Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Bobby V.

Bobby Valentine will reportedly be introduced as the Red Sox manager tomorrow. Is it a good fit? I'm anxious to see how he handles the pitching staff with controversy at the end of the year.

He seems to be a "big" personality and they seem to fail as managers more than they work out in big baseball markets like Boston.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

New Tobacco Rules

An overlooked point of the new MLB collective bargaining agreement is the tobacco rules. Players, managers and coaches cannot use tobacco during interviews and cannot carry tobacco in their uniforms. I think that's a big deal. No more cans in back pockets of players.
We've heard from everyone during the steroid scandals, the most important reason for Congress getting involved was for the kids. Now kids won't have to ask their parents what that round thing is in player X's back pocket.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Another Wild Card

Today also marks the agreement of a new collective barganing agreement for Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association. One of the main points is adding a second wild card team to the mix. The two wild card teams will play a one game, winner take all, play in game. I wasn't a fan at first, but it allows another team and city an opportunity to get into the playoff and puts more emphasis on winning the division.
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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Cy Young Winners

Justin Verlander wins the AL pitching triple crown - wins, ERA and strikeouts - and is a unanimous choice for the Cy Young. Clayton Kershaw wins the NL pitching triple crown, but doesn't win the NL Cy Young unanimously? I understand that Verlander's Tigers won the division and made the playoffs, but that is more a compliment to the other pitchers on the Tigers staff.

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Monday, November 14, 2011

Another Round of Zambrano?

New Cubs' GM Theo Epstein reportedly met with Carlos Zambrano and his agent today to discuss the former ace's future. Would you want him on your team? Does he deserve another chance?

Rookies of the Year

The start of the MLB award season started today with the Rookies of the Year being chosen in the respective leagues. 
Braves' closer Craig Kimbrel was named NL Rookie of the Year earlier today. He was a unanimous selection, receiving all 32 first place votes. Kimbrel finished with a 2.10 ERA and shared the NL lead in saves (46) with the Brewers' John Axeford. Kimbrel's teammate Freddie Freeman finished second in the voting and the Phils' Vance Worely rounded out the top three.
Rays' starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson has been voted as the AL Rookie of the Year by the Baseball Writers of America. He led all Major League rookies in ERA, innings and opponent's batting average. The Angels' Mark Trumbo and the Royals' Eric Hosmer finished second and third, respectively.
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Monday, October 31, 2011

So Long Tony

ESPN is reporting that Cardinals' manager Tony LaRussa is retiring after 33 seasons and three World Series championships. I grew up during the 80s watching the A's and their great teams. LaRussa is thought of as a great manager with an uncanny ability to anticipate.
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Saturday, October 29, 2011

2011 Baseball Season Concludes

And with last night's Cardinals' victory, another baseball season has come to an end. Carpenter settled down after a rocky first, the Rangers couldn't get anything going offensively afterwards and it culminated with the Cardinals' 11th World Series crown. Congrats to St. Louis. And congrats to Texas. It's hard to get back to the Series two years in a row. Maybe next year will be their turn.

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Friday, October 28, 2011

Yogi Berra Said It Best

If there was ever a game that was the epitome of Yogi Berra's famous "it ain't over til it's over" quote, it was last night's Game 6. The Cards were down to their last strike twice and rallied each time.

The game itself was pretty sloppy. There were five errors that led to four unearned runs. There were 12 walks - two of which were intentional. Cardinals starting pitcher Jaime Garcia failed to get past the third inning. The Rangers' Nelson Cruz and the Cardinals' Matt Holiday both left the game with injuries.

But in the end, all that matters in the outcome. Not the final score, but the last several innings. With only six outs between them and the end of the season, the Cardinals found themselves down 7-4. With one out remaining in their season, the Cardinals were down 7-5.

After an improbable David Freese two-out, two strike, two run triple in the bottom of the ninth, Rangers' slugger Josh Hamilton hit what seemed to be the final blow, a go ahead, two-run home run in the top of the 10th inning, his first homer of the postseason. But again down to their final strike, Lance Berkman hit an RBI single off of Rangers' reliever Scott Feldman to again tie the game and force the 11th inning.

