glanville. I generally like his stuff and Lord knows that I'm not going to make a habit of slamming my friends in my writing space. But when you're an ex-jock whose raison d'être is talking about ex-jock stuff in a putatively realistic fashion, credibility is everything, and talking up Marlon Anderson as a great player is no way to bolster one's credibility. I would have much rather read a piece that focused more on what it's like to be released. The mechanics of it. The mindset of the player in the days and weeks after being told that he wasn't good enough, separate and apart from any discussion of whether or not that judgment was a a valid one.
(Thanks to Ethan Stock for the heads up)
I certainly wouldn't consider it, but there's a fun discussion over at Chop-n-Change this afternoon regarding whether the Braves should trade Jair Jurrjens.
To be fair, I'm viewing the notion of trading Jurrjens as a red herring. The real conversation is what the Braves (or any team in their position) do when they have some surplus -- or a potential surplus -- at a given position. How quick to move, whether to try and move the bestest for the mostest value, or instead simply try to unload a superfluity for some kind of value, etc.
My view is that Tim Hudson coming off of surgery to a $12M option, Jo-Jo Reyes and Charlie Morton aren't the stuff of a true "surplus." Unless he comes back healthy and lights out at the end of this year you let Hudson dangle, enter 2010 planning on your rotation being Lowe, Vasquez, Jurrjens, Kawakami, and Hanson, and you keep Reyes and Morton around for insurance, Red Sox-style.
But hey, it's the mid-afternoon, and that's when you have silly conversations like this.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom recently announced that he's running for governor, which prompted a quickie bio in Time Magazine which included the following:
He's a 42-year-old San Francisco native and the youngest mayor of the city in more than 100 years. He is dyslexic and was reportedly drafted by the Texas Rangers in high school, but decided to attend Santa Clara University on a partial baseball scholarship.
Except, as the San Francisco Chronicle's City Insider notes, he wasn't drafted:
Over at the Insider, we pride ourselves at being Gavin Newsom experts. So you can imagine our surprise when we read this Time article about our city's leader, which says that he was "reportedly drafted by the Texas Rangers in high school."
It would appear that the mistake is Time's, as opposed to being one of those fun instances in which a politician tries to enhance his resume with faux MLB glory.
But . . . Time said "reportedly," and writers tend not to say "reportedly" unless they themselves feel like they may be being fed baloney. I wonder if someone close to Newsom was peddling this, unaware that such matters are 100% checkable.
It's looking like a really ugly afternoon for me on the legal front, so these links may have to last you a bit. All apologies. Life will return to normal very soon:
Assuming I don't run into anything ugly as I complete the brief I'm about to turn to, I'll be back later in the afternoon.
As I had mentioned, on Friday evening I took the kids to their first ever baseball game. Indianapolis Indians vs. the Columbus Clippers at the shiny new Huntington Park in adequate downtown Columbus, Ohio.
Fun was had by all, though I'm pretty sure the kids had no idea what to make of it. They liked the hot dogs, the popcorn, the lemonade, and the cotton candy (yeah, I'm a pushover). Neither they nor I were big fans of the constant barrage of hard rock and heavy metal played over the sound system before the first pitch. It was comically overdone. I mean, fine, every team has blared "Machinehead" prior to the announcement of the starting lineups, but that garbage began at least a half hour before the game and really never let up. And yes, it was much much worse than "Machinehead." Note to the Clippers: try some nice organ music or, if you must go with a tape, mix in some oldies or lighter pop or something. Old lame people like me and young people like my kids make up a distinct majority of your audience, so cater to us, dammit. Music aside, the park is a dream. Open, accessible, attractive, and simply well-thought out. Just a really easy and pleasant baseball going experience that made a AAA game about as close to a Major League experience as possible without importing as much of the excess and expense.
