July 2009

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?