TIPS FROM THE BIG MAPLE
James Paxton is NOT Laid Back
“We saw emotion from James Paxton and this is something the Mariners talked about last season. Mel Stottlemyre, Jr. said Paxton is such a nice guy, so laid back, so quiet. They wanted him to pitch with more edge. After he struck out 16 A’s and no hit the Blue Jays Stottlemyre said its hard to teach toughness but he found a way to get it out of himself.”
“If he stays healthy you’re going to see him with Cy Young talk. He’s that good. He’s so stoic and laid back he wasn’t bothered by an eagle landing on his shoulder.”
This is NOT the James Paxon I know. Not at all.
Yes, James is quiet. He is not about bravado. Or dancing in the dugout. Or posing for the cameras. Or posturing for the fans. Or bringing attention to James Paxton.
None of that.
James Paxton is about Being the Best He Can Be. About doing everything possible to help the iconic New York Yankees win. About preparation. About composure and focus.
James Paxton is about being a Pro.
Pax getting Down the Hill. Note he is about 10 inches against his body.
It works for James but I don't recommend it.
And, believe me, there is nothing laid back about James Paxton. He is one of the most intense competitors I’ve ever coached.
I’m not alone in this observation. “James was always tough,” says former North Delta coach Ari Mellios, who knows James a lot better than I do. “His demeanor never changed on the mound. But James was never laid back. Never.”
Remember the old bromide Never Judge a Book by its Cover? That happens far too often. James is quiet. He's a nice guy. James doesn’t exhibit his emotions. So, obviously, he’s laid back.
No way. Open the book and read the pages and you’ll discover a young man with the heart of a lion and the toughness of concrete. Just take the time to get past the cover.
"The crowd was pleading for Boone to leave Paxton In."
It reminds me of the perception so many have of Ryan Dempster, who has a great creative sense of humour. So people think that’s who is.
I can’t imagine anything farther from the truth. Have dinner with Ryan and you’re talking to Rodney Dangerfield. But put him on the hill and you have the Baseball Equivalent of a Serial Killer.
Perception. Sometimes it’s 180 from the truth.
I’m not going to dissect Paxton’s demolishment of the Astros. You saw that first hand.
Instead I’ll pass along some invaluable tips James sent me two years ago. Welcome to the Anatomy of a Pitcher’s Preparation. In his own words.
A strong finish
“I was looking at video with my pitching coach in AAA and we discovered my arm slot had raised considerably since 2014 when I was throwing really well.”
They went to work diligently and James returned to his ¾ delivery when he pitched for the North Delta Blue Jays.
“It made things feel drastically better. My velo jumped and my command got much better. I’m back to where I should be.”
“I stress getting a good load before moving forward. And then leading with my hip. You need to have strength in your legs before throwing the ball.”
NOTE: You have to Get Down the Hill but you Load first and then Lead with Your Hip. I’ve stressed this so often it’s like a Mantra from Heaven.
“A drill for getting a good load is to put a resistance band around your waist and have a partner behind you pulling on the band. I do this before workouts as a warm up as well as a pitching drill.”
“Staying closed as long as possible in your delivery will allow you to get on top of the baseball and create good plane and action.”
The Eagle Has Landed
The cutter slider
“I throw a cutter by design. I’m always working on that pitch and sometimes it moves more like a slider.”
NOTE: For the difference between a cutter and a slider check out the post after this one.
Throwing bull pens
“I throw one bullpen between starts--about 35 pitches the second day after I pitch. Then I have two more days of playing catch before I get in a game again.”
“Before each game I watch video for about three hours and make notes on every player. Then I'll compare my notes to the team notes and the stats we have. I go over it all with my catcher before the game and we talk about what we want to do.”
Challenging the Hitter
“I try to hit spots. But I never sacrifice intensity.”
NOTE: James has always been aggressive. Sure, he works both sides of the plate. But he believes in his stuff and he’s never afraid to CHALLENGE a hitter.
His natural arm slot
“My routine begins two hours before a start. I take a warm shower and finish with a blast of cold water to shock my system and wake me up.
“Then I'll head to the gym and ride the bike for 10 minutes, followed by rolling out on a foam role and some core activation exercises.
“After that, I go to the training room to put some heat on my shoulder and elbow. I finish with a leg and arm stretch by my trainer.
“Finally I'm ready to go outside and do some more warm ups before starting to throw on the bull pen mound.”
NOTE: I love the idea of rubbing heat into your shoulder and arm. We did this with Dempster.
“I long toss quite often before I get into my five day season routine. I feel out my body every time I play catch and decide how far to go depending on how I'm feeling. Once I get into my five day routine, I throw long toss once between starts before my bullpens at about 200 feet.”
“I do most of my cardio exercises on the bike--intervals for about 25 minutes. And I do various agility exercises with my strength coaches.”
“I take about three weeks off after the season. Then I like to throw once a week at about 90 feet to keep my arm loose and free from scar tissue build up. I begin to throw more often towards the end of December.
“I train in the gym four days a week in the offseason and I also do YOGA three or four times a week. I focus most of my attention on building strength in my legs and core, the foundation for pitching.”
NOTE: Legs and Core. Legs and Core. Legs and Core. Cannot emphasize this enough. POWER, DRIVE and STABILITY all begin from the ground up.
So stoic. So laid back. So unemotional.
AND THAT SPELLS TROUBLE WITH A CAPITAL T
The Goose and Lou Vomit All Over Baseball
"I can’t watch these games anymore. It’s not baseball. It’s unwatchable. A lot of the strategy of the game, the beauty of the game, it’s all gone. It’s like a video game now. It’s home run derby with their bleeping launch angle every night.’’
“All anybody wants to do is launch the ball. They’re making the ballparks smaller, the balls tighter, and all we’re seeing is home runs. There are no hit-and-runs. No stolen bases. Nothing. I managed 3,400 games in the big leagues, and never once did I put a full shift on anybody. Not once. And I think I won a few games without having to shift.’’
The Goose, one of the best closers ever
I love the MLB commercial spewing out during the playoffs. First some vintage black and white video overlapped by colour shots of current rippers. “They say baseball isn’t what it used to be,” asserts the Propaganda Machine. And then it insists today’s game is Younger, Faster, Harder.
All of which is true. But they forgot one word.
As we all know baseball has become Jacks and K’s. Crush or whiff. Yes, there are still some great defensive plays. But too often it’s live, competitive BP between a guy throwing bullets and a slugger who believes God created Heaven and Earth…and then the Launch Angle. No, no. The Launch Angle came first.
Never go the other way. Hitting Oppo is for pussies. Drive the damn Rawlings over The Shift like a bleeping man. Shift be damned.
Never bunt for a hit even if the left side is as wide open as Wyoming. Bunts are for Eunuchs.
Never steal a bag. You’ll have to slide and you might get a bruise. Nobody making only $20 million should have to endure that torture.
The High Five Line Dance. Just call it bonding.
Never run hard on a groundball to short. They’re just going to throw you out anyway so you’re only wasting your Launch Angle energy for the next AB. Just ask Manny Machado or Kendrys Morales, who think Hustling is something you do on a street corner.
Never learn how to turn a double play four different ways. Too much energy. Too much time. Stay in the cage instead perfecting your Launch Angle uppercut. If you don’t turn it the broadcast crew will give you an A plus for effort anyway.
How did Grade 9 Girl's Volleyball Invade This Blog?
Never show discipline at the plate. That just leads to bleeping walks and you’re not Barry Bonds. Walks may help the team win but they won’t give you a dollar on your free agent contract. So swing at high heat 18 inches above the strike zone and curveballs that bounce. Hell, you might even hammer one every 100 AB’s or so. And cricket is always an option.
Never Hit and Run. Oh, sorry, you’ve never heard that term.
Never squeeze bunt. It’s exciting as hell for fans but you never practice bunting and you’ll just pop it up into a double play. That’s embarrassing.
After you crush a Jack always choreograph some signature move as you salute the guy on deck. And then parade through the High Five Line Dance in the dugout so the camera will follow you for 15 seconds. Touch everyone like you’re on a grade nine girl’s volleyball team and you need reassurance after every point.
Sweet Lou, one of the rare moments he wasn't berating an umpire
Always take your hat off and pose on the top step of the dugout so the cameras will find you. Pretend you’re dissecting strategy so the broadcast crew can point out what a mentor you are to the younger players. Even when you’re talking about last night’s Baseball Groupie or which bar you’re going to after the game.
And don’t forget to color your hair purple or crimson so the girls will notice.
Never move a runner over. Even to win a game. Did anyone ever sign for $20 mill because he moved a runner over? Are you crazy?
Never think Gap to Gap Line Drives. Yes, of course, that might make you a .300 hitter. But George Brett and Rod Carew were yesterday. And, yes, Brett hit .390 one year and Carew was an all-star 18 times and won seven batting titles with a lifetime .328. But who cares? This is Overwatch time.
And never, never think Oppo Contact with two strikes. What the bleep. Swing from your butt. All the time.
Attendance at the 30 MLB parks has subsided around 800,000 in the past year and there are a plethora, a myriad, a bundle, a barrage of reasons, and that spells Trouble with a Capital T, Trouble, I say…No that’s from another movie.
Which we’ll get to tomorrow.
NOW I TAKE ON THE HALL OF FAME
Sorry, John Smoltz, But You Don’t Have a Clue
“The rhythm of a pitcher is very important to a lot of guys. The goal is to pitch out of the windup as long as you can.”
“The Yankees wanted to get Verlander out of the windup and into the stretch.”
Smoltz was a terminator as a starter or a closer. With rhythm.
Here we go again. Now I have to educate a Hall of Fame pitcher and an excellent Sports Illustrated writer. Is there no end to this?
First let’s examine what they’re saying.
Is rhythm crucial to a pitcher? Absolutely. It’s as important as protein. As fundamental as breathing. As necessary as walking. As productive as chewing. As creative as Hemingway.
Rhythm is the basis of the Holy Mantra of pitching.
See How Easily You Can Throw Hard.
Noah Syndergaard, a starter who throws 101 from the Set. The new normal.
So let’s give Smoltz an A plus on that one. Rhythm we want. For sure. And John always does a tremendous job analyzing. Well, usually he's right on. Usually.
In fact, there are pitchers who feel the windup keeps them loose and relaxed and flexible. Which adds to their rhythm. Good. No argument there. To each his own. I used a wind-up all the time and it felt natural.
The windup is a Complicator. It adds complexity without value. A big over the head motion can actually throw you off balance, especially on an amateur mound that’s an uneven minefield of sand or recalcitrant dirt.
Without Balance? Bring on the Wild Pitches
Balance is the basis of Command. Without balance you are walking a tightrope on skates. A pitcher off balance is a wild pitch waiting to happen, a catcher blowing in the wind, Little Richard slippin' and a slidin'.
That’s why so many starters have silenced their windups to a simple rocker step with their hands as quiet as a mime.
And, of course, the Yankees wanted to get Verlander into the stretch. That would mean BASERUNNERS. I have no stat on this but it’s quite possible he doesn’t throw as well from the set. But why would that be?
Watch Verlander with a runner on first. Yes, he’s in the set. But that’s not the problem. When he’s holding a runner Verlander chops his delivery. He cuts down his knee raise and speeds it up to get quicker to the plate. That’s what righthanders do to shut down the running game.
Little Richard at a time when rock was real
So if Verlander is diminished throwing from the stretch it isn’t because the Set is bad news for his rhythm. It’s because he stifles his mechanics to stop a raging stampede of stolen bags.
If he used a full knee raise and didn’t rush, his rhythm would be the same in the Set as it is in the windup. The same. The bleeping same, dammit.
If the windup is so important to rhythm why do more than 80 per cent of pitchers never use it? And they all aren’t relievers. Starters like Noah Syndergaard and David Price and Yu Darvish and Tyler Glasnow are imbedded in the Set. For the full merry go round.
To them the windup is as useless as the so-called comedians on Saturday Night Live. Well, at least the current SNL. There was a time…Google Belushi and Ackroyd and Curtin and Radner and Murray and Murphy and Chevy Chase and Farley and Hartman and Carvey. You might even laugh for a change.
And I wonder if Smoltz was watching the next night when Stephen Strasburg threw another Blue Chip, Lights Out, Dominant Gem for the Nationals.
Without winding up at all.
Not once. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Every pitch he threw was from the Set. And his RHYTHM was as smooth as Patrick Mahomes unleashing a 50-yard bullet, as precise as Quantum Physics, as devastating as a tornado married to a tsunami inside a hurricane. You don’t pitch much better than Strasburg right now—unless your name is Gerrit Cole.
The Great One, Belushi at his best...or worst...who can tell?
Finally, there were 15 pitchers on the hill for the Astros and Yankees that night. And 13 threw only from the Set. Not one pitch from the windup. Not one. That’s 87 per cent who never used a windup even with no runners. Are they all hallucinating? Don’t they listen to Smoltz?
Rhythm equals velocity. If you were a closer coming in for a clean inning and you knew you could throw two or three mph harder from the windup you’d have to be a moron to stay in the Set. Are all these guys just stupid? Or such Nice Guys they don’t want to humiliate the hitters by throwing even harder than hard?
They throw from the Set because they know the windup is basically useless and often a negative. Rhythm comes from athleticism and balance and knee coil and getting down the hill. It has virtually nothing to do with winding up. Nothing.
Just ask Aroldis Chapman, who has peaked at 105 mph. Or Jordan Hicks, 104. Or Noah Syndergaard, 101 plus. Or Josh Hader, who K’d 138 in only 75 innings this year.
And none of them ever throw from the wind-up.
I rest now.