That set-up David Freese leading off the top of the 11th. A relative unknown to the baseball world before this postseason began. Growing up in the St. Louis-area native has created a hometown hero story. Freese is hitting nearly .400 this postseason, seemingly coming up at the right place in the order to drive in the big runs. And last night was no exception. His 428 foot home run on a 3-2 pitch forced a Game 7.

Unbelievable. Can't wait until Game 7 tonight.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Really Tony?

So, Cardinals' manager Tony LaRussa says that in the 8th inning of last night's 4-2 Texas win, in which the Rangers scored their third and fourth runs, that the bullpen, on two different occasions, did not hear him ask to warm up reliever Jason Motte. I have a hard time buying that.

LaRussa is thought of as a borderline genius and the one of the best managers of the last 25 years. He is typically on top of every single situation and scenario that comes up. Part of a manager's job is to anticipate what is going to happen later in the inning or later in the game.

I'm not sure if LaRussa was caught off guard, misread the way things unfolded or things just didn't work out for the Cardinals and he looks foolish.

I'm not accusing him of lying or deceiving the media and fans. It just doesn't seem to add up.

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Derek Holland

I guess if you never heard of Derek Holland, last night changed that. Coming into last night, he had a postseason ERA of 5.27. He was 16-5 this season with a 3.95 ERA.
Derek Holland proved again that your previous outings don't matter. A few rough outings doesn't mean every outing is going to be shaky. Every inning on the mound or at-bat is another opportunity to show your capabilities.

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Friday, October 21, 2011

"No Doubles" Backfires

I'm not a big fan of protecting a lead with no runners on base as the Cardinals did last night with the "No Doubles" philosophy. 
The Rangers' Ian Kinsler, who does have some power, starts the inning off with a single, that would have been caught had the St. Louis outfielders been playing at normal depth. I know that every manager has his own thinking. If the outfielders are playing normal depth and Kinsler hits a double, then a lot of critics would ask why weren't they playing "No Doubles." 
Situations like this and the differences in philosophies are what make baseball the greatest game.
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Thursday, October 20, 2011

2011 World Series - Game 1 - The Day After

I've said it before and will continue to preach that free bases damage a pitcher more than anything else.

In last night's game, the Cardinals' first run was scored by Albert Pujols, who reached after being hit by a pitch. In the bottom of the sixth, with two outs, Rangers' pitcher C.J. Wilson walks Nick Punto, the 8th hitter in the lineup. Punto is the last batter Wilson faces and Allen Craig get the pinch hit single and RBI off reliever Alexi Ogando.

Cardinals' pitchers walk two and win. Rangers' pitchers walk six - two intentionally - and hit a batter and lose.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Recipe For Success

Cards pitch just a little better than the Rangers. A pinch hit, game winning RBI single by Allen Craig. Good pitching and timely hitting is the recipe for success in baseball, at all levels.

Which Carpenter?

The 2011 World Series will come down to pitching - as most series do. In game one, the Cardinals will turn to ace Chris Carpenter. If Carpenter pitches like he did in Game 7 against the Phillies, the Rangers have no shot. Here's hoping for a great series.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Confident Nolan Ryan

Nolan Ryan, president of the Texas Rangers, says that his team will win the World Series in 6 games. As you can imagine, some people have called this "bulletin board material" for the Cardinals, other questioning why he would make a prediction. I always find this funny about the media. Is the guy supposed to not root for his team? Should he not be confident in the team he assembled? Does anyone think he will pick the Cardinals in 4?
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A Pitcher's Best Friend

A pitcher's best friend is always a double play. Early in a game, with the bases loaded and nobody out, always be willing to give up a run in order to get two outs. Controlling damage when you run into early trouble still gives your team a chance to win.
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Monday, October 17, 2011

Aggressive on the Bases

Good hustle by the Brewers' Carlos Gomez last night. Not only moving up on a passed ball, but advancing two bases when Cardinals' catcher Yadier Molina hobbles over to the baseball. Never assume on the bases. Stay aggressive and make the defense stop you. Don't stop yourself.
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World Series 2011

