Pain…

Has anybody ever accurately described what pain is?

How things hurt. Where they hurt, and for God’s sake what’s the point of pain anyway?

When it’s our pain we try to get all descriptive and articulate– to describe the feeling in as much gruesome detail so that whoever we’re speaking with knows exactly how much it hurts.

I feel like my head is going to explode!

It’s like someone’s got a knife in my back

I feel like somebody just kicked me in the stomach.

Is it a dull pain, a sharp pain or an ache?

The explanation of your pain never actually matches what you’re feeling. How could it? How could anybody else really know how bad it hurts?

Dodger fans know.

Some pain, you know is coming. There’s that split second right after you cut the corner too closely around the coffee table and whack your shin on it where you literally have time to think to yourself, “whoa, this is gonna hurt!” And it does.

While speaking in tongues in between syllables of other words, you check for blood.

What about the pain you don’t see coming. What if it actually starts to hurt before you drop the brick on your foot?

What if the second you realize that there is no describing how bad you’re about to feel happens while you’re happy, confident and smiling — almost euphoric?

That’s how I felt the instant the ball left Jimmy Rollins’ bat headed for the only place in the stadium where it could hurt the worst.

Even though it would take nearly 10 seconds for Carlos Ruiz to score the winning run all the way from first base, the disbelief had set in already and my knees were buckling.

I quickly got that butterfly feeling in my stomach– the same freight that I feel when somebody jumps out from behind a door to scare me, or if I know I just got caught doing something wrong.

I had already eaten too many cookies after dinner and I could feel them rising to the back of my throat even before Ruiz reached third base.

I had to lean up against a retaining wall in the stands down the third base line partly for support and partly for my own protection from the mayhem of Phillie fans dressed in red all around me.

Just seconds earlier I had felt fat and happy, content and sure.

I shot a quick look at the only other Dodger fan anywhere in my area and he had the same dumb look on his face as the one on mine— no words spoken.

The place was going absolutely nuts, white towels waving, high 5’s slapping, strangers jumping up and down, hugging.

I couldn’t hear a thing. I suddenly realized how cold it was.

How long did it take for that ball to stop rolling?

With one of the fastest men in baseball, Matt Kemp, helplessly trying to chase it down. When did the ache start for him? As a player he believes that somehow he can do something super-human… maybe slow everything down just enough to change what the rest of us already know is going to happen?

We actually hurt before he did.

But don’t make the mistake of thinking we are taking it worse than Kemp is. Or Broxton. Or anybody else that pulls on that Dodger uniform.

This game was their passion long before it was ours.

We throw our love and devotion behind these guys. We buy the tickets and the jersey’s with Ethier’s name on the back and rush home to listen to Vin.

Sometimes we even go so far as to think we could manage better than Joe or make better trades than Ned. Sure we would have thrown a slider instead of the fastball to that guy in the 5Th inning of last nights game…

We live an die with them all summer long, dreaming about play-off magic and all the glory that goes along with it— and almost never think about how the losers feel.

But we will never LIVE it like they do.

So now the Dodgers are at the point of the most overused cliche’ in all of sport. A “must win game”. In fact, they have the ultimate “must win” situation. They’ll have to do it three games in a row in order to taste any of that glory.

Game 4 taught us all a little something about pain.

I guess I like mine better when there’s blood.

– Steve Lyons

Big John

So…you still want Ramon Troncoso or George Sherrill to save games for your Dodgers down the stretch? Raise your hand if you were one of the many who have questioned whether or not Jonathan Broxton should have the job? Not only last month but all of you who have had your doubts ever since Sammy Saito got hurt last year.
 
Broxton has been brilliant!
 
He’s got 35 saves so far this year in 40 chances. I’ll take that any year. In his last 10 chances — when they’ve meant the most, he’s 10 for 10 with an ERA of zilch. And is it just me or does it seem like he strikes out two of every three hitters he faces?

Anybody who’s familiar with my stance on closers knows that I don’t think it’s all that tough of a job. There are only two characteristics that a closer needs to do the job and neither of them have anything to do with what kind of stuff the guy has.

He needs the guts to take the ball and get the last three outs of a game, and a short memory if he doesn’t.

His job is to ride in on his white horse with nobody on and nobody out in a 4-1 game and get three outs before he gives up three runs. Then get the hi-fives, get the girl, and get the big contract.