Words of Nonsense From
"The Bringer of Drizzle"
“If you're 10 years old and your coach says get on top of the ball, tell him no. In the big leagues these things they call ground balls are outs. They don't pay you for ground balls, they pay you for doubles and home runs.”
"Wow! Another fly ball out. I should ask for $30 million."
SO LET’S GIVE HIM ANOTHER $23 MILLION
The Bringer of Drizzle: 3 for 19
That quote is so moronic it's hard to believe even a Candy Ass like Donaldson could utter it.
There are more hits on groundballs than anything else in baseball. And telling kids to uppercut fly balls is like advising your grandmother to yank her life savings out of the bank and buy stock in a Telephone Answering Service in Afghanistan.
Ten-year-olds don't have Bomb Power. For them fly balls are outs. Outs. Outs. And more Outs.
SIX Groundballs for EIGHT runs. Is that possible?
You want proof of the value of GB's? I give you the St. Louis Cardinals.
When the Cards demolished Donaldson and the Braves 13-1 they hit exactly ZERO home runs. ZERO, I say.
But there were SIX groundballs that accounted for EIGHT runs. Impossible, you say. The King of the Candy Ass has told us groundballs are useless. And he pockets $23 mill a year so he must be right.
Apparently not. Donaldson and Justin Turner have already screwed up too many kids who emulate their useless knee raise. They can take endless BP. Kids cannot. When you knee raise your timing is so Dazed and Confused it's like hitting with seawater up to your waist.
Nelson Cruz crushed 41 jacks for the Twins with one Maple and NO knee raise.
Fortunately, knee raise hitting is fading out like invisible ink. The Minnesota Twins drilled 307 jacks this year, an MLB record, and they knee raise as often as polar bears vacation in Hawaii.
Maybe MLB hitters are actually acquiring some wisdom. But not Donaldson.
Oh,yeh, the Bringer of Drizzle managed 3 hits in 19 trips against the Cards. A .158 batting average. Obviously, that's worth another $23 million.
RIVERA AND FLIGHT 587
Shades of the 1919 Black Sox
Not sure what to make of this. So I’ll leave it up to you, Faithful Readers. And I mean FAITHful. As you’ll see.
The seventh game of 2001 World Series was as legendary as Arnold posing in the Mr. Olympia showdown. Phoenix. Curt Schilling and Roger Clemens. A pair of King Kong righthanders toeing the rubber like Ali and Frazier for 15.
The Bronx Bombers scrape ahead 2-1 in the eighth when Bob Brenly marches out to pull Schilling. “You’re my hero, Big Man,” he says as he takes the ball and hands it over to 6-10 stringbean Randy Johnson, The Big Unit, who is taking a break from playing center with the Celtics. Johnson threw 104 pitches the night before but, what the hell, this is WS time.
The Biggest Unit Ever
In the bottom half Joe Torre goes to Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer ever, who blithely strikes out everyone in sight.
Jump ahead then to the bottom of the ninth. Mark Grace slashes a line drive up the middle and Damian Miller drops a bunt to move him up. Rivera has a blue chip shot at the force but he throws the ball into the runner and Derek Jeter gets clobbered. First and second, nobody out. So let’s bunt again. This time it’s Jay Bell, who should insist on third baseman Scott Brosius making the play but, being inept at bunting like most major leaguers, he shoves it right to Rivera for the force at third.
Bell, of course, could tell you he was just setting it up for Tony Womack, who had a monster AB. For years lefthand hitters had more trouble staying inside a Rivera cutter than Danny DeVito getting a hernia trying to dunk a basketball.
This cutter took a sharp left turn and swerved onto his fists like a heat seeking missile but Womack pulled his hands in like a pickpocket shyster on the subway and blistered a line shot into right to tie it 2-2. The joint went bananas.
Mariano then hits Craig Counsel but no harm, no foul.
Except Luis Gonzalez, the D-Backs Money Man, their MVP, was now dug into the lefthand batter’s box. With the sacks drunk Joe Torre had a monumental decision. Infield in? Or double play depth up the middle with corners in. He chose Infield In. Which gave the D-Backs the world championship.
Gonzalez fouled off a cutter. And Tim McCarver, one of best analysts ever, cautioned that playing infield in with Rivera on the hill was like lighting a match with gas fumes swirling (I embellish) because he saws off bats like a wood chopper. Which means more bloopers over the infield than Hershey’s has chocolate bars.
McCarver Makes Like Tony Romo
If McCarver ever gives stock market advice take it. He’s as prescient as Carnac.
Gonzalez fought off another cutter like a rock star protecting his Les Paul. And blooped a limp, pathetic, feckless little pop fly that sputtered onto the grass about five feet into the outfield. If Jeter had been playing back it would have fluttered into his chest.
Game over. Verdict Arizona.
"I'm Glad We Lost the World Series"
So what the hell am I getting at here?
Well, Mariano Rivera is a devout Christian. He believes God has a reason for everything. Everything, I say. Including baseball games.
If the Yankees had beaten the D-Backs in game seven there would have been a monster parade in the City That Never Sleeps. Elite Manhattan would swim in champagne, the rough South Bronx would be as loving as a mama, and Brooklyn would be singing Willie, Mickey and the Duke.
And infielder Enrique Wilson, one of Rivera’s closest friends, would have been front and center. He’d stay in NYC to celebrate and leave the next day for his native Dominican Republic on American Airlines flight 587.
Flight 587 crashed shortly after taking off, killing 260 people.
But not Enrique Wilson, who left the day before. Rivera told Wilson, "I am glad we lost the World Series, because it means I still have a friend."
Apparently Rivera thinks God fixed the World Series so the Yankees would lose. Shades of the 1919 Black Sox. Except God has as bit more kick than Arnold Rothstein.
One of the common denominators of pro athletes is how egocentric they think. Rivera is sure God was so concerned about Wilson’s safety he sacrificed the Yankees so Enrique wouldn't set foot on that jet. But not the other 260. Why didn't He just keep the plane soaring through the Wild Blue Yonder so they'd all survive? Ask Mariano.
Is Rivera Looney Tunes? I dunno. I’ll leave that up to you.
PROTECTING THE PITCHER’S ARM
We’ve talked about Warming Up, which is crucial to keeping your arm healthy. The second step is THROWING WITH YOUR WHOLE BODY. And no one has ever done that better than The Sandman.
BUT IS HE LOONEY TUNES?
Mariano Rivera’s Perfect Delivery
When Mariano Rivera pitched it was…
Leonardo creating Mona Lisa
Pavarotti belting Nessun Dorma
Brando On The Waterfront
Dickey Betts shredding on Jessica
Seger’s Oldtime Rock ‘n Roll
Secretariat demolishing the Belmont track record
The Ramones bombarding I Wanna Be Sedated
Gene Kelly Singing in the Rain
MJ driving to the hole
The Splendid Splinter turning on a heater
Sinatra and New York, New York on New Year’s Eve
Jennifer Aniston being, well, Jennifer Aniston
Renaldo, the Acrobat
The Rock in the ring
Bruckheimer producing anything
Dangerfield on a roll
Train tasting Drops of Jupiter
Neil Diamond with his Sweet Caroline
And…Okay, okay, take a breather…
Mariano’s delivery wasn’t just perfect. It was ineffably perfect. The best ever. Faultless. So good you knew you were watching something so special it would never come around again. Not ever. That kind of perfection is the Hand of God. (More on that later.)
Let me give you this profound wisdom, if I say so myself.
You Don’t Throw a Baseball With Your Arm. You Throw a Baseball With Your Whole Body. As proof I give you The Sandman, Mariano Rivera.
I’m not going to dissect his mechanics. Well, yes, I am. But only briefly. Take a quick look.
RHYTHM AND TEMPO
This is where it all starts. Rivera was as rhythmical as Neil Peart on the snare and kick. His tempo was a lock, never frantic, but never, never slow. He was infinitely balanced throughout his whole motion as he revved up momentum. Rhythm, tempo and balance mean COMMAND and VELOCITY.
A beautifully controlled shoulder tilt to LOAD and then EXPLODE. Translation: POWER.
This was a work of art. He coiled to the middle of his body to the letters. It set-up his hip rotation. I’ve never seen a better knee coil. Nowhere. No how.
LEADING WITH THE HIP
The key for drive to the plate. Rivera never lunged his upper body. Never. When you lunge you arm throw. Your lower body has to go first, which means the front hip always leads the charge. That's THROWING WITH YOUR WHOLE BODY.
GETTING DOWN THE HILL
And this is more velocity. For some strange reason there are coaches who stress balance point over the rubber, which is like drag racing with your foot on the brake. It kills your momentum as fast as running into a brick wall. There is no balance point in pitching. Your whole delivery must be balanced. Rivera never hung over the rubber. He got down the hill as soon as his knee raise hit the top. As long as you're LEADING WITH YOUR HIP and never lunging with your upper body this is DRIVE and VELOCITY.
Aggressive, but always precise. Direct to the plate, the Second COMMANDment.
Coil and uncoil. Separation of hips and shoulders. Power unleashed like a TORNADO.
His follow through was smooth and long out front, never yanking the ball. It protected the muscles at the back of his shoulder.
Add it all up and I give you the Mantra of all Power Pitchers.
SEE HOW EASILY YOU CAN THROW HARD.
Rivera was the sheer essence of that Monster. He WAS throwing hard. But it all seemed so effortless. And the ball simply exploded out of his hand like a rocket blast.
Why? What gave him such blazing velocity without the slightest strain? It was simple and complex at the same time.
A perfect delivery by a superb athlete. Athleticism ignites rhythm and tempo and drive, all in synch, all coming together like a choreographed Broadway musical. And that precise, perfect delivery protects your arm like a German Shepherd. No strain, no damage to your UCL or rotator cuff.
Throwing Hard at 115 Pounds
Here's a classic example of Athleticism. I coached a kid this year with the bantam Delta Tigers. His name was Ryan Heppner and he only weighed 115 pounds. But the ball jumped out of his hand thanks to a dynamic Get Down The Hill delivery. He was See How Easily You Can Throw Hard.
Rivera, of course, had a lethal weapon, a 95 mph cutter that broke more wood than a lumberjack. (Before the Maple bats became closer to aluminum than wood.)
Justin Morneau once told me, “I know he’s throwing that cutter. But it looks so much like a pure fastball. So I swing, it breaks six inches on to my hands, and I’ve got a weak groundball or a pop-up.”
Yes, the cutter was a killer. But the reason Mariano Rivera survived for 19 MLB seasons, threw in 13 all star games, and nailed 652 saves wasn’t a cut fastball.
It was his perfect delivery. It eliminated almost all the stress on his arm. When you throw a baseball WITH YOUR WHOLE BODY your arm says thanks and buys you a Christmas presdent.
And you can’t do that any better than Mariano Rivera.
The Yankees started playing Metallica's "Enter Sandman" as Rivera's entrance music after seeing how pumped San Diego fans were when closer Trevor Hoffman left the bull pen in the World Series with AC/DC's "Hells Bells" blasting through the PA system. Rivera was indifferent but the song became his trademark almost as much as his cutter.
"Chair of Broken Dreams"
When Mariano retired in 2013 the Minnesota Twins built a rocking chair from broken bats, courtesy the Rivera cutter. They christened it the "Chair of Broken Dreams." And Delta Air Lines dedicated a 757 with Mariano's signature and number 42 on the side of the plane.
Ruth and Aaron and Cobb and Koufax
Rivera was the first player to be unanimously elected into the Hall of Fame. He was named on all 425 ballots, a notch ahead of Ken Griffey, Jr., who was 99 per cent. Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Honus Wagner, Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson, among a nova of other stars, were not unanimous. Which tells you something about the petty jackasses who didn't think they were worthy.
Oh, yeh, Was The Sandman Looney Tunes?. More on that in the near future. Stay Looney tuned.
“Rowan Wick is going to be a closer. He’s got that kind of ability. He’s got that kind of mentality.”
--Rick Sutcliffe, ESPN
THAT’S WHAT THE WRITERS SAY
Rowan Wick, Cubs Rookie of the Year
Baseball beat writers are the soothsayers of the industry. In the Windy City they scribe for papers like the Chicago Tribune and they are on duty 24/7. They hear all the inside gossip, all the salacious stories they can’t print, all the ups and downs of every player, all the off the record accolades and attacks of the manager.
In other words, they know what the hell is going on.
And they think Rowan Wick is the most valuable rookie for the Chicago Cubs.
That’s the story from the MLB beat writers. Here’s their rundown on why.
Rowan Wick, RP, age 26
"This was a season of turmoil and constant tweaking for the Cubs’ bullpen. While Chicago mixed and matched in the later innings, Wick was the arm that emerged from the Triple-A shuttle as a stabilizing force for the Cubs relief corps.
"With a hard fastball and bristling curve, Rowan swiftly earned the trust of manager Joe Maddon and turned into the North Siders’ primary high-leverage arm down the stretch. Maddon called Wick -- acquired in the offseason from San Diego -- the “linchpin” of the Cubs’ second-half success in the bull pen."
"Rowan has only pitched 32 innings this season but it feels like most of them have been high leverage."
--Len Kasper, Cubs play-by-play
Another good one
“Wick has attributes you like in a late inning reliever. The ability to strike hitters out and a lot of groundball outs.
“Rowan opened up a lot of eyes in spring training. Then in Iowa he got on a heckuva roll and forced his way on to the big league club. And he’s just continued to do here what he was doing down there."
--Jim DeShais, Cubs TV analyst
Pitching in the Mariana Trench
Do you believe the human race is intelligent? Yes, there is genius. And, yes there is perception and rational thought. A lot of it.
But there is also a deep Mariana Trench of stupidity. I see it every day in this game called baseball.