Cardinals versus Rangers. Who ya got? An interesting note on the radio this morning. Brewers' 1B Prince Fielder drove in the winning run in the All-Star Game with his home run off of Rangers' pitcher C.J. Wilson. So the way things played out, in a roundabout way, Wilson lost home field advantage for the Rangers and Fielder won it for the rival Cards.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Red Sox Slide

If this story is true about the Red Sox, it shows a complete lack of leadership by the players. Managers manage the game, but the players have to hold each other accountable. No wonder they folded down the stretch.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Texas third baseman Adrian Beltre hit a foul ball off his knee in the top of the 4th. Would it be right or wrong to lay a bunt down in the bottom of the inning?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Hunt Fastballs

Tony LaRussa was talking in his in-game interview during game during game 4 against the Phillies. He said that hitters "should hunt fastballs." Most hitters can hit a fastball. But make sure when you see one, you are ready.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Focus

You can never go through the motions in this great game. Not focusing on becoming a better baseball player and trying to improve your faults shows your coach how serious you are. Although it's a cliche, you have to strive to be perfect on every repetition - whether offensively, defensively, pitching or base running. Great focus leads to development. Development leads to success. Success leads to wins. Never take a pitch, play or at-bat off. It may be the difference in winning or losing.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Own the Inside of the Plate

Own the inside of the plate. That was the story of the day for our pitchers. Pitching inside is becoming a lost art that many pitchers aren't learning. It's sad that every time a pitcher misses inside - whether the batter is hit by the pitch or not - there is the assumption that the pitcher is intentionally trying to hit the batter. But nobody says a word when a pitcher misses 6 inches outside. If a hitter has to respect the inside pitch, that makes every other pitch in your arsenal that much better.
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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Best Bunt Concept

Today's lesson is "When in doubt, get an out." At practice today, we spend the majority of our time working on basic bunt defenses. While getting the lead runner is always optimal, at worst, you should make sure you record an out somewhere.

Realize that the perfect bunt is possible and, if it happens, your only play may be at first base - even on a squeeze play. Outs are the most important thing to a defense. Get one somewhere.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Pitching Efficiently

As Waynesburg University continues our fall season, I'm going to start sharing the one big idea I stress each day. Today's lesson focused on being more efficient. From a pitching perspective, throwing fewer, but better pitches allows you to pitch deeper into the game. The biggest way to remain efficient is by not trying to strike every batter out. Pitching to contact and allowing your fielders to make plays keeps your fielders in the game and gets you off the mound.
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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Mother Nature Wreaks Havoc

With Mother Nature wreaking havoc on sporting events over the last week, last night was not spared. After a 4-hour rain delay, the Yankees and Orioles took to the field just after 11 PM and ended around 2:15 AM. Baseball players - especially starting pitchers - are creatures of habit, so I'm sure there were some unhappy players in both locker rooms. According to reports, there were about 500 fans that actually stuck around and the announced attendance was 44.573 (MLB counts tickets sold, not actually attending).
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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Giants' Free Fall

How do you play your way out of a playoff spot? 
The Giants are 9-18 since July 31 and have gone from being four up on the Diamondbacks to down two. Still a month to go, but they need to start playing well. 
What happened to the promise of Carlos Beltran? Beltran was hitting .244 with 0 HRs and 2 RBIs since the trade with the Mets. He was supposed to provide a much needed boost to the lineup, but is currently on the DL.
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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Catching them Sleeping

Watch the Mariners' Brendan Ryan go from first base to third base after an infield single. The A's infielders fall asleep. One of the big things every young baseball player should learn is to stay alert and anticipate where a play is going to take place.

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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Importance of Communication


In baseball, communication can be the difference between success and failure. On every play, players need to communicate with each other. 

Think about that for a moment. In EVERY situation, there is communication between players. And it doesn’t have to be verbal communication. There are so many examples of non-verbal communication during a baseball game and, many times, those are the ones that are executed properly.

