On twitter and Geoff Baker. Good stuff.
On twitter and Geoff Baker. Good stuff.
How to understand what is happening in spring training. Over the weekend and yesterday reports filtered in about the Mariner’s first few intra-squad games. Good pitching, terrible pitching, pod casts, radio interviews, home runs by very young players who might be good.
Radio interviews with players whose careers seem to be dead, reports on very slow fastballs, all the players when interviewed seem to be great guys, even the ones that have underperformed and have huge deals.
Is that possible? Does that challenge your notion that a guy who is playing poorly, must be a jerk?
You want to understand the dynamics of a MLB clubhouse in spring training or otherwise, go read some Russian fiction, Dostoyevsky or Checkoff, Tolstoy even, or Jim Bouton or Thomas Boswell or Roger Angell. That is a start.
You will read lots of things about Chone Figgins this spring, results from inter-squad games…two hits yesterday. He’s all over the radio and twitter, not him directly, but people seeing him and talking to him, the beatification process fully underway. Hisashi Iwakuna was bashed yesterday. He will get more chances to show himself. Catricala showing how he hits, hits and clubs the ball is turning heads. Like a good young player in camp, he hits and does not talk.
What is going on after all and what to make of what is said and the results and all of that sort of thing, do you need to run in and re-certify your pacemaker? Really, get to it.
Well it IS complicated, but it’s best to not get too amplified about great performances… for example what if the bomb is off a rookie league guy or two of them? Who knows though, the rookie league guy could be Stephen Strasburg or Anthony Vasquez, hard to tell. If Catricala, to drop a name, keeps doing that it will mean something. If he does not, it does not mean anything necessarily, other than he needs to have more time in minors. And Iwakuna getting lit up, what does that mean? With major league veterans it does not mean anything, it could mean a guy centering in on a pitch that he wants to get the feel for, could mean absolutely nothing. For a rookie from Japan, coming off arm trouble, might mean nothing still, if he does not throw well at all this spring, it suggests a problem. Time to tell the tale lies in front of us.
REALLY what is going on, is these games start to insinuate themselves to our daily rhythms again, you find yourself checking online to see who is covering the intra-squad games, you realize that the As and Ms play an actual game on Friday, some broadcasts this weekend maybe. Watching baseball again, makes you stretch and think of outside and garden work, spring time, despite what your eyes observe through the window, the snow falling. High schoolers are trying out for their teams in the thirty six degree weather around here.
Chone Figgins in center field today, short stop yesterday. He is the starting pitcher against the As later this week, oops check that! My bad! I heard him on the radio yesterday, nice guy, maybe a little in his head about his dilemma, hope it works out. Wedgie said yesterday that although he is the leadoff guy, he isn’t necessarily the starting third baseman, he went on to mention second base and the outfield, we saw short stop and by all reports he looked good, center field today, catcher maybe next week, the Wedgster thinking Mark McLemore redux. Maybe? I don’t know, I’m skeptical, have been on the record, who knows, a low flying pig just shot by my window (so that was a reference to the unlikeliness of this experiment and in no way any kind of insult, so please don’t write again).
Larry Stone has his best piece of the spring so far, it is about Trayvon Robinson, just chock-full of remarks from Robinson, and the Wedgemeister and Jack Zduriencik.
I will quote some below, because it is really good at a bunch of levels. But first, here in the Northwest we think we know mountains, the Cascades and Olympics and not to forget Mt. Baker, Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helen off course. Mt. Rainier is some 14,411 feet tall, majestic and snow covered. Mt. Mckinley in Alaska is 19,470 feet tall, almost a mile higher and to the south of us is Mt. Aconcagua 22,841 feet tall and in Tibet/Nepal/China/Turgikstan are seventy five (75) mountains that are taller than the one in the Andes. I can’t tell you how many more mountains are taller than Mt. Rainer, except to say that it is in the hundreds. There are well over a hundred just in excess of 20,000 feet.
What is the point? It is baseball here I’m trying to make an analogy. Well, hitting well in AA or AAA is analogous to climbing Mt. Rainier. While similar skills are used to climb K2, different issues crop up that affect your success, indeed your survival. Succeeding as a major league hitter is an ongoing thing, pitch to pitch, at bat to at bat, the cumulative knowledge about a new player, his ability to adjust after being exposed. Some guys don’t adjust and play themselves out of baseball.
For Stan Musial, one of the greatest hitters ever, his admonition to Curt Flood, caught in Ken Burn’s Anthology, was get a good pitch and swing hard. Now from an American perspective, that is almost a Zen statement and while it is not given it’s due, just accept it. Ted Williams, my number two, could recall pitches and smell of bat to wood and yet it was grinding and confidence for him. The point man. it is an enormous jump to succeed at the major league level. Such movements require care and nurture of those making the move. Mistakes are made often. Some guys are really not good and get too much time, other guys are good and get hosed or traded. See Bill Bavasi.
