Author: Craig Calcaterra

Justin Masterson Cardinals

Justin Masterson to pitch exclusively out of the stretch for his next start


Justin Masterson’s season has been godawful. He had a 5.51 ERA in 19 starts for the Indians and now he has a 7.43 ERA in five starts for the Cardinals. He didn’t make it out of the fourth inning in his last appearance, allowing five runs. So now he’s going to try something different: Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Masterson is going to work exclusively out of the stretch, abandoning his windup.

I suppose it can’t hurt given that everything else he has done has led to unmitigated disaster. But this strikes me as a desperation move. If the game Saturday wasn’t part of a doubleheader one questions whether he’d even get the start. And unless he is fantastic on Saturday, you figure this is the last start the Cards will give him, given that they’re fighting to make the playoffs and all.

Wanna buy Randy Johnson’s house?

Randy Johnson House

It’s 25,000 square feet and will only set you back $25 million:

Clad in hand-scraped wood, French limestone and travertine, vaulted interiors sport a range of features including detailed pillars, coffered and groin-vaulted ceilings and delicate arches. The 25,000 square feet of living space contains a chef’s kitchen, a formal dining room with a temperature-controlled wine cellar, his and her offices, a study lounge, a pet suite with a wash station, seven bedrooms and 12 bathrooms.

Go to the link and look at the slide show. On the one hand, it’s insanely and overly-ornately designed like just about every other athlete’s home you see. You wonder how often, for example, they use that formal sitting area or the office. Or the second office. It’s just kind of nuts.

On the other hand, unlike a lot of these athlete homes, you can actually tell an athlete lives there. Johnson has his Cy Young Awards and jerseys on display. He has a couple of cool bat racks in his pool room. Best of all, his home theater actually has a marquee outside of it, with the words “Full Count Theater” in lights over the entrance. So it’s got that going for it.

Who, apart from another zillionarie athlete would buy this place is beyond me, but good luck in your efforts to sell it, Big Unit.

Mariners scout heckles Jesus Montero, Montero allegedly tries to go after him with a bat

Jesus Montero Getty

Tyler Maun of reports that a crazy incident occurred in Boise during a game between the Everett AquaSox and the Boise Hawks in the Northwest League yesterday. Jesus Montero, who is with Everett as he rehabs from an oblique injury, was coaching first base and was being heckled from the stands. Not by an ordinary fan, but a cross-checker — a scout who usually oversees scouts in a given geographical area — who is actually employed by the Mariners.

The incident was kicked off when the scout yelled at Montero to hustle off the field after an inning, yelling “Rapido! Rapido!”  Then the scout ordered an ice cream sandwich and had it sent to Montero in the dugout, which one assumes was a dig at his weight issues (Montero showed up for spring training 40 pounds overweight). Montero didn’t take kindly to that at all, heading toward the stands with a bat in his hands, throwing the ice cream sandwich at the scout and screaming expletives at the scout. He had to restrained by an Everett coach.

Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik told the Seattle Times that he was looking into the matter. And while, as the high-profile player who was acting aggressively, Montero is going draw most of the heat and coverage here, what on God’s green Earth is a scout employed by the Mariners doing acting like that at a baseball game which he is presumably working? Toward a Mariners player no less? We obviously don’t have all the information here, but if his behavior was as reported by Maun, I’m not sure how that guy doesn’t get fired pretty quickly.

In other news, the minor leagues are a great bang for your entertainment buck.