Coaches who think strategy and the W are more important than Player Development. Analysts who don't know the difference between a cutter and a running fastball. Play-by-play illiterates who think you can get "within" one run.
But here is the proof that the human race is as clueless as a rock.
This righthander is the ace of the Mariana Trench Sharks pitching staff. He's 16-8 with a 2.78 ERA, tops out in triple digits with a filthy slider, plus a split that dive bombs, and he scares the hell out of every hitter in the Trench League. But he's also very smart. He's never bought anything for $19.99 because he refuses to be treated like a fool. Unlike human beings.
PROTECTING THE PITCHER’S ARM
Warming Up is the Gold Standard
Let me give you some wisdom to live by:
Never throw to warm-up
Always warm-up to throw
I keep repeating this because it’s as important to a pitcher as oil is for a Ferrari. All the time I see kids come to the park, grab a baseball and begin playing catch. Stupid.
Young kids are flexible and for awhile they can get away with this. But, as they grow muscle, it becomes a double edged sword. Yes, they develop arm strength. But, yes, those muscles begin to stress their ligaments and tendons. And they have to learn how to reduce that stress or it becomes lethal to the elbow or shoulder.
Let's get him started right. (Lisa Billingsley photo)
So let’s teach them how to take care of their arm when they’re young. If they don’t it’s a blueprint for a sorearm--maybe not today, maybe not next month…but someday. Especially in cold weather.
THROWING TO WARM-UP...
...means using the muscles and the joints when they are extremely vulnerable. They're cold and tight with no blood pump. They aren't stretched out yet and that leads to strains, pulls and even tears. That demon you see is Tommy John surgery rearing its ugly head.
WARMING UP TO THROW...
...gets your arm, your shoulder, your back, your torso, your whole body, relaxed and loose, ready to fire on all eight-cylinders before you actually pick up a ball. This may take 10 minutes or more--depending on the temperature and the individual.
The Texas Baseball Ranch Protocol
NOTE: Ron Wolforth is the current guru of pitching instruction. He’s developed more hard throwers at his Texas Baseball Ranch than IE has inane stories about Meghan and Harry.
I’ve seen a plethora of his videos and I like what he teaches very much—rhythm and tempo, getting down the hill, encouraging the pitcher to FEEL what he’s doing. These are all very cool. Mostly because I've been teaching those same things for decades.
The Guru himself
Wolforth has a warm-up for young pitchers that goes on…and on…and on. I won’t belabor the details. His concept is to get the whole body super flexible and sparkplug revved up before you throw. Which, in an ideal world, would be, well…ideal.
But, suffice it to say, it’s about as realistic for most coaches as winning the lottery. You just don’t have time for a 30-minute session of running and jumping when you’re trying to get a kid ready to pitch in a game or throw a bull pen. Especially if it’s a sudden decision to douse the fire in the fifth inning. So I offer an abbreviated---but effective—alternative.
I never recommend distance running. In fact, running endless posts is a negative, as out of date as a telephone answering service. Distance running magnifies SLOW TWITCH. We are consumed by a FAST TWITCH sport. Run SPRINTS to develop FAST TWITCH ENDURANCE, the foundation of baseball conditioning.
When you are warming up start with some light jogging to increase your heart rate and get your legs woke. Maybe to centerfield, maybe post to post and back, or even more if it’s cold. We never want to stomp on the gas pedal if the engine isn’t warm.
SHUFFLE (Hips again)
RUNNING BACKWARDS (Basketball players seldom pull hamstrings because they run backwards so much.)
CARIOCA (Quick feet)
SPRINT (A strong finish)
All about 30 yards, back and forth.
Did LeBron ever pull his hamstring?
Quite frankly, the way most players stretch is a waste of time--usually a social occasion in center-field. Current science contradicts conventional static stretches, which actually slow down muscle contraction. Instead, stretching should be fluid, replicating the movements of the sport. In fact, I think it was Whitey Herzog who pointed out that they didn't have as many injuries in baseball until the players started doing all this static stretching.
I prefer to see players doing knee raises, lunges, torso twists, squats, and my favorite, HIP SWINGS. Just grab the fence and swing your leg side to side. Baseball is a GAME OF HIPS and keeping them loose and flexible is crucial.
If you have time you can add POSTS, which are simply running or shuffling laterally from post to post on the fence, touching the ground with both hands (knees bent) to loosen the back muscles and legs. Posts are productive for both warming up and conditioning.
Concentrate on the ones that work best for you and adjust to the time you have. Just be fluid and get your muscles and joints loose and warm.
…JOBE'S AND TUBING
After running and stretching you’re ready to warm-up your shoulder, arm and upper back. Jobe's are absolutely crucial for warming-up. You don't need to do them with weights--you can just hold a ball in your hand or nothing at all.
You can buy tubing already sized with handles or pick-up some surgical tubing at a medical store and cut it into strips four feet long or six feet or whatever you prefer. You can drill a hole in an old baseball and tie it to one end of the tubing and put a hook on the other end that attaches to a wire fence. Or tie it through a wiffle ball.
(We’ll get into Jobe’s and Tubing exercises in the near future.)
Next, ARM CIRCLES, big sweeping swings to get your shoulder loose.
Then REVERSE CURLS for the UCL in your elbow.
And, finally, FIGURE EIGHTS, which is simply repeating the arm action of your delivery until you feel totally loose.
If you want you can finish by SHADOW BOXING your whole pitching motion.
Your goal is a warm, rich blood flow to your arm and shoulder.
Ryan Dempster used Jobe's to keep his arm in shape for three seasons with me and the North Shore Twins and then 16 years in the big leagues.
You run. You stretch. You do Jobe's. You get fluid with tubing and Figure Eights.
Now you're warm and loose and ready to throw. Start by playing easy catch, gradually lengthening it out. Concentrate on arm action, follow through and focus.
If you LONG TOSS crow-hop as you stretch it out. Long tossing is a great way to strengthen your arm but, if you're warming up to pitch, you shouldn't long toss too much and you may pass on it entirely. Some pitchers like to long toss before a start and some don't. Your call.
...ON THE MOUND
Start by CROW-HOPPING down the hill. We want MOMENTUM. We want TEMPO. And we want ENERGY. Maybe six to eight crow-hops and then the normal PRE-GAME routine. (We’ll also go into that next time.)
…KEEP TO YOUR ROUTINE
This is where you need a coach who plans ahead and gets you started on time. Let’s say it’s the top of the fourth and he suddenly announces you’re pitching the fifth. Get out there and get it going right now.
When you're tight for time before a bull pen or in a game there's a temptation to cut your warm-up short. Forget about it. Always warm-up properly. Rushing to get ready can lead to injury and no game or practice is worth hurting your arm. Once again:
Never throw to warm-up
Always warm-up to throw
That should be stapled to your forehead. And posted in the dug-out. It’s a Pitcher’s Commandment.
THE ESSENCE OF A PROFESSIONAL
Rowan Wick’s Best Inning Ever
Rowan Wick took a roller coaster ride Thursday in San Diego. And carved out the best inning of his young career.
On paper it didn’t look that way. On paper it looked mediocre. But you don’t pitch on paper. You pitch on the hill.
Let me take you through an inning that defines a professional pitcher as well as Marlon Brando defined acting.
Maddon hands Wick the ball. No, really.
Bottom of the ninth, the Cubs holding a 4-0 hammerlock over the Padres. With Craig Kimbrel shut down Mr. Wick has become the de facto Cubs closer.
As usual Rowan challenges everyone. He starts Nick Martini with a swinging strike on 96 heat. But then Martini, Stirred not Shaken, reaches out and pokes a limp, loopy pop up down the left field line. Kyle Schwarber, never known for his sparkling range, lets it drop for a double as anemic as an iron deficient 102-year-old great great grandpa.
Harm, but no foul.
So, Wil Myers steps in. He takes a pair of fastballs on the black. They are both strikes but Wil, who desperately needs another l, disagrees violently. In fact, he’s as pissed as a teenager who’s smartphone won’t transmit porn any more. Myers erupts like a volcano and is ejected faster than acid eats through cellophane.
Will Wil find his l?
Bye, bye, Wil, go find out where that other l is hiding. Hello, Travis Jankowski.
Rowan rips a blitzkrieg curveball that is so bleeping nasty Babe Ruth couldn’t hit it with a stick three feet wide. So bleeping filthy it needs to shower every 30 minutes. So bleeping vicious it busts straight down like it’s hungry for dirt. So bleeping unhittable…oh, to hell with it.
(Let me confess. For two years I’ve been telling Rowan he should deep six his curveball and go with the cutter/slider. But I was wrong. I know, I know, I’m never wrong. So this is a delusional confession. Just ignore it.)
At any rate Jankowski has as much chance as a fly in a tornado. First K.
Bring on Eric Hosmer, who emulates Martini, Stirred not Shaken, and also reaches out and pokes a single to left, this one at least somewhat of a line drive. First and third with one out. No foul, possible harm.
Josh Naylor strikes out swinging for K2.
"I felt like I was in control of the entire inning."
Ty France steps in. Here is where I umpire bash, my favourite pastime outside of drinking red wine. After the passionate out-burst from Wil “Whatever Happened to That Second L” Myers the umpire is reluctant to call a borderline strike and he squeezes Rowan like your Unfriendly Neighbourhood Monty Python. (That one takes some thought.)
Three 96 heaters either on Black or Belt. The last one was clearly Zone and France even took a checked three-quarter hack that would have been a double if he’d made contact. Ball four.
So now the sacks are as drunk as Harry Caray in the seventh. And who steps in to pinch hit for the first time in his career? None other than Manny “No One Has Ever Called Me Mr. Hustle” Machado, the most overrated $300 million charade since Aerosmith took the stage.
Even Robert Redford Couldn't Hit This Stuff
It is a moment to rival Redford in The Natural. Bring on the shattered floodlights spewing sparkling shards of movie magic.
Wick is no fool, of course, and he nibbles a bit, falling behind before drilling Machado on the shoulder with an errant deuce. 4-1, still loaded.
At which point Rowan slams the door shut like a nightclub bouncer in heat. He strikes out Luis Urias twice, Once Not Called on 96 at the belt (when did the belt become high?) and then with another dive bomb breaking ball on the outside corner that freezes Urias but not the umpire for a change. K3.
Cue the shattering floodlights.
So paper says two hits, a walk, an HBP. And one earned run.
But Rowan’s best inning ever.
Neither hit was a howitzer. One as limp as spaghetti. And he was squeezed like a hug from a sumo wrestler.
But he still posted KKK. And that has nothing to do with Grand Wizards.
What’s more, Rowan looked as composed as a Buckingham Palace guard. He was in command, in charge, unshaken by bad fortune or an umpire who thought the strike zone was four inches wide and six inches deep.
“I felt like I was in control of the entire inning,” he told me later.
One Pitch at a Time. Persevere. Battle.
That’s what it’s all about. One Pitch at a Time. Don’t let anything derail you. Persevere. Compete. Battle like The Mafiosa are at the door.
And here’s the clincher. Joe Maddon stayed with him, trusted him, knew Rowan was as solid as Grand Coulee Dam.
Innings like that define you as a pitcher. They define you as a winner. They define you as a man. Innings like that are all about character.
Anybody can dominate when it’s serendipity. But, when it gets rough and tumble out there, when the ride has more speed bumps than a paranoid parking lot, that’s when you have to Make Your Bones.
Innings like that are the Essence of a Professional.
SO LET’S FIRE DOMBROWSKI
Cora Sank the Sox in Spring Training
The Red Sox fired Head Honcho Dave Dombrowski on Monday. But they got the wrong guy.
Alex Cora scuttled the Sox in spring training. They never had a chance.
Because Cora understands pitching as well as Joseph Stalin understood compassion.
Sorry, Alex, but the truth is the truth
Let’s time travel back to the World Series last October.
The Boston pitching staff was stretched to the limit. Like an infidel on the rack. The bull pen saw more action than a hooker at Mardi Gras or Super Bowl Sunday. Nathan Eovaldi bolted awake in the middle of the night screaming, “No, Alex, no.” They cut the chord to the bull pen phone. They called 911. And they filed a grievance with the Longshoreman’s Union.
They were as punch drunk as a sparring partner for Muhammad Ali.
So Alex Cora had a brilliant idea.
When February hit the calendar he decided he would “baby” the pitchers. Treat them like princesses. As delicate as a rose. Just like the QB wearing his Don’t Touch Me jersey in a scrimmage.
Let's Scale it Back...For No Reason at All
We’ll go easy on the pitchers this spring, Alex thought. Scale back. Deep Six their workload. Make sure we don’t blow them out. We owe them that after such a strenuous October.
Makes sense, right?
As much sense as going to a job interview in your underwear.
In fact, it was as stupid as Hitler invading Russia in the middle of the winter.
Going half ass left the pitchers in disarray. Uncertain. Searching for their mechanics, their stuff, their command. Not sure if this was kindergarten or Physics 101. And about as ready to compete in April as a four-year-old enrolled at MIT.
Chris Sale opened in Seattle getting hammered by three dingers. Rick Porcello threw bull pens every day trying desperately to find some rhythm in his delivery. The comatose dudes in the bull pen were as lost as Columbus searching for San Francisco on his cell phone.
Porcello searching for his mechanics
And the Red Sox stumbled and fumbled out of the gate like a drunk at closing time. They never recovered. So fire the Executive of the Year.
What’s more, by babying the poor multi, multi millionaires Cora was playing Russian Roulette with their weapons, their arms. If anything is worse for a pitcher than throwing too much it’s not throwing enough. Go into combat with your elbow or shoulder under nourished and you’re saying hello to Doctor Knife, the friendly neighbourhood surgeon.
The pitchers didn’t need three and a half months to heal.
