Craig Calcaterra

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The Red Sox create a Department of Behavioral Health


Alex Speier of the Boston Globe notes the announcement of a new position in the Red Sox’ front office. It belongs to one Dr. Richard Ginsburg, a sports psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital. He is the head of the Sox’ new Department of Behavioral health:

The staff plans to place an emphasis on the emerging field of “mindfulness,” in which individuals consciously identify and take stock of the circumstances surrounding them to avoid getting overwhelmed or distracted. So, rather than getting distracted by a hostile crowd while batting in the ninth inning of a tie game, a player is trained through mindfulness to recognize that crowd prior to the at-bat and implement behaviors such as controlled breathing to manage his response to it.

The department will also oversee “Neuro-scouting,” which Speier explains in the article and which would be an excellent title for a movie about baseball set in a mildly dystopian future, perhaps starring Tom Cruise.

Seriously, though: any edge you can get, you take. Any tool you can give players to help them succeed, you give them. So good for the Red Sox for doing something new.

Now let us sit back and wait for the columnists and talk radio guys to make fun of this because, as we’ve seen so many times over the years, sports is the one area in life where innovation is typically seen as a bad or mock-worthy thing.

Pedro Alvarez is not at Pirates’ minicamp. He is not required to be. But maybe he should be?

Pedro Alvarez

Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has a story about Pirates’ minicamp. And Pedro Alvarez’s absence therefrom. Which is totally cool per the collective bargaining agreement because Alvarez is on the 40-man and guys on the 40-man are not required to attend minicamps.

But Alvarez is also in a unique situation in which his ineptness at third base required him to move to first base last August, and a foot injury kept him from actually playing first base. Since the Pirates are expecting him to be their everyday first baseman this season, he could use all the time he can get to figure out the position. But GM Neal Huntington knows he can’t force Alvarez to come and get the extra work:

“We open the facility (because) we want as many guys as possible to come together and get ready to go because we’re not too far away from spring training,” Huntington said. “The union, obviously, has been very aggressive in (its) right to protect the players from having to work too hard in January and be under club control in January. We get that.

“Pedro had the complete option to come or not. We expect him to be ready to go on the first day of spring training and to get after it.”

I don’t think it’s crazy for those comments to be interpreted as “Jesus, we sure wish Pedro had his butt down here learning first base, but I suppose I can’t say that.” And man, I would love to hear Huntington’s off-the-record comments about all of that.

If I were Alvarez, I would first say “oh my God, how did I become Pedro Alvarez?!” But then I would probably say to myself “you know, it may be a good idea to be in minicamp, even if I don’t have to be.”

A grandfather is trying to make the Orioles’ staff


Mark Hendrickson hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2011. In 2014 he pitched in the independent Atlantic League. He’ll turn 41 in June. But he’s down in Sarasota at an Orioles minicamp making one last go of it. Oh, and he has something else that makes him different than most pitchers:

“I’m a grandfather, for goodness sake, and that was two months ago,” Hendrickson said. “Now there’s extra motivation. How many active grandfathers have been in the big leagues? Well, that right there is motivation in itself.

Roch Kubatko’s story talks about Hendrickson changing his arm slot, which could be a big deal for tall guy like him. And getting himself ready to compete, which is a big deal for an old guy like him.

Sorta want to see a grandfather pitch in the big leagues.


Baseball is so boring

Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley


“Do players and managers realize how much they have slowed the pace of action in a baseball game? . . . Everybody complains about the pace of play in today’s game, what with all the strikeouts, pitching changes, mound conferences and so much time between pitches. But it occurred to me that the players and managers don’t even realize how much they have slowed the game in such a short period of time.”

Tom Verducci, May 2014. But it could be any number of people inside or outside of baseball who annual level the same criticism over and over again.


In other news:

No, one sport being slow and boring and tedious doesn’t mean another sport isn’t. But let’s put our criticisms in perspective.

Miguel Cabrera probably won’t start spring training on time

Miguel Cabrera AP

Anthony Fenech of the Detroit News gives us an update on the health of Miguel Cabrera:

Cabrera underwent surgery last October to remove bone spurs from his right ankle and repair a stress fracture in his foot. He hit .313/.371/.524 with 25 home runs and 109 RBI over 159 games last season. Imagine what he would’ve done, you know, if his foot worked properly.