And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights


Angels 4, Athletics 3: The Angels take a two-game lead in the west, winning this on a sac fly in the tenth. The play of the game, however, came in the ninth when Erik Aybar chopped one down the first base line. Pitcher Dan Otero and first baseman Brandon Moss converged on the ball and all three of them, more or less, were in the same place at the same time. Otero had the ball and tagged Aybar, but the umpire awarded Aybar first base, claiming Moss obstructed Aybar. Which seems odd as it appears as though Aybar went out of the baseline — way onto the infield grass, actually — in an effort to avoid being tagged and was never really near Moss. I guess the idea is that Aybar could’ve ran where Moss was, as opposed to the infield grass, if he wasn’t there. The A’s are protesting, but I doubt it has a chance given that this is technically a judgment call. Watch the play and judge for yourself:

Reds 7, Cubs 2: The Reds stole six bases, all in the first four innings, and built up an early 6-0 lead on the power of those steals, six hits and four walks. Dylan Axelrod pitched five scoreless innings, striking out eight.

Tigers 3, Yankees 2: Alex Avila knocked a walkoff RBI single with two outs to win it. The Tigers dodged a bullet in the top of the ninth when Brian McCann almost hit a homer but it hooked foul. Phil Coke then pumped fastballs by him to strike him out. Kyle Lobstein held the Yankees in check a day after David Price was beaten up like crazy. Because baseball makes sense like that.

Giants 4, Rockies 1: Yusmeiro Petit set a record: by retiring his first eight batters here he completed a string in which he had retired 46 straight batters. A record most of us didn’t see coming because six of Petit’s eight appearances in that stretch were relief appearances, but just because you didn’t toss a perfect game and then some doesn’t make it any less of a record. Overall Petit allowed one run on four hits in six innings, striking out nine.

Orioles 5, Rays 4: The O’s take three of four from the Rays and now have a seven-game lead in the East with 30 to play. J.J. Hardy put them ahead with a seventh-inning single and Steve Pearce hit a homer.

Braves 6, Mets 1: Mike Minor with a Baseball Bugs night: he hit an RBI single, doubled and scored and pitched seven innings of shutout ball before leaving in the eighth after surrendering just one run.

Indians 3, White Sox 2: Michael Bourn had three hits, two of them triples, and Carlos Carrasco allowed one run over six and two-thirds. The Tribe now heads to Kansas City for a big weekend series with the Royals. They’re four back in the wild card and five and a half back in the Central. This may be their last best chance to firmly insert themselves into the playoff picture.

Twins 11, Royals 5: Minnesota scored six times in the tenth inning, beating up Bruce Chen, who gave up five hits and walked two. Jordan Schafer — who I had no idea had wound up in Minnesota — drove in four for the Twins.

Astros 4, Rangers 2: Jason Castro hit a grand slam in the fifth to account for all of Houston’s runs. How do you account for runs anyway? Is it a LIFO or FIFO thing? That’s basically the extent of my accounting knowledge, by the way. Like, if I was asked to infiltrate a devious accountant’s cell and they held me at gunpoint, suspecting that I was a spy, my only material would be some LIFO/FIFO comment. After that, I’d probably be found floating in the Danube or something. Tough world out there.

Could women play major league baseball? Sure. Right now, though, the deck is stacked against them.

Woman baseball

Jack Moore of Vice Sports has a column up today talking about the history of women in baseball. There are some stories in there that have been criminally underplayed and underexamined over the years. Specifically, the one about the woman who struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. I’ll add to that the story of Toni Stone, who played in the Negro Leagues in the late 40s and early 50s. A great book about her (for which, full disclosure: I provided a blurb) was written a few years back called “Curveball.” 

As most writings, historical or otherwise, about women in baseball do, Moore’s ends with a question a lot of people ask:

The question, then, isn’t when women will earn a spot on the diamond next to men. They have been earning those spots for over 100 years. The question is when the men barring the gates will finally stand aside and let them in.

A bit of a controversy has bubbled up this afternoon about the specific way that question was put. The issue being whether there are/were people actively and with sharp purpose standing in the way of women in baseball to begin with, or is it more a matter of there simply not being women around today who actually could hack it if given the chance. My friend Rob Neyer is taking a lot of heat for his take on that, for example. I’m not going to wade into the specifics of his take vs. Moore’s take on that — you are smart and can go read them yourself — but I will offer some thoughts on the topic at large.

