The biggest question mark facing the Twins coming into the season was whether Justin Morneau would be in the lineup after missing the final three months of last season following a concussion.
Morneau got a late start in spring training, got a few days off early in the schedule, and has spent more time at designated hitter than ever before, but he’s been free of post-concussion symptoms while starting 34 of the Twins’ first 40 games.
Unfortunately, he hasn’t hit.
Morneau, who was batting .345 with a 1.055 OPS at the time of the concussion last July, has hit just .223 with one homer and a .617 OPS this season. In addition to non-existent power and a batting average 60 points below his career norms Morneau is also striking out more than usual and walking less than ever before.
This could be just an optimistic Twins fan talking, but Morneau has seemed fairly unlucky in terms of hard-hit balls hauled in by outfielders in the gaps, and his .264 batting average on balls in play is 30 points below his career mark. However, he’s also hitting fewer line drives and fewer deep fly balls, and Parker Hageman of Over The Baggy broke down Morneau’s swing mechanics and found that they’ve changed for the worse, which along with timing issues following nine months on the sidelines has led to his lack of production.
Morneau’s health was the elephant in the room all offseason, yet so far he’s been healthy, nearly everyone else on the roster has been injured, and the Twins have the worst record in baseball. It’s been that kind of season in Minnesota.
The New York Times has a blistering report on the New Yankee Stadium Community Benefits Fund. The Fund is the charity the Yankees created in 2006 as a means of making up for the negative impact the construction New Yankee Stadium had on the surrounding community, primarily via its taking over 25 acres of parkland.
The idea of the Fund was a good one: to distribute $40 million in cash grants and sports equipment, and 600,000 free baseball tickets to community organizations in the Bronx over four decades. And it has been distributing funds and tickets. As the Times reports, however, the manner in which it has done so raises some red flags. Such as:
- Charitable donations have, in an amazing coincidence, often gone to other charities which share common board members with the New Yankee Stadium Fund;
- Funds have gone to many wealthy groups in affluent parts of the Bronx far away from the Stadium while the area around the stadium remains one of the most impoverished in the nation. For example, a private school in a wealthy part of the borough and a rec center in a gated community have gotten a lot money that, one would think anyway, could be and should be devoted to organizations closer to the ballpark that are in greater need; and
- There has been almost no transparency or oversight of the Fund. Reports which were supposed to have been submitted have not been. And no one, apart from the Times anyway, seems to care. The Yankees certainly don’t seem to. Indeed, as the article notes, the team has worked hard to keep the Fund’s operations out of its hands. They just got their new ballpark and write the checks and hand out the tickets. Everything else is someone else’s problem.
Cronyism in private philanthropy is not uncommon. As is a lack of oversight. Often it’s the best connected people who receive the benefit of such funds, not the people most in need. This is especially true in charities whose creation was not born of a philanthropic impulse as much as it was born of a need to put a good face on some not-so-good business dealings.
If the Times’ report is correct — and the lack of anyone coming forward to dispute it on the record despite the Times’ requests that they do suggests it is — it appears as if the New Yankee Stadium Community Benefits Fund is one of those sorts of charities.
We’re not talking the 100 meters here. We’re talking practical baseball sprinting. That’s defined by the StatCast folks at MLB as “feet per second in a player’s fastest one-second window,” while sprinting for the purposes of, you know, winning a baseball game.
StatCast ranked all players who have at least 10 “max effort” runs this year. I won’t give away who is at the top of this list, but given that baseball’s speedsters tend to get a lot of press you will not be at all surprised. As for the bottom of the list, well, the Angels don’t pay Albert Pujols to run even when he’s not suffering from late career chronic foot problems, so they’ll probably let that one go. I will say, however, that I am amused that the third slowest dude in baseball is named “Jett,” however.
Lately people have noticed some odd things about home run distances on StatCast, suggesting that maybe their metrics are wacko. And, of course, their means of gauging this stuff is proprietary and opaque, so we have no way of knowing if their numbers are off the reservation or not. As such, take all of the StatCast stuff you see with a grain of salt.
That said, even if the feet-per-second stuff is wrong here, knowing that Smith is faster than Jones by a factor of X is still interesting.