Aroldis Chapman is trying to assimilate

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Aroldis Chapman in reds uni.jpgJohn Fay writes about Aroldis Chapman’s efforts to learn the language and get used to life in the U.S.  A couple of interesting passages:

The Reds are in uncharted territory. Players from the Dominican and
Venezuela get assimilated before they get near the big leagues. Johnny
Cueto was in the Reds’ system for four years before he was invited to
big league camp. Four weeks after signing, Chapman was in camp and
in the spotlight.

I get the point, but I wonder if there aren’t some hidden advantages to breaking in cold with the big club.  If you’re not as familiar with the language and the culture might you be more immune to talk radio and columnist blather when things don’t go well? Might it not be easier for a Spanish speaker to navigate a largish, major league-size city than a smaller town?  The Reds’ affiliates are in Louisville, Kentucky, Zebulon, North Carolina, Lynchburg, Virginia, Dayton, Ohio and Billings, Montana. I think the odds are better that the cab driver or the woman behind the counter in Cincy speaks Spanish than their counterparts in Zebulon.

Until Chapman gets a Social Security card and a driver’s license, he
has to rely on [Tony] Fossas and others for most everything. “He’s got to
ask people what to do,” Fossas said. “All those things, you get tired
of. You get tired of depending on people. You get tired of people taking
you to the park. If you’re hungry at 9 o’clock at night and you want to
go to McDonald’s, what does he do?”

First thing he does is to call the hotline the Reds will set up for him that will keep their $30 million investment from ingesting food from McDonald’s. If that doesn’t work, hey, the menu consists of pictures of food next to numbers. I’m pretty sure even Chapman can figure that out.

The other day in the clubhouse a teammate was teaching Chapman the days
of the week.

Anyone else picturing Appolonia Corleone right before she got in the car to show Michael she can drive? (“. . .Thursday, Friday, Sunday, Saturday . . “).   Aroldis! No!

The Reds are well-equipped to help Chapman. Baker and pitching coach
Bryan Price speak Spanish. Catcher Ramon Hernandez, who lockers beside
Chapman, is from Venezuela. Bullpen coach Porky Lopez is from Puerto
Rico.

Two things to take from this article: (1) The Reds sound like they’re doing right by Aroldis Chapman; and (2) The Reds have a coach named Porky Lopez, which is pretty much the greatest thing ever.

I will now be rooting for the Reds in all non-Braves games this season.

How Yu Darvish tipped his pitches during the World Series

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You hear a lot about pitchers tipping pitches. It’s often offered up post-facto as an excuse for poor performance by the pitcher himself or his own team. It’s sort of like the “best shape of my life” thing being offered in the offseason to talk about why the player got injured or played badly the previous year. “Smitty’s stuff is still great, he was just tipping his pitches,” said a source close to the player whose stuff is not really great anymore.

Which isn’t to say that pitchers don’t tip pitches. Of course they do. Opposing teams look for it, pick up on it and take advantage of it whenever they can. It’s just that (a) the opposing team has an interest in not talking about it, lest the pitcher STOP tipping its pitches; and (b) the guy actually tipping his pitches doesn’t want to talk specifically about it lest he starts doing it again.

Which is what makes this article at Sports Illustrated so interesting. In it Tom Verducci talks to an anonymous Houston Astros player who explains how Dodgers starter Yu Darvish was tipping his pitches during the World Series, leading to him getting absolutely shellacked in Games 3 and 7. The upshot: the Astros knew when a slider or a cutter was coming, they waited for it and they teed off.

Darvish is a free agent now. I’m guessing, whoever signs him, knows exactly what they’ll gave him work on the first day of spring training.