rasmus little league

Colby Rasmus seeking answers from home, won’t find them

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If you’ve played, or coached, or simply been around little league baseball, you’ve probably encountered the creature known in American society as the “baseball dad.” An overbearing parent, living vicariously through his child’s accomplishments, strutting around amateur baseball complexes with a bag of balls, a taped-and-ready fungo bat, oversized Oakleys, and a misguided sense of accomplishment.

Most “baseball dads” fizzle out. The kid gets tired of playing year-round, rebels against sports in his early teens, and decides to spend his summers working at Hot Topic instead. Dad goes back to his second and third-favorite hobbies: building model airplanes and preparing scripts for sports radio call-in programs.

But what happens when the kid doesn’t rebel, and instead becomes one of the top high school outfield prospects in Alabama history? How does “baseball dad” celebrate that success and how does he spend his free time thereafter with the golden goose — his son — off and playing in the big city?

Tony Rasmus, the father of Cardinals center fielder Colby Rasmus, is providing us with a horrific Exhibit A.

In December, the elder Rasmus popped up on a blog called The Cardinal Nation and suggested that new Cardinals hitting coach Mark McGwire was trying to turn his son into a slap hitter, “like Skip Schumaker.” It was a jab at the organization, and McGwire specifically. Schumaker has a .381 career slugging percentage and is one of the least productive regulars in the sport. There was never a plan to mold Rasmus into Skip.

In March, the elder Rasmus appeared on this very site and made a comment about his son being underpaid. Tony Rasmus also stated that he “wouldn’t mind [Colby] playing for the Braves” and that his “preference,” as a father, would be for his son to wind up with the Yankees. Colby, mind you, hasn’t even hit arbitration.

In June, the elder Rasmus was back at it again, this time with a more straightforward approach. He wrote under a post on The Cardinal Nation: “I believe its fairly obvious that Colby needs to be somewhere else. I don’t think Colby will ever be good enough to play in St. Louis. But I knew this way back.”

Distraction after distraction. Headache after headache. But what can the Cardinals do?

He is Colby’s father, and he can’t be forced out of the equation.

According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Colby is spending this year’s All-Star break at home in Alabama, working with dad to correct his swing in attempt to break out of the worst prolonged slump of his three-year major league career. Rasmus has hit just .220 with a .297 OBP since May 1. Despite a reputation for having a well-developed eye, he’s drawn just 24 walks and fanned 49 times in that span.

Tony Rasmus has helped his son work through slumps in the past and the two may have success again, but this issue runs deeper. The Cardinals are the most successful franchise in the National League and employ two hitting coaches in McGwire and assistant Mike Aldrete. And yet, Colby is taking directives from home.

Colby has issued two trade requests since arriving in St. Louis in 2009. Were those also directives from home?

The Cardinals aren’t going to ask Tony Rasmus to pipe down on internet message boards or to stay out of his son’s baseball career. And they shouldn’t. But they can request that the 24-year-old begins taking some onus. Colby’s poor plate approach is his own fault. His current slump is his own fault. And it can all be fixed in St. Louis, with video, and hard work, and even the help of a certain Big Mac.

Accepting hints from a relative is fine. As Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch explains, slugger Albert Pujols has credited his wife, at times, with helping him find mechanical flaws in his swing. But the game’s greatest hitters don’t run to the missus or to daddy in Alabama every time there’s a challenge.

It’s up to Colby to tell his father, for once, “I’ve got this.” It’s time for Rasmus, at the age of 24, to rebel.

Eddie Perez likely to be Braves’ interim manager if Fredi Gonzalez is fired

Atlanta Braves bullpen coach Eddie Perez, left, stands with manager Fredi Gonzalez during a spring training baseball workout, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, in Kissimmee, Fla. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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There’s been a lot of rumbling that Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez will soon get the pink slip. His team is 7-20 entering Thursday’s action. Historically, front offices — particularly those of rebuilding/restructuring teams — respond to that by making coaching and/or managerial changes.

Per MLB.com’s Mark Bowman, bullpen coach Eddie Perez is likely to fill in as the Braves’ manager on an interim basis if and when Gonzalez is fired. Perez has been with the Braves as a coach since 2007. He played for the Braves in 10 out of his 11 seasons from 1995-2005. Perez wasn’t known for his bat, but was respected for the way he called games and handled the Braves’ then-elite pitching staff.

Bowman notes that Gonzalez isn’t expected to be fired over the weekend. If the team plays well, that could extend Gonzalez’s leash, so to speak.

First baseman Freddie Freeman issued a vote of confidence for his skipper, saying, “I think everything is getting magnified since we’re off to this start. I don’t know if it’s fair to put it all on [Gonzalez] because he’s not a player. We’re the 25 guys [who have to] go out there and play every day. We’re obviously not playing to our capabilities. To say that’s Fredi’s fault is unfair in my opinion.”

What’s on Tap: Previewing Thursday’s action

Chicago Cubs' Anthony Rizzo, left, and Kris Bryant celebrate a 7-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates in a baseball game in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, May 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar
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The Phillies and Cardinals got started a little early, finishing up their four-game series on Thursday afternoon. In the evening, we have 10 games on our slate, including Cubs-Nationals.

