Mike Schmidt to Mark Reynolds: don't be like me; I totally sucked

Leave a comment

Usually you hear old ballplayers talking about how good they were. It’s quite odd, then, to hear someone as good as Mike Schmidt talking about how flawed he was:

I hated striking out, all 2,000 times I did it. I guess my problem was
I felt the opposing pitcher saw me as a dangerous hitter, not a good
hitter. There is a difference. Most of my career I was that hitter …
“dangerous.” Make good pitches – fastballs up, sliders away – and I’d
get myself out, especially in pressure at-bats where contact was a
must. I wanted to be a “good” hitter, good in my eyes and the opposing
pitcher’s, not just a guy who whaled and occasionally hit a bomb.

I suppose Schmidt was that guy for the first couple years of his career, but if he was merely a dangerous mistake-ball hitter from 1974 to 1987, he was doing it in another dimension. The guy won three MVPs and probably deserved two or three more. He’s the best third baseman in the history of the game. He was the best hitter
in baseball between the end of WIllie Mays’ career and the beginning of Barry Bonds’. Really, if you’re defining eras by their best players, the progression arguably goes Wagner/Cobb, Ruth, Gehrig, Williams/DiMaggio, Mantle/Mays, Schmidt, Bonds, Pujols. Rare frickin’ company.

So what is Schmidt up to?  In this article, it’s criticizing Mark Reynolds, and offering him some advice:

Mark Reynolds and any other high K guy could choke up, spread out and
just center the ball, and they’d hit 50 home runs and around .300 in
today’s game . . . When hitters understand that a shorter, less violent, level swing
increases contact, when they realize that more contact means more
production, more consistency, and more wins, they’ll change . . . It took me 13 years to see the light, make those changes and become
“dangerous” and “good.” Why should they wait that long? Take it from me
and my buddies: Sometimes a single is harder to hit than a home run!

Wow. As noted above, it decidedly did not take Mike Schmidt 13 yeas to become a “good” hitter. Indeed, his eighth through twelfth seasons are clearly his statistical peak (though he remained elite for about four more years). Mike Schmidt was the seventh most strikin’-out hitter in the history of
the game. And that’s OK, because that was just part of the deal to get
those 548 home runs. If Schmidt had taken his own advice when he was at the point in his career that Reynolds is in his own — if he had shortened up his swing and sought contact — he wouldn’t have all of that hardware, may not have made the Hall of Fame, and certainly wouldn’t have rated a column in the Sporting News.

Mark Reynolds strikes out more than Schmidt ever did and he could probably stand to make an adjustment or two if he ever wants to be a truly elite player.  Having an inner-circle Hall of Famer telling him not to do as he had done, however, is probably not the best way to go about it.

(link via BTF)

Andrelton Simmons is absolutely freaking ridiculous

Associated Press
4 Comments

I’ve been watching Andrelton Simmons play shortstop since he came up with the Braves back in 2012. From the moment he burst onto the scene it was clear that he was an otherworldly defensive talent. His arm was incredible. His range was astonishing. His sense of where he was on the field and his instincts about what to do with the ball were unmatched.

I’ll admit, however, that I’ve seen him less in the past couple of seasons than I used to. It’s understandable: he no longer plays for my favorite team and he now plays most of his games after old men like me go to bed back east. The numbers have shown that he’s still the best defensive shortstop around and the highlights which get circulated are still astounding, but I’ve not appreciated him on a day-to-day level like I once did.

But that just makes me more grateful for the highlights when I miss him in action. Like this one, from last night’s game against the Astros. You can see it in high resolution here, but if you can’t click over there, here’s the play as it was tweeted around:

I didn’t see last night’s game, but my friend Dan Lewis tweeted this out a bit. His observations about it in this thread explain why what Simmons is doing here is so amazing:

The lay-outs, the bobble-saves, the jump-throws and all of that spectacular stuff are understandably appreciated, but the various skills Simmons displayed in just this one play — not to mention the freakin’ hustle he displays backing up third base after it all — is just astounding.

There hasn’t been one like him for a while. We should all appreciate him while he’s still in his prime.

The Braves are leaning toward keeping Brian Snitker as manager

Getty Images
5 Comments

Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported over the weekend that the Braves are leaning toward keeping Brian Snitker as manager. Part of that comes after team meetings between Snitker and top brass. Some of it, however, is likely attributable to player sentiment, with Bob Nightengale of USA Today reporting this morning that Freddie Freeman and several Braves players have told the Braves front office that they want Snitker back.

Is it a good idea to bring Snitker back? Eh, I’m leaning no, with the caveat that it probably doesn’t make a huge difference in the short term.

The “no” is based mostly on the fact that Snitker has had a disturbing trend of preferring veterans over young players, as Bradley explains in detail here. For a brief moment this summer the Braves seemed surprisingly competitive. Not truly competitive if anyone was being honest, but they were hovering around .500 and were arguably in the wild card race. Around that time he made a number of questionable decisions that favored marginal and/or injured veterans over some young players who will be a part of the next truly competitive Braves team, likely messing with their confidence and possibly messing with their development.

These moves were not damaging, ultimately, to the 2017 Braves on the field — they were going to be under .500 regardless — but it was the sort of short-term thinking that a manager for a rebuilding team should not be employing. Part of the blame for this, by the way, can be put on the front office, who only gave Snitker a one-year contract when they made him the permanent manager last year, creating an incentive for him to win in 2017 rather than manage the club the way a guy who knows when the team will truly be competitive should manage it. Then again, if Snitker was so great a candidate in the front office’s mind, why did they only give him a one-year contract?

I suspect a lot of it has to do with loyalty. Snitker has been an admirable Braves company man for decades, and that was certainly worthy of respect by the club. That he got the gig was likewise due in part to the players liking him — the veteran players — and they now are weighing in with their support once again. At some point, however, loyalty and respect of veterans has to take a back seat to a determination of who is the best person to bring the team from rebuilding to competitiveness, and Snitker has not made the case why he is that man.

Earlier, of course, I said it probably doesn’t matter all that much if they do, in fact, bring Snitker back. I say this because he will, in all likelihood, be given a short leash again, probably in the form of a one-year extension. It would not surprise me at all if, in the extraordinarily likely event the Braves look to be outclassed in the division by the Nationals again in 2018, they made a managerial switch midseason, as they did in 2016. If that is, indeed, the plan, it seems like the front office is almost planning on losing again in 2018 and using the future firing of Snitker as a time-buying exercise. Not that I’m cynical or anything.

Either way, I don’t think Snitker is the right guy for the job. Seems, though, that he’ll get at least an offseason and a couple of months to prove me wrong.