Day: March 8, 2011

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Must-click link: Stephen Strasburg, mechanics and injuries


I tend to glaze over at most stories about pitching mechanics. They seem so jargony. I really have no idea what an “inverted W” is nor do I know why they don’t just call it an “M.”

But today’s story by Tom Verducci in Sports Illustrated is a different thing. It focuses on Stephen Strasburg and his recovery from Tommy John surgery. At the beginning we learn that the Nats are going to try to have Strasburg change his approach. It’s the Crash Davis thing: strikeouts are fascist, so try to get some more ground balls. They’re more democratic.

But then it goes on to explain why Strasburg may have been more likely to need Tommy John surgery than other pitchers. It all has to do with when his arm is fully-cocked and ready to go, and even those of us who aren’t physiologists can understand what Verducci is saying. And, from the sounds of it, what the Nationals aren’t really paying any attention to.

Good article. You’ll learn stuff.

Rangers “clearly aren’t planning on Brandon Webb being ready for Opening Day”

Brandon Webb workout
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Somewhat lost in the “starter or reliever?” drama surrounding Neftali Feliz is that it sounds like Brandon Webb won’t be ready to begin the season in the Rangers’ rotation.

In fact, T.R. Sullivan of writes today that the Rangers “clearly aren’t planning on him being ready for Opening Day.”

That news comes before Webb has even faced his first live hitters of the spring, which he’s scheduled to do during a batting practice session tomorrow.

He last started a big-league game on Opening Day of 2009, missing essentially two entire seasons with shoulder problems while being paid $15 million by Arizona. Texas’ investment was $3 million upfront with a bunch of incentives and Sullivan reports that the Rangers are still hoping he can join the rotation at some point in April.

Webb isn’t ready, Scott Feldman is even further behind in his recovery from knee surgery, and Feliz appears destined to remain in the bullpen, so right now Derek Holland, Tommy Hunter, and Matt Harrison look likely to join C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis in the rotation.

The Major Leagues and Minor Leagues will stay together a while longer

Minor League baseball

Maury reports that Major League Baseball and the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues — which is what you had no idea the affiliated minor leagues were called — have reached an agreement on a new six-year Professional Baseball Agreement (PBA), extending through the 2020 season.

An agreement, you ask? Why on Earth would they need an agreement?  Don’t the Major Leagues own the minors? Don’t they have complete and total dominion over them and has it not been always thus?

Nope, though a ton of people seem to think that.  As Bill James wrote in The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, however, things used to be quite different:

The minor leagues did not start out as what they are. By a long series of actions and agreements, inducements and rewards, the minor leagues were reduced in tiny degrees from entirely independent soverignties into vassal states, existing only to serve the needs of major league baseball.

As James noted — and as people who know their baseball history know full well — the minor leagues used to be their own show. The East Nowheresville Marauders would go out and scout talent themselves. They’d sign a guy. They’d develop him and then — if they wanted to and if the price was right — they’d sell the guy to a major league team.

But really, these teams were their own businesses in ways that we never think of minor league teams being today. They may keep a guy because their job was to win and sell tickets, not to develop talent for a “major league” like the NL or AL. And the guy may want to stay in East Nowheresville because he may have been a pretty big deal there and might have a cushy job waiting for him at the local bank after his playing days ended.

And it’s not like the fans thought that what they were watching was somehow inferior. Indeed, way out west in the old Pacific Coast League, people thought of the product as basically major league level, or at least something close to it.  In fact, there were multiple overtures by the NL and AL over the years to absorb the PCL in order to expand west before the Dodgers and Giants just up and moved out there. It was a totally different time and a totally different thing.

These days the system may work more efficiently to get talent in front of people’s eyes and there is obviously no going back, but I think we’ve lost something as a result too.  I’m still explaining baseball to my kids. When I take my daughter to Columbus Clippers games, we talk generally about how the guys out there are trying to make their way to the Cleveland Indians or some other Major League team.  My daughter, however, still can’t quite process how what she’s watching isn’t the be-all end-all and why the primary goal of the club as a whole isn’t to win, even if it’s a welcome byproduct. I’m worry that — like  me — she may one day come to think of a lot of those guys as frustrated and disappointed that their dreams weren’t realized, whether or not that’s actually the case.

Oh well.  Things change.

So far so good with Joe Nathan’s comeback from Tommy John surgery

Minnesota Twins Workout Sessions
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Justin Morneau’s long-awaited return to the lineup after sitting out the past eight months with a concussion is the biggest news in Twins camp this week, but Minnesota also has another elite player coming back from an even longer absence in closer Joe Nathan.

Right around this time last year Nathan left his first spring training appearance with elbow pain and eventually underwent Tommy John surgery, missing the entire season. He’s returned to the mound with three scoreless appearances so far this spring, and more importantly his command has been good and his fastball has been clocked in the low-90s even as he builds up arm strength.

Here’s what Nathan told Kelly Thesier of after his outing Monday:

The command has really been a pleasant surprise to this point, and I can’t ask for much more than what’s gone on out there now as far as life on the ball, movement on the ball, sharpness and stuff. Just keep moving forward and keep trying to improve and build arm strength, and I’ll be ready for April 1. I’m happy, very happy with how things feel right now.

Minnesota lost four key pitchers from last season’s bullpen to free agency, but Nathan returning as something resembling his old self would go a long way toward solidifying the relief corps. In his first six seasons as Twins closer Nathan racked up 246 saves with a 1.87 ERA, both of which topped Mariano Rivera for the best marks in baseball during that time.

UPDATE: It was Evan Longoria’s car that got boosted

Reggie Jackson

UPDATE: Disregard all that wild speculation below. Turns out it was Evan Longoria’s car that was stolen, not Reggie Jackson’s. Oh well, I never was that good a detective.

3: 33 P.M.: I’m bored, so I’m going to channel my fictitious hero Daryl Zero and play detective with this story from Arizona that reader Bloodysock sent in:

A Major League baseball player was having his classic 1967 black and white Camaro RS, valued at $75,000, upgraded by a Gilbert company only have it purloined from an overflow lot in Chandler, police said.

That car and a Buick GSX , valued at $25,000, were stolen between late Saturday and early Sunday from an overflow lot at 260 E. Comstock Rd. in Chandler, said Chandler Police Det. David Ramer.

The article does not name the player, but says that he “lives in California, but was having work done on the car in Arizona. He plays in the Grapefruit League, not the Cactus League, and the car has Florida license plates.”  There’s not a ton to go on, but I’m going to make a guess: Reggie Jackson.

Yes, I know he doesn’t play anymore, but he is at least in the Grapefruit League right now doing his little spring training instructor thing with the Yankees.  And he’s a major, major classic car collector, with a specific emphasis on muscle cars. I’m not sure where he makes his home, but given his time in Oakland and Anaheim and the fact that he owns auto dealerships in California, it wouldn’t surprise me if he lives there.

In January he sold multiple cars at an auto auction in Arizona , which would give him a reason to have cars in the Phoenix area. And perhaps he throws service business to old friends from his ASU days, explaining why his car would be serviced on a lot in Chandler.  The Florida license plate is somewhat problematic, but perhaps he owns property there registers cars there for some reason.  Or maybe he bought it from someone at that auction who had it registered in Florida.

Total guessing and Googling. But I’m goin’ with Reggie Jackson based on my use of the two obs and a hunch.  A retraction shall be printed in the highly likely event that I am wrong.