It’s only been in the last 15 years or so that teams have actually groomed pitchers to be their “closer of the future”. Before that, a lot of closers were washed up starters (Dennis Eckersley, Eric Gagne) or pitchers that hadn’t worked out at any other team or spot in the Bullpen (Heathcliff Slocumb). And you don’t have to have a blazing fastball like big J.B., or a jelly-legging curveball like K-Rod — just ask Doug Jones, who never made the catchers glove pop and very few people even knew what he threw! Some, like Jesse Orosco or John Franco rarely threw strikes at all.

By the way, Jones and Franco are both in the top 20 all-time in saves.

So I say get behind what Broxton has been doing this year and realize he’s one of the best in the business. What do you want, Brad Lidge from last season? Wouldn’t that be great? 47 straight saves without a single blown save all year — not even in the playoffs. The problem is, you might end up with Brad Lidge this year — 10 blown saves.

Stick with “Ironman”. 

– Steve Lyons

Worries…

By now you know that Joe Torre chooses his words very carefully. I guess more than a decade under a microscope in New York will do that to a guy.

But he’s also the master of not saying much with those words he chooses! You’ll never hear him rip a player or talk about anything that’s supposed to stay in the clubhouse. He knows how to play that game. But he almost always tap dances around the really tough questions too, in a way that makes the person who asked the question feel like it got answered.
It’s an art.

One of the subtle differences in his phrasing that I’ve come to love and understand is when he mentions two words. “Concern” and “worry”. In almost everybody’s vocabulary there’s an order of importance we place on the words we use to to describe something. And I believe in most people’s mind a “worry” is a much greater problem to have than a “concern”. And that’s the way Joe see’s it too.

For the Dodgers this season, there have been countless isues that cause Joe a little concern — but not many that cause him a great deal of worry.

The mounting appearances and innings pitched by the bullpen is and has been a concern, but if you look at the numbers they’ve put up and the fact that the Dodgers still have the best record in the NL, why worry? Not to mention the fact that when you play the most extra inning games in baseball, you’re going to have more innings from your ‘pen.

Broxton’s toe, Loney’s lack of power, Manny’s recent lack of power and Martin’s whole season are things that Torre is concerned about. Not to worry.

Who’s the 5th starter—heck who’s the 4th starter? What’s up with Bills—again? And how do you find a way to get Juan Pierre more playing time? Just concerns, not worries.

Joe concerns himself with many, many things that you and I never will. He treats his entire team like they are his own family so he’s non-stop thinking about everything they do, too. When was the last time you were concerned about whether or not Jeff Weaver got home safely from that night’s game — let alone worry about it?

And when the game starts? Forget about it. The things that concern Joe are so far ahead of what we’re thinking, we won’t even think of ‘em til tomorrow!

So that brings me to the worry part, becuase I, like you, worry.

I’m worried about the offense.

You can give me stats and say the they scored 11 runs against Cincinnati or tell me that they lead the NL in hitting….but I’m worried.
 
Those 11-run outbursts are happening less and less. And really, it was the Reds.
This is now a team that scores most of it’s runs via the home run when it used to be a team that got 10 hits every night and beat you with a relentless attack. I like the old way better because this team is not a power hitting team.

When was the last time they had back to back 5-run games? When was the last time they beat an ace on the opposing team? I could look those things up but I’m lazy and like you — I just know it hasn’t happened enough lately.

The playoffs are coming. That’s the time when the offensive numbers are hard to come by  and every pitcher you face seems like an ace.

There are about 30 games to go and I’m not all that concerned that the Dodgers ARE a playoff team.

But the offense scares me.

Why? Because I worry.

– Steve Lyons

 
 

 

Talkin’ football with baseball players

Just wanted to pass along a neat Clayton Kershaw experience today.  Clayton had a masterful performance against the Reds Sunday afternoon in Cincinnati, striking out 11 and allowing just 2 runs in 7 innings of work.  But what really impressed me happened before the game got started.

A couple of hours before first pitch I was in the Dodger clubhouse just hanging out getting a feel for what guys were up to.  A handful of guys were watching ESPN SportsCenter, others were reading the paper (George Sherrill), some doing crossword puzzles (Mark Loretta), some working out (Matt Kemp) while others were taking extra BP in the cage (James Loney) … pretty normal stuff.  But there was one conversation that really interested me.  Orlando Hudson and Juan Pierre were talking college football.

