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Nice guy.  Have some blogs.  Do baseball research.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Rain: how about umbrellas and canopies?

Umbrellas and canopies?
Fielders get a team decorated golf style umbrella to hold over their heads during the many games played in heavy rain.
The pitcher gets to stand under a canopy. The batter gets to stand under his own canopy.
Hey, it makes sense. Especially with all that rain poring down.
I still prefer my previous suggestions but MLB does not seem inclined to adopt them soon so I thought that these simple practical ideas would improve things in the short run.

Getting hit with the ball.

August 15, 2009 three players were hit in the head by the ball:

Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Hiroki Kuroda suffered a concussion when he was hit in the head by a line drive. The 34-year-old Kuroda was not wearing a helmet. The ball blasted off Kuroda's head into the seats behind first base.

San Francisco pitcher Matt Cain hit New York Met third baseman David Wright in the head with a 94 mph fastball. The ball struck Wright in the batting helmet. Cain crouched between home and the mound while trainers worked on Wright. CT scan was negative. Wright had a concussion.

Boston pitcher Fernando Cabrera hit Texas Ranger second baseman Ian Kinsler in the head with a fastball, which bounced off Kinsler's shoulder and struck Kinsler in the batting helmet. Kinsler got up off the ground quickly and exchanged words with Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek before taking first base.

Note that two out of three wore a helmet.

I have addressed this in previous posts.

This morning on ESPN radio I actually hear Mike Greenberg say something semi-intelligent about the pitcher getting hit in the head: MAYBE the pitcher should wear a helmet. Wow! MAYBE! He even referred to kids pitching in youth leagues. It never occurred to him that players should wear catcher's gear, especially kids but this shows a smidgen of progress, which is very unusual for baseball management, fans and media.

I am ready to extend my punishment for hitting batters other than in the head. If a batter is hit flush below the head the pitcher is ejected and suspended.

First offense, one week.
Second offense, one month.
Third offense, three months.
Fourth offense, one calendar year.

See, that wasn't so difficult. Punishment is the key. Currently, the punishment 99% of the time is that the batter gets first base. Big deal.

Here is some of the traditional crap that I do not want to hear:
- it's part of the game
- pitchers need to pitch inside
- pitchers do not throw at the batter's head
- it's up to the batter to get out of the way.

What is this ancient Rome? Enough already. And, no, the balance will not tip to the batter, not until batting averages top .500.
E-mailed to mikeandmike@espnradio.com.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Dumb and Dumber: BOTH managers make the same mistake in the same inning.

Posted FEBRUARY 20, 2008
Written December 10, 2007

The New York Yankees recently replaced their long time and very successful manager with another former Italian catcher named Joe: Girardi replaced Torre. Many Yankee fans hope that Girardi will change tactics and/or strategy. Not likely. For instance Girardi has already indicated that he will follow the Tony LaRussa orthodoxy of designating his best relief pitcher as the closer. The closer is used almost exclusively to pitch one and only one inning (the ninth), which he starts, and only with a lead...

If Girardi waits until the ninth inning, Rivera may retire the side on six pitches when he could have thrown 24. Twenty-four pitches may have equated to two or even three innings thus eliminating the dreaded middle inning relievers, the worst pitchers on the staff. Not waiting until the ninth inning also allows Girardi to use Rivera in a game saving situation: bases loaded, sixth inning, cleanup hitter at bat. Waiting until the ninth deprives Girardi of discretion as to which batters Rivera faces. The bottom of the order is as likely to bat in the ninth as the top of the order...

If Joe Girardi does anything like this he will be different from Joe Torre. Otherwise he is like all the other MLB managers.

Two days ago the Yankees completed a four game sweep of the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium, no thanks to their manager, 45 year old Joe Girardi. Both Girardi and the Boston manager, 50 year old Terry Francona, stuck with the Tony LaRussa orthodoxy of waiting until the ninth inning to use their best relief pitcher: Yankee Mariano Rivera, Red Sox Jonathon Papelbon.

