Bob Nightengale has a good article up today talking about the culture of alcohol in the clubhouse:
“I lived a lifestyle like 90% of ballplayers,” Proctor says. “You sat around and had six beers after a game, went to dinner and had another six, and then guys are calling you to a bar where you’re drinking more.
“That wasn’t right. I know it wasn’t right for me. But as far as guys talking about the game over a few beers, I really think baseball misses that.”
That excerpt pretty much groks the entire nature of the thing. An alcoholic noting that the old ways of teams abiding heavy drinking among ballplayers are all but resigned to history, noting that it’s for the best, but also noting that something has been lost as a result.
The article itself doesn’t go into it, but obviously good things are gained too. Things which far outweigh that loss of beery camaraderie. Like fitter athletes who do not drive while drunk at rates that their predecessors likely did. Indeed, Nightegale points out something I hadn’t noticed: we’ve only had one DUI incident this spring training, involving a minor leaguer. Seems like most years we have many more. Perhaps players are starting to get the message.
Something else I like about the story is how Proctor and even Mark Grace, who is currently serving time in jail for drunk driving, don’t make the change in clubhouse drinking culture out to be some stark good vs. evil thing. Rather, they acknowledge that there are tradeoffs involved, even if they are necessary. I know that there are many ways to sobriety and responsible drinking for those who have trouble with alcohol, but sometimes I wonder if casting drinking into a stark good/evil light like some people do make said sobriety and responsibility harder for some folks, especially those who aren’t equipped to handle self-criticism and self-examination that they feel may force them to deny a part of their past was a mixed bag even if they were on a bad path. I’m sure Scott Proctor has some good memories of his drinking days. It seems healthy to me that he can look back fondly on some of them even if he knows he can’t ever relive them lest he risk everything.
Sorry, I know that was a bit of a tangent. But I tend to like stories where the moral is kind of ambivalent like this. Given how complicated most things in life are, there should be more of them.
Former first base and infield coach Nick Leyva was promoted to senior advisor of baseball operations on Saturday, per a report by Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The Pirates also fired third base coach Rick Sofield, with no named successor as of yet.
Leyva joined the Pirates’ organization in the 2011 offseason as a third base coach under manager Clint Hurdle. He shifted to his role as the first base coach and infield coach in 2014, when first base coach Rick Sofield was reassigned to third base prior to the 2015 season. According to Biertempfel, the swap was made in order to optimize the team’s baserunning strategies, all of which appeared to fall flat during the 2015 and 2016 seasons:
The results this season were awful. The Pirates ranked 13th in the National League with a minus-7.0 BsR — a FanGraphs.com metric that measures how many runs above or below league average a team gets via its baserunning.
In 2013 and 2014, the Pirates had one of the top five BsR ratings in the NL. In 2015, they were seventh with a 2.8 BsR.
This season, the Pirates made the second-most outs at third base in the league and were last in taking extra bases on singles and doubles. Their baserunners went from first to third base on hits a league-low 63 times.
Sofield, in particular, highlighted the Pirates’ poor baserunning choices in games like this one, when he sent Sean Rodriguez home too early during the last vestige of a ninth inning rally against the Phillies.
Following the announcement, Pirates’ GM Neal Huntington issued a statement elaborating on Leyva’s role within the organization:
We have great respect and appreciation for both men. We thank them for their time and effort as part of our Major League team and the Pirates organization. It was a difficult decision, but we felt it was the right time to make this change on our Major League staff. We look forward to Nick’s continued impact in his future role with the Pirates. Nick has held nearly every coaching position at the major league level and at the minor league level, including Major League manager, in his extensive career and will be a quality mentor for our minor league managers, coaches and players.
With Game 6 of the NLCS just hours away, the Dodgers will opt for a lefty-heavy lineup against right-hander Kyle Hendricks. Batting leadoff is rookie outfielder Andrew Toles, who made one appearance at the top of the lineup during the 2016 season. The Cubs, meanwhile, will bench Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.. This will be Almora’s first start of the playoffs, and while he has yet to face Kershaw in October, his right-handed bat could play well against the lefty at the bottom of the lineup.
Game time is scheduled for 8 PM EDT; lineups are below.
1. Andrew Toles (L) LF
6. Wilson Contreras (R) C
8. Albert Almora Jr. (R) RF
9. Kyle Hendricks (R) RHP