Author: Bob Harkins


Troy Tulowitzki admits defensive struggles are ‘in my head’

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While discussing his defense during spring training of 2011, this is what Troy Tulowitzki had to say:

“I definitely take pride in playing great defense. Now that I’ve won by my first Gold Glove and my second Fielding Bible award, people who have questioned that I was too big to play shortstop, I think I’ve kinda put those people to sleep. Now they realize I can play the position.

It certainly isn’t easy being this big of a guy, 200-plus pounds, playing shortstop. I think guys like Cal (Ripken), A-Rod and Derek (Jeter) obviously, the bigger shortstops kind of changed things. They’re letting guys actually try out there now, if they’re athletic enough.”

Tulowitzki pays attention to UZR ratings (though he doesn’t necessarily trust them) as well as Gold Gloves and Fielding Bible Awards, and covets defensive honors as much as Silver Sluggers and All-Star appearances. So you know that his struggles in the field so far this season are bothering him.

The All-Star shortstop has made six errors already this season, including a pair of two-error games within a span of four nights. He made just six errors in all of 2011, and insists that he is healthy. Nonetheless, Tulo sat out Wednesday night’s victory over the Padres.

Colorado Rockies manager Jim Tracy said the day off was pre-planned, but it seems likely that the move was made to give Tulo a chance to relax and get a handle on his scuffling. In fact, Tulowitzki admitted to Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post that his defensive miscues were getting into his head:

“I think about it … Yeah, it’s in my head,” he said. “I’m taking the field and thinking about it. I never thought about defense. I just go out there and play, and if I make an error, I made an error. But I wasn’t worried about it. So, yeah, I think about it. It’s in my head. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t in my head. I think about it because I care.”

It’s a pretty open assessment from Tulowitzki, who is also hitting just .244 so far this season. You would hope that the rest helps him clear his head. The last thing you want to see is one of the game’s great defensive players suddenly turn into Chuck Knoblauch.
Rockies veteran Jason Giambi has done his part to help his friend, showing Tulowitzki a highlight reel of some of his top plays.

“People, fans, media, teammates, we all have to realize the Tulo is human,” Giambi said.

That may be true, but the superhero version (see below) is much more enjoyable to watch. Here’s hoping he hurries back.

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Catching: The toughest job in sports


During a week-long stint at spring training in Arizona this year, I spent a lot of time with catchers.

I learned a lot about their craft, about what they go through on a daily basis. About the stresses of the job, the grind of the six-month long season, as well as the non-stop mental challenges that are equally as grueling as the physical ones.

I talked to guys who can hit and guys who can’t, guys who have been through the wars and guys who are just coming into their own. It was an interesting journey, the result of which manifested itself in this package I put together over at

He’s a scout and a coach. He’s a psychiatrist and a self-help therapist. He’s the first one to sacrifice his body and the last line of defense. And if he wants to make big-time money, he’s going to have to hit, too.

He’s got the responsibilities of a quarterback and yet most likely will receive the notoriety of an offensive lineman. Want to be a catcher? Good luck. It’s not going to be easy. In fact, you won’t find any sporting venture that’s tougher.

I hope you enjoy.

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Mariners are No. 1 at something — commercials


While the Seattle Mariners haven’t been much to look at on the field in recent years, they still continue to put out some of the most amusing commercials in all of baseball.

That might be kind of like building the best car in Tibet, but hey, throw the Mariners a bone, people. At least they’re No. 1 at something.

The two best commercials of the bunch (embeded below, though you might have to click through), involve Felix Hernandez unveiling his ventriloquist act, and Ichiro dropping a Sean Connery imitation.

Felix isn’t much of an actor, but as he showed last year, he does possess a certain magnetism that makes you want to laugh. And while Ichiro draws the punchline of his commercial, the real eye-opener from the bit is that shortstop Brendan Ryan actually makes a very good Robert DeNiro.

You can view all the spots here, including a video of outtakes.

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Fun with live audio: Jason Kipnis sings Adele

Jason Kipnis

The MLB Network experimented with live audio during Wednesday’s Cactus League game between the Cleveland Indians and Arizona Diamondbacks.

The broadcast featured several players on each team wearing live microphones, and also had mics at each base, down the first- and third-base lines, as well as along the outfield wall.

A pretty cool idea overall, though Indians third baseman Jack Hannahan told Jordan Bastian of that he felt like he couldn’t be himself, and Cleveland manager Manny Acta said he had to curb not only his language, but some of the private conversations he’d normally have with his coaches.

The whole thing became immediately worthwhile, though, when Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis broke out his best Adele imitation, singing “Someone Like You.” You can watch/listen to Kipnis’ performance here.

Then listen to Adele below, compare and see who has the best voice. Then try to get that song out of your head.

Can you say Grammy?

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Jamie Moyer helps his comeback cause with two strong innings

Colorado Rockies Jamie Moyer

Jamie Moyer helped himself nicely in his attempt to make the Colorado Rockies rotation out of spring training on Wednesday, breezing through two scoreless innings.

Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post reports that his fastball topped out at 82 mph and that he kept the Giants hitters off-balance, allowing just one hit and throwing only 22 pitches. All in all, for those who have watched the veteran left-hander over the years, it was a pretty typical Moyer outing.

“I was happy with how things went, I threw for strikes and got some groundballs,” Moyer said. “I will continue to push … I believe I have a long way to go yet. I want to prove something to this team, to make this team. I don’t think I can dwell too much on this one outing.”

That’s a good sign for the 49-year-old, who is attempting to return to the majors after missing the entire 2011 season due to Tommy John surgery. Jhoulys Chacin, Jeremy Guthrie and Drew Pomeranz likely have rotation spots locked up, and Juan Nicasio, who is recovering from a broken neck, has looked great so far this spring. That leaves Moyer to compete with Guillermo Moscoso, Alex White, Tyler Chatwood and possibly Josh Outman for the final rotation spot. And don’t forget, Jorge De La Rosa is expected back from injury perhaps as early as July.

The competition is fierce, but don’t bet against Moyer. I spoke with him in Scottsdale this spring and he is as determined as ever, saying “I don’t think I’d be standing here if I didn’t think I could play.”

It’s a pretty remarkable story, and you can read all about it here, but here are a couple tidbits:

    • Moyer is a Pennsylvania native and he considers the World Series title with the Phillies in 2008 among his favorite career moments. When the Phillies won the title in 1980, he cut high school to attend the parade, then in 2008, he was in the parade. Pretty cool.
    • The Moyers have eight children. Dillon, a sophomore at UC-Irvine, and Hutton, a high school senior, are infielders who will both be eligible for the 2012 draft, so there could potentially be three Moyers in pro ball.
    • His three favorite teammates? Nolan Ryan, Cal Ripken Jr., and Andre Dawson. All Hall of Famers who he “put on a pedestal,” for the examples they set on and off the field.

There’s much more, so check it out.

You can follow Bob on Twitter here, or if Facebook is your thing, be his friend here.