Scenes from Spring Training: Oh no, there goes Tokyo

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And now, stuff I thought about and observed before learning that Coco Crisp was arrested for DUI last night

I know I’m dwelling on this a lot, but the extent to which Hideki Matsui dominates things here at Athletics’ camp cannot be overstated. From the press box to the on-the-field warmups and even down to the litter you see on the sidewalk outside the ballpark, everything is about Godzilla here.

I don’t envy these guys on the Matsui beat.  Talk to U.S. beat writers who cover a given team and you learn that it’s not easy coming up with a new angle for a new story every day, and they’ve got 25 guys plus minor leaguers and coaches to choose from. Now apply that to the a given Japanese beat writer who has to come up with a new angle every single day for one guy.  And figure in the fact that, rather than the 3-5 beat reporters Johnny Beat Writer has to compete with, the Japanese guys have 20. And they’re doing it over 5,000 miles from home. Poor sods. But I guess it beats working in an office.

They didn’t get to swarm Matsui at his locker this morning, however. The clubhouse was closed due to the annual meeting with MLB Security. Those intrepid souls go from camp to camp this time of year warning ballplayers about the dangers of shysters, bunco artists, grifters, fast women, drug dealers, demon drink and — most of all — Twitter and Facebook. Play cards and carry on all you want, young players, but dear God, watch what you Tweet.

I wandered from the closed clubhouse door and on toward the field when I saw this fellow behind a bench on the third base concourse:

I can haz Trevor Cahill’s autograph?

Then I got on to the field and I saw this:

Can’t help it. I’m a sucker for the equipment-bag-on-freshly-cut-grass-as-the-sun-comes-up-over-the-ballpark shot.  Oh, and I’m also a sucker for anything Rickey Henderson-related:

And the actual Rickey Henderson watching Athletics’ players doing base running drills is more than a little Rickey Hederson-related. “Rickey thinks that Rickey can still run better than any of y’all,” Rickey did not say but I imagine he was thinking.

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.