Juan is an LSU fan.  Goes to a bunch of games every fall.  While Orlando is a South Carolina Gamecock backer.  Orlando told me he had a football scholarship offer to play at “the other USC”, but left it on the table to play junior college baseball.

Anyway, the college football talk started to move around the room.  I ended up chatting up a number of guys and getting their National Champion predictions and Heisman favorites.  Some guys were predictable … Houston-native James Loney likes Texas to win it all and UT’s Colt McCoy to win the Heisman, while James McDonald, whose dad played at USC, likes the Trojans.

Chad Billingsley was one of the few guys thinking outside the box.  Chad has a good feeling about Notre Dame’s BCS chances.   

The entire time we were talking football … Clayton was standing around looking as if he wanted to get into the conversation.  But … there is a major unwritten clubhouse rule that no one talks to that day’s starting pitcher.  No one.  Everyone who walks into the clubhouse respects that one.

When I was finished in the clubhouse I walked down to the dugout and watched as the grounds crew set up for batting practice.  Who followed me to the dugout?  Clayton Kershaw.  He was dying to talk football.

So Clayton and I sat alone in the dugout and talked pigskin.  

Clayton told me about a Texas high school playoff game that he went to where his Highland Park classmate Matthew Stafford (now quarterbacking the Detroit Lions) defeated a Stephenville HS team led by Jevan Snead now at Ole Miss.  In the loss Snead impressed Clayton, that’s why he likes Ole Miss this year in the SEC.

He told me that he likes either USC or Ole Miss to win the BCS Title this year.    

Surprisingly the Dallas-native is not a big Texas fan.  Clayton told me that he will go to a college game every Saturday during the fall once the baseball season is over.  He and his buddies make trips to Texas, but also head out to Texas A&M, Baylor and TCU.

Clayton really knew his stuff.  He was dialed in and wanted to know my thoughts on the upcoming season.   We had a blast.

Eventually I left to head up to the pressbox.  I was convinced that Clayton would struggle and I’d get blamed for talking with him before the game.  I’d be accused of interrupting his pregame routine if he ran his pitch count up early and started walking guys.  I’d be the one to blame.

But no worries. Clayton pitched a fantastic game.  The Dodgers won in extra innings.  And I got a chance to talk with a 21-year old who’s got his head screwed on straight.
 
– Eric Collins  

A visit to the IE

With the Dodgers in Phoenix for the weekend I figured I’d check out the Inland Empire 66’ers.  Catch some Class A California League baseball.  Why not? 
 
Friday night I made the trip to Arrowhead Credit Union Park for the 66ers and the High Desert Mavericks.  I’d never been to the ballpark and figured there were a couple of Dodger prospects that I was curious about.
 
The guys I was interested in didn’t disappoint.  I’m no scout, but Trayvon Robinson looks like he’s got a chance to be pretty good.  He hit a home run, his 15th of the year to straight-away center field.  Very impressive.  Robinson is still just 21 years old.  He’s a switch-hitter who is also leading the Cal League in steals with 43.  The batting average is a hard .306.
 
The 66ers went back-to-back with their homers in the fourth inning.   Scott Van Slyke following Robinson with his 20th home run.  Van Slyke certainly looks the part of a prospect.  They list him at 6’5 220 lbs.  To me, in his uniform he looks more like Dave Winfield than his dad, Andy.  Van Slyke stole his 9th base during the ballgame as well.
 
A lot of times the numbers that players put up in the Cal League are a little screwy.  Most people will tell you its a “hitter’s league” … and you don’t really know if you can trust the stats.  (Koby Clemens, Roger’s son, is leading the Cal League in On Base Percentage + Slugging Percentage while playing for Astro-affiliate Lancaster.)  But both Robinson and Slyke are having fantastic seasons.  Dodger fans can always hope.
 
I was pleasantly surprised to find that there are Dodger Dogs at Arrowhead Credit Union Park.  The hot dogs are just as long and just as good as at Dodger Stadium, but for some reason the buns aren’t quite the same.  I had planned to eat a couple (don’t tell my cardiologist) but the bun just didn’t do it for me.  It is a mystery.
 
I was excited to see that Charlie Hough is still kicking around in the Dodger organization.  The old knuckleballer is the Inland Empire pitching coach.  A quick check of Hough’s lifetime record shows that he was 216-216 in his big league career.  He’s got the most wins of any MLB pitcher that was officially mediocre.  If you ask me, despite a .500 lifetime winning percentage, Hough was anything but average.  When you can pitch until you’re 46 by floating up that knuckler … you’re not allowed to be called average.
 