Here is Wedge about Trayvon specifically and generally about young players:
Manager Eric Wedge added, “I think it should have been an education for him, no doubt, in every area of the game, whether it be offensively, defensively, or on the basepaths. I think he got a pretty good feel for the speed of the game. Trayvon has a lot of raw ability, a lot of talent, he’s a good kid, he’s a hard worker. I didn’t feel he was in the best shape at the end of last year, but he’s in much better shape this year. That’s a part of his game that’s important for him because he is a speed guy, and the way he moves around is important, too. He did a good job this winter. Now it’s time to tighten things up for him, offensively, defensively, and on the basepaths.”
Still more: I also asked Wedge if he’s worried that last year’s struggles might have hurt Robinson’s confidence. His answer was typically blunt.
“Well, you’ve got to handle it. It’s the big leagues. I talk about being confident all the time. You have to have that. Sometimes, you can’t wait for success to have that. You have to go out there and believe in yourself before it happens. With success, obviously, confidence comes right along with that. It’s been my experience sometimes if you sit around and wait for that to happen, you just don’t get there.”
This from Zduriencik about process and being successful: Zduriencik said that what Robinson went through last year is not unusual. He found out how hard it is to play and succeed in the major leagues.
“A lot of guys did,” Zduriencik said. “That’s a good thing. It isn’t a bad thing, because now it gives you a measuring stick. Trayvon had a really good season in Triple-A, 26 home runs, and now all of a sudden, you’re in the big leagues. These guys are veteran guys, you’re playing up there in August and September, and you’re getting exposed.
“But sometimes those that are very talented need that. Because you need to know where your shortcomings are, or lack of experiences, for a better term. And go back and work on them, and realize this thing isn’t a gift. This doesn’t come easy. It’s something that can’t be taken for granted, and preparation and experience are huge factors in a lot of these kid’s development. In his case, I think that should be what he saw. He’s got tools, he’s got a good swing, he’s a switch hitter. There’s things he can do. But again, he’s one of a whole group of guys who have some ability.”
Follow the link to Larry’s piece. There is a bunch more, stuff from Trayvon, Larry’s take on things now…I think it is one of the best things he’s ever done. I have been critical at times, but Larry is a guy that looks for the best.
From Geoff Baker in Peoria this morning:
Hisashi Iwakuma got through a 1-2-3 first inning on a popout and two groundouts. But he was roughed up for three runs in the second and now trails 3-1 in the bottom of the frame. Jesus Montero led the inning off with a double…and then, after a walk, third baseman Vinnie Catricala botched a grounder for an error that scored a run.
Munenori Kawasaki followed with an RBI single and Mike Wilson ripped a double into the left field corner to score Kawasaki. Iwakuma was pulled after walking Nick Franklin, the inning ending without an out recorded.
Catricala had an RBI single in the bottom of the inning to get his team on the board.
Elise Woodward of KJRAM chimed in to report that Michael Saunders went oppo to left for a three run bomb.
In other news Franklin Gutierrez has strained/hurt or we’re guessing his shoulder/pectoral muscle or has a nagging groin injury. Film at eleven. He can’t throw.
Iwakuna reminds us what happens when you light a cheap cigar and gets absolutely lit up. First time out.
Catricala shows us yin and yang and so it goes. More later.
One of the Mariner long term employees in the scouting and player development area passed on yesterday far too early in life yesterday at the age of 49. Frank Mattox who had held various jobs with the Mariners and indeed had been Director of Player Development before Jack Zduriencik became General Manager.
One of my best friends called me this morning to ask of this. He had seen Frank at a University of California baseball alumni/hall of fame event for Bryan Price several weeks ago. Frank, according to Darrel had looked vigorous and healthy. They played together at Cal and after their Senior year had played on a team in Italy. At the end of that they took off and went to Paris and had the time of their lives.
It made me think a bit about the Woodie Allen movie “Midnight In
Paris” and also about Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein and the
lost generation. So many or so few moments Frankie had and we all
have. Baseball, especially the players and ex-players or former
players are part of a community and take care
of each other as long as one’s behavior does not ostracize them, but even then.
I have an uncle who is in declining years and bed ridden, he was in professional baseball from 1942 to 1996 as a player, coach, manager, roving instructor and other forgotten duties. One of his way stops was with the Tigers. In 1978 he was awarded the minor league manager of the year by Sporting News and then replaced Ralph Houk as manager of the Tigers in 1979. One of his coaches was Jim Leyland, now the current Tiger manager after stops in Pittsburgh, Miami and Colorado. Jim Leyland regularly asks after him and comes to see him. It is a singular gesture.
