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HBT at the World Series: Greetings from workout day

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ST. LOUIS — Check me out. A dateline. You know that means things are getting real.

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Greetings from St. Louis, where the World Series is pausing for one day before Games 3, 4 and 5 go down. Today is a workout day for the Cards and Sox. As I write this from the auxiliary press box down the right field line the Cardinals are taking infield, BP and long-tossing as the most eclectic mix of music blasts from the speakers. We’ve gone from Material Issue to Robin Thicke to the Rolling Stones. I don’t know about their fans, but I’ll say the Cardinals have an argument for The Best Music Guys in Baseball. They program workout music the right way.

In a little while the managers and Game 3 starters will be available for interviews. In the meantime I’m wandering, both the city and the ballpark. When I got to town I met up with HBT’s own Drew Silva. I’ve worked with the lad for four and a half years but this was the first time I met him in person. We met near where he lives, a neighborhood called The Hill. Which is far more famous for being the boyhood home of both Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola. I’m not sure if Joe got a park named after him, but Yogi did:

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No one goes there anymore, though. It’s too popular.

Across the street from that park is a great sandwich place called Gioia’s Deli. It’s known as “the home of the hot salami,” so naturally Drew and I met there. We’re all about cured meats. Drew suggested the Hill Supreme, which is an off-menu thing. Lots of salami and peppers and stuff. How was it Drew?

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I’ll take that as a “good.”

On to the park, where I hung around the team store and walked around the grounds.  The Cardinals have lots of statues of former greats. No Mark McGwire on the grounds, of course, even though the statue has been made and is sitting in a warehouse someplace. They also don’t have an Andy Benes statue. It’s like they just hate their history or something. Of course there’s this guy:

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You know, if a pigeon pooped on that statue, it’d come to life, chase him around and tackle him. That’s the way they did it back in his day.

I ducked into the team store, where I saw the most terrifying thing ever. This is suspended from the ceiling:

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Where is your god now? It’s like a scene cut from the “Flash Gordon” movie except without any sweet jams from Queen in the background. Pure nightmare fuel.  After that I needed a palate cleanser:

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Ahhh. Much better. Thank you, Stan.

Into the park and watching some warmups where I was happy to run into Jonny Miller of WBZ radio in Boston, who will be in the next suite over from me here in St. Louis. Miller, longtime readers will recall, once thought I was pathetic because I messed up his scorecard down at a spring training game in Fort Myers. I reminded him of that. He didn’t remember. Then I told him it was the day Nomar Garciaparra announced his retirement. Then it clicked. “Ah, I didn’t care,” he told me today. “You should know how to keep score better, though.  You’re a baseball writer for crying out loud.”  Yes, sir.  I really love that guy.

Anyway, off to listen to managers spout cliches. Should be fun.  Be sure to keep checking back to HBT all weekend as I report from St. Louis and Games 3, 4 and 5!

 

Twins pitcher barfs before almost every appearance

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 18:  Ryan O'Rourke #61 of the Minnesota Twins reacts after loading up the bases in the seventh inning against the New York Yankees on August 18, 2015 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Twins righty Ryan O'Rourke has pitched in 54 big league games. He has barfed before almost every one of them.

No, really:

Through his first 54 big-league outings over the last past two years, O’Rourke estimates he emptied the contents of his stomach close to every time.

“I don’t do it in the public’s eye,” O’Rourke said Tuesday. “I go in the bathroom, or sometimes it’s just on the back of the mound. But, yeah, it happens.”

I wonder if I’ve barfed 54 times in my entire life. I doubt I have. Then again, I’m not doing anything in front of tens of thousands of people with potentially millions of dollars at stake.

Yet he who is without sin hurl the first, um. Well, never mind.

The new intentional walk rule isn’t a big deal but it’s still dumb

PHOENIX, AZ - JUNE 06:  Anthony Recker #20 of the New York Mets calls for an intentional walk as Paul Goldschmidt #44 of the Arizona Diamondbacks looks on during the eighth inning at Chase Field on June 6, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
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Let us preface this by stipulating that the new rule in which pitchers will no longer have to throw four balls to issue an intentional walk is not a big deal, objectively speaking. Teams don’t issue many IBBs to begin with. A couple a week, maybe? Fewer? Moreover, the times when a pitcher tosses one to the backstop or a batter reaches out and smacks a would-be intentional ball may be a lot of fun, but they’re extraordinarily rare. You can go years without seeing it happen.

So, yes, the intentional walk rule announced yesterday is of negligible consequence. We’ll get used to it quickly and it will have little if any impact on actual baseball. It won’t do what it’s supposed to do — speeding up games — but it won’t harm anything that is important either.

But let us also stipulate that the new rule is dumb.

It’s dumb because it’s a solution in search of a problem. Pace of play is a concern, but to listen to Rob Manfred and his surrogates in the media tell it, it’s The Most Pressing Issue of Our Time. Actually, it’s not. No one is abandoning baseball because of 5-15 minutes here or there and no one who may be interested in it is ceasing their exploration of the game because of it. And even if they were, IBBs are rare and they’re not time-consuming to begin with, so it’s not something that will make a big difference. It’s change for change’s sake and so Rob Manfred can get some good press for looking like a Man of Action.

It’s also dumb because it’s taking something away, however small it is. One of my NBC coworkers explained it well this morning:

I agree. Shamelessness is a pretty big problem these days, so let’s not eliminate shame when it is truly due.

Picture it: it’s a steamy Tuesday evening in late July. The teams are both way below .500 and are probably selling off half of their lineup next week. There are, charitably, 8,000 people in the stands. The game is already dragging because of ineptitude and an understandable lack of urgency on the part of players who did not imagine nights like this when they were working their way to the bigs.

Just then, one of the managers — an inexperienced young man who refuses to deviate from baseball orthodoxy because, gosh, he might get a hard question from a sleepy middle aged reporter after the game — holds up four fingers for the IBB. The night may be dreary, but dammit, he’s going to La Russa the living hell out of this game.

That man should be booed. Boo this man. The drunks and college kids who paid, like, $11 to a season ticket holder on StubHub to get into this godforsaken game have earned the right to take their frustrations out on Hunter McRetiredBackupCatcher for being a wuss and calling for the IBB. It may be the only good thing that happens to them that night, and now Rob Manfred would take that away from them. FOR SHAME.

And don’t forget about us saps at home, watching this garbage fire of a game because it beats reading. We’re now going to have to listen to this exchange, as we have listened to it EVERY SINGLE NIGHT since the 2017 season began:

Play-by-Play Guy: “Ah, here we go. They’re calling for the intentional walk. Now, in case you missed it, this is the way we’re doing it now. The new rule is that the manager — yep, right there, he’s doing it — can hold up four fingers to the home plate umpire and — there it goes — he points to first base and the batter takes his base.”

Color Commentator, Who played from 1975-87, often wearing a mustache: “Don’t like it. I don’t like it at all. There was always a chance the pitcher throws a wild pitch. It happened to us against the Mariners in 1979 [Ron Howard from “Arrested Development” voice: it didn’t] and it has taken away something special from the game. I suppose some number-cruncher with a spreadsheet decided that this will help speed up the game, but you know what that’s worth.

No matter what good or bad the rule brings, this exchange, which will occur from April through September, will be absolutely brutal. Then, in October, we get to hear Joe Buck describe it as if we never heard it before because Fox likes to pretend that the season begins in October.

Folks, it’s not worth it. And that — as opposed to any actual pro/con of the new rule — is why it is dumb. Now get off my lawn.