Yesterday the Rays lost their sixth straight game to begin the season and afterward Johnny Damon led “a brief players-only meeting,” according to Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times.
Topkin reports that “Damon didn’t talk for long, and he wasn’t the only one, as Felipe Lopez also spoke up, in stressing to the others to stay positive.”
If a team goes on a big winning streak following a players-only meeting it tends to become a big story, as people assume it turned things around, but short of that they’re mostly forgotten within a few days. That’ll probably happen here as well, but I do find it interesting that the two guys leading the meeting, Damon and Lopez, are new to the team this season. In fact, Lopez wasn’t even on the Opening Day roster.
They’re both veterans, but I’m guessing the whole concept loses a little something when the rah-rah speeches are coming from two guys everyone else on the team met six weeks ago. Neither player has actually won a game as a member of the Rays yet and Damon is hitting .053 through six games.
Sam Miller of ESPN has an amazingly fantastic story today. It’s about a high school tournament baseball game in Rhode Island in 2006. It’s not your typical game story or oral history or look-to-the-past-to-see-the-future kind of thing. The only nod to such conventionality is mention of the fact that former Red Sox prospect Ryan Westmoreland played in the game. That’s mostly a footnote.
No, the article is about a trick play — “skunk in the outfield” — concocted by one of the coaches. About how it played out and what went into it before, during and after it happened. Along the way Miller talks about the nature of trick plays and offers a good three dozen amazing insights into the psychology of young baseball players and the strategy of baseball as it unfolds in real time.
Each of these observations could anchor its own story but here they form a grand mosaic. And that’s only mild hyperbole, if in fact it’s hyperbole at all. Indeed, most treatments of such a play would be some video clip with a “wow, look what happened here!” sort of couching. Miller gives a more than ten-year-old trick play an epic treatment that is every bit as enlightening as it is entertaining.
Set some time aside to read this today.
This is unfortunate: Diamondbacks reliever Rubby De La Rosa will undergo Tommy John surgery. This will be the second Tommy John procedure of his career, the first coming back in 2011.
De La Rosa has had elbow issues for his entire career. Last year his UCL was barking again and he underwent stem cell therapy to try to avoid a second surgery, but it obviously hasn’t worked out. He’s pitched in only nine games this year, allowing four earned runs in seven and two-thirds innings, striking out 12.
I first saw De La Rosa in spring training in 2011. I thought his stuff was pretty phenomenal and figured he’d be a good one. Great stuff is often a function of heavy strain on an elbow, however, and pitchers breaking is, unfortunately, the rule in baseball far more than the exception.
He’ll miss a year at least. We likely won’t see him until spring of 2019, most likely on a minor league deal.