Note: Papelbon is being wasted in the bullpen as is Yankee Phil Hughes whom Girardi used to retire only one batter in both games two and three of the series.

Both teams had the top of the batting order due up in the eighth. Both were protecting a one run lead. Both used nobody relief pitchers instead of their ace. Both blew the lead.

Dumb, right. Boston never got Papelbon into the game, which they were desperate to win, having dropped five and a half games behind the Yankees.

Two southpaw starters, Boston's Jon Lester and New York's Andy Pettitte, threw shutout ball through six. Finally, Alex Rodriguez homered in the bottom of the 7th. Yanks 1, Red Sox 0.  Pettitte was done on this very hot night. With the top of the order due up Girardi brought in Phil Coke, holding Rivera back to pitch to the bottom of the order in the ninth. When it's phrased like that it seems really dumb, doesn't it?

Coke blew the lead, allowing a two run homer to newly acquired Victor Martinez. Red Sox 2, Yanks 1.
Note: Yankee reliever Phil Coke was credited with the win instead of Pettitte because the official scorer ignored the rule about denying a win to someone who pitches briefly and ineffectively.
Now it was Francona's turn to do the logical thing. Nope. Francona brought in 24 year old ROOKIE Dan Bard who had 33 innings in MLB. Bard allowed consecutive homers to Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira. Yanks 3, Red Sox 2. There were more hits and another relief pitcher, Hideki Okajima. Yanks 5, Red Sox 2.

Rivera pitched the ninth, allowing two base runners but no runs. Rivera was protecting a three run lead while Coke was asked to protect a one run lead. Yanks win. Yanks lead by six and a half games.
So what's the deal? Am I the smartest baseball fan in the galaxy or are all the rest stuck in conventional wisdom? I'm going with the conventional wisdom thing. Maybe if the media asked questions based on my radical baseball thinking, MLB management would be prodded into, dare I say it, change.
But what about the fans? Fans are as much to blame. Come on, stop calling those lame talk radio programs asking the same lame questions from the same lame point of view. Get radical!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

MLB managers can no longer be former players!

Last night Yanks and Red Sox played 15 innings at Yankee Stadium. Starters Josh Beckett and A.J. Burnett, former teammates in Florida, were locked in a scoreless duel. In the Boston eighth Phil Hughes relieved Burnett with two out and runners on base. While he was retiring the one batter he faced I noticed that Yankee manager Joe Girardi had "closer" Mariano Rivera warming up. I thought: Girardi can't be considering removing Phil Hughes after only one batter, especially since it would violate the formula of using the closer, Rivera, only with a lead. Wasting Phil Hughes in this way would be stupid. Girardi did the stupid.

The irony is that the Yankees are wasting Phil Hughes in the bullpen. Phil Hughes should be starting. Compounding that waste of resource by using Hughes to retire one batter in a scoreless tie is incomprehensible. Obviously, the game could go into extra innings. Hughes is regarded as the Yankees second best relief pitcher. Why not have Hughes pitch the ninth? The tenth? Pitch as long as he can before removing him.

Girardi lucked out. Rivera pitched his usual one inning, the ninth. There followed the obligatory parade of nobody relief pitchers who amazingly held Boston scoreless. Yanks won 2-0 on a home run by Alex Rodriguez with two out in the bottom of the 15th.

As I have indicated previously, MLB must break with the tradition of hiring former players to be field managers. Even the young (45) well educated (Northwestern U. graduate) Joe Girardi does the same boring unimaginative stuff as his managerial forefathers.

This blog is not intended to be a next day rehash of recent game strategy and tactics. I rarely become overly concerned about in game moves. Baseball does not have X and O concepts. Thousands of 12 year old kids know enough to manage a MLB team, at least stuff like changing pitchers. But even common sense seems elusive.