The Cubs have jumped out to a 20-6 start, looking like baseball’s best — and scariest — team. Entering Thursday’s action, the Cubs have a +93 run differential (runs scored minus runs allowed). That’s by far the best in baseball. The next best are the Nationals at +50, the Mets at +44, and the Cardinals at +41. In fact, the Cubs’ run differential is so good that they have under-performed relative to their expected won-lost record of 22-4.

This is without Kyle Schwarber. This is with Jason Heyward hitting a miserable .211/.317/.256, Jorge Soler hitting .185/.276/.292, and Addison Russell hitting .224/.356/.329. It’s with John Lackey pitching to a 4.32 ERA.

What makes the Cubs so good? They’re on-base machines. The club’s aggregate .364 on-base percentage is second best in the majors behind the Pirates. Dexter Fowler has an outstanding .470 OBP and Anthony Rizzo is at an elite .403. In fact, of their regulars with 100-plus plate appearances, Heyward is the only one with a sub-.350 OBP. The league average is .319. The Cubs steal bases, too, as they’re 17-for-24 (~71 percent) in that department.

The Cubs have baseball’s best pitching staff, which has yielded a major league-best 2.54 runs per game. Only four teams are below 3.00 runs allowed per game. Of course, reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta is the big contributor to that with a sterling 0.84 ERA, but Jon Lester has put up a 1.58 mark and Jason Hammel 1.24. Closer Hector Rondon has found himself in only four save situations but has converted each of them with an even 1.00 ERA and a 15/0 K/BB ratio in nine innings. The Cubs’ aggregate bullpen ERA of 2.66 is fifth-best in the majors.

It’s too early to use defensive statistics with any degree of certainty, but even the eye test shows the Cubs to be elite defenders at the important positions, particularly shortstop (Russell), right field (Heyward), and third base (Kris Bryant).

The Cubs’ success isn’t exactly surprising. The club rode five consecutive fifth-place finishes into some high draft picks and that talent is starting to establish itself in the majors. Whether it was fans, writers, or Vegas oddsmakers, the Cubs were preseason darlings.

Kyle Hendricks starts for the Cubs opposite the Nationals’ Joe Ross at Wrigley Field tonight at 8:05 PM EDT.

The rest of Thursday’s action…

Detroit Tigers (Michael Fulmer) @ Cleveland Indians (Trevor Bauer), 6:10 PM EDT

New York Yankees (Masahiro Tanaka) @ Baltimore Orioles (Kevin Gausman), 7:05 PM EDT

Texas Rangers (Derek Holland) @ Toronto Blue Jays (J.A. Happ), 7:07 PM EDT

Arizona Diamondbacks (Robbie Ray) @ Miami Marlins (Adam Conley), 7:10 PM EDT

Milwaukee Brewers (Chase Anderson) @ Cincinnati Reds (Alfredo Simon), 7:10 PM EDT

Boston Red Sox (Henry Owens) @ Chicago White Sox (Erik Johnson), 8:10 PM EDT

Seattle Mariners (Wade Miley) @ Houston Astros (Chris Devenski), 8:10 PM EDT

New York Mets (Jacob deGrom) @ San Diego Padres (Colin Rea), 10:10 PM EDT

Colorado Rockies (Chris Rusin) @ San Francisco Giants (Matt Cain), 10:15 PM EDT

The Phillies are seeing to it that their minor leaguers eat well

Crop of vegetables. Potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and other vegetables.
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For years we’ve talked about how odd it is that baseball teams are in the extraordinarily competitive business of developing highly-trained athletes yet, for whatever reason, it pays minor leaguers virtually nothing and all but forces them to subsist on junk food and other cheap options.

As Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, however, the Phillies are changing that. Indeed, they’re plowing serious money into nutritious food options for their minor league players:

The Phillies are teaching their minor leaguers how to play baseball, so why not teach them how to eat well, too?

“We want them to not have to worry about anything other than baseball,” assistant general manager Ned Rice said. “When they’re playing for the Phillies, they’ll have that stuff taken care of for them.”

 

That this is a news story — and it is a good and novel one — is kind of sad in some ways. How teams haven’t been on board with this approach for decades is beyond me.

Tracking baseball’s “Naturals”

The Natural
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Rob Neyer has a great column in today’s New York Times in which he tracks the real life players who, at one time or another, were dubbed “The Natural.” A la Roy Hobbs in the book and movie of the same name.

There are some that a lot of people probably remember: Jeff Francoeur and Ken Griffey, Jr. as “The Natural” come to mind easily. There are some who I don’t ever recall being called “The Natural” but were, apparently, like Terry Pendelton and Karim Garcia. There are also some whose stories were far odder and far more tragic than any version of Hobbs’ tale (oh man, a Toe Nash sighting!). Then there’s Rick Ankiel, whose path may be the closest one to Hobbs’ of them all, at least broadly speaking.

Fun stuff that, in addition to being a walk down memory lane, is also an instructive lesson about how the power of narrative works in sports.