As for the actual baseball, I'm not sure what the kids thought. Matt LaPorta hit a long home run, which was cool. Best moment: when a pitch to the first batter was fouled off, my son turned to me and excitedly said "Daddy! I heard the bat crack! It cracked!" I'm almost positive I've never used any variation of the term "crack of the bat" in his presence. He just got it like it was instinct or something. Which maybe it is.
On Saturday it was time for the big boys: Braves vs. Reds in Cincinnati. My buddy Mark and I left Columbus early, filled up at the always pleasant Waffle House, and made the game in time to get a complimentary Reds' fleece throw. Great day for warm, synthetic fibers, too: 85 degrees and sunny. That's OK, though, because we had cold beer. And at least I had the pleasure of watching my team win, as the Braves beat up on Bronson Arroyo and took the game 10-2. Mark is a Reds fan, so he wasn't as pleased. I had to be cool about it, though, because Mark was my ride home. And it was a fun ride. Bored, half-drunk and feeling mischievous, I called into the WLW post-game show and pretended to be a redneck Reds fan. I actually made it on the air too! I ranted about the Redlegs just not playing the game "the right way" and not having any passion, and how can they not run out ground balls and we the fans pay their salaries to play a kids' game, etc. etc. It was such a hacky rant that I was surprised that I wasn't cut off. I was cut off after I asked why, if the Reds were going to allow Chris Dickerson to strike out for times and make multiple bonehead plays in left field, didn't they just keep Adam Dunn around? I didn't get a good answer for that.
Oh, one other thing. While at the Reds game I met up briefly with tHeMARksMiTh, longtime ShysterBall reader and proprietor of the most excellent Way Back and Gone. He's a Braves fan who lives in Kentucky so, not surprisingly, he wanted to catch the Bravos as well.
I had planned on putting up a boatload of pictures of these games, but the THT photo publisher is not the most user friendly thing in the world so I gave up. You'll have to make do with a link to my Flickr page. The Reds game pics are first, and the Clippers game comes on page 2. Beyond that and you're entering Calcaterra Family Picture Land. Feel free to hang around and gawk at my family, but don't come crying to me when you're bored to tears.
Red Sox 4, Yankees 1: Everyone will be talking about this one today because of Ellsbury stealing home. And I suppose it was a pretty neat trick. Just worth noting, though, that 11 guys did it twice in a game, that the single season record -- held by Ty Cobb -- is 8, and the career record, also held by Cobb, is 54. More recently, Eric Young stole second, third and home in the same inning in what had to be a perfect storm for a fast guy: the glacial-to-the-pate Hideo Nomo pitching to the rubber-armed Mike Piazza. I don't offer any of this to take away from Ellsbury as such. I simply hope that today's hype of Ellsbury's theft is commensurate with the true significance of the feat.
Cubs 10, Cardinals 3: Fukodome continues his tear, going 3-5 with a homer and 5 RBI to bring him up to .371/.481/.661 on the season. Oh, and it was his birthday so, like, free breakfast at Denny's. The Cubs played hack-a-Shaq on Pujols, walking him three times and beaning him once.
Angels 8, Mariners 0: Five days ago I mentioned that Jarrod Washburn wasn't a 1.71 ERA pitcher. He definitely proved it yesterday (5.1 IP, 8 H, 6 ER). Unfortunately, I don't think he's a 3.42 ERA pitcher either, which means he's probably due for a couple more of these.
Astros 3, Brewers 2: Houston wins on the backs of Ivan Rodriguez and Russ Ortiz. Which would be something to build on if it were 1999.
Reds 8, Braves 2: The promise of Micah Owings realized: seven innings and allowed one run, six hits, with three walks and six strikeouts while going 2-for-3 at the plate. Not they needed his bat as Jay Bruce homered twice and Joey Votto had a three-run double. I went to Saturday's game -- more about that later this morning -- and witnessed some of the worst defense I've had the good fortune to see in some time. Two errors on one play by Edwin Encarnacion and a comedy of errors -- none of which was actually scored an error -- by Chris Dickerson in left. None of that nonsense yesterday, as Willie Taveras had a nice diving catch, Encarnacion acquitted himself nicely at third, Jay Bruce had an outfield assist, and Chris Dickerson was limited to pinch hitting.
