Craig Calcaterra

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Watch and enjoy baseball in any way you want. It’s OK!

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Steve Kettmann — the man who just published a book about Sandy Alderson which I have on my desk at the moment and, so far so good — has an op-ed in today’s New York Times which . . . is less good.

The headline: “Don’t let statistics ruin baseball.” The complaint: that advanced statistics and analysis has crowded out some of the more nuanced and sensory experiences in the game.

The real problem isn’t in the dugout, though. It’s with the way the game is discussed off the field. I grew up on vivid reporting that teased out details from the day’s action to give us a more flavorful and insightful narrative — not just by accomplished magazine writers like Roger Angell, but by the scores of beat reporters covering the game nationwide. These days there are some great baseball beat writers, but too many — especially among the younger ones — are so awash in stats that they can’t seem to see the game beyond the numbers . . . The importance of being fully present for a game, shorn of distractions, lies not in sentimentality about the nobility of baseball . . . but in continuously deepening one’s understanding of the game.

I get what Kettmann is on about here, but I think he has presented a false choice and, in some ways a straw man. I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone who is so overwhelmed with statistics and analysis that they miss or don’t enjoy the game in front of them. If anything, people who are deeply into stats usually are so because they love the game so much that they can’t get enough of it and want to understand and appreciate it in even deeper ways.

But who cares if there are people who care only about the metrics? Why does it bother folks if someone enjoys the game in a manner different than they do? I’m not sure why this upsets people so much.

Justin Verlander placed on the DL, will not make his scheduled start Sunday

Justin Verlander
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Justin Verlander has a triceps strain. The Tigers were expected to place him on the disabled list on Tuesday, backdating him to March 28, thereby making him eligible to make his first start on Sunday, April 12. They didn’t do that yesterday. They did today, however, backdating to the 29th, meaning that his retroactive DL stint will move up on the calendar, making him unavailable this weekend.

Not that he’s certain to be activated earlier next week. He had a hiccup in the form of a bad bullpen session on Tuesday which kept him from making a minor league start yesterday. Since his triceps is not responding well, he’ll need more time. That means Kyle Lobstein will get the Sunday start. Lobstein made six starts for the Tigers last year. He’s still with Triple-A Toledo but will likely be summonsed up I-75 before the weekend.

Brett Lawrie saw 12 pitches last night. He struck out four times.

Brett Lawrie
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“Moneyball” does not necessarily mean “take walks.” But taking walks, working counts and stuff like that is still pretty important in baseball. So I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think that Billy Beane and the A’s brain trust took some issue with new third baseman Brett Lawrie’s approach at the plate last night.

Why? Because that approach led to Lawrie striking out four times. On 12 pitches. I don’t think I need to do that math for you, but here’s what his at bats looked like on the pitch-by-pitch breakdown:

  • Second Inning: Strike (looking), Strike (looking), Strike (swinging), Lawrie struck out swinging
  • Fifth Inning: Strike (looking), Strike (foul), Strike (swinging), Lawrie struck out swinging
  • Seventh Inning: Strike (looking), Strike (swinging), Strike (swinging), Lawrie struck out swinging
  • Ninth Inning: Strike (looking), Strike (looking), Strike (swinging), Lawrie struck out swinging

Rangers pitchers only struck out seven dudes overall. Lawrie was four of ’em. Nice night, friend.

Wrigley Field gets 74 portable toilets

Wrigley Field
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Phil Coke and Hector Rondon are not the only things providing relief in Chicago!

The Cubs installed 74 portable toilets at Wrigley Field on Tuesday, and the team believes the porta-potties will eliminate the long lines and discomfort suffered by fans during Sunday night’s season-opening 3-0 loss to the Cardinals.

I am legitimately curious if beer sales will go down some due to bathroom anxiety on the part of fans. I mean, when I take a long car trip, I drink less coffee. It only stands to reason, right?

 

Rickey Henderson helped convince Barry Zito to accept a minor league assignment

Rickey Henderson
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Barry Zito’s comeback with the A’s fell a bit short of him making the team out of spring training. But the A’s still wanted him and sent him to Triple-A Nashville. As a veteran with his tenure, his money and his particular career path, you wouldn’t have been crazy to think that he’d say thanks but no thanks and retreat to one of his multiple California estates to drink wine and enjoy time with his family rather than pitch to guys 15 years younger than him in the Tennessee humidity.

But he is going to Nashville. And as John Shea writes in the Chronicle, it has a lot to do with the words spoken by and the example set by Rickey Henderson. Words about how baseball is fun and how having a positive attitude despite setbacks can be the difference between Zito coming back to the majors or not. The example of playing in independent ball despite already having a ticket punched to the Hall of Fame and all of the money he’d ever need.

If you’re of a certain age you remember a time when Rickey Henderson was thought of as a selfish, arrogant player who didn’t give a crap about anything. Did age change Rickey or did everyone have him wrong back in the day?