What in the Hell are the Pirates doing with their instructional League players?

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Craziness coming out of Pittsburgh. Dejan Kovacevic is reporting that Pirates Instructional League players are training like Navy SEALS down in Florida. Much to their chagrin and possibly to their developmental detriment.

Kovacevic reported this last Friday, but today he has more, including an email from Pirates Assistant General Manager Kyle Stark, who is the apparent architect of this regimen. The email, sent to Pirates personnel back in June, was obtained by Kovacevic and it is … strange, with talk of “swagger,” “reckless abandon,” “turning boys into men,” creating “Hells Angels” and “pushing players beyond their comfort zones, putting them in risky situations.” It ends with him saying “HOKA HEY — It’s a good day to die!!!”

Kovacevic then details the training — three days of military style drills — which includes the following schedule:

• Wake up at 5 a.m.

• Organize room/locker

• Pushups and sit-ups

• Serpentine on the grass

• Crab walk

• Running along the beach with a telephone-type pole, carried by five or six players

• Pushing a truck tire through the outfield for 90 feet, then flipping it

• Being sprayed by a hose

• Diving into a sand pile

All with a drill sergeant barking orders throughout.

Sounds a little — no, a lot intense for baseball players. Especially given that this Stark guy has no military background and, based on what Kovacevic says, isn’t otherwise a physical training expert himself.

Jeff Passan has some followup on this, and he notes that, according to his sources, Pirates prospect Jameson Taillon once suffered a knee injury doing this stuff.  It is a training program that many in the organization despise and many around baseball are mocking.

Crazy stuff. I’d expect to hear more about this as the Pirates season comes to a thudding, dispiriting end.

Aaron Judge was involved in a weird play in the fourth inning

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Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge found himself front-and-center in a weird play in the bottom of the fourth inning during Game 4 of the ALCS on Tuesday evening. Judge drew a walk to lead off the frame. After Didi Gregorius lined out, Gary Sanchez flied out to shallow right-center.

Judge must have thought the ball had a high probability of falling in for a hit, so he was past the second base bag around the time he realized his mistake. He retraced his steps, running back to first base. Reddick’s throw hopped a couple of times but first base umpire Jerry Meals called Judge out on the tag-up play.

Manager Joe Girardi requested a review and the call was overturned: Judge was safe. However, Astros manager A.J. Hinch wanted to challenge that Judge did not re-touch second base on his way back. Rather than issuing a formal challenge, the Astros had to appeal the play by having starter Lance McCullers throw to second base, at which point second base umpire Jim Reynolds would issue a ruling. McCullers was a bit hasty, though, and made his appeal throw before Greg Bird stepped into the batter’s box. Reynolds told McCullers that he had to wait. So, McCullers again made his appeal throw.

This time, Judge was running and he was simply tagged out at second base for the final out of the inning. No need for a review.

As Ken Rosenthal explained on the FS1 broadcast, the Yankees were trying to “beat the police.” They knew Judge would have been ruled out — replays clearly showed he never re-touched the base — so they had nothing to lose by sending Judge. If he was safe, the Astros would no longer be able to appeal the play. If he’s out, then it’s the same outcome they would have had anyway.