Frankie Mattox by all accounts a good baseball man, father and husband and possessor of many friends dies young. I do not understand, but do not pretend to either.
Great piece this morning on Vinnie Catricala and some tidbits on Brendan Ryan and Munenori Kawasaki. Michael Saunders had a big day during the last intra-squad game as Larry notes.
Saunders spent the winter working with Josh Bard’s brother on his swing mechanics. The principal topics were to get his lower half involved in the swing and to take steps to not be long in his swing. He has talent through the kazoo, big, fast, arm, but it has not shown at the major league level. Strikes out a lot 28% vs league average of 18%, way too many pop ups.
I’ve been around lots of guys that teach hitting. The most salient thing I’ve heard is something I saw recently on YouTube. It is an interview with Jose Bautista, with some monster video, where he credits Cito Gaston and the Jays hitting coach with saying, start sooner, start ridiculously soon, uncomfortably soon. It allows for a stable head and a best swing with your hands and all the other stuff, the long swing etc. self corrects. If you are late, you’re swing is going to be long, no matter what. Michael Saunders jumps into the big ring and says, “Hey! Look at me!”
Good for him.
Catricala might be the best young hitter the Mariners have looked at it in camp since Alex Rodriguez in the spring of 1994. Talent, talent and more talent. Oh and he plays third base.
Hishashi Iwakuna has never thrown a pitch in major league baseball. What pitches he did throw last year exhibited that he was hurt. Took time off, came back and threw fastballs in the 83 mph range.
Rangers signed Yu Darvish, 96-97 mph fastball, a veritable Ferrari.
The Mariners sign Iwakuna, a Yugo.
Larry Stone says he’s a lock in the three spot in the rotation. It was Doug Fister last year, the guy who pitched great in the American League playoffs for the Tigers.
Wonderful news from Arizona.
Bud Selig used to sell cars in Milwaukee. He stole the Seattle Pilots.
Not that there is some inherent slipperiness.
But Ryan Braun plays for Brewers busts a drug test. Two judges, player association rep, independent judge.
Bud votes against.
When he finds out, he pounds his hand on his desk and says I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more.
Sure. Mad as hell.
He closes with: “That’s how a team that scored only 558 runs last year can head into spring training with almost no competition for starting position player jobs. The team will, of course, say otherwise and proclaim that everything’s up-for-grabs once Cactus League games start. But really, who’s kidding who? Barring injury, does anyone reading this really think those won’t be the starting nine guys when the team plays in Japan next month?
It doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. But it’s not a normal thing.
And there are all kinds of factors playing into it. This is meant to try to explain some of it for you.”
I did not want to re-post the whole entry, so go follow the link above and read it. It is good. It follows Dave Cameron’s piece and mine from earlier this week.
I joke when I write this, but it makes you wonder if one of these guys were to unfortunately die, do you think they would do a “Weekend At Bernie’s Joins The Mariners!”, at least until the insurance paid off…so maybe not for the duration of the contract, but a couple of weeks with say the center fielder propped up out in center field. Wedge would pinch the corner outfielders to cover the declining range by the center fielder. The worst thing would be a line drive right at Bernie…
The article talks about how none of the decisions now relate to actual baseball decisions.
I guarantee you that almost every player that came up last year or thought they might be this year called their agent in the last forty eight hours and asked them several questions. Conversation probably went like this: “Hi Bob, this is Kyle Seager. Mariners third baseman…Yeah I’m good, or no I’m really pissed. I’m getting totally $%@!!ed. These guys are total and complete liars and they told me to keep my mouth shut no matter what. Can you get me out of here now? I am calm damn it! If they lie to me now, when will it stop? GM tells me to keep my head up and keep working hard, manager tells the press that I’m not part of the mix…he actually has not talked to me…Not for three years or five years depending where I’m at…What do you mean? Yeah I’m going to keep my mouth shut. So, I don’t really need to pay you for three or five years right? That is different? How is that? Yeah well, call me when you get a trade ready…
So if I was Kyle’s dad, I would tell him to keep grinding and working day in and day out as I would to anything of these guys stuck in this franchise with the worst of any baseball franchise ownership groups.
That the franchise value is way beyond its operating revenue is due to potential TV deals and radio deals, but there should be no illusion about the intent of Lincoln and Armstrong. Cut salaries and see if they can fool some other team to pick up Figgins or even Gutierrez or even Ichiro. $32 million in all three of them. If they dump any or all of that salary lump, it increases cash flow, that is if people buy into the need for more bobble-head nights, then Chuck and Howard make their bonus nut this fall. Happy days and martini time.