The pitchers didn’t need two months to heal.
The pitchers didn’t need a month to heal.
The pitchers were healed about four days after that disgusting $800,000 World Series Booze Party.
A week later they could have thrown nine.
The Pitchers were Healed in November
Should pitchers take at least two months off in the winter? Of course. They all should—whether they threw in the playoffs or finished 30 games out. Do some Jobe’s and let the ligaments, tendons, cartilage and muscles replenish and strengthen. That’s automatic. For everyone.
Start playing catch again in mid December or right after New Year’s. That's your choice. Gradually add some long toss. Light bull pens in the middle of January. Methodically, professionally, increase the workload until you hit camp at Fenway South in Fort Myers on February 15. You’re on target. You’re in synch. You’re ready to roll.
There was as much bleeping reason for Cora to baby his pitchers as sending them to Antarctica for spring training. Yes, the South Pole is a mile deep in ice but it doesn’t see rain. Ever.
The pitchers were healed. Back in November.
They were good to go. Back in November.
As long as there wasn't a ligament tear in the elbow or deep chronic inflammation in the shoulder they would heal very quickly. Even from the severe stress of World Series Overload. Give it a week, some chicken soup, a few rounds of golf, two dozen beer, a bucket of protein powder, and several nights of solid ZZZ's. Presto, Who's starting tomorrow at Wrigley?
This isn't Rocket Science. But it is Science.
Unfortunately, Cora knows as much about pitchers as a eunuch knows about…well, I’ll leave that to your imagination.
Babying them was as dangerous as dumping a sack of rattlesnakes into the clubhouse and yelling, "Say hello to my little friends."
How do you spell S-C-A-P-E-G-O-A-T?
To be fair Cora is a player’s manager and far, far from being alone in his ignorance. He just has a higher profile than most. MLB is making a crusade out of injuring the arms of their young. It’s an epidemic.
Analytics is the catch word that dominates baseball these days. Spin Rates and Launch Angles and more stats swirling around than vultures over a carcass.
But obviously it’s asking too much for managers and pitching coaches and trainers to study the Kinesiology of the Arm. What the hell, Dave, this isn’t Cal Tech or Harvard. And common sense is for mothers. Or hockey. (That’s a joke, okay? Hahaha.)
So Cora gets a pass and Dombrowski pays the David Price. (Another joke. We’re on a roll here.) They say the CEO was on a slippery slope already because the Sox farm system is running on two cylinders and he has to go to Wikipedia to spell A-N-A-L-Y-T-I-C-S.
But I’m sure in Beantown, where the natives are as restless as an insomniac, this dysfunctional season greased his slide into oblivion. Winning the Series a year ago wasn’t enough to save his ass. What did you do for me on Tuesday, Mr. Pres of Baseball Operations?
And, after all, we couldn’t fire Alex Cora. Even if he knows as much about pitchers as a Goldman Sachs trader knows about poverty.
From the 2008 Olympics. Maybe the best baseball pic ever.
PROTECTING THE PITCHER’S ARM
Most MLB Coaches Don’t Have a Clue
If I owned an MLB team I’d fire all the pitching coaches and trainers in the organization. Immediately.
Most of them are blatantly incompetent. Is that arrogant enough?
I’m not going to dissect technique or analytics or grips or conditioning right now. We’ll get to that later. Today is about the one Omnipotent Priority of Pitching. And the one thing a lot of coaches know virtually nothing about.
Protecting the Pitcher’s Arm.
Two years ago the Seattle Mariners had four of their starting rotation on the DL, including James Paxton and King Felix. That’s roughly $60 million worth of hurlers sitting on their butts instead of standing on the clay. Hernandez alone was pulling down $27 mill. To not pitch.
If you were the CEO of a billion dollar company selling SUV’s and they kept breaking down would you keep paying the same designers? Or find somebody who could keep your machines on the road?
Sit on your butt, King Felix. No more K's for you.
Two of the best young flamethrowers in the game, Jordan Hicks, who pops 104 mph, and Michael Kopech, who also demolishes triple digits, are both out with Tommy John. Baseball eats its young.
And one General Manager once said, “They should all have Tommy John right away to get it over with.”
On a Stupidity Scale of one to 10 that pounds a 25 and rising.
You can only throw 104? Welcome to the knife.
In the next couple of weeks we’ll dissect the Tommy John dissection. And we’ll examine why eight out of 11 of the top high school prospects drafted in the past two years crashed and burned.
Did you get that one? MLB paid these kids about $70 million in bonus largesse. And then (bleeped) their arms faster than a lightning streak. That’s like using a suitcase of thousand dollar bills for toilet paper.
This young and vulnerable talent is at the mercy of clowns who think TJ is Trans Gender spelled wrong.
The dreaded Tommy John. Or is it? Some lunatic parents are actually having their teenager go under the knife because they think he’ll gain velo after the surgery.
Slicing into your elbow...it's an epidemic
We’ll just slice into your elbow and replace the ligament with a tendon from elsewhere in your body. No problem. Of course, you’ll be sidelined for at least a year and you may never pitch again.
Let’s go for it.
After all, you’re just another side of beef hanging from a hook in the meat locker. And we have sides of beef lined up like sheep. Bye, bye, have a good career as a bank clerk.
"They should all have TJ right away to get it over with."
--An MLB GM with an IQ in single digits
We’ll talk about Tommy John at length. And much more. Like avoiding elbow soreness and shoulder inflammation, warming up properly, solid mechanics so you’re throwing with your whole body, Jobe’s exercises, The Thrower’s Ten, wind sprints, the Mythology of Pitch Counts, abusive coaches, See How Easily You Can Throw Hard, and the most important safe guard of all…
Rest and Healing.
Hear ye, hear ye, Lo and Behold, we’ll unveil the secret of How To Keep Your Son’s Arm Healthy and Strong. If you care.
Because most coaches, from here to the MLB, have no idea.
First a taste, a teaser to kick it off
Trent Thornton's Leg Kick, I Kid You Not
Buck Martinez tells us Pete Walker is a good pitching coach. And I imagine he is. But why hasn’t he made a simple correction? Change Thornton’s moronic leg kick into a knee raise.
Thornton’s foot shoots out toward 3B like a heat seeking missile. That’s jarring. It pulls him off balance. His center of gravity is somewhere in Winnipeg. Leg kicks are as inefficient as drinking coffee with a fork. They went out of style with disco. Kicking your foot out makes as much sense as texting while walking on a tightrope.
Bad mechanics are the Genesis of Arm Injuries
Pitchers have learned Leg Kicking is as stupid as falling down on a sidewalk because you love the taste of concrete. Hardly anyone leg kicks any more. Except Trent Thornton.
If Thornton keeps these mechanics his Command will always be as shaky as a drunk on skates. And he’ll be back in AAA. Or headed for TJ.
All he has to do is bend his knee and curl his foot under. That’s a simple adjustment a 10-year-old could make in five minutes.
As long as he doesn’t pitch for the Toronto Blue Jays.
And this is Mariano Rivera, who had the most perfect delivery ever. This is a Knee Raise, which translates into words like Balance, Center of Gravity, Superb Rotation and...well, I'm sure you get it.
WHEN DOES HIP ROTATION SURRENDER TO FLAB?
Vlady, The Junior versus The Panda
Vlady, The Junior takes a sharp breaking ball on the corner, on the knees. Called strike. Because it is.
And, true to the Jose Bautista Credo of Whining Every Chance You Get, he enlists the Hitter’s Code. If it isn’t Down The Middle and Exactly Six Inches Below The Belt it must be called a ball. If not, the Men in Black are Out To Get Me. (Is that enough caps for one stupid rant?)
So Vlady, The Junior swirls a wild cut at a deuce a foot off the plate just to show his contempt. Which brings a whole new meaning to Passive Aggressive.
At which point Vlady, The Junior heads to the dugout, although not before spewing a few choice words in Spanish at pristine arbiter Mike Estabrook.
But Vlady, The Junior doesn’t know the umpire speaks seven different languages, including Latin, the Cantonese Guangzhou dialect and Gibberish, and is so fluent in Latino cursing he’s a Dominican legend. Bye, bye, Vlady.
Memo to Vlady, The Junior. Instead of whining about borderline strikes why don’t you go a little easier on the La Bandera, cassava and sweet coconut cream.
Vlady, The Junior is a Fat Slob. His belly shades into the left-hand batter’s box. Glutes give you power. But Junior’s glutes are monster slabs of avoirdupois. His rear end resembles an aircraft carrier. His center of gravity is the center of gravity. His waist is measured in feet, not inches.
Which, of course, is a source of pride for the Blue Jays. They often lead the league in Fat Slobdem, everyone from Melky to Morales.
Hammer Them With Your Butt
In fact, Kendrys is renowned for his mentoring young players, according to Super Sycophant Buck Martinez, and Vlady is one of his star pupils. Morales undoubtedly taught Guerrero how to bump everyone into the Jacuzzi when the post game spread glistens. You have to be aggressive, Vlady, just hammer them with your butt, get to the pizza and pork chops before those damn pitchers dig in.
And here’s what I don’t understand. I saw Vlady, The Senior roam the outfield in the rookie Gulf Coast League. Lean and ripped.
And I saw Vlady, The Senior in the High A Florida State League. Lean and ripped.
And I watched Vlady, The Senior through his 16-year Hall of Fame career. Still lean. Still ripped.
Like father, like...
So has Vlady, The Senior forgotten how to speak Spanish? We hear Junior chows down on Grandma’s home cooking. C’mon, Senior, talk to her. Maybe try a salad every decade or so.
Because the Blue Jays aren’t going to be much help. Apparently, there is no one in their organization who can spell N-U-T-R-I-T-I-O-N. Just too many syllables. Three of them. Way too complicated
Vlady, The Junior has electric bat speed and he’s somewhat nimble at 3B. Somewhat.
But here’s the First Commandment of crushing a Rawlings. Bat speed is inexorably linked to hip rotation. Each pound of blob circling your belly slams on the brakes to hip explosions.
If Vlady, The Junior continues his quest to match The Panda in Hall of Fat Slobdem, he will eat his way out of the league before he learns how to curse umpires in English. And that would be a damn shame because the kid has so much talent.
Of course, there’s always sumo wrestling.
I'm on the All You Can Eat diet. And it seems to be working fine.
This is an excerpt from a HUFFPOST Canada story. The fear this wonderful dog endured for over two months makes me sick to my stomach.
WHAT WE DO TO ANIMALS
The Nightmare of Odie, the Boxador
When Odie saw a mother bear close to his young humans on their Sault Ste. Marie farm, he did what any good boy would do.
The three-year-old “Boxador” (Boxer-Labrador mix) chased the bear away. But he strayed off the five-acre property and was picked up and brought to the local pound.
And that’s when his 65-day nightmare began.
--Andrew Laconis photo
The Sault Ste. Marie Humane Society assumed Odie was a pit bull and Jennifer Santana was breaking the law by owning him and allowing him to stray.
Santana couldn't provide documentation that Odie was a Boxador. She was charged and the pound kept Odie and wouldn’t allow any visits.
Santana said it was truly devastating for her family, including her 9 and 10-year-old children and their other dog, a black lab named Ebony. What’s more, Odie is Santana’s gentle wingman, who helps her manage her severe social anxiety.
--Andrew Laconis photo
“The outside world isn’t easy for me to navigate. He keeps me at peace, wakes me up and keeps me going,” she said. “Even simple things like going to the grocery store, he stays in the truck and I’m OK because I know he’s there if anything bad happens.”
Last year when a barn cat had kittens, Odie carried them gently into his dog bed to cuddle. Every morning when he hears Santana or her kids get out of bed, he slides down the hallway to wait at their doors, a move they call the “Odie slide.”
“For the last 65 days, I dreaded getting out of bed because I’d never get an Odie slide,” Santana said.
The humane society was legally allowed to detain him because Odie has characteristics similar to a pit bull but Santana’s lawyer Bobby Russon says the definition is “insanely broad.” If the court found Odie was a pit bull he would have been euthanized.
He sure looks vicious, doesn't he?
Odie has no history of aggression and gets along well with pets and children. But the humane society said it’s required to follow regulations for pit bull type dogs. Eventually the Canadian Kennel Club determined Odie was, in fact, a Boxador, “an extremely popular cross-breed.”
Still, it took weeks before the charges were finally dropped and Odie came home. Santana said Ebony “went berserk” greeting him. And, when she sat down, he curled up on her lap.
Eight Broken Teeth and Facial Abrasions
Odie is still on-edge and has eight broken teeth and abrasions on his face from “trying to claw out from his cell” Santana said. “He couldn’t eat dog kibble this morning because his teeth hurt. It’s disgusting.”
She’s hoping with some love, he will soon be back to his old self. But she wants the law changed. “It doesn’t work. They discriminated against my dog and psychologically and physically harmed him. I will do whatever it takes.”
Russon took the case pro bono because he “believes in the cause.” His best friend GeorDee is a bull dog mix that could also be mistaken for a pit bull.
And so does GeorDee
“She has a wide jaw, pronounced chest, and short hair. She could easily be caught up under ... the act. Knowing how that would make me feel — how could I not help out?” he said.
Russon says the act was to promote responsible dog ownership and clarity in civil liability cases of dog bites. But he adds, “The breed-specific element was an amendment in 2005. It needs to go. There is zero evidence that pit bulls are inherently dangerous.”
THE BRINGER OF DRIZZLE STRIKES AGAIN
$638,000 Just to Step on the Diamond
They are Toronto Blue Jays fans. So I understand.
Still, it’s hard to believe.
