Scenes from Spring Training: Red Sox Nation South Part 3

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Price hand.jpgBack up to the press box, I got my lunch on.  Much more elaborate spread than the Mets or the Twins put out. Lasagna, hot dogs, cold cuts, chicken salad, fresh fruit, cake and all kinds of other stuff. And though I didn’t hang around that long, there was a sign saying that they did a press box dinner too.  Given the amount of copy Red Sox beat writers generate I’m surprised they don’t have breakfast and a room full of cots for allnighters too.

Eventually, a game started.  Some random observations:

  • There were three fans in Rays shirts standing in front of their seats just below the press box,stretching along with the team. They were doing the same drills and everything. And it’s not like it was smartass college kids. It was a woman in her late 50s or early 60s and a guy around my age who was probably her son. Odd;
  • When I got to the press box that morning, all the windows were closed. I assumed at some point people would begin to open the windows so as to, you know, be able to enjoy the weather and listen to the sounds of the game. As the first pitch drew near, however, everyone’s window was still closed.  Given just how many seasoned pros were there I didn’t want to be the first one to open a window. Maybe there was some dumb ritual involved? Protocols beyond my understanding.  A sacred rite of window opening that, should I violate it, would cause unspeakable horrors to be visited upon me. Ah screw it. I opened my window. Then everyone else opened theirs. I tend to over think stuff like that;
  • Garciaparra threw out the first pitch, which was caught by his college and pro teammate, Jason Varitek. It went over the plate and, amazingly, Nomar didn’t rupture or strain anything.  David Laurila of Baseball Prospectus was standing near me when it all went down and he had a great idea: Nomar should have stood at short and made a throw to first base instead.  Assuming he can still make that throw I think it’s an awesome idea.  If anyone who matters in Red Sox Nation is reading this, you should totally do that at Fenway sometime this season;
  • Adrian Belte’s bat broke in the second inning, sending a shard in David Price’s direction. It hit him on the hand and forced him out of the game with an abrasion. BatGlove anyone?
  • Jacoby Ellsbury hit two home runs.  What with all the power I guess it’s safe to say that he’s taking that move to left field to heart;
  • After Ellsbury hit the first one, the PA announcer said “this home run was brought to you by Germain Toyota!”  Germain is actually a Columbus, Ohio-based car dealer, who opened up a Fort Myers branch a few years back.  Earlier in the day I heard a promo on the Ft. Myers NPR station saying that the show was “brought to you by Roetzel & Andress,” which is an Ohio law firm that happens to have a couple of south Florida offices. The main drag through Ft. Myers is called Cleveland Avenue. A half hour north of town there’s an exit off of I-75 for Toledo Blade Blvd., obviously named after the newspaper.  Call me crazy, but I think the Ohio invasion was a success.  Governor Strickland should come down to Tallahassee and accept Charlie Crist’s surrender;
  • Things you forget when it’s been a while since you’ve seen a baseball game in person:  they call it a “base knock” because I’ll be damned if doesn’t sound just like someone knocking on a solid wood door when it’s the ball is hit just right.  So simple. So satisfying.

OK, here’s the Jonny Miller story:  Miller keeps meticulous score during the game. Doesn’t miss a play. Around the fourth inning the Red Sox PR guy comes by and tells Miller that Jon Lester is available for interviews. Miller turns to me and says — doesn’t really ask, just says — “you make sure to keep score for me while I’m gone.”  Despite the fact that I rarely if ever keep score during games, I nodded and said I would.  Crap.

OK, so I start keeping score, utilizing my sloppy, inconsistent system, in smeary pen on the paper score sheet they hand out in the press room.  Miller is gone a long time. Two thirds of the Red Sox half of the third and the entire Rays half of the fourth, during which they sent ten guys to the plate. My score sheet is a complete disaster at this point and there’s no way Miller’s going to be able to follow it.  I can read it, however, so I figure that I’ll just read it back to him when he returns.

