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

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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)

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.