I’m not going to argue that communication is more important than talent – it’s not. But if you have two evenly matched teams, I’d bet the one that does a better job of communicating would win. 

What are some of the ways missed communication can affect the outcome of a game? The most common would be missed signs between the coach and either the batter or base runner. A mix up between the catcher and pitcher can happen often, especially with a runner on second base. 

When most of us think of communication, we think of fly balls and base coaches. We are all taught that the centerfielder has priority over the outfield, the shortstop controls the infield and your base coach can see the play behind you. 

Here are several other communication scenarios that take place in almost every single game.
 
Middle-infielders tell each other who will cover second base on a steal attempt.

Catchers let infielders know where to throw the ball on a bunt. 

Coaches signal players from the dugout and tell them where to play. 

First-basemen tell the pitcher when to attempt a pick-off if the runner has a big lead. 

Fielders position themselves based on what pitch is called by the catcher. 

On a ball hit back to the pitcher, with a runner on first, who will be covering second base?

With runners on first and third, someone tells the infield what play is on. 

First basemen let the catcher know when a runner is attempting to steal. 

On balls hit to the outfield, catchers line infielders up and let them know if throws need cut-off. 

Outfielders can let each other know where to throw the ball.
 
Communication is the basis of winning baseball. It doesn’t take additional time. It only takes thinking the game. You have to be aware of what situation is happening and what can you do or what can you say to help your teammate be more successful. 

Learn to do a better job at communicating – verbal and non-verbal – and you will see an increase in success.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hustle


Several days ago, in the bottom of the 10th inning of a 3-3 game, with one out, the Pirates’ Xavier Paul came to bat. Nobody was on and he was, like most players in that situation, looking to get on base to start a rally or, more likely, hit a homerun and end the game.  

He ended up in a 2-2 count and hit weak ground ball on a95-MPH fastball from St. Louis reliever Jason Motte. That ground ball bounced aimlessly to Cardinals’ first baseman Albert Pujols. At first glance, it looked like an easy out. That play is practiced hundreds, if not thousands, of times during spring training and happens at some point of every single game. 

Most players in Paul’s position would have jogged to first and conceded the out. After all, it was a hot day in Pittsburgh and the game was in extra innings. Even though he was came off the bench late in the game, after he made contact, there was a pretty good chance he’d be out there for the 11th inning. 

But Paul exploded out of the box – it also helps that he is a lefty. The ball took a big hop, which forced Pujols to wait for it, and then is seemed Albert took his time with the throw. To be fair, Jason Motte didn’t seem like he was in a real hurry to cover first either. It almost looked as if Motte expected Xavier Paul to only run to first base as a formality. 

Paul won the race and beat Motte to the base for an infield single. On the next pitch, Xavier takes off for second. Catcher Yadier Molina short hops the throw and the ball ends up in centerfield as Paul then advances to third base. Pirates’ third baseman Chase d’Arnaud eventually hits a sacrifice fly to centerfield, giving the Pirates the 4-3 victory and the avoid a sweep at the hands of their division rival.

It takes no talent to hustle. It only takes effort. It can be the difference in winning and losing, making a team or getting cut, having success or wishing for it. 

Xavier Paul could have cruised to first. My guess is many major-league players would have. He had every excuse not to run hard. It was hot. It was in extra innings. He hit a weak ground ball. There aren’t many infield singles when you hit the ball to the first baseman. 

But he didn’t. He hustled. He ran as hard as he could. He wanted to be safe. He wanted to win. He wanted to be the difference maker. 

And he was. 

All because he gave his best effort on a play that, in today’s Major League baseball, we expect minimal effort.

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Great Play and A Bad Example

Here is the great play by the Pirates' Neil Walker. The other is because of the reaction of Reds' catcher Ramon Hernandez. I understand that he is a long-time Major League veteran, but that's no excuse for spiking your helmet because an opponent makes a great play.

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Monday, June 20, 2011

What are College Coaches Looking For?

