Batting practice is a big waste of time

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Or so says most major leaguers. The New York Times has a great story about that:

But despite its almost sacred place in the game, there is one little secret about batting practice: many players think it is a colossal waste of time, a mind-numbing, flaw-producing, strategically empty exercise. Eric Chavez of the Yankees is a veteran of 15 years of major league batting practice, but he thinks it has helped him about as much as staring at a wall for an hour.

“B.P. is part of baseball tradition,” Chavez said. “It’s fun for the fans; you try to hit a couple of balls in the stands. But in terms of work, what are you working on? It’s a 30-mile-per-hour pitch.”

But such is the nature of baseball.  There is no sport that comes close to baseball in terms of “we do it this way because we’ve always done it this way” thinking. Why do batting practice? Because we’ve always done batting practice. Never mind that it’s kind of useless.

If some manager decided to scrap batting practice and did anything other than win the World Series, he’d be crucified. Doesn’t matter what the reason for the losing was, the “he got rid of batting practice!” argument would carry the day. Just ask any manager who tried to do closer by committee or anything else unorthodox about it. You play the non-conformist in baseball at your peril.

If the Tigers are sub-.500 at the end of June it’ll be fire sale time

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Jon Morosi reports that that the Detroit Tigers will make all veterans available via trade if they’re still under .500 by the end of June.

This was the position they entered the offseason with — everyone is available! — but they ended up gearing up for one more push with the core of veterans they currently employ. It was not a bad move, I don’t think. With the exception of the Indians, the AL Central is mostly down, or at least appeared to be over the winter, with the Royals in decline and the Twins and White Sox seemingly a few years away from contention. The Twins, however, have been fantastic and the Tigers have mostly underachieved.

So we’re back to this. Which veterans the Tigers can reasonably unload, however, is an open question. J.D. Martinez is in his walk year, so while tradable, he may not bring back a big return. Guys like Justin Upton, Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera either have very large contracts or no-trade protection.

The end of June is still a while from now, of course, and while the Tigers are under .500, they’re only 4.5 games behind the Twins. But they had better turn it around or else it sounds like the front office is going to turn the page.

Must-Click Link: Remembering Eddie Grant the first major leaguer to die in combat

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As you get ready for Memorial Day weekend and whatever it entails for you and yours, take some time to read an excellent article from Mike Bates over at The Hardball Times.

The article is about Eddie Grant. You probably never heard of him. He was a journeyman infielder — often a backup — from 1905 through 1915. If you have heard of him, it was likely not for his baseball exploits, however: it was because he was the first active baseball player to die in combat, killed in the Battle of the Argonne Forest in October 1915.

Michael tells us about more than Grant’s death, however. He provides a great overview of his life and career. And notes that Grant didn’t even have to go to war if he didn’t want to. He was 34, had the chance to coach or manage and had a law degree and the potential to make a lot of money following his baseball career. He volunteered, however, for both patriotic and personal reasons. And it cost him his life.

Must-read stuff indeed. Especially this weekend.