The Bringer of Drizzle, the Immortal Candy Ass Josh Donaldson, returned to Rogers Centre on Tuesday. First there was a video tribute to The Bringer of Mist. And then the sycophantic fans opened their hearts and gave him a roaring standing ovation as the Bringer of Overcast tipped his hat like The Saviour Himself returning to bless his flock.
Of course. They are Blue Jays fans.
Last season The Bringer of Drips played in 36 games for the Jays. And pocketed $23 million. Five home runs. Sixteen RBI’s.
Roughly, that’s $638,000 every time he took the field. For 99 per cent of the people who stagger through life on this spinning globe that’s a fortune about as accessible as owning a yacht and a Lear jet. For Donaldson it was one day at the office.
Or $4.6 million for every jack.
Or $1,437,500 for each time he drove in a run.
Nice work if you can get it. So why only 36 games?
Omigawd, don't land. You might scrape your uniform. And sit out another 126.
Well, The Bringer of Sweat was injured. Wow, you say, it must have been an extremely serious injury for him to miss 126 games. Tommy John surgery? A broken femur? Two or three concussions? A cracked rib?
Even a hockey player or J.J. Watt would have to sit those injuries out. Maybe.
J.J. Wouldn't Even Know His Calf was Sore
J.J. Watt aced the 2015 season with the Houston Texans playing with more injuries than Sonny Corleone. His groin muscle was ripped so far it was almost detached from the bone. He had a fracture in his left hand. And a herniated disc.
“You fight through excruciating pain,” Watt said. “You just grind through it. If I can physically step on the field to play, I’m going to. That’s just the way it is.”
So what was the terrible injury that sidelined the Bringer of Steam?
Well, he had a sore calf muscle. Yeh, it was really sore. Very sore. It was sore, see, Rico?
That’s right. He collected $23 million but he couldn’t play because his calf was sore. Poor baby.
It was sore. He could hit and he could even run somewhat. But his calf was sore. It was.
Now you might say he could have taken his cuts and even trot to first base and he’d get down there faster than lard ass Kendrys Morales. You might say that. After all, I mentioned he was getting paid $23 million, didn’t I? How Candy Ass Sore would you have to be to sit on your butt if you were making 23 plus six zeroes?
So the fans gave him a standing O. Remember, they are Blue Jays fans.
Maybe they should invite him home, hand him the keys to their condo and SUV, write him a cheque to clean out their bank account, borrow 500k to give him lunch money, and sign over their mother’s estate.
And then tell him to sit down and rest before his calf starts to ache. What the hell, this is the Narcissist Bringer of Bull Shit we’re talking about.
“If you're 10 years old and your coach says get on top of the ball, tell him no. In the big leagues these things they call ground balls are outs. They don't pay you for ground balls, they pay you for doubles and home runs.”
OR DO YOU LISTEN TO GRIFFEY, JR.?
The Bringer of Drizzle Speaks Drivel
I chuckle when I read the endless Donaldson tributes that spew non-stop out of the bowels of Toronto’s sports columnists and pseudo gurus. Somehow they equate The Bringer of Drizzle with Robin Hood, the Lone Ranger and Gordon Lightfoot.
Or is it Geddy Lee.
Can Geddy also play third base?
Donaldson didn't play for over three months because he had a “sore” calf muscle. A sore calf muscle. A sore…calf muscle. It was sore. And, what the hell, if they’re only paying you $23 million to play a little boy’s game why would you suit up when your calf is sore.
Apparently, he now claims the calf was ruptured. In which case why was he working out at all?
The quote? It’s classic. The guy is even more of a clown than I thought.
I can only imagine how many guys coaching kids from 8 to 18 went into a Spasm of Cringing over that one. Maybe a few even had heart attacks.
I have never taught hitters to get on top of the ball. That makes no sense at all. So I agree with Josh there. But I also don’t want them upper cutting. That just leads to long, looping swings and they’re dead meat when a pitcher brings even medium heat.
"I never tried to hit home runs. I just wanted to hit line drives. If I got under it a bit it went into the seats."
Hall of Famer Ken Griffey, Jr.
who only hit 630 jacks, so what the hell does he know?
I just want solid barrel contact. Inside the ball, direct to the ball, through the ball. That simple. As Chipper Jones pointed out (when he took a swing at Donaldson’s asinine philosophy) he tried to hammer the ball off the outfield fence from pole to pole, which gave the Rawlings backspin and 747 lift off.
Backspin and Jacks speak the same language. It’s called DiamondDustese.
I’m not much of a fan of some dude named Chipper, unless he’s still in diapers. But in this case his advice is as good as Bitcoins. And Chipper is also in the Hall of Fame.
What's that you see? It's drizzle and drivel
Where are the most base hits? If you guessed groundballs up the middle or in the hole you win a million dollars, courtesy of John Donaldson who has a few to spare. Even The Shift hasn’t Deep Sixed that trend.
Line drives and hard groundballs produce the most hits and the most runs. Isn’t that the point? And every youth coach knows fly balls are outs. Outs. Outs.
Fly balls are outs.
Very few young hitters have the power to leave the yard. Especially when you consider that amateur ball parks are quite often bigger than MLB fields, a fact that somehow seems out of whack.
Kids play on diamonds 330 down the line. A lot of MLB band boxes aren't that deep. Griffey loved hitting in the Kingdome because it was 312 down the right field line, which gave him a leg up on the Hall. When they built Safeco he defected from Seattle to slug for the Reds.
312 down the line? Not much bigger than a bantam park.
So how many fly ball outs will a kid survive before he just quits in frustration and plays lacrosse? And does Josh Jackass give a damn that he's screwing up a lot of kids? Thanks, Josh.
Kids should just learn to hit. Solid contact. Don’t even think about home runs. The power will come as you mature. That makes a lot more sense than a 10-year-old upper cutting to loft hopeless fly ball outs as preached by the Bringer of Drizzle.
Who didn't play for over three months because he had a sore calf muscle.
Yes, his calf was sore. For $23 million a lot of dudes would play with a broken leg.
Boog, Eduardo and Sutt
ESPN. Jon "Boog" Sciambi, the most entertaining play-by-play honcho in the business. Eduardo Perez. And Rick Sutcliffe.
Eduardo has a Ted Lilly anecdote. I like Ted Lilly. I had dinner with Ryan Dempster, Mark DeRosa and Lilly in Phoenix in spring training many moons ago. Ted Lilly is a good dude. (This is blatant name-dropping...but I'm a blatant name-dropper.)
Sutcliffe is also a name-dropper. He tells a story about Sandy Koufax giving Orel Hershiser a tip--hook your cleats on the rubber.
Eduardo grins humbly. "I say Ted Lilly...and he says Koufax."
Sciambi counters with the time Koufax actually sat next to him in the booth. It was like having God drop by your condo for lunch.
Eduardo and Sutcliffe laugh. Game over. Sutcliffe throws a no-hitter.
Notice the wrist hook, a Sutcliffe trademark, but not recommended.
Unless you're a dinosaur like me you never saw Sandy Koufax pitch. I feel sorry for you. Koufax wasn't just special. He wasn't just Hall of Fame. He wasn't just Unhittable or Lights Out or Dominating or The Terminator.
None of those words even come close. Sandy Koufax was...
LEAD WITH YOUR HIP
The Greatest Pitcher Who Ever Lived
There are certain things I know for sure.
I know that love is loyalty. I know that animals are innocent and should be protected from vile trophy hunters. I know that eating fish and fruit and vegetables will keep you strong and energized.
And I know, without the slightest doubt, that Sandy Koufax is the greatest pitcher who ever lived.
Yes, Pedro and Verlander and Clemens and Sherzer and Rivera and Seaver and Maddux and DeGrom and Gibson and Nolan Ryan and Kershaw and Johnson and Feller and Aroldis are all awesome.
But Koufax was ineffable. INEFFABLE.
I was never a Dodger fan. I liked the Yankees. But you didn't have to be a fan to truly appreciate Sanford Koufax. He was the most overpowering pitcher ever--blistering fastball, a 12 to 6 curveball that broke nose to toes, and a cobra change-up. In his youth he had trouble throwing strikes--but when Sandy got command…fo-get about it…
September 9, 1965—Perfect Koufax
Let me take you back to the most memorable game of a career studded with great moments.
On Sept. 9, 1965 Koufax threw a perfect game at Dodger Stadium, handcuffing the Cubs 1-0. "I would think the last two or three innings of that game are as well as I've ever pitched," he said, later.
"I had to climb up closer to the hitters than usual because his breaking ball broke straight down and you almost had to reach up underneath to catch it."
"There was nobody who was going to hit Sandy Koufax that day," said Cubs third baseman Ron Santo. "He just kept throwing fastballs right by you. You were just overmatched."
The Dodger catcher that night was Jeff Torborg, who later managed the Florida Marlins. "Sandy didn't have his exceptional stuff early in that game," Torborg said. "But he got it together in the sixth or seventh and he really started to let it fly. He sniffed it. You could see it in his eyes."
"I'll be right back"
After striking out as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning, Joey Amalfitano walked passed Harvey Kuenn, who was on-deck. "You'd better be ready," he warned Kuenn, "because he's getting it up there real good."
Kuenn replied, "Wait for me, Joey. I'll be right back."
Koufax struck out 14 Cubs that night--including the last six hitters he faced. Besides a fastball that was second to none, Sandy threw "the best curveball I've ever seen," says Torborg. "I had to climb up closer to the hitters than usual because his breaking ball broke straight down and you had to reach up underneath to catch it."
Cubs receiver Chris Krug agreed. "Frankly, he had the best fastball, the best curveball and the best change-up. And he could get them over most any time he wanted. He was unhittable."
“Sandy Koufax was the most dominating pitcher I ever saw. I was on his level in certain games. But I wasn’t as consistent as Sandy Koufax.”
--NOLAN RYAN, who threw 7 no-hitters, 12 one-hitters, plus 5,714 K's with a flamethrowing heater over 100 mph. ___________________________________________________________________
Some incomparable Sandy Stats:
In his last five seasons Koufax was 111-34 with a 1.95 ERA.
In 1965 he struck out 382.
He threw no-hitters four years in a row.
He was 25-5 in 1963 with a 1.88 ERA.
"I stopped pressing after I learned that, if you fail, life will still go on. I changed my mechanics and learned to pitch. I learned to control myself. Instead of trying to do something 100%, I left a little--giving maybe 95 to 99%."
Throwing 90 at 50
Koufax had an arthritic elbow that forced him to retire far too early--at the age of 30. Putting it all in perspective he said, "I've got a lot of years to live after baseball. I’d like to live them with the complete use of my body."
Nonetheless, there's a story I heard a few years ago about Koufax heating it up in Dodgertown when he was in his 50's. And throwing 90 mph.
I don't believe that story. It must be apocryphal. It has to be. Nobody in his fifties can throw 90 mph. Nobody. But...this is Sandy Koufax we're talking about…
"I can understand how he won 25 games. But I don't understand how he lost five."
--Legendary Yankee catcher Yogi Berra
after facing Koufax in the World Series.
And, so, you ask, what is the point of this endless tale? Just wait, I'm getting there.
A few years ago I heard Bob Brenly doing analysis on a telecast and he was talking about Koufax. He mentioned that Sandy stressed leading with your hip. And that, friends, is the point.
When you start forward in your delivery LEAD WITH YOUR HIP. That will keep you loaded and stop you from rushing your upper body.
There are three things I'll point out about this picture. 1) Sandy leading with his hip. 2) The TILT he gets as he loads. And 3) Notice how his post foot is hooked on the rubber. That was a Koufax trick to get extra leverage. Of course, you can only do it on a pro mound with the proper clay and maintenance.
Watch just about any great pitcher and you'll see it. They all lead with their hip. I stress this with our pitchers. Knee raise and then, as you drive toward the plate, your lower body always goes first. Your upper body is along for the ride until you reach the Power Triangle and Explode.
LEAD WITH YOUR HIP.
How do I know? Well, I may be stupid, but I'd have to be an utter moron to ignore anything Sandy Koufax says. When Koufax talks, I listen. He's the best ever.
And that I know for sure.
Koufax and the curveball
Sandy Koufax has exceptionally long fingers.
CLINT HOSFORD shook hands with him in Dodgertown and came
away amazed at the size of Sandy’s hands. That may explain why
Koufax had such a great nose to toes curveball. Long fingers give
you tremendous snap on a breaking ball. Of course, you have no
control over that and there are a whole lot of pitchers who throw
great hammers with smaller hands.
Koufax was an extraordinary athlete. Legend has it he was such a good basketball player he could have gone into the NBA right out of high school.
"Trying to hit Koufax is like drinking coffee with a fork.”
--Pittsburgh's WILLIE STARGELL, who crushed 475 home runs in 21 seasons.
The Tragic Destruction of Young Players
“The youth-sports industry is a $15 billion business. And more and more that business pushes children to make decisions way too early about which sport to play and to pursue that sport to the exclusion of all others. And their bodies are paying the price."
--The legendary Tommy John
I ASK ARISTOTLE, PLATO AND EINSTEIN
What the Hell is a Cutter/Slider?
I use this term all the time.
A cutter breaks a few inches sideways and slightly down. It’s really a fastball with a sight cut.
If you ever watched Mariano Rivera on the hill you saw a Cutter as Pure as Arctic Ice. When I asked Justin Morneau he said, ”I know he’s throwing the cutter but it looks like a fastball so I swing and suddenly it busts in on my hands and breaks the bat.”
He had a perfect delivery and a perfect cutter.
A slider moves a lot more, often 10 to 12 inches both sideways and down.
So they’re easy to separate, right?
You ace a cutter by holding the ball off-center and throwing the outside of the ball. There’s very little turn of the hand.
The grip is the same for the slider but you make a half turn of your palm at release. Presto, a much bigger break. Which also places a lot more stress on the elbow.
