Jim Joyce, two other umpires named new crew chiefs

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Everyone makes mistakes, even umpires. The key is (a) how often you make them; and (b) how you handle it when you do. There’s no better example of that than Jim Joyce. He may have had one of the more memorable screwups in umpiring history, but he handled it well and, more importantly, doesn’t make such mistakes often. Indeed, in poll after poll of major leaguers, Joyce is named the best or at least one of the best umps in the business.

That’s being rewarded today. From MLB:

Major League Baseball announced today the changes to the Major League Umpiring staff for the 2013 regular season. The changes include three new crew chiefs and three new full-time Major League Umpires. The three new crew chiefs are veteran Major League Umpires Jim Joyce (25 years), Ted Barrett (16 years) and Fieldin Culbreth (16 years).

Out are umpires Derryl Cousins, Ed Rapuano and Tim Tschida, who are retiring and/or are moving into supervisory roles. Promoted to full-time umpiring: Vic Carapazza, Manny Gonzalez and Alan Porter, who are 33, 33 and 35 years-old, respectively, and who worked their way up from the minors, like all of ’em do.

Congrats, farewell, and congrats, you guys. For better or worse, we’re all watching.

The Indians are unveiling a Frank Robinson statue on Sunday

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The Cleveland Indians will unveil a Frank Robinson statue at Progressive Field on Saturday.

Robinson’s tenure in Cleveland was not long, but it was historic. On April 8, 1975, he became the first African-American manager in Major League history. He was a player-manager. One of the last ones, in fact. He spent two years in that role and then a third year — a partial year anyway — as a manager only. Robinson would go on to manage the Giants, Orioles and the Expos/Nationals, compiling a career record of 1065-1176 in 16 seasons. He is now a top MLB executive.

Robinson was, of course, a Hall of Fame player as well, lodging 21 seasons for the Reds, Orioles, Dodgers, Angels and Indians. He won two MVP awards and hit for the Triple Crown in 1966. Overall he hit 586 home runs – 10th all time – and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. For an inner-circle Hall of Famer with that kind of resume he is still, strangely enough, underrated. I guess that happens when your contemporaries are Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle.

Anyway, congrats to Frank Robinson for yet another well-deserved honor in a career full of them.

Hey kids: don’t swing a weighted bat in the on deck circle

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Here’s an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal. It’s about some studies of hitters who use weighted bats or doughnuts on their bats in the on deck circle. Turns out that, contrary to conventional wisdom, using a weighted bat for practice hacks does not speed up one’s swing when one uses a naked bat in the batter’s box. In fact, it slows it down.

There are lots of caveats here. The sample size in the studies are small and they all involve college and high school players, not big leaguers. The results, however, are consistent with previous studies and they do make some intuitive sense. This is particularly the case with batting doughnuts, which add weight to a very concentrated portion of the bat, thereby changing the center of gravity and thus the swing mechanics of the hitter.

Whether this is applicable at large or to higher level hitters or not, I still find it kind of neat. I always like it when people scrutinize ingrained habits and ask whether or not that thing we’ve always done is, in fact, worth doing.