Rawlings baseball

Did they mess with the balls this year?

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You and I are men of action. Simplistic projections based on small sample sizes do not become us. So please, while there have been a lot of home runs hit in the season’s first five days, let’s not play the “on pace” game. Not yet anyhow.

But we can listen to the anecdotes, can’t we? Such as the one Dave O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution passed along a few minutes ago in which an unidentified bullpen catcher said that the baseballs are harder this year and that he believes “they’ve been juiced to aid attendance in bad economy.”

Hurm. On the one hand, I’m guessing that there are few places on the planet where more b.s. is tossed around than in a bullpen. Lots of time to just sit there without the bosses nearby. I’ll bet there are more conspiracy theories hatched in bullpens than anywhere besides a barber shop and a Glenn Beck/Oliver Stone fishing outing. Put differently, I wouldn’t bet my life on the claim of a bullpen catcher.

On the other hand, baseball has a long and rich history of fiddling with the ball, both officially and unofficially, so you can’t really discount the notion out of hand.

My biggest question is why?  I mean, sure, a lot of people got off on calling last season “the year of the pitcher,” but there really wasn’t a lot to it. There were some high profile pitching performances and there was a dip from historic highs, but 2010 offensive levels were still elevated, historically speaking. It would make no sense to jack the ball for the purpose of boosting offense when it doesn’t need boosting.

Likewise, the economic argument is weak. Baseball has weathered the downturn pretty well, thank you. And besides, if MLB was going to make a panicky, gimmicky move to deal with the downturn, they would have done it before the 2009 or 2010 season when people were scared that we were entering the second Great Depression. Most people have chilled since then.

Fun chatter. I’d be curious to hear more of it, actually, because for every 10 lines of b.s. you hear, an interesting truth comes out.  But unless offense just goes crazy in 2011 — or unless, you know, someone actually finds some evidence of a juiced ball — I’m going to file this under “whatever dude, call me later.”

UPDATE: Official statement of MLB’s Pat Courtney: “There has been no change whatsoever on the composition of the baseball or the process in which they are made.”

Unless a scientist tells me differently, I’m goin’ with that.

David Ortiz could be in the Red Sox TV booth this season

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 02:  David Ortiz #34 of the Boston Red Sox tips his cap to fans during the pregame ceremony to honor his retirement before his last regular season home game at Fenway Park on October 2, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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A month or so ago it was reported that David Ortiz was going to meet with the Red Sox and NESN to discuss, maybe, spending some time in the broadcast booth in 2017. He’s retired now, of course. Gotta keep busy.

Today we read that, yes, Big Papi may take the mic. Red Sox president Sam Kennedy said that Ortiz may be in the booth on a limited basis, and that Ortiz has talked about wanting to “dip a toe in that water.”

I’m quickly becoming a fan of ex-players who want to, as Kennedy puts it, “dip a toe” in broadcasting as opposed to those who want to make it a full-time job. Former players who become full-time broadcasters tend to start out OK, but eventually burn all of their good anecdotes from their playing days and just become sort of reactionary “back in my day” dudes. There are some exceptions to that of course — guys like John Smoltz and Dennis Eckersley have kept it fresh and Tim McCarver never rested on his playing laurels as he forged a long career in the booth — but for any of those guys there are just as many Rick Mannings Bill Schroeders.

The part time guys who dip in and dip out — I’m thinking Pedro Martinez, Alex Rodriguez and even Pete Rose, who did a good job this past fall after a rocky 2015 postseason — tend to be more fresh and irreverent. They really don’t give a crap on some level because it’s not their full time job, and that not giving a crap allows them to say whatever they want. It makes for good TV.

If Papi can hold off on the F-bombs, I imagine he’d be a pretty good commentator. If he can’t, well, at least he’ll be a super entertaining one for the one or two games he gets before getting fired.

Blue Jays reliever was a bike messenger a couple of offseasons ago

DUNEDIN, FL - FEBRUARY 21:  Matt Dermody #50 of the Toronto Blue Jays poses for a portait during a MLB photo day at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium on February 21, 2017 in Dunedin, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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The Toronto Sun has a story about reliever Matt Dermody of the Blue Jays. Dermody made his big league debut in 2016, pitching in five games. Before that he pitched three full seasons in the minors, never rising above A-ball, before paying in three levels of the minors last season, just before getting to the show.

It was certainly a wild ride for Dermody after his time in the bush leagues. But nowhere near as wild as some of his rides in the 2015-16 offseason, when he took a job as a bike messenger in New York:

. . . four times he was involved in accidents, the worse being when he was sent head over heels on to the street.

“I was going down 2nd Ave. and I was riding behind another bicycle in the middle of the street,” said the 6-foot-5, 190-pound lefty. “But the bike in front of me decides to break really hard and swerves and I didn’t have time to react so I hit him and I flew over him and I skid on the ground and all the contents in my bag flew out on the street, traffic stopped and everything. I’m pretty fortunate I didn’t get hurt. I landed pretty nicely and kept working.”

It’s good that he’s fine and he can laugh about it now, but the story is just as telling as it is, in hindsight, amusing.

Dermody was a 28th round pick, so he didn’t get a sizable bonus. Not having risen above A-ball, he wasn’t making much money and, in all likelihood, did not yet show up too prominently on the big club’s radar. He was both incentivized to take a job that is super dangerous and allowed to do so because no one asked or, apparently, cared. This past offseason, with his big league debut behind him and a chance to make the 25-man roster for the full year, he has stayed home and worked out, no doubt with the front office and coaching staff keeping tabs on him.

It’s a nice story, but it’s one that provides you with a pretty good look at how major league teams look at — or, in Dermody’s case, don’t really look at — their minor leaguers.