Miller comes back and says “hand me your score sheet.”  I tell him it’s hard to read. He either doesn’t hear this or doesn’t care and just repeats “hand me your score sheet.”  I give it to him and nod my head in shame. He starts writing, then stops. Then he just kind of looks at me with an expression that seems to say “kid, you got problems.” He hands it back to me and says, wearily, “just tell me who got the RBIs.”  I only knew this guy for about three hours at this point, but I felt like I was disappointing my father or something.

We parted on a great note, however.  The game was running really long, and since I had to drive up to Bradenton afterward to meet my mother-in-law for dinner, I figured I’d skip the postgame interviews and get on the road early.  As I was packing up, Miller asked me if I was leaving. I explained and he understood.

“Long game today,” he said. “Could go four hours. You’d better go see your mother-in-law.”

“Yeah, just too long for me today,” I said.

“March 8, 1973. Longest spring training game I ever been to,” Miller says. “Red Sox and White Sox in Sarasota.  Twelve innings.”

“That had to be a killer,” I said.

“No. It was great.”

And you can tell by his tone that he truly meant it.  I’ll remember that the next time I’m bitching about a long game.

Must-Click Link: Big Brother is Watching Ballplayers

Big Brother
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Over at Vice Rian Watt has a great story about how technology is changing baseball. No, it’s not about sabermetrics or statistical analysis. At least not as you all know and understand those things. It’s about how the players themselves are now becoming the data. About how wearables — little devices which monitor everything about an athlete’s behavior — and analysis of that behavior is changing clubs’ understanding of what makes baseball players excel.

Which is fine if you approach it solely from a technological standpoint and do that usual “gee, what a world we live in” stuff that such articles typically inspire. Watt, however, talks about the larger implications of turning players into data: the blurring of their professional and personal lives:

Welcome to the next frontier in baseball’s analytic revolution. Many of this revolution’s tenets will be familiar to anyone who works for a living—the ever-growing digitization and quantification of things never-before measured and tracked, for instance, or the ever-expanding workplace, the blurring distinction between the professional and the personal, and the cult of self-improvement for self-improvement’s sake. These broader trends are colliding with baseball tradition on backfields and in training facilities around the major leagues, and those collisions have raised questions about privacy, security, and what employees owe their employers.

Players already accept drug testing and rules about personal behavior. But can a club, armed with knowledge about how it affects a player’s performance, make rules about how he sleeps? What kind of shoes he wears off the field? Everything he eats?

I’m the last person to fall for slippery slope fallacies. In most instances there are lines that can be drawn when it comes to regulating the behavior of others and making new rules. But in order to draw those lines you have to ask questions about what is and what is not acceptable. You also have to acknowledge that it’s really easy for technology to get ahead of our ability to comprehend its ethical implications.

Vin Scully recites the “People will come” speech from “Field of Dreams”

James
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You all probably know my thing about “Field of Dreams.” Specifically, that I hate it. Maybe my least favorite baseball movie ever. And I have sat through “The Slugger’s Wife” at least twice. That’s really saying something. At some point I’ll watch it again and liveblog the experience to explain my position on this — I know all of you think I’m nuts for not liking it — but just accept that I don’t like it for now, OK?

But just because a movie stinks doesn’t mean every aspect of it is bad. I loved Burt Lancaster in everything he did and he did an excellent job in “Field of Dreams.” Same with James Earl Jones for the most part. I thought he did a great job playing a character which, at times, didn’t have as much to work with as he could’ve had. No, there are good elements of “Field of Dreams.” If there weren’t — if it were just a total turkey — it wouldn’t inspire the feelings I have about it. If it were an unmitigated disaster, I’d occasionally re-watch it on a so-bad-it’s-good theory.

