Prior to Mets-Braves last night, Greg Maduxhad
his number 31 retired at Turner Field. And after a nice ceremony,
Maddux concluded his remarks with this gem: “Let’s beat the Mets …
like old times.” Who knew that Greg Maddux was funny? Even as a Mets
fan, that slayed me. And his matter-of-fact delivery just forces you to
nod your head begrudgingly in agreement.
Later, in an interview with WPIX’s Kevin Burkhardt,
Maddux was asked about setting hitters up. Within his answer, he noted
that he “still had to play to a hitter’s strengths in order to keep
their weaknesses.” Loved that, and not just because it sounds like
something you might hear Phil Jacksonsay. It goes in
line with the stories that Maddux purposefully threw (what appeared to
be) meatball changeups to hitters, but placed them just far enough
inside so they’d pull them foul.
Maddux will be most remembered for his whiffleball movement,
ready-to-field-the-position delivery, and masterful precision. But
here’s three more underrated things that stick out and make him unique:
- In the 90’s, just about everyone had switched to the solid color
sock, and some guys had brought back the knee-high look. But Maddux
always had his pants stop right below his calf so there were like 6-8
inches of sock before his shoe. And when stirrups went out of fashion,
he still wore those white socks that had the colored line stitched in.
The problem was, if you wore low-tops, the stitch ended before the
cleat started and solid white showed at the bottom. Fashion disaster. I
guess you can wear whatever you want when your ERA is like a 1.50.
- He despised pitching to Braves catcher Javy Lopez,
and eventually had his own personal catcher. So even though Lopez was
one of the better hitting catchers in baseball at that time, Bobby Cox would have to pencil in the likes of Charlie O’Brien and Eddie Perez every five days.
he wasn’t pitching, there was a 50-50 chance that if the television
cameras shot him on the bench, he was picking his nose. It probably
only happened a few times, but those few images are burned into my
brain. And this was before Joe Torre perfected it.
Maddux will be missed.
Finally, now that Maddux has his number retired by both the Cubs
and the Braves, here’s the list of players who have been honored by
- Nolan Ryan (Angels, Astros, Rangers)
- Rod Carew (Twins, Angels)
- Reggie Jackson (A’s, Yankees)
- Carlton Fisk (White Sox, Red Sox)
- Frank Robinson (Orioles, Reds)
- Rollie Fingers (A’s, Brewers)
- Hank Aaron (Braves, Brewers)
- Casey Stengel (Mets, Yankees)
Former first base and infield coach Nick Leyva was promoted to senior advisor of baseball operations on Saturday, per a report by Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The Pirates also fired third base coach Rick Sofield, with no named successor as of yet.
Leyva joined the Pirates’ organization in the 2011 offseason as a third base coach under manager Clint Hurdle. He shifted to his role as the first base coach and infield coach in 2014, when first base coach Rick Sofield was reassigned to third base prior to the 2015 season. According to Biertempfel, the swap was made in order to optimize the team’s baserunning strategies, all of which appeared to fall flat during the 2015 and 2016 seasons:
The results this season were awful. The Pirates ranked 13th in the National League with a minus-7.0 BsR — a FanGraphs.com metric that measures how many runs above or below league average a team gets via its baserunning.
In 2013 and 2014, the Pirates had one of the top five BsR ratings in the NL. In 2015, they were seventh with a 2.8 BsR.
This season, the Pirates made the second-most outs at third base in the league and were last in taking extra bases on singles and doubles. Their baserunners went from first to third base on hits a league-low 63 times.
Sofield, in particular, highlighted the Pirates’ poor baserunning choices in games like this one, when he sent Sean Rodriguez home too early during the last vestige of a ninth inning rally against the Phillies.
Following the announcement, Pirates’ GM Neal Huntington issued a statement elaborating on Leyva’s role within the organization:
We have great respect and appreciation for both men. We thank them for their time and effort as part of our Major League team and the Pirates organization. It was a difficult decision, but we felt it was the right time to make this change on our Major League staff. We look forward to Nick’s continued impact in his future role with the Pirates. Nick has held nearly every coaching position at the major league level and at the minor league level, including Major League manager, in his extensive career and will be a quality mentor for our minor league managers, coaches and players.
With Game 6 of the NLCS just hours away, the Dodgers will opt for a lefty-heavy lineup against right-hander Kyle Hendricks. Batting leadoff is rookie outfielder Andrew Toles, who made one appearance at the top of the lineup during the 2016 season. The Cubs, meanwhile, will bench Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.. This will be Almora’s first start of the playoffs, and while he has yet to face Kershaw in October, his right-handed bat could play well against the lefty at the bottom of the lineup.
Game time is scheduled for 8 PM EDT; lineups are below.
1. Andrew Toles (L) LF
6. Wilson Contreras (R) C
8. Albert Almora Jr. (R) RF
9. Kyle Hendricks (R) RHP