Mets get a walkoff grand slam to beat Dodgers in 10

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Jordany Valdespin’s first homer of 2013 was memorable; he delivered a grand slam off Josh Wall in the bottom of the 10th to give the Mets a 7-3 win over the Dodgers on Wednesday.

It was the second walkoff slam of the year, with Baltimore’s Matt Wieters collecting the other.

Valdespin, who earlier entered the game as a pinch-hitter, got his chance to play hero after David Wright singled in Mike Baxter to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth. That gave Dodgers closer Brandon League his first blown save.

The homer was Valdespin’s ninth in 233 major league at-bats. He’s started just seven games for the Mets this season, as manager Terry Collins hasn’t quite figured out how best to use him yet. Valdespin, primarily a second baseman in the minors, opened the spring playing only the infield. However, during April, he’s made all of his starts in the outfield and has yet to play an inning in the infield.

For the Dodgers, it was a tough loss, yet it came with a couple of encouraging signs. Ted Lilly, who hadn’t pitched in the majors since shoulder surgery last May, held the Mets to one run over five innings in his 2013 debut. Also, the struggling Matt Kemp hit his first homer, a two-run shot off Matt Harvey. It was just the second homer surrendered by Harvey this season.

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.