All in all I had a good time at the ballpark.  The price was right and the 66ers even won the game in extra innings.  Now, if we can just do something about that Dodger Dog bun …
 
– Eric Collins

By George, It Wasn’t An Easy Road

Hall of Fame baseball writer Jerome Holtzman wrote a book called “No Cheering in the Press Box.”  I understand the sentiment … but sometimes something special comes along where you have to fudge the rules just a little bit.  For me, the exception to the rule is the Dodgers newest arm out of the bullpen, George Sherrill.

Sherrill is a talented big league reliever.  An All-Star with the Orioles just last summer.   A guy with 31 saves last season.

But it wasn’t always that way.

It was 8 summers ago, back in 2001 when I first heard of George Sherrill.  I was broadcasting games for the Schaumburg Flyers of the Northern League and Sherrill was playing his first season in the Northern League with the Sioux Falls Canaries.

Sherrill was 24 years old, undrafted out of Austin Peay University, and had already kicked around for a couple of seasons in the Frontier League (an independent league with an age-limit) and the Northeast League (another independent league).  Getting a chance to play in Sioux Falls was actually a big-time step up on the minor league baseball ladder,

Just to be clear.  Any form of independent baseball is a tough racket.  Indy ball is the very first step in the world of pro ball … or the very last step on the way out.  Indy ball is made up almost exclusively of guys (and occasionally a woman, Ila Borders) who have gone undrafted out of college or guys who have been released by teams in affiliated ball.   The goal?  To get out of independent ball and hook up with a minor league team that is affiliated with a big league organization.

Sherrill was pitching out of the bullpen for Sioux Falls.  He was the match-up lefty who came in in late-game situations and faced a tough left-handed batter or two.  It was hardly glamorous work.  When the announcers around the NL gave each other scouting reports for new guys in the league … Sherrill was a J.A.G. … or Just Another Guy.

Boy, were we ever wrong.  During the course of that summer of 2001 I never saw Sherrill give up a run.  I checked my old scorebook …. no runs allowed in 5 games against the Flyers.  (A 37-year old Matt Nokes making a comeback with the Flyers had no chance against Sherrill.)

You’ve got to love baseball to play in the Northern League.  In 2001 meal money was $15 a day and usually two of your three daily meals were PB&J at the ballpark.  Often times an 1-for-24 week at the plate and you’re released.  Blow two saves in a row and you’re demoted to mop-up relief.  Have another bad outing and you’re gone.  In the Northern League the lighting is poor, the bats are second-rate and you have to buy your own cleats.

But Sherrill played on.  And on and on.  In fact Sherrill eventually played 5 years of independent unaffiliated baseball before the Seattle Mariners offered him a contract in 2003 to join their Double-A in San Antonio.  He would make it to the Mariners in 2004 and earned a big league spot for good in 2005.

When George and I caught up in the air-conditioned Turner Field visiting team clubhouse I asked him why he spent nearly a half-dozen years Indy ball in Sioux Falls, Evansville, Quebec City, Lincoln and Winnipeg.  I asked him if he felt angry that he hadn’t been noticed earlier.  He said, “Nope, it just took me a while to figure out how to pitch.”.

With apologies to Jerome Holtzman … that’s the type of guy that I cheer for.

– Eric Collins
 

Clearing out the notebook

It’s amazing some of the things that you hear and find out at the ballpark.  Earlier today I was flipping through my notebook and realized that most of the information that I discover getting ready for a game goes unused.  Conversations in the clubhouse, chats in the dugout during BP, factoids gleaned from reading whatever I can find … all of that stuff frequently gets lost in the ether. 
 
Well, not today.  Today is the day that I clear out the notebook.
 
Russell Martin’s fingernails are painted white.  Hong-Chih Kuo had a hard time seeing the signs on Monday, so Russell painted his nails white.  It’s not nail polish … he found some White-Out in the clubhouse and is using that.
 
My buddy Ethan Cooperson of Stats.Inc came up with this beauty.  Matt Kemp is third all-time in Batting Average – Balls in Play (minimum 1000 balls in play)… trailing only Ryan Howard and Babe Ruth.   I know, its a quirky stat category .. but its still pretty cool to be just percentage points behind Babe Ruth in anything.   BABIP is simply batting average with strikeouts taken out of the equation.  Fundamentally it’s a gauge as to how hard a batter is hitting the ball.  Entering Tuesday’s game, Ryan Howard was .414, Babe Ruth .406 and Matt Kemp .405.  You can spin numbers a lot of ways, but this is still kind of neat.
 