This time of the year, many rising high-school seniors and juniors will try to be noticed by college coaches throughout the country during tournament and showcases, through recruiting DVDs and services, by self-promotion or recommendations. But what are these college coaches looking for in a player?
I can’t speak for every coach out there because each has a unique set of guidelines they take into consideration. But I would guess that most coaches have similar criteria in evaluating young players.
I’ll also mention that I coach at a small, NCAA Division III school. We are not allowed to give athletic money, which means several levels of talent are just unattainable to us. Even if there are certain kids that are “too good,” I am competing against other Division III school for players and still want to get the best talent I can.

Talent
Can you play baseball at a high level? We don’t typically recruit reserves – though that is where some end up. Many players try to walk on to our team in the fall, thinking, “It’s just Division III baseball.” But it is still college baseball.

For a program to keep making strides, coaches need to recruit players better than they already have. It’s alright for me to bring in a few “project” kids every year – players that could contribute a few years down the road. But the majority of kids I bring in should be able to compete for a starting job. 
Desire

Kids that come to our school (and most D-III schools in the north, for that matter) are more than likely not going to move on past collegiate baseball. So their academics have to come first. But the kids that I want have baseball as their second priority.
I also want freshman that won’t back down from a competition. I hope all of our incoming players work hard enough and expect to take the job of a returning player. I don’t want guys that are content to sit for a year or two to get their opportunity. Some players will overtake upperclassman and others won’t, but it’s the desire to play that will make those players unsuccessful practice harder and become better players.

Coachability
Are you a coachable kid? If I try and make corrections or improvements to your mechanics, are you going to listen and trust me? Or are you going to let my teaching go in one ear and out the other because of how your high school or AAU coach or dad taught you? Maybe a change works. Maybe it doesn’t. But my job as a coach is to try to develop you and make you the best player I can.

Character
Coaches have enough to worry about our teams on the field and in the classroom. The last things I want is to worry about are behavioral and social problems.

Winners
Like the scene from “The Natural,” losing can become a habit and players can become accustomed to it. Some players seem to accept losing, rather than have it burn a desire in them to work harder.

Part of my job as a coach is to create a positive atmosphere. But it is easier to do with players that come from successful high school and summer programs.
What Should a Player Look For?

Academic Programs
Players need to worry about their academics. To me, it is unrealistic that most 18-year olds know exactly what they want to do for the rest of their life. But you know what your interests are and probably have several potential majors in mind. Pick a school that offers the majors you may declare.

The School
The coaches are a good reason to pick a school. But the reality is that the coach you play for as a freshman may not be the same one you leave with as a senior. Make sure the school itself is where you want to spend the next four years.

I recommend that all of our recruits visit the campus and try to make an overnight visit to truly see what our university is like beyond the snapshot often seen during Admission tours and practices. 
Chance of Playing

Let’s face it; players wanting to play college baseball want to do just that – play. Do you feel in talking with the coach that you will have a good chance to play? I don’t know of any coach that will guarantee you playing time – most guarantee that you will have the opportunity to compete for a starting job.
But you can do your own research. Look at the teams stats from the previous year. If you’re a catcher and the school has an all-conference catcher that is going to be a junior and hit over .400, what are your chances to unseat him?

If you are looking at a scholarship school, how much money is being offered? There aren’t many baseball scholarships and the majority get split up (Division I has 11.7 and Division II has 9 full scholarships). Coaches are going to give scholarship money to players they feel can be impact players.
In the end, you have to make the decision that is best for and your family. With the high cost of higher education, most decisions are financially-based. Pick a school you feel comfortable with and somewhere you can see spending the next four years of your life.

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Monday, June 13, 2011

Good article from ESPN's Tim Kurkjian about Dodgers' pitcher Clayton Kershaw. The three best lines for young players "He doesn't want to be good. He wants to be the best," "He competes like crazy," and "He is able to be coached, retain information and put it to use."

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/columns/story?columnist=kurkjian_tim&id=6640274


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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Are You Versatile?

A few nights ago, St. Louis Cardinals’ slugger Albert Pujols started a game at third base. It was the first time since 2004 that he wasn’t stationed at first base or served as the designated hitter. And while he may not have looked really comfortable, he got the job done in the Cards’ 3-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.