We’ll get to the ultimate question — could women play major league baseball? — last. Before we get there, let’s acknowledge a few things:

  • Baseball, given its history, is not entitled to the benefit of the doubt when it comes to barriers and controversial bright lines. It took sheer heroism to break the color barrier. It takes years of argument and cajoling to get it to adopt even the most basic and innocuous changes. It’s a conservative institution by nature that cannot, despite how far it has come, simply expect people to say “sure, baseball would totally do [X good thing] if the opportunity presented itself! It just hasn’t presented itself!” Baseball will, generally speaking, amble in the right direction. Occasionally it will do a good thing kind of quickly. But it almost always has to be pulled there. It does not lead on its own accord.
  • A couple of years ago when Pat Borzi of the now-defunct espnW wrote a story about women playing professional baseball, he spoke with nine current MLB scouts, executives and players and not one of them would go on record on the matter. Only three would offer comment at all. If we lived in a world where MLB would jump all over the chance to sign a woman to play professional baseball and would actually play her in a non-gimmicky way, you’d think someone would at least want to talk about it. But we don’t live in that world. At all. There is no evidence whatsoever that a major league organization has even broached the subject, let alone encouraged anyone to think about it internally. If it had, there would be talking points — even empty ones — rather than no-comments.
  • Anyone who simply says, out of hand, that there is no way a woman can play major league baseball competitively is just guessing. And, in all likelihood, voicing some level of prejudice, be it conscious or subconscious. Because the fact of the matter is we have no idea how women, in numbers, stack up. As Emma Span noted in her excellent New York Times piece back in June, girls and women are systematically steered away from playing baseball. The fact that a small handful play is neat, but it’s totally useless as a predictor for how they’d do if there was organized instruction and play for women that produced a critical mass of women baseball players from which the professional leagues could scout.

So, with that out of the way, here’s my take — or really, my guess — on whether women could play major league baseball: sure, probably.

I don’t know nearly enough about scouting and player development and physiology to say with any kind of certainty if a woman could do it. I’m pretty sure some women could if they played the game a lot, which they’re not doing now. But it would be a harder slog in general for reasons other than prejudice. There is no escaping the fact that there is some degree of sexual dimorphism among human beings and that, for a lot of things in baseball, overall strength and speed does matter. That doesn’t mean that no woman could do it, of course — there are TONS of women stronger and faster than men who play sports — it’s just that there would be some natural funneling of the talent pool based on the basic competitive requirements of the sport, making it harder for women. Some percentage of women could do it that is less than the percentage of men who could do it even if there are lots of women who could do it.

I hope that point is clear and not controversial. It shouldn’t be a controversial point. It’s merely a physiological one.

That aside, I do not think it’s silly to think that a woman could pitch relatively soon, especially if they were throwing a lot of offspeed stuff or knucklers. We’ve seen knuckleballers throwing to major leaguers before and do just fine with it. No, batting practice is not a great predictor of professional success — Japanese knuckleballer Eri Yoshida struggled in independent ball– but it’s not at all unreasonable to say that, given the reps and the training and full-time dedication to it, a woman could do it. I’m sure many could eventually, even if it’d be hard to see a woman walk right in tomorrow and do it.

Beyond knuckleballers? That’s where the institutional barriers come in, I think. Could top woman athletes who now focus on, say, track and field, basketball, soccer, weightlifting or other sports where women can compete on elite levels make it to the bigs if they were able to play baseball against top competition from age 10 through age 18 and beyond? As of now, we can’t know, because that just doesn’t happen. At all. But even with those physiological differences mentioned above, I think it’s silly to say that no one would make it through and be able to compete. In some ways it’s like saying “no Indian people can play baseball” based on the example of Dinesh and Rinku. They were novelties in some way, sure, and they didn’t make the bigs. But does that say more about Indians or does it say more