Of the 50 active players in the Dodgers/Cardinals series this week, only two have homered in their first career big league at-bat.  Stunningly both are pitchers.  Adam Wainwright in 2006 off of SF LHP Noah Lowery and Guillermo Mota in 1999 while playing with the Expos.  When I asked Guillermo about it he remembered it vividly, telling me that Orlando Cabrera was intentionally walked to get to him.  Red Sox LHP Mark Guthrie threw him a fastball, a curve and then another fastball that he pounded for the homer.  I checked his memory on Baseball-reference.com http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/MON/MON199906090.shtml, and he’s right on.
 
St. Louis pitcher Adam Wainwright grew up with and played middle school basketball with former Laker Kwame Brown.  They both went to Glynn Academy in Brunswick, GA. 
 
IF Mark Loretta came on to pitch for the second time in his career Tuesday in St. Louis.  Loretta has not given up a run in 1.2 innings of work in career.  When I asked him, he knew that he struck out Ruben Rivera and Chris Nichting back in 2001.  I guess some things you don’t ever forget.
 
Loretta’s number at Northwestern University is not retired.  But Joe Girardi’s is.
 
Speaking of retired numbers.  The Cardinals have a bunch of numbers retired.  Stan Musial, Enos Slaughter, Red Schoendienst, Bob Gibson, Dizzy Dean, Ozzie Smith, Bruce Sutter, Ken Boyer, Lou Brock and Rogers Hornsby but for some reason Joe “Ducky” Medwick hasn’t been honored.  Medwick is the last National Leaguer to have a Triple Crown season.  He’s a Hall of Famer and a Cardinal World Series Champion.  I’m sure there is a reason for the omission, but I haven’t uncovered it yet.
 
James Loney tells me that he can still throw a 90-mph fastball.  James was a big-time prospect as a left-handed pitcher coming out of high school.  He thinks he still has it.
 
Joe Torre had a monster 1971 season here in St. Louis, winning the NL MVP with a .363 batting average, 230 hits and 137 RBI.  Albert Pujols is a phenomenal player, but Joe’s BA and hit total are higher that anything Pujols has ever put up … and the 137 RBI are tied with Pujols’ best.
 
The notebook is now clear. 
 
– Eric Collins

Dear Manny…

Are you that good? Is it really that easy?

After the Granny on Manny Bobblehead Night the word on everybody’s lips was, “UNBELIEVABLE!”

I respectfully disagree. In fact, I think it’s the exact opposite. Very believable!

Any time you grab a bat, Dodgers fans believe that something great is gonna happen. And when you step into the batter’s box, the energy in the stadium increases ten-fold with belief. And when you swing that bat…. We do believe.

The standard that you’ve set for yourself really is unattainable on a daily basis.

I’ve actually sensed a feeling of disappointment when you rifled a ball up the middle for a measly base hit. A walk actually brings out hatred for the other team for their fear of pitching to you. And if, God forbid, you pop up, or ground out, or swing and miss… you’re in a slump.

So when you’re too hurt to start, miss batting practice completely, take three minutes to find a bat and helmet to use to pinch hit with, and then hit the first pitch you see for your 21st grand slam of your career — into the Mannywood section — on Manny bobblehead night… Come on!

What else did you think we we expecting?

As I was high-fiving fans I’ve never laid eyes on before and as I watch Russell Martin laughing hysterically while running around the bases, I noticed Juan Pierre, the next hitter. He had no intention of getting into the box to hit. He was waiting for the crowd to go even crazier — until you would come back out of the dugout for a curtain call. To wave your helmet and take a bow.

For all the believers.

Citi Field review

I should begin this post by mentioning that I never went to architectural school and I don’t know the difference between a column, a pillar, a colonnade, or a buttress.  Frank Lloyd Wright, I am not.

But, that being said … I’m enjoying my first look at Citi Field.   The Mets new ballpark cost a bunch; $800 million is the figure that they mention.  That’s a lot of girders and beams.  But in between there are some really cool touches.

I made it to the ballpark early today so I could walk around the park.  And there’s a lot to see.
The Mets have always tried to keep in touch with the New York baseball teams that have moved away.  The Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants (their Blue and Orange color scheme is a nod to Dodger Blue and the burnt orange worn by the Giants).  The Mets are keeping up with the tradition at Citi Field.