What’s more impressive to me is that Pujols apparently volunteered to shift to the hot corner and Cardinals’ manager Tony LaRussa pencilled Pujols’ name on the line-up card. Pujols started a double play, but ended up 0-4 at the plate. 

I tell all of my players that there are two easy ways to find yourself in the starting line-up. If you are one of the best nine hitters, we will try to find a spot for you and if you are a versatile player, cracking the starting nine will be a lot easier. 

The reality of baseball is you need to score to win. Sure, you try to limit your opponent to as few runs as possible, but you can’t win if you don’t score. 

Will I risk putting a player completely out of position? No. I would never embarrass a player in the field and it could hurt our team. A mental error from not playing the position or not making the correct read or play could be the difference in the game. 

But, the more versatile you can be, the better a chance you will have to play. 

Say the best hitters on your team are your first and third basemen. You also play first base. You haven’t had much experience playing the outfield and not quick enough to play second base or shortstop. It is going to be hard for a coach to find a place for you. 

So what can you do? 

If you have read my columns before, you probably can guess what my answer is – work hard. 

If you don’t have a lot of experience playing the outfield, practice it. Maybe you aren’t fast enough to play centerfield, but what about right or left field? If you have only been an outfielder, ask your coach if you can practice on the infield. Have you ever thought about trying out catcher? This leads me to the easiest way on the field – pitching. If you aren’t a regular starter, have you tried to pitch? 

As a coach, I owe it to the other players on the team to make a line-up that gives us the best chance to win. I also love it when players come up and ask me to try a new position. That tells me they aren’t satisfied with sitting the bench and want to try to do whatever they can to play. It shows me that they love the game and want to be apart of the action. It shows me that they are confident in their athleticism and are versatile.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Night to Forget

Royals' reliever Vin Mazzaro's line from last night - 2.1 IP, 11 H, 14 ER, 3 BB, 2 Ks.

For Royals' manager Ned Yost to leave him out there that long tells me a couple of things.

1. Mazzaro was complaining about playing time and Yost was making a point.
2. Someone in the Royals' front office thought Mazzaro was being misused and Yost was making a point.

The only other logical explanation is the bullpen was worn out, but the Royals' were rained out Sunday and Jeff Francis threw a complete game Saturday.

Afterwards, Mazzaro was sent back to AAA. Here's hoping he regains confidence and makes it back to the big leagues.

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Jorge Posada

Yankees' catcher Jorge Posada reportedly asked to be released before Saturday's game when he learned manager Joe Girardi put him in the 9th spot in the batting order.

You have to be smart to be a MLB catcher. I understand that players want to feel valued and respected, but Jorge is hitting .165, which is last out of 193 MLB qualifying batters. There is always an ego involved, but you have to look in the mirror.

Being that Jorge is the DH, I'm guessing there are a few other role players on the Yankees who wouldn't mind being the everyday DH. Even if it meant batting 9th.

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Friday, May 6, 2011

Baseball Can Be Confusing

Found my team in the middle of the most confusing situation I've been apart of in over 20+ years of baseball.
The college we played gave the wrong lineup to us and the umpires. I was always told to wait until there is a big hit, then you can protest to the umpires for batting out of order.

But it doesn't work that way.

Once a pitch is thrown, the announced order is the official order, regardless of what the lineup presented to the umpire says. The result of the debacle was some guys were switched around in the order and - this actually happened - a runner scored from third base and immediately it was his at-bat.

I always thought if you batted out of order, you were out, but apparently it is more complicated than that.

We apparently protested at the wrong time. We brought it to the attention if the umpires after the batter, who was listed fourth on both the lineup presented to us and the umpires and the lineup presented to the official scorer. Because he was a "legal" batter, there really wasn't any consequence at that moment.

If we would have brought it to the attention of the umpires after an "illegal" batter - one batting in the wrong spot - reached base, that batter would be out and the runners would have to go back.

Hope I didn't confuse you more.

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