And what of those Yankee fans who could not wait to replace the previous Yankee manager, four time WS champ Joe Torre (69), with someone younger who would make better decisions during the game? Many especially wanted Girardi. Is this what they wanted? Meanwhile, Torre has his new team, the Dodgers, in first place with a record comparable to that of the Yankees.
Joe Girardi and Joe Torre do about the same things. You can hardly tell them apart. I addressed this in one of my earliest posts. Girardi has wasted his opportunity even if he wins a WS. Girardi is not doing anything different.

The only way to break this cycle is to hire non-players to be field managers. Then there will be at least a chance that the manager will do things that compliment the newer theories being implemented by the new wave of non-player general managers.

Imaginary strike zone.

There are no physical limits to the strike zone. It is an imaginary three dimensional area hovering above ground. To make it even more elusive, it's size varies with each batter.

The pitcher imagines its location, then throws and hopes to place the ball within it. The batter imagines where it might be and swings through that area. Finally, the plate umpire imagines whether a baseball traveling over ninety miles per hour and moving erratically has passed through any part of it or possibly grazed the edge of it.

Pretty stupid. Especially when it's totally unnecessary. Just place an object behind home plate as a target and judge whether or not a pitch has hit it. Jeez, is that so complicated? Try an archery bull's eye on a tripod. Aside from being a fool proof strike zone, it allows those two most pathetic human beings, the catcher and plate umpire, to move out of harm's way and go someplace in fair territory.  If that description does not convince you, consider changing other sports to behave like baseball.

Basketball: backboard but no basket. Players shoot at an imaginary basket and referees imagine whether the ball would go through.

Football: no goal post. The place kicker imagines where the uprights and cross bar would be and officials imagine whether the ball went through.

Let's spice it up a bit. Vary the size of the imaginary basket and/or its height depending on the size of the basketball player. Vary the height of the cross bar and distance between the uprights depending on the size of the place kicker.

There. That should nail down the absurdity of baseball's strike zone. If it doesn't, consider stickball in which the strike zone was drawn on a wall. OK, it was usually drawn way to high but I'm sure Bud Selig, MLB commissioner, can deal with that.

So why does baseball have this most odd and primitive feature at the center of the game? Because it is ancient! Baseball officials and fans refuse to transform it while America's former national pastime slides into irrelevance. It's August 8. Go out and try to find kids playing baseball, especially something other than one of those dreadful organized games in which kids play only if their parents drive them. Kids don't ride bikes any more in part because their parents fear for the safety of the kids because so many parents are driving kids around so much. Ah, the irony.

A nice simple cheap low tech strike zone does the trick. A side benefit is that games will speed up; no catcher, no need for signs between catcher and pitcher. Of course, one of my other ideas would need to be implemented: runners may not leave the base until the ball is hit.

Starting count at 3-2 and limiting the batter to three swings would seal the deal.

Some fans may ask: how ever will you get the ball back to the pitcher and gather up all those baseballs? It's been done for about 100 years. Funny baseball never noticed. Ever watch tennis, especially Wimbledon or the U.S. open? Those ball boys and girls do a great job. We could train baseball ball boys and girls to do more than mostly sit around and occasionally interfere by grabbing a fair ball. Oops.

It all sounds too good to be true but a fundamental part of baseball could be improved with this simple common sense change. What are the chances it will be implemented? What are the chances it will be considered? What are the chances it will be mocked?

Baseball: the imaginary game.

Monday, August 3, 2009

How to stick it to both the players and owners on salaries.

MLB could establish both a minimum and maximimum team salary. A minimum must be set to prevent teams from spending the minimum, $400,000 * 25 = $10,000,000. Let's say seventy to one hundred million dollars.
However, have the players decide who gets what. No more individual contracts.
Players know who is worth the money. Players know who is dogging it.
If players want management to acquire more talent the players themselves would need to decide who might have his salary lowered to pay the new guy. Or the new guy would need to take less to play with better players than those on his previous team.
Both players and owners would need to think like the other. Both would feel the pain and watch the bottom line.

Unlimited team rosters.

MLB teams have a limit of 25 players who may be active for a game. The MLB players association may have bargained for a minimum but I am not sure.

