Willie Mays turns 80

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Today is Willie Mays’ 80th birthday.  The occasion has brought forth a ton of remembrances of the man’s career, and with a guy like Mays they’re all worth reading.  I was particularly fond of this one in the San Jose Mercury News.  Comcast Sports Bay Area has been running a series of stories on Mays’ life and career as well, including this one on the catch he made in the 1954 Series.  Comcast will also be running a one-hour documentary on the Say Hey Kid on Sunday afternoon at 4:30 Pacific time, following the Giants-Rockies game.

I never got a chance to see Mays play, but the one thing that strikes me about him — apart from his obvious greatness — is that he had a game unlike that of most players in the 50s, what with the combination of speed, power and defense.  I often wonder which players from previous eras could compete if they were put in a time machine and plopped into 2011.  I’m sure most of the superstars would still be pretty darn good, but Mays is the one who I bet would lose the least of any of them.

Must-Click Link: “Skunk in the Outfield”

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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.

Rubby De La Rosa to undergo a second Tommy John Surgery

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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.