The “People will come” speech is good. Not necessarily for its content — there’s some hokeyness to it — but because James Earl Jones does a great job delivering it. He could read the dang phone book and make it compelling

Yesterday Major League Baseball launched a partnership thingie with the Field of Dreams site in Iowa. Part of that effort involved having Vin Scully recite the “People will come” speech over some baseball footage. Watch and listen:

Personally, I’d prefer Vin to tell some kooky story about an opposing player actually being a part time flautist or what have you. He’s had many monumental moments, but Scully is Scully for the way he makes the workaday and the mundane sound poetic, not because he takes the already poetic and elevates it further.

Still, this is good. Even to a hater like me. And I’m sure a lot of you will love it.

The Yankees release former prospect Slade Heathcott

TAMPA, FL - FEBRUARY 27:  Slade Heathcott #71 of the New York Yankees poses for a portrait on February 27, 2016 at George M Steinbrenner Stadium  in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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The Yankees announced last night that they have given an unconditional release to outfielder Slade Heathcott. They needed room on the 40-man roster and he was seen as expendable. There is no indication that they’re going to try to re-sign him or anything. He’s just gone.

Heathcott was the 29th overall pick in the 2009 draft and at one time was considered the second best prospect in the Yankees’ system. Injuries and decreased production as he climbed the minor league ladder took the shine off this particular apple, however. He had a nice little cup of coffee with New York last season, but he’s hitting a mere .230/.271/.310 at Triple-A this year in his second go-around.

Heathcott can play center field and has good tools, but he’s going to have to use them working for another organization.

Pete Rose says no one ever told him not to gamble on baseball anymore

Former Cincinnati Reds player and manager Pete Rose poses while taping a segment for Miami Television News on the campus of Miami University, Monday, Sept. 21, 2015, in Oxford, Ohio. (AP Photo/Gary Landers)
Associated Press
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Pete Rose will soon be inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame and have his number retired and all of that jazz. To mark the occasion, Cincinnati Magazine interviewed the Hit King. And, for, like, the 4.256th straight time, Rose shows that he’s in complete denial about why he was banned in 1989 and why he was not reinstated last year when Rob Manfred agreed to review his case:

In this time of limbo after the ban, did you worry about your legacy? I normally don’t ever worry about anything that I’m not in control of. I wasn’t in control of anything in that situation. I went through a period when I got suspended where I didn’t even go to the ballpark. It’s not because I didn’t want to. There were so many restrictions on me, I just didn’t want to put people through that. It didn’t feel good to me.

Sure he wasn’t in control of anything. He was a tiny boat, cast out onto the waves, left to drift in a sea of uncertainty and powerlessness.

But it gets better. Rose was asked about how he changed his life after his ban:

But you still bet on baseball, albeit legally. It seems like the commissioner’s office has taken issue with that fact. Have you considered not betting on baseball anymore? That’s a good point. You remember reading about Bart Giamatti telling me to reconfigure my life? OK, no one has ever told me—including Manfred, including Selig—what does that mean? I guess my point is, just tell me what you want me to do and I’ll do it. I’m in control. Just tell me. If I want to bet on Monday Night Football, and that’s the way I enjoy my life, why is everybody so worried about that? I’m 75 years old, I have to be able to have some form of entertainment. I’m not betting out of my means. It’s not illegal. If you don’t want me to bet on baseball or anything else, just tell me.

If they told you that— I’d do it. Absolutely. But no one has ever explained “reconfigure your life.” I have taken responsibility for it. I have apologized for it. I have shown I’m sorry. But there again, no matter how many times you say you’re sorry, not everybody’s going to hear you. All I can do is imagine what they meant when they said reconfigure my life. And evidently, no one’s willing to tell me what that means.

So it was all a big misunderstanding. A man who was in his late 40s was banned for gambling on baseball and was told to straighten up yet he had no idea, for 26 years, that maybe it’d be a good idea for him to not gamble on baseball anymore in order to get back into the good graces of the folks who banned him. Damn, why did they pose such impossible riddles to him! If only he had a clue as to what sort of behavior would have improved his chances!

But really, guys: Rose is ready to stop betting on baseball. All you have to do is tell him. If he had known before now, well, we’d be having a TOTALLY different conversation, I’m sure.