Why have a maximum limit?

My guess is that a maximum was established to save money, both on player salaries and costs for taking the team on the road. There is no maximum team salary. There is no maximum player salary. So how does a maximum number of players even save money?

Maybe the maximum roster size is to establish parity among the teams. If MLB wanted parity MLB would have maximum team salary. As a practical matter there is a minimum team salary: $400,000 * 25 players = ten million dollars. And/or there should be a MLB player draft each off season to better balance the talent on each team. None of this exists.

Would a team have an advantage if it had more players available for a game. Maybe for a specific game. However, having too many players sitting rather than playing causes problems, which might outweigh a short term advantage.

Why doesn't the MLB players association make this a bargaining position? It's as basic as collective bargaining can get, an increase in membership.

If there were no minimum number of players why wouldn't a team ... oh, let's say the Pittsburgh Pirates ... carry only 20 players? If the minimum player salary is $400,000 that saves Pittsburgh a cool two million dollars, two million buckaroos! Pittsburgh is pocketing the "luxury tax" that it collects from the big spending teams such as the Yankees, so why not reduce payroll even more. Pittsburgh can barely wait for a young player to become eligible for salary arbitration to trade the player away rather than pay hm much more than the minimum player salary.

Make the roster size unlimited and expose just how cheap Pittsburgh is. At least then teams can carry extra catchers.

What to think about Ortiz and the recent Red Sox World Series championships.

My position has been consistent: do not lie.
Ban all WS in recent years. Yanks revert to 1978. Red Sox to 1918. Yanks plus 60!

Player instincts and/or actions are often WRONG!

Supposedly former pitcher and announcer Jim Kaat defends batters sliding into first base on close plays as player instinct taking over. Interesting but it is anecdotal testimonial.
I consider instinctive action to be something that one does when confronted with an unusual circumstance, not the person's usual action, which for many player's is to slide into first base. See Derek Jeter's flip play or for contrast the non-instinctive Bernie Williams asking for directions while running the bases. However, I will not quibble about the definition of instinct. Let's just consider the actions of a player.
Players often do things that are obviously wrong. Sliding and diving when they are unnecessary are frequent examples. The other day Jim Thome slid into home plate and the catcher was no where near the plate; it was completely unnecessary. At least he slid feet first. How stupid is it to slide face first into the catcher's shin guards.
During my blogtalkradio program on July 27 it was mentioned that someone had done a study to determine whether a base runner gets to second base faster sliding feet first or hands first. Supposedly it was suggested that hands first may be faster because the players fingers are longer than their toes. Shoeless Joe Jackson actually wore shoes while playing MLB as do all players that I know about so toe length is irrelevant. When sliding hands first players stupidly extend their fingers needlessly exposing them to injury but actually seem to contact the bag with the palms of their hands.
Years ago when almost all players slid feet first they were coached to grab fistfuls of dirt to form a fist that would keep their fingers cupped to prevent injury when sliding. When batting gloves came into common use, some players removed the gloves and held them in their palms for the same clutching grip.
If players had any sense they would wear sliding bags on their hands. No, not mittens. Bags. There is no need for the thumb to be exposed. See Yankee Brett Gardner who recently injured his thumb sliding into second.
Many, if not most, outfield dives are unnecessary. Watch them carefully and you will see that. The dive often occurs after the catch or the ball is above the knee where it can be caught comfortably. Plus, there is no advantage to extending the fingers on the bare hand when attempting to catch the ball with the glove yet they all do it. All that does is needlessly expose the fingers and thumb to injury. See a pattern here?
Many outfield slides are also unnecessary. See Nick Swisher who recently slid feet first to avoid a wall that was thirty feet away and dropped a catchable fly that was FAIR! Swisher also makes little style jumps when he's about to catch a ball and that has contributed to his dropping a couple this season. This is in addition to Swisher whiffing on flies but I digress too much.
Players make mistakes. Copying those mistakes are mistakes.