So, what happens when you turn your hand just a little bit more than a pure cutter? And then just a tad more? And then just a shade more? The break gradually gets bigger, like a hole in a dam leaking water.
Which brings us to the enigma that has tortured philosophers for decades:
When does a Cutter become a Slider?
Don’t ask the TV guys. They see Sliders and call them Cutters all the time. One clown even called a running fastball a cutter.
So I asked Aristotle. “In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous,” he said. “There is no great genius without some touch of madness.”
Okay. All right. I think.
So now I went to Plato. “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark, the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light,” he said, enigmatically. “Wise men talk because they have something to say, fools because they have to say something.”
Well. That certainly clears it up.
But I needed more, so I went to Friedrich Nietzsche’s crib for some existential enlightenment. “That which does not kill us makes us stronger,” he said. So that’s where Hemingway got that quote. “The individual always struggles to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."
Hmm. I agree. But...
Finally, I turned to Einstein, who must have the answer. “If you can’t explain it simply,” he said, “you don’t understand it well enough.” All right, now we’re getting somewhere.
“Two things are infinite,” he added, “the Universe and Human Stupidity. And I’m not sure about the Universe.” And then he winked. “They weren’t throwing cutters or sliders when I played shortstop.”
So that’s why I call them Cutter/Sliders. Because no one knows when a Cutter becomes a Slider. It’s like asking How Many Angels Can Dance on the Head of a Pin. Or something like that.
Zito, Mulder, Hudson, Koch, Tejada
The Utter Bull Shit of Moneyball
I’m watching Brad Pitt in Moneyball on TSN. And trying hard not to hurl chunks. There's never been a movie more stuffed with the stench of horse manure.
This mendacious flick created The Legend of Billy Beane and made him the highest profile GM since Branch Rickey. Billy, the story goes, is a diamond heretic who thinks so far outside the batter's box he's taking his cuts in a cage atop the Golden Gate Bridge. In the Baseball Almanac under the word Rebel you see his selfie. Paul Anka was channeling Billy Beane when he wrote My Way for the Ineffable Righthander Sinatra.
I like all that.
But Moneyball should be renamed Pure Unadulterated Unmitigated Garbage.
Billy Beane, the Rebel
Michael Lewis wrote the book that spawned the movie. Lewis is an exceptional writer and The Big Short is his masterpiece. But if you really believe this farce Bernie Madoff has a drawer full of stock, bonds, and ghosts with your name tattooed top right.
Are you interested in reality? I didn't think so. Reality is so mundane compared to Brad Pitt. But, what the hell, welcome to the Oakland Mundanes.
The A's won 103 games in 2002. What’s more, they ticked off 20 victories in a row that August, which happens about as often as Clayton Kershaw gets bombed in the first inning. But this rock and roll was not ignited by Scott Hatteberg or Chad Bradford. Try these names:
Miguel Tejada put up astronomical numbers in 2002. He ripped 204 hits for a .308 average. He scorched 34 jacks and drove in 131 runs. He also scored 108 times. But then, of course, he was only a shortstop and that’s not a very important position, is it? After all, middle infielders drive in 131 digits all the time. Don't they? Sure they do.
Okay, so 34 jacks and 131 ribbies. But who cares?
Tejada was Oakland's MVP by 50,000 miles. But was he even mentioned in the movie?
Okay, Hatteberg did notch .280 with 68 RBI’s. So, obviously, he deserves star billing because he fits the Billy Beane Protocol and the Sabermetrics of Bill James. Right? The truth be known, Beane dissed Tejada, calling him a wild free swinger, which didn’t fit the Moneyball Code of Honour. So ignore a truckload of big flies and clutch runs by the most dominant shortstop the A's have ever seen.
Well, look, I've got this team, see, called the A's and they do it all with Sabermetrics, to hell with home runs and RBI's and those asshole useless pitchers, these guys are all about on base percentage and .250 hitters and I can sell you a share for 50 grand, no questions asked, and please don't ask for a receipt.
68 and 25 and the Southpaw Assassin who shot JFK
Which brings us to the real reason the A’s were Top Dogs. Take a look a these numbers.
Barry Zito, 23-5 and 2.75.
Mark Mulder, 19-7 and 3.47
Tim Hudson 15-9 and 2.98
On top of that the closer, Billy Koch, went 11-4 and gunned 44 saves.
As a Quartet of Lethal Terminators those guys were 68 and 25. That’s as good as it gets, like selling a script to Steven Spielberg. All the Sabermetric Analytics from here to Tuscaloosa don't mean dung compared to pitching that powerful.
Barry Zito. Did he really assassinate JFK? Or did he just win 23 games?
So, of course, you heard Brad Pitt piling on the praise for Zito and Mulder and Hudson and Koch over and over in the movie. Over and over and over. You heard that. You did. You didn’t? Well, at one point I think he told Hudson to throw his slider more, or something like that. Perfect recognition of a great pitching staff.
I guess 68 and 25 doesn’t compare to Bradford’s four wins.
Cory Liddle? Well, he was only 8-10 but he won five straight in August with a 0.20 ERA and that included three victories when the A’s put up their ineffable 20-game streak. By the way, Koch had either the win or the save in 12 of those games.
Moneyball is an interesting movie. And Lewis is a brilliant writer. But it’s all a farce, as far from reality as the fairy tale of the delusional conspiracy addicts who believe JFK was iced by the Soldiers from Saturn. Or Jimmy Hoffa. Or Babe Ruth. That’s it. Ruth pulled the trigger.
Hmm. Or was it Barry Zito, the Southpaw Assassin?
1.72 ERA 19 K’s in 15.2 innings
And the Beat Goes On
Manager Joe Maddon kept pushing the pause button, waiting for the right spot, the inning he needed Rowan Wick the most. Waiting…waiting…three days, four days…wipe out games in either direction…and then, finally, after five days of rest, it was on the line.
With the Cubs clipping the Cincinnati Reds 6-3 in the seventh it was time for Rowan to command the hill. And he did.
Rowan struck out Josh Vanmeter with an elevated 96 at the letters and got Nick Senzel on a routine groundball with a slider. Which brought fellow Canadian Joey Votto to the plate.
Votto is the epitome of a grinder and a pro. Rowan worked him upstairs with heat, down with a sharp breaking curveball, then 97 on the outside corner. Votto fouled off four pitches before taking a cutter at the belt for strike three.
Inning over. But more to come.
Just How Good Is Joey Votto?
We took the Vancouver Cannons to Phoenix every March for spring training in the Arizona heat. That included an MLB preseason game, of course, and one year it was the Reds.
I studied Votto’s first AB against a lefthander with a certain fascination. It was, indeed, a work of art.
He took a fastball right down main street. Hmm. Then he did it again, as if he was mesmerized, just observing a batting practice heater as center cut as prime rib. 0-2. Hmm. Hmm.
And then I found out why. The lefthander went to a solid curveball on the outside half, breaking out of the zone.
And Votto calmly, methodically, drove it into left field for a base hit. Hmm. Hmm. Hmm.
It was a classic move by one of the most professional hitters the game has ever seen. Votto knew he owned those pair of fastballs, they were his Rawlings slaves. He could pop them, hammer them, destroy them, seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
So he chose to get behind 0-2 and see what the lefty would bring to the table.
What he saw was exactly what he wanted, a breaking ball away. Practice. Homework. Lefty on lefty and drive that deuce oppo. Work on it. Isn’t that what spring training is for? Where so many hitters are fixated on jacks Votto is focussed on only one thing. Getting better every at-bat.
Many moons later I was talking to Walt Burrows, the former head of the Canadian MLB Scouting Bureau and now with the Minnesota Twins. I asked Walt if my conclusions were on the money.
“Absolutely,” said Walt, who had scouted Votto hundreds of AB’s when he was a teenager growing up in Toronto. “I’m sure that’s exactly what he was doing. That’s Votto. He has the most professional approach to hitting of anyone I’ve ever scouted.”
One little AB in Phoenix in March. And one more tiny step into the Hall of Fame. It works that way.
For a pro.
Bring on the Eighth
The Cubs had a day-off on Monday so Maddon kept playing the Wick card in the eighth inning against some formidable sluggers.
Eugenio Suarez had already drilled a jack but Rowan dive bombed a curveball for the K.
From hot as a torch to Mojave ice
And now Aristides Aquino invaded the box. The young bopper had parked three monster shots in a row into the seats the day before, which meant he was as hot as a torch in Hades. But Rowan got ahead with a blistering 96 mph heater up and in that was as unhittable as a laser beam and then sent Aristides packing with another elevated fastball.
Aquino had less chance than ice in the Mojave.
"Rowan has really stepped up."
--Cubs play-by-play Len Kasper
Then came one of the few mistakes Rowan has made in the past month. He got miles ahead 0-2 on Jose Perara but left a fastball in the middle and Jose hammered a stinging line drive Right Back At Ya. Rowan ducked for cover and wound up on his butt.
But no harm, no foul. Wick jammed Jesse Winker and broke his bat for a harmless drizzle of a comebacker.
Two more solid innings of spotless relief. How many 1.72 ERA’s do you find hanging around these days?
Mickey Mantle, the King of Jacks
With all the launch angle (bleep) and exit velo (bleep) we are in the Era of the Home Run Derby. Some say the baseballs are harder these days or maybe it's just the bats have more kick.
Nonetheless when a slugger drives a Rawlings 450 feet into the upper deck there are Multiple Orgasms in the broadcast booth. But no one ever Jumped the Yard farther than the ineffable Mickey Mantle.
Mantle makes the current boppers look like anemic Punch and Judy singles hitters. The Mick never heard of launch angle. But he was the ultimate Jack Hammer.
POWER? THERE’S MANTLE AND EVERYONE ELSE
The Mick’s 600-Foot Rocket Shots
So you think Christian Yelich and Mike Trout and Cody Bellinger are blasting King Kong jacks?
Compared to Mickey Mantle they’re short about 200 feet.
Mantle is the greatest power hitter of all time. No one even comes close to the soaring, long range rocket shots he hammered from either side of the plate. Some of them still haven’t landed. He makes today’s Home Run Derby icons look like they’re bunting for a base hit.
How far did Mantle muscle his eruptions to jump the yard? Obviously, they didn't have the high tech of this age so sometimes we have to trust eye ball estimates. But there were wrecking crew atomic blasts that could be easily measured. By all accounts his top 10 were as impressive as Mr. Olympia. The shortest is 530 feet.
And the longest was astronomical, estimated at 734 feet.
Impossible? Maybe. But...this is Mickey Mantle we're talking about. The high school football player with forearms of steel that made the bat feel like swinging a toothpick.
Roger Maris and Mantle. Take a look at Mickey's forearms. Sheer power.
No one ever hit a ball out of the Old Yankee Stadium in a game. But Mantle crushed the façade at the top of the roof three times.
In 1956 he blitzed a Pedro Ramos fastball. It left the field at the 370 mark and came within inches of exiting the stadium. Now get this. The façade was 117 feet high. That sonic explosion was 39 yards above terra firma when it collided with wood. You don't need to be an MIT grad to figure out it would have traveled well over 600 feet if it hadn't gotten into an argument with the facade.
For reference, take a look at the nearest high rise. And I mean HIGH rise. Count 12 storeys up. That's where Mantle's towering blitzkrieg caromed off the top of the stadium roof after already soaring 370 feet.
The 734 shot off Bill Fischer in 1963? It also rammed the sky high façade, again only a few inches from freedom. And, for what it’s worth, there were multiple fans who swore it was still going UP when its flight was interrupted. Some Neanderthal math wiz calculated it's trajectory would have carried it well over 700 feet into the wild blue yonder.
That sounds as apocryphal as Big Foot but somehow it seems plausible and Mantle called it, “The hardest ball I ever hit.”
And here are two of Mantle’s most memorable jacks that were actually measured for austerity.
In a 1951 spring training game at USC he ripped a massive drive that not only left the ball park it also cleared the adjacent football field. It finally landed on the far sideline, 656 feet from the batter’s box, before hopping the fence bordering the field. And Boy Wonder Mantle, the Yankees answer to Ruth and Dimaggio, was still only 19 years old.
Mike Trout goes fishing. (Boy, is that line lame)
That was one of six of The Mick's cannonades estimated at more than 600 feet, including a ballistic blast that rocketed out of Tiger Stadium and bombarded a lumberyard across the street, 643 feet from the plate.
There are also a horde of observers, including many players, who swore The Mick's missiles left Yankee Stadium at least three times during batting practice.
Yes, I know, they didn’t have the computer software we have today. But if you’re a physics major punch in the numbers.
Over the wall at the 370 mark and still rising faster than a NASA space ship.
Jumping the yard 117 feet in the air.
Exit speed at least 120 mph
500 feet? Easy.
600 feet? Odds on.
700 feet? We'll never know. But for Mantle it even seems possible.
Eat your heart out Mike Trout.
Wick Stakes His Claim in Wrigley Ivy
Rowan Wick has been bounced around more than a schizoid ping pong ball. Chicago. Iowa. Chicago. Iowa. Chicago. Iowa. Chicago. Iowa. Chicago…
He’s spent more time slicing the air between The Windy City and Des Moines than a travelling salesman with a private Learjet.
But this time. This time Rowan drilled a hole in the Wrigley Field ivy, implanted an oil well, staked his claim, and dug in deeper than the Mariana Trench or even the Mariano cutter. (More on that later.) This time he’s here to stay. The joyride is gonzo. We think.
Rowan was pretty good each of the three other times he was recalled from AAA. But this time he hasn’t been pretty or good, although his girlfriend may beg to differ. He’s been damn well Black Hole Lights Out. In fact, he’s staking out a claim as the Blue Chip Set-Up Man for closer Craig Kimbrel.