The exterior of Citi is supposed to be similar to Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field.  Our TV Producer Brad Zager dug up a picture of Ebbets for the broadcast Wednesday and they really did match things up pretty well.   Lots of brick, limestone and granite … with huge arched windows all the way around the outside.  A big difference between the two parks though is the location.  Ebbets was formed by the city streets that surrounded it in a crowded Brooklyn neighborhood.  Citi Field is surrounded by a parking lot, with the Arthur Ashe Tennis Center a couple of forehands away.

When you first walk into Citi Field there is an entry-way behind home-plate that is called the Jackie Robinson Rotunda.   The area is a shrine to Jackie with photos, quotes, and his career timeline.   The rotunda is supposed to be similar to the rotunda at Ebbets.   (I’ve never used the word ‘rotunda’ before). There are dangling lights just like at Ebbets and an escalator to get people to the main level of the ballpark.  It’s a different type of entrance to a ballpark.

Unusual … but good.

The grandstand seats are dark green similar to the color of the seats at the old Polo Grounds where the Giants used to play.  The left field wall is 16 feet high in certain areas and is painted black with an orange trim … like the outfield wall at the Polo Grounds.

There are massive bridges and archways that are painted black that add to the character of the ball park.

Talking with a couple of people here at the park, the only real beef I heard was that there is very little that links the park to the Mets and their time at Shea Stadium.  But for me?  Who cares?  This place is a looker.  And, where else can you watch a ballgame and get a knish as well?

I guess my only real complaint is that after spending $800 million they should’ve ponied up an extra $50 bucks and created a map to hand out to visitors. Over the last three days I explored a large part of the ballpark unintentionally in my quest to find my way back to the press box.

Besides that … I’m a fan.

Gotta go.  I just saw Dodger Head Trainer Stan Conte throwing a football around with injured first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz.  What’s that all about?

Thinking Out Loud

Randy Wolf has a chance to pitch forever.   He’s still going strong as a reliever, but if he ever chooses to (or has to) go to the bullpen, he’ll be a lights-out LOOGY.  His numbers against left-handed hitters are almost unbelievable.   Heading into Monday’s game against the Rockies lefties were just 7-70 against him (.100 BAA).  Of those 70 AB’s … 34 ended in a strikeout.  That’s outstanding.  In his career he’s averaging over 10K’s per 9 IP against lefties so this isn’t a new thing.

I used to think that batting average was the most hollow of all statistics.  I’ve changed my mind.  It’s RBI.  Runs Batted In is a product of opportunity.  For RBI to have relevance, it should be computed as a percentage.  What percentage of runners on base does a batter drive in?  Then you can compare players who hit in stacked lineups versus players who don’t.  Players who frequently come to the plate with runners on the base-paths … versus guys with fewer opportunities.  There’s an old baseball adage, “Don’t tell me what you hit … tell me when you hit.”  This takes that adage and gives it a modern spin.

The best baseball mascot I’ve ever seen?  It no longer exists except in my mind … but back in the late 90’s in the independent Western League the Sonoma County Crushers struck gold.  The Crushers got their name because of the many wineries in the area (crushing grapes).  Well, the mascot also came from local lore as well.  It was a yeti.  A massive, hairy beast that went by the name of The Abominable Sonoman.  The name was a ringing double, but the costume was a home run.  This hairy-thing had a spot-on costume complete with purple feet stained from crushing grapes.  Perfection.
 
I love the straight steal.  In late-game, looking-for-one-run situations, why give up an out with a sacrifice bunt, if you have an average to above-average runner on first base?  Pressure the pitcher and catcher.  Make them throw you out on a straight steal.  It takes either a smartly-called pitchout, or a close-to-perfect pitch, throw, and tag to get the base runner.  In my opinion, the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages. 
 
Tampa Bay has figured this out.  Joe Maddon is playing chess when everyone else is playing checkers.
 
I’m a trivia guy.  Baseball players generally are not.  But there are exceptions.  The player with the most interest in baseball trivia that I’ve met?  Albert Belle.  No doubt about it.
 
Looking back at the last thirty years, I think I could make a case that Rickey Henderson influenced the games that he played in more than anyone else.  I’m not sure that Rickey H. is respected enough for the career that he had.  If you get a chance, take a look at his numbers.
 
While looking at numbers, take a look at the only “perfect” player in MLB history.

– Eric Collins

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