The Professional Free Agent Showcase

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Here’s an idea I had never considered: a “three-day mixer” called the Professional Free Agent
Showcase where unemployed baseball players work out for and scouts for teams
looking for talent.  The inaugural one kicks off today and lasts through Thursday at Al Lang Field in
St. Petersburg, Fla.

It’s not for Major League free agents. According to the article it’s for “the six-year, fringe-type ballplayer.”  Minor league free agents mostly, though there are a couple of guys with some big league experience like Tim Raines, Jr. and Nick Beirbrodt. It’s set up by former ballplayer Rob Ducey and former ballplayers such as Cecil Fielder and Heathcliff Slocumb are helping to run it.  It costs each free agent $500 to attend, and basically works like one of those private, Ben Sheets-style private workouts, only for 20 dudes instead of one.

Kind of sounds like a meat market. Kind of sounds depressing. Then again, that describes all manner of things any of the rest of us who have ever been unemployed have had to go through, so it’s really hard to find fault.

The Indians are unveiling a Frank Robinson statue on Sunday

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The Cleveland Indians will unveil a Frank Robinson statue at Progressive Field on Saturday.

Robinson’s tenure in Cleveland was not long, but it was historic. On April 8, 1975, he became the first African-American manager in Major League history. He was a player-manager. One of the last ones, in fact. He spent two years in that role and then a third year — a partial year anyway — as a manager only. Robinson would go on to manage the Giants, Orioles and the Expos/Nationals, compiling a career record of 1065-1176 in 16 seasons. He is now a top MLB executive.

Robinson was, of course, a Hall of Fame player as well, lodging 21 seasons for the Reds, Orioles, Dodgers, Angels and Indians. He won two MVP awards and hit for the Triple Crown in 1966. Overall he hit 586 home runs – 10th all time – and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. For an inner-circle Hall of Famer with that kind of resume he is still, strangely enough, underrated. I guess that happens when your contemporaries are Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle.

Anyway, congrats to Frank Robinson for yet another well-deserved honor in a career full of them.

Hey kids: don’t swing a weighted bat in the on deck circle

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Here’s an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal. It’s about some studies of hitters who use weighted bats or doughnuts on their bats in the on deck circle. Turns out that, contrary to conventional wisdom, using a weighted bat for practice hacks does not speed up one’s swing when one uses a naked bat in the batter’s box. In fact, it slows it down.

There are lots of caveats here. The sample size in the studies are small and they all involve college and high school players, not big leaguers. The results, however, are consistent with previous studies and they do make some intuitive sense. This is particularly the case with batting doughnuts, which add weight to a very concentrated portion of the bat, thereby changing the center of gravity and thus the swing mechanics of the hitter.

Whether this is applicable at large or to higher level hitters or not, I still find it kind of neat. I always like it when people scrutinize ingrained habits and ask whether or not that thing we’ve always done is, in fact, worth doing.