And, for a guy who has only been on the bump for four years, that’s the equivalent of acing Harvard Law School in a pair of semesters.
Take a good look:
Rowan’s latest incarnation began on July 23 with the Cubbies on the road in San Fran. He threw the seventh and struck out Kevin Pillar and then Zach Green on a blistering 97 mph heater. The next day he encored by notching another K against Pillar, this time on a sharp curveball.
"He's been impressive. And they're using him in higher leverage situations. He's not a deer in the headlights. I like the way he goes about it."
--Cubs TV analyst Jim Deshais
In Milwaukee three days later Rowan aced Eric Thames with a 97 elevated laser beam and then demolished Lorenzo Cain on a deuce. When the Cubs took a 3-2 lead in the top of the 10th he was first in line for the win but Kimbrel gave it up and the Brewers survived 5-3.
In St. Louis he blitzed Matt Wieters with smoke and Tommy Edmon on a snakey Uncle Charley.
When Rowan was sent down earlier in July manager Joe Maddon told him, “I trust you now” and he proved that on August 2. The Cubs led Milwaukee 6-1 at Wrigley in the seventh but the Brewers were brewing more trouble than a protest march in North Korea.
The Brew Crew had runners on first and third with nobody out and it was time for a fire fighter to extinguish the blaze. A pivotal and crucial moment and, when Maddon went to his bull pen, it was Rowan Wick who sprinted across the Wrigley turf.
"Wick doesn't seem to be amused."
"No, he's all business."
--Milwaukee TV guys Matt LeMay and Bill Schroeder
And the young man from North Van was more than ready to douse the flame. When he handcuffed Manny Pina on a slider on the outside corner (also more on that in a moment) Kris Bryant charged the limp dribbler and threw him out, thanks to a neat pick by Anthony Rizzo. Orlando Arcia flew out and Thames popped to Rizzo. Fire became charcoal.
Then, on Saturday, Rowan pocketed that illusive first win in The Show with a pair of K’s in a solid seventh inning as Kimbrel bounced back to ice it against the Brewers.
And, finally, tonight he made it 2-0 and dropped his ERA to 1.98 with a 7th inning 643 double homicide to lock out the A's. He hasn't just been on a roll--he's been lead man on a roller coaster.
"Wick does the job."
--Len Kasper, Cubs play-by-play
Kimbrel needs a wing man
WICK--2-0 13.2 innings 15 strikeouts 1.98 ERA
What’s more, Rowan Wick has become a three-pitch pitcher.
Time for a little self promotion because, if I don’t, who in the hell will. Three years ago I worked with Rowan on a cutter/slider when he was throwing at Coquitlam Centre. It sizzled and snarled like a ballistic missile.
This, I thought, was his entrance exam into the big leagues. His heater was money but his curveball seemed a bit soft and loopy. The transition was a natural to me, the same as 20 years earlier when I introduced Ryan Dempster to a cutter/slider. With Wick it was so vicious and filthy it would need a car wash to get clean.
But Rowan was in love with his curveball and, to his credit, it’s become a beauty. Obviously his call but I still wanted him to add the slider to his tool kit. So he put it in his back pocket, his ace in the hole.
A slider as sharp as a machete
On July 27 this image jumped off my computer screen.
Yasmani Grandal at the plate for the Brewers. Fastball, called strike. And then…and then…
This sharp as a machete, tight as a python, off the rails breaking ball as vicious as a cobra. Was that a slider I just saw? That had to be a (bleeping) slider. Had to be.
Text. Yes it was. He’d been working on it in the bull pen and talking to Yu Darvish about his grip. The Cubs said “Let us know when you’re ready to throw it in a game.”
He was. And he did. A razor blade breaking ball at 90 mph.
Maddon desperately needs that Set-Up Man for Kimbrel. For me it’s odds on he’s found The Guy. Number 50.
"What Rowan's doing right now causes us to rethink a lot of stuff. You saw him in a really pertinent moment and he rose to the occasion again. His fastball's been explosive, he's got the good curveball, his confidence is there. He just needs more opportunity. But, yes, he is playing into the decision making right now."
courtesy Tony Andracki, NBC Sports Chicago
AND A TRUCKLOAD OF MANURE
The Saga of Nathan Patterson
There is so much bull shit swarming around on the Internet it resembles a Manure Farm in Nebraska.
I give you the fantasy of Nathan Patterson.
I got a message from Jim Diamond, aka The Parksville Professor, about Nathan's extraordinary feat in Nashville, Tennessee. Had to take a look.
Now I’m sure Nathan Patterson is a fine young man. An exemplary young man. A young man with integrity and compassion. But…
There’s a viral video getting more views than porn with Patterson blitzing 96 mph at a speed cage. 96. Which got him signed by Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s. I won’t delve into the gory details but you can Google it and see for yourself if you haven’t already.
Suffice it to say if you believe this bull shit I have an acre of swampland I’d like to sell you for a very reasonable price because I don’t own it.
Good luck, kid. Live that dream.
Take a look at this story. Please.
Yes, the sign says 96. But who knows if the gun is any more accurate than a water pistol. If you were running a cage wouldn’t you jack up the velo to please the marks?
But that matters not. Because Nathan Patterson is crowhopping. Which adds at least 7 mph to your heat and probably as much as 12 clicks. (Check out Michael Kopech in the following epic.)
And some of the off-the-wall stories claim Patterson signed a major league contract, which is so ludicrous even the Social Media fools won’t fall for it.
(Bleep), who am I kidding, these naïve clowns believe everything they read. They suffer from SM Compulsive Obsessive Woke The Internet of Everything Truth Syndrome. Charley Ponzi is spinning in his grave at 5,000 rpm, muttering, Why was I born 100 years too soon, these dupes bring a new meaning to gullible.
So I checked and, yes, Nathan signed a contract. He’s on the A’s roster in the Arizona Rookie League, the bottom rung of pro baseball. And, yes, he has a shot, which he truly deserves. But his chances of getting to The Show are Slim and None and Slim Pickens has been deceased for 36 years.
Only 7 per cent of pro players ever get to the Big Leagues. And almost all of them were drafted in the first 10 rounds. There are exceptions but they are as rare as albino tigers.
To be sure, I truly wish Nathan Patterson well. He's not remotely responsible for all the Hype and a dude living his dream is fine by me. Not enough people ever dream.
But the Viral Internet Bull Shit I can do without.
How Baseball Eats Its Young
The 10th Wonder of the World, who can catapult a Rawlings 104 mph.
Jordan Hicks throws 104 mph. Michael Kopech 100. Both are gone until 2020 with Tommy John surgery.
Baseball eats its young because coaches and trainers understand so little about how to protect a pitcher's arm. Which seems strange because that's their numero uno priority, the reason they collect a pay check.
Much more on the incompetence of MLB coaches and trainers in a few days.
I wrote this epic about Kopech last season. It's followed with a story on his early Claim to Fame, THROWING 110 MPH.
Crowhopping three or four times. And throwing into a screen maybe 30 feet away.
Which is my convoluted way of morphing it into The Saga of Nathan Patterson.
MICHAEL KOPECH IS IN THE BUILDING
The Rock Star on Chicago’s South Side
It was The Beatles at Shea. Elvis on Ed Sullivan. The Miracle on Ice. The Cubs win the World Series. The Wright Brothers fly. Alexander Graham Bell answers the phone. Bill Gates creates the Cyberworld. Belushi, Ackroyd and Chevy ignite SNL.
Michael Kopech starts for the White Sox.
Chicago buzzed like a gonzo smartphone. The Hype had arrived. The Sox were 30 games under but the Saviour was on the hill and it’s all good. We are healed.
The Sox fans have dreamed about this all season long. They drooled at the thought. Their blood rushed through their veins like a waterfall of plasma. It was Christmas in August. Finally, a cure for the South Side’s Erectile Dysfunction.
They genuflected as Kopech warmed up and they were on their feet with a standing O as soon as he took to the hill. The young man must have felt like a rock star, a gaming ace, a Super Bowl QB, and the Academy Award winner, all wrapped up in one reverent bundle.
Kopech only threw two innings because the Baseball Gods felt dissed, overshadowed, and splashed rain on the party.
But it was an impressive pair of frames, indeed. And five days later he tossed six against the Tigers, giving up only one run with four K's. What's more, he walked absolutely no one, which means he's come a long way since the start of the year in AAA when his command was as shaky as a palm tree in a hurricane.
Kopech is a classic example of Rhythm On The Mound. He has a beautiful delivery, balanced and fluid and so smooth it's like watching Gene Kelly dance. That kind of rhythm is as valuable as a truckload of gold bullion. When you're in synch, when your whole body is playing the same tune, the ball seems to ignite out of your hand. It's See How Easily You Can Throw Hard 101.
The Kopech Blueprint
Rocker step. Knee raise to the letters as you coil to the middle of your body. Load then lead with your hip. Tilt by dropping your back shoulder about 10 inches. Drive and stride directly to the plate with your front shoulder closed. The body deliveries the loose, electric arm. Explode your hips. Chest to the plate. Finish with a flat back and total commitment.
At times his command is slightly erratic (he hit a pair of Tigers), which works as a weapon. You are not going to feel comfortable digging in against Michael “The Dominator” Kopech.
Like all Power Pitchers who love the letter K, he’ll fire a load of heaters every game but against the Tigers he mixed in a solid slider and even several change-ups with sneaky movement. By the way, Kopech's change is 87 to 91 mph. And gradually his command will lock in and he’ll pile up extended innings. That’s where he has the most head room to improve.
“When I got into high school I had a growth spurt and my arm got really good. I was 15 and already throwing 90 mph and I thought, well, this could take me places.”
In his debut the rain delay lasted almost an hour and I kept thinking, Do not let this kid step on the mound again tonight. His arm has tightened a bit and there’s absolutely no point in him throwing another pitch.
Steve Stone, the White Sox analyst, said they should leave it up to Kopech. Stone is one of the best in the business but, in this case, he was as wrong as a stoned (pardon the pun) drug dealer wandering into Gresham’s 6th District police station to sell three pounds of H to the desk sergeant.
I would never leave it up to the pitcher, especially a young man making his first MLB start. He’s out of the game. Automatically. Unequivocally. Emphatically. No discussion, no debate, you can’t shake off the manager.
The kid throws triple digits. Protect his golden arm like it’s the Holy Grail.
It reminds me of the times we’d be in tournaments and Ryan Dempster would pitch on Saturday when all the scouts were on hand. No matter who we were playing. After his seven shutout innings other coaches would ask me if I would bring him back Monday to close in the final.
Oh, sure, I’ve got a guy who isn’t just a pro prospect, he has a big league arm and big league make-up. And I’m going to pitch him again with one day rest so I can win a tournament in Penticton. I’m sure that will be the highlight of his career. No way, no how, no sir.
"I'd read everything about pitching."
Apparently, Kopech is a beast when it comes to working out. He also has an actress girlfriend and a father who absorbed every sliver of information on pitching when Michael was a tadpole. “I’d read everything about pitching. Then I’d discard what I didn’t like and keep the good stuff.” And they both watched all of Nolan Ryan's seven no-hitters, one of the reasons Michael wears 34, the number etched into history by the Ryan Express.
That is so cool. Having the judgment to pick and choose instruction is as crucial to development as eating protein. Too many parents believe every dish of horse bleep they’re fed by incompetent gurus, who think a four-seamer is a sewing machine.
At any rate, I gave you the following story last season (I’m sure you remember) so I’m running it again just to show you how prescient I am. Nostradamus. Carnac. The Soothsayer. Just don’t ask me to reveal the numbers from my HPI horseracing account.
DID HE BREAK THE SOUND BARRIER?
Flamethrower Michael Kopech nails 110
…and I have the deed to the Brooklyn Bridge you can buy for a very cheap price. Or maybe you’d prefer some swampland in the Florida Everglades.
Unless you’re a baseball aficionado you’ve never heard of Michael Kopech. But you will in the near future.
Kopech is a 21-year-old White Sox righthander who has been gunned at a blistering 105 mph. And even 110…if you’re ready for some online double talk.
Now I don’t much trust radar readings. A lot of them are on steroids, pumped up to impress the fans in the ball park. Walt Burrows, one of the best scouts in the business, told me he’d get reports about a kid breaking the bank on the gun. But, when Walt got to the park, the phenom’s velocity would top out five to eight mph slower than the hype. And that happened quite often.
So does Kopech throw 105? I saw a video of him striking out three hitters on nine pitches, apparently hitting 100 on the last pitch, and he looked good. But not 105 good. His stride is four to six inches against his body but it works for him and his mechanics are solid, his arm is loose and strong, and he's definitely a blue chip prospect.
“My dad always had great confidence in me, probably more than he should have. There were years when I was probably not very good. But he convinced me that I was one of the best players on the field and that confidence kept me working hard.”
But here’s the Contradiction That Wins the Gold Medal. My good friend Gary Bowden heard a Kopech interview on Chicago radio and the young man claimed he couldn’t find the plate if you handed it to him.
Yes, he was piling up the K’s like a log jam but he was also walking two or three hitters every inning. And throwing about 100 pitches to get through three frames. For a pitcher that’s a torture chamber.
So what are we to believe? The pristine video showing Kopech striking out three helpless hitters on only nine overpowering pitches? Or his own words telling us he couldn’t throw a ball into the Pacific Ocean if he was standing knee deep in English Bay seawater? Was he just being extremely humble?
His numbers are promising and somewhere in between. In 134.2 innings in rookie and A ball Kopech has notched an impressive 172 strikeouts but a not so impressive 69 walks. That’s one of the most important stats in the game and a young pitcher should be shooting for at least three K’s to every BB. He’s really not that far away.