Nationals 8, Mets 1: There are those who say there's no hope in Washington. To them I say See, Zimmermann, Jordan. The rookie gives up one run in five and a third to the Mets, who have looked pretty frickin' terrible as of late.
Phillies 13, Marlins 2: I tend to believe everything I read in The Onion, but I'm starting to think that they got this one wrong. The Marlins have now lost six in a row, and this one was a total joke. Rightfielder Cody Ross pitched in the ninth inning and it was the only scoreless ninth by any Marlin pitcher in the series. Overall, Florida walked 11 guys (none by Ross) and gave up 12 hits. Jamie Moyer, who is almost certainly older than several of the Marlins' fathers, improves to 12-1 lifetime against the fish.
Tigers 3, Royals 2: Sidney Ponson, one of my favorite punching bags, was actually really good (8 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 7K, 0 BB), but Armando Galarraga was better (6 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 7K, 5 BB). Actually, that line isn't really any better, so maybe Armando was just luckier. Brandon Inge stays hot, hitting a homer. He has now reached base in all 18 Tigers' games this year.
Blue Jays 4, White Sox 3: Jose Contreras unexpectedly hangs tough with Roy Halladay, but the bullpen betrays him in the eighth. The Jays just keep humming along, winning every series so far this year, and putting themselves in a position to be able to trade blows with the other teams in the AL East once they start playing one another, as opposed to have to make up ground.
Orioles 8, Rangers 5: The Rangers continue to hit home runs at a league-leading pace -- Chris Davis hit his third homer in four games -- but it was Adam Jones, who ripped a three-run homer when the O's were down 5-4, that hit the one that made the biggest difference. The top three in Baltimore's lineup -- Brian Roberts, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis -- went 9-for-12 with two home runs and six RBIs. Too bad that's basically all this team has. At the Major League level, anyway.
Indians 4, Twins 2: I was switching back and forth between this one and the Reds-Braves. Key moment came in the 7th when the wheels were about to fall off for Cleveland. Aaron Laffey loaded the bases and was relieved by Jensen Lewis. Lewis promptly gave up a single and a walk, leaving the bases loaded again, and the Tribe's 4-0 lead cut to 4-2. Enter rookie Tony Sipp, who struck out Justin Morneau and Jason Kubel and looked to have some pretty electric stuff. After that the Twins didn't really challenge. I'm looking forward to seeing Sipp again.
Diamondbacks 5, Giants 4: Matt Cain gets boned by his own offense again, giving up only one run in seven innings while getting staked to the same. San Francisco then put three quick ones up in the eighth courtesy of a Pablo Sandoval home run, only to see Brian Wilson get bombed in the bottom of the ninth, with the tying runs coming on a laser beam from Justin Upton. In other news, I'm pretty sure these teams have played each other 126 times already this season.
A's 7, Rays 1: The other Upton is not doing as well, as he has now gone hitless in his last 16 at bats. Oakland had no such trouble, and finally showed some offensive life for once.
Pirates 8, Padres 3: Two home runs and four RBIs from Adam LaRoche, one off of Jake Peavy, one off of something called Luis Perdomo. An easy win for the Pirates despite the fact that Ryan Doumit, Nate McLouth and Jack Wilson are all hurt, and Freddy Sanchez was given the day off. Adrian Gonzalez dinger in the first inning is thought to be the longest home run in Petco Park's history, measuring 458 feet to right-center. That's within spittin' distance of my brother's house.
Rockies 10, Dodgers 4: Just a trainwreck of a start for Clayton Kershaw (4.2 IP, 8 H, 9 ER, 4 BB). Despite the offensive explosion, Troy Tulowitzki is still lost. He went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts, and he is now hitting .167 with 17 strikeouts in 54 at-bats.