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.

What in the heck is Derek Jeter doing with the Marlins?

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Last night we linked the Miami Herald story about the Marlins firing special assistants Jeff Conine, Andre Dawson, Tony Perez and Jack McKeon. Let’s talk about that a little bit.

The firings themselves are eyebrow-raising inasmuch as “special assistants” like that are rarely key front office personnel. Former players, Hall of Famers and former managers like those guys are really ambassadors for the team and, particularly in the case of Jeff Conine, who is known as “Mr. Marlin,” why would new ownership want to kick its ambassadors to the curb? It’s not like you can just hire a bunch of new franchise legends for he role. Who ya gonna call? Dan Uggla?

Sure, I can see an argument for changing their responsibilities. If they actually had say in baseball operations, I can see new ownership wanting to relieve them of those duties. It’s also possible that Jeff Loria paid them too much money for guys who are only team ambassadors. So, sure, if the job is too cushy by the standards of the gig, I could see Jeter cutting their pay or their duties to make it conform to what other clubs do with their former stars. Maybe that makes them want to quit. If so, that’s OK I suppose.

Beyond that, however, it’s hard to see why you would NOT want guys like Conine, Dawson, Perez and McKeon to represent your club in the community and in the service of impressing prospective season ticket holders. The franchise’s first star player, a Hall of Famer who ended his career with the club, another Hall of Famer who is from Cuba (which is kind of a big deal in a place like Miami) and the manager who brought the club its last World Series championship are exactly who you want to represent your team. Especially when nearly everything else about your team has, for so very long, alienated the very public you want supporting it.

But let’s say, for the moment, that there was a good reason to fire those guys. Let’s say they’re all flaming jackwagons who have secretly poisoned the franchise from within. Let’s say that, despite his grandfatherly charm, Jack McKeon is a ruthless Machiavellian. Let’s say that Conine, Dawson and Perez beat up copy boys in the stairwells and microwave leftover fish in the break room every day. Even if that’s the case, how does this happen?

And here’s the twist: Jeter asked Marlins president David Samson to fire those four Marlins luminaries for him, because Jeter didn’t want to do it.

Even more strange, Jeter made the request after telling Samson what he already knew: that Samson would not be returning as team president.

It seems that Samson did carry out the firings. Unless some handsome severance package was being held hostage over it, I’m not sure how Samson doesn’t tell Jeter, “Hey Captain RE2PECT, know what? Up yours, you do it yourself.” Of course, one can only project one’s own sensibility on a guy like David Samson so much, so let’s cut him a bit of slack here. We don’t know how the conversation went. Maybe Samson was happy to tell those guys to hit the bricks.

But really, how doesn’t Jeter man-up and handle this himself? It’s not because he’s not yet officially the owner, because if he has the power to fire Samson, he has the power to fire Conine and his friends. Maybe there is more to this than the Herald story lets on, but as it stands now, it comes off as cowardice on Jeter’s part. It’s a really bad look.

I’ll be curious to see how this plays in the baseball establishment over the next couple of days. Everyone — particularly the press — loves Derek Jeter an credits him with a class, smoothness and media savvy matched by few others. This, though, was either (a) a failure of class and an act of disrespect to baseball luminaries; or (b) a complete bungling of public relations, serving to make what was, in reality, a reasonable move appear classless. It has to be one or the other.

Derek Jeter has been a teflon star for more than two decades, but two of the few things the media loves more than Derek Jeter are (a) old Baseball Men like McKeon, Dawson, Perez and Conine; and (b) “classiness.” It’ll be interesting to see if, for the first time in his professional life, the media gets its knives out for Derek Jeter for seeming content to dispense with both.

Dodgers top Giants, clinch fifth straight NL West title

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The Dodgers are NL West champions for the fifth time in a row. They clinched with a 4-2 win over the Giants on Friday night, taking their first and only lead on a mammoth record-breaking home run from Cody Bellinger in the third inning.

Rich Hill turned in another quality start, going six innings with five hits, a run and nine strikeouts to keep the Giants at bay. He tacked on an RBI hit of his own, too, lashing a double to left field for his first extra-base hit since 2007.

The Giants, meanwhile, deployed Jeff Samardzija and his 4.42 ERA for 4 1/3 innings. Samardzija was on the hook for the Dodgers’ four-run spread in the third and took his 15th loss of the season. Pablo Sandoval came through with a solo home run in the ninth, but the rest of San Francisco’s offense wasn’t so lucky against Kenley Jansen, who struck out the side to clinch the game — and the division.

After Friday’s showstopper, the Dodgers are just two wins away from their first 100-win season since 1974. If they win the remaining eight games of the season, they’ll beat out the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers for the most wins in franchise history.