If you want to see this potential superstar in action Google him and take a look at the video for “Michael Kopech: 5 facts you need to know.” This is the “immaculate inning” he tossed as if he was Koufax mowing down Long John Silver impersonators. Nine pitches. All strikes. Bye, bye.
And you’ll also find a Vid of the Kid throwing 110 mph bullets. Sure you will. Did I mention the swampland I have for sale?
This one is both funny and productive. Kopech is launching his fastball into a net maybe 30 feet away. And he’s taking a four step run at it, catapulting himself like a javelin thrower. The shot is on a loop and repeats four times with a guy yelling “110" as he reads the velocity on what appears to be a Pocket Radar gun. These devices look like a smartphone and they actually get good reviews for accuracy.
I had a similar drill for pitchers when I coached the Twins. Throwing into a net from about 15 or 20 feet. We used it to develop arm speed. Not sure how much good it did but we tried. And this is crucial. NEVER TRY THIS UNLESS YOUR ARM IS IN MID SEASON SHAPE AND YOU HAVE A COACH WHO KNOWS WHAT HE’S DOING. NEVER. Protect your arm. Always.
“Baseball’s not number one in Mount Pleasant. It’s a football town just like most towns in Texas. So I was always kind of in the background. The football stars were the highlight of the city.”
The Kid Is Back in Town
AND UPDATE AGAIN--Now it's another 180. The Cubs sent for Rowan on Saturday so he's back in the Bigs. Didn't pitch on the weekend but he's primed and ready, armed with a 95-96 heater and a piercing breaking ball. He says his arm feels great and he threw a light bull pen Sunday night in LA.
UPDATE--Whoops! After pitching one inning the Cubs sent Rowan back to Iowa and AAA. This seems strange. Yes, he gave up a run, but his stuff was blue chip and he looked very much at home. I'm sure he'll be back soon..but it sure gets frustrating.
ROWAN’S BACK WHERE HE BELONGS
“Dave, I’m going to The Show today”
As a coach those words echo and resonate through your brain like a hurricane.
I talked to Rowan Wick on Tuesday and he definitely was not a Happy Young Man. To say he was frustrated pitching in Triple A would be like calling the Second World War a downer.
But then there was Wednesday. And the text. “Dave, I’m going to The Show today.”
Rowan is back where he belongs. In the big leagues.
Rowan with the Padres last September.
On Thursday he mounted up at Wrigley and took the hill for the Cubs. On paper it does not look like an auspicious return to the majors—but Paper Doesn’t Play.
In fact, it was very impressive.
When Jon Lester got shelled by the Phillies it was time for Rowan to take over in the fifth.
Unfortunately, he missed Bryce Harper but he opened with Rhys Hoskins, the dude who has Harper’s back and is one of the toughest outs in the National League.
Rowan was wide with a pair of fastballs but Hoskins swung through 95 and 96 heat to even the count. And then he drilled a shot down the line that was knocked down by third baseman David Bote for an infield hit. The only ball hit hard in the inning.
Rowan then got J.T. Realmuto, quite possibly the best catcher in the game, to fly out to Jason Heyward in right on another 96 mph Missile Heatseeker. He was on his way.
J.T. succumbed to the 96 heat.
Wick started Scott Kingery with a pair of swinging strikes on two more 96 rockets but lost him on a limp pop up that skimmed the foul line halfway to right field, spun and bounced into the stands for a ground rule double. It was hit as hard as a wiffle ball.
Rowan worked Odubel Herrerra with hard stuff until he scuffed a fastball and dribbled it down the first baseline. Rowan flipped underhand to Anthony Rizzo for the out but Hoskins scored. It was like being mugged by a 7-year-old with a squirt gun.
Finally, Wick threw four knifing, slicing breaking balls in a row to strike out Sean Rodriguez on a curve that shook loose like a skydiver. Two dimensions? Like holding a pair of Aces.
Yes, he gave up a run. But it was as cheap as oldtime Ripple rotgut. His fastball had 96 velo with life and the breaking ball was tight, hard, vicious, and as lights out as a Black Hole.
What’s more, Cubs play-by-play guy Len Kasper has even been to North Vancouver, where Rowan was born. He mentioned the Grouse Grind and the world class view when you take the chairlift up the mountain.
A great start for Rowan. And an advert for Vancouver tourism. What’s not to like.
To paraphrase my favourite Thin Lizzy song “The Kid is Definitely Back in Town.”
Go get ‘em, Rowan.
"I'm sure if there's something out there looking
down on us from somewhere else in the Universe
they're wise enough to stay away from us."
--William Petersen, Grissom, CSI
Pro golf? The playground of white elitists
I have no idea why anyone pays the slightest attention to pro golfers. These are prima donna, third rate, spoiled brat, country club, white elitists who couldn't play any other sport at even an amateur level.
Please don't talk to me about Tiger. He's the whitest of them all. And, if you don't understand that, please go back to Twitter and Instagram and Facebook where you belong.
Can you imagine Michael Jordan or LeBron James or Kevin Durant or Zion Williamson or Mike Trout or Aaron Judge or Mookie Betts or Saquon Barkley or Todd Gurley or Antonio Brown or Patrick Mahomes on the golf course?
If they'd grown up rich country club pampered brats they'd be crushing par before reaching pubescence.
Augusta would be reduced to a pitch and putt. Eagles would soar. If you didn't break 60 at least twice you'd miss the cut. Reincarnate Mickey Mantle and he'd tee off swinging a five iron so he wouldn't overshoot the 500 yard par 5's.
But none of them would ever enter the Hallowed Halls of the PGA. Especially if they're black. Country club? Where do I find one in downtown Tulsa? For free.
The crown jewel of golf is The Masters at Augusta, the epitome of sports racism and sexism. Did Hogan or Palmer or Player or Nicklaus or Woods ever stand up and denounce this bull shit? Of course not. They've been idolized, immortalized, suckholed, and Anointed Legends. Who can blame them for endorsing racism simply by keeping their mouth shut. I think most of us would be just as seduced by fame and millions of greenbacks.
So much for morality. But why do you give a damn about these elitist white boys who roam the greens knowing they will never have to compete against real athletes?
I give you this gem I wrote last year about the Masters.
"The Masters, a tradition unlike any other."
--CBS announcer Jim Nance
Unless, of course, you're black or a woman __________________________________________
IMAGINE LeBRON AT AUGUSTA
The Masters...or The Master Race?
There are more than half a million blacks living in Greater St. Louis. But you would have needed a magnifying glass to find one in the gallery for the PGA last year. You had more chance of seeing Al Jolson at Bellerive.
PGA stalwarts and their fans, who line the rough in silent admiration, are etched in white. Hmm. Wait a second. Isn’t there a word for that? A word that starts with the letter R and ends in ism? Sort of White Lives Play Golf.
Yes, I know, there’s Eldrick Woods but he’s really the whitest dude out there. And that, by the way, is his name. Not Tiger. Eldrick. Obviously, Tiger is monumentally more intimidating than Eldrick. Did you see that shot Eldrick just made? Eldrick is one under after 16 holes. Doesn’t really have the same resonance as Tiger is making his charge on the back nine.
So I’d advise the rest of the crew to insert WWE nicknames into their scorecards and insist on that listing on the leader board.
Killer Koepke. Dynamite Spieth. Hit Man Fowler. Panther McIlroy. Justin “The Hulk” Thomas. Hammer Rahm. Double Bubba Watson. Slasher Scott. Dustin “The Assassin” Johnson. Unfortunately, even changing their name to Michael Corleone isn’t going to make Ian Poulter, Charley Hoffman or Patrick Reed look threatening.
Eldrick surveying his plethora of fans.
Golf fans are always winners. Whoever’s ahead on the final hole is their guy. They live vicariously through the wonder of his magnificence. He’s so precious. He waves to them as he approaches the 18th green and they applaud madly, tears welling up in their eyes. He’s my hero, my Knight in Shining Nike's. Isn't he wonderful? And he's so white, just like us. What's his name again?
I often chuckle when I see this.
Imagine what it would be like if golf and tennis weren’t just country club sports for the rich and privileged. Not just reserved for pampered prima donnas from the right families, who scowl like Tony Soprano when some uncouth clown breathes or coughs while they’re on the tee or serving.
What if these elitist sports were wide open to inner city kids and backwoods phenoms.
Imagine 6-8 LeBron James or 6-6 Aaron Judge with a driver in their hands. A pair of extraordinary athletes, as strong as bodybuilders, and dedicated to working their butts off to get better every day. By the time they’re 18 they’d be driving a Titleist 400 yards.
And what if this was a three wood?
Imagine 6-6 Michael Jordan, the greatest athlete who ever lived, or 6-2 power pack Mike Trout pounding a TaylorMade iron shot. They’d make a par five look like a Pitch and Putt. Eagles would fly.
Imagine Seth Curry on the green. With his touch and hand-eye a 15-footer would be a gimme.
Imagine 6-11 Kevin Durant or 6-11 Tim Duncan or 6-11 Giannis Antetokounmpo (the 6-11 club) serving at Wimbledon. That blur at 150 mph was the poor tennis ball crying for mercy. And, if you can pronounce the last name of Giannis, you must be double jointed.
Imagine Jerry Rice or Terrell Owens or Mookie Betts or James Harden dancing at the French Open. They’d cover more clay than the White Cliffs of Dover.
You would never have heard of Jordan Spieth or Rickie Fowler or Phil Mickelson. Maybe Eldrick and Killer Koepke and The Assassin would be athletic and strong enough to make the top 100. Federer and Nadal would be finalists in the Sheboygan Invitational.
After winning the U.S. Open Gary Woodland said he gave up college basketball after playing against the U of Kansas and realizing he was out of his element. In other words he was doing battle with real athletes. Now his competition is guys who pretend they're athletes.
I’m not saying these golf and tennis stars don't have any talent at all. I’m just saying their sheltered sports are closed off to most of the greatest athletes this world has ever known. Which seems to suit a lot of white folks. Jeez, Dave let us keep something.
Ah, yes, the Augusta Jewel
Then there’s golf’s shining jewel, The Masters, the most prestigious tournament of them all. Augusta, where men are white and women are in the kitchen where they belong, dammit. Back to the Future and three cheers for 1895.
Here are a few of the highlights from Augusta.
*** Until 1983 blacks were only used as caddies for the white men in the Masters. That was a rule within the club.
“As long as I’m alive, the golfers will be white and the caddies will be black.”
--Long time Augusta chairman Clifford Roberts
***Charlie Sifford, the first black man to play the PGA tour, won a pair of tournaments in 1969 and qualified for the U.S. Open but was never invited to the Masters.
***When Lee Elder played at Augusta in 1975 he received hate mail and death threats. Fearing for his life, Elder rented two apartments and traveled back and forth. And this was almost 30 years after the legacy of Jackie Robinson. (Elder shot 74 and 78 and missed the cut. Did he take a dive to get the hell out of Dodge? Wouldn't blame him.)
"What no CBS commentator has ever alluded to, even in passing, is Augusta's history of racism and sexism. Even when people were protesting just outside the grounds they never acknowledged it. So not only will I never work the Masters because I'm not at CBS, but I'd have to say something and then be ejected."
--The incomparable NBC analyst Bob Costas
***You don’t apply to join Augusta National, it’s invitation only. Finally, in 1990, the enlightened Augusta directors saw the light (or the dark) and invited their first “black gentleman” to join the club along with eight white men. Apparently, he’s a solo act and, as is their policy, his name has never been revealed but he must be as loaded as the Rockefellers and a pillar of society.
***It took considerably longer for women to get hitched to Augusta. It wasn’t until 2012 when former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore were anointed. That was a doubleheader for Rice, who was not only feminine but black. Holy emancipation, Batman, a black woman in our midst.
“This is a joyous occasion as we enthusiastically welcome these accomplished women who share our passion for golf. Both are well known and respected by our membership. It will be a proud moment when we present Condoleezza and Darla their Green Jackets”
--Current former Augusta chairman Billy Payne
***Warren Buffet and Bill Gates both belong to Augusta National. It would be mighty interesting, indeed, to ask them why. But I haven’t talked to Warren or Bill since I never met them in 2003.
***Fuzzy Zoeller called Tiger Woods a “little boy” and said if Tiger won the Masters they should tell him to not order “fried chicken or collard greens or whatever the hell they serve” for the Champions Dinner.
"I think someone should have the guts. Broadcaster, executive, somebody should say, This is not Nightline or Meet the Press, we understand that. But this is an issue. And it's the elephant in the room. We're going to address it as concisely as we can so our heads are not in the collective sand trap."
I don’t give a damn if Augusta is racist and sexist when it comes to membership. It’s their private club and they can do whatever they damn well please. It’s CBS and the Golf Channel and the hypocrisy that makes me cringe.
NOTE: I don’t use the term African American because I have no idea what it means. African and American are nationalities, not races.
If a white professor born in Pretoria moves to Toledo is he an African American?
If an albino born in Ghana moves to Des Moines is she an African American?
In fact, I’d prefer not to use any of these terms. Most blacks aren’t black, they’re brown. So I guess they should be called Browns, unless that’s reserved for UPS. And I’ve never seen a white who is white. Caucasians (and there’s another beauty) are somewhat tanned but I’m not sure what shade of beige you’d call it. Caramel is the best I can come up with. Yes, Caramel.
Quite frankly, I don’t give a flying (bleep) about the (bleeping) color of your skin. All I care about is whether you have compassion and integrity and enough intelligence to keep your mind as open as the Grand Canyon.
Which isn't located in Augusta, Georgia.
Giannis dunks from the free throw line. Imagine him swinging a driver.