When blogging first began there was a beat writer for the Ms who had a nickname of “Pocket Lint” because he was way too close…it is good to see this piece put out there.
But the other part of this is that it does totally backup and screw up the Ms high minors. It makes the trade of last summer a complete give away. It makes the Puetz trade worse, and it makes the Lee trade worse.
I’ve taken to calling Armstrong Woodenhead and will continue to do so from time to time and Wedge either Woodenhead or Son of Chuck, but this whole thing is absent of any baseball value. Zduriencik is way too quiet right now and Wedge can’t shut up, which from an organization perspective suggests short times for Zduriencik.
Bad times closer than not. I doubt if they would rehire Bill Bavasi, but maybe Peter Bavasi could be bought err…brought in. Or maybe some other stooge, that would not back talk to Chuck. Somebody will take a paycheck.
Dave Cameron tips over the windmill in this latest chapter in Mariner baseball in the Ichiro and Figgin’s saga and the best line in the piece is, “But, from the Mariners perspective, that doesn’t really matter. What matters is what they can sell to other teams, and there are still enough people in decision making positions in Major League Baseball who do believe that batting position matters that the M’s can sell a good start to the season as being the result of having Figgins back at the top of the order…”
He goes on to say, “The Mariners don’t need to peddle the truth here. If May rolls along and Figgins is hitting .300 and drawing walks again, they are under no obligation to try and explain to potential suitors that correlation does not equal causation, and that Figgins may very well revert back to pumpkin form at any minute. The fact that other teams might make the causation leap themselves means that a good start to the season does present the M’s with some chance to actually trade him without assuming the entirety of the remainder of his deal.”
The rest of the piece is well written and the arguments are well organized, read on:
In my earlier post, I said we get to re-read Mark Twain’s story about Tom Sawyer talking fools into painting his fence again…I still think that captures what is going on, but, it does not capture the mendacity that seems to be pulsating from the Mariner’s brain trust these days.
Spring Training is like sunlight after gray, cold and wet and depression. It is the promise of warmth and new growth. So watching this saga unfold is like bringing friends home from school for the first time just in time for them to hear your dad giving your brother a lecture about how selling life insurance has fed him and clothed him. Embarrassing in any context, but information overload, too much intimacy and the whole insurance thing. Please don’t write to re-lecture me, I lived through this.
So you say to the beat guys, please for the love of God, don’t write incessantly about it please. It’s like getting serially slobbered on. There should be no splash guards required to read about the Mariners.
So today it was Ichiro has a new wider base and is not doing his homage to Sadaharu Oh and has a tiny stride now. Tomorrow we will read that he is: A. using a bigger bat because it came to him in a dream about Oh, or B. Using a smaller lighter bat designed by Mitsubishi for more bat speed.
There are hitters and pitchers here that either spent a little time up in Seattle last summer or are about to force their way up…these guys represent the joy of baseball as they battle their way up…
They are seriously talented players and pitchers. They hold the future of the team’s competitiveness. You hope that they don’t get fall into the potted meat cauldron due to all of this nonsense, but it is a business. So let’s watch the young guys…Cameron says we don’t know if Ichiro will convert himself to a Prince-light, to which I say well, sure we do.
Written with grace and insight, typically on point, it is always a joy to start off the day with John’s words.
Larry Stone also a nice guy drops 740 words on Ichiro’s new stance and so on…
To which I dedicate the following Monkees song:
There are some reports about Taijuan Walker lighting it up yesterday. All the other young studs threw to good effect yesterday too.
The beauty of this setting is despite all the bs that flows about positions and guarantees, the players will play, like the players can play. At some point when Kyle Seager or Vinnie Catricala are showing their progression, even Wedge will notice. After all he is supposed to put the best players out there, but it will be what it will be.
Were I Brendan Ryan I would keep my bags packed. Dumping his deal and playing short stop Munenori Kawasaki seems to be the story with all of his talking and videos of him barking during infield.
For such a terrible and bad team, whose pitching has regressed terribly from last year, the politics in this camp are astounding.
The new lineup was floated out there this morning with Smoak batting fourth and please Jesus Montero batting fifth and Carp platooning in the six hole, with the ever hopeful, recovered Gutierrez battling for the next spots with Miquel Olivo. Smoak, other than one month in twelve has scuffled a bit, in his twelve months hitting .229 and an OPS of .701…more alarming is the huge decline in his line drive percentage last year from 23% to 17%, which is well below MLB average.
Where is the beef? Carp’s batting average on balls in play is so much higher and consistently so than Smoak’s, line drive percentage better, that the place for Smoak to be is 6th, but then that makes the Lee trade look even worse.
Younger guys in camp stick to their business and play their ipods for some respite from the bs free flowing around them. For their benefit here are some selections to add from Girl In A Coma: