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.

Bud Norris exits outing with right knee soreness

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Angels’ right-handed reliever Bud Norris made his 23rd appearance of the season on Friday, and after just three pitches, he was done for the night. He worked a 2-1 count to Marlins’ Dee Gordon in the eighth inning, then promptly exited the field after experiencing some tightness in his right knee. Neither Norris nor manager Mike Scioscia believe the injury is cause for major concern, and the 32-year-old right-hander admitted that it may have had something to do with his lack of stretching before he took the mound. For now, he’s day-to-day with right knee soreness, with the hope that the issue doesn’t escalate over the next few days.

While the Angels are lucky to have avoided serious injury, they’ll need Norris to pitch at 100% if they want to stay competitive within the AL West. They currently sit a full nine games behind the league-leading Astros, and haven’t been helping their cause after taking five losses in their last eight games. Friday’s 8-5 finale marked their third consecutive loss of the week.

 

When healthy, Norris has been one of the better arms in the Angels’ bullpen. Through 23 2/3 innings, he’s pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 3.4 BB/9 and an outstanding 11.8 SO/9 in 23 outings. The righty hasn’t allowed a single run in four straight appearances, recording three saves and helping the club clinch four wins in that span. This is his second setback of the year after sustaining a partial fingernail tear on his pitching hand during spring training.

Video: Max Scherzer sets record with 13-strikeout outing

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Max Scherzer is a force to be reckoned with. The Nationals’ right-hander delivered a season-high 13 strikeouts against the Padres on Friday, locking down his fifth win and his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the year.

More remarkably, it was also the 53rd double-digit strikeout performance of Scherzer’s career, tying Clayton Kershaw for the most 10+ strikeout appearances by an active major league pitcher. Chris Sale is a distant third, with 43 to his name, though he’s been making considerable strides to catch up so far this spring.

Scherzer took the Padres to task on Friday night, whiffing 13 of 31 batters during his 108-pitch outing. He started strong, catching Allen Cordoba swinging on a 1-2 count to start the game and keeping the game scoreless until Ryan Schimpf unleashed a home run in the fourth inning. That was the first and final run the Padres managed off of Scherzer, who retired 14 consecutive batters following the blast and came one out shy of a complete game in the ninth inning. (Fittingly, Koda Glover polished off the win with a final strikeout, bringing the total to 14 on the night.)

It’ll take more than one stellar start to advance Scherzer and Kershaw on the all-time list, however. Their 53-game record ranks 13th, about 159 games behind second-place Hall of Fame hurler Randy Johnson and a full 162 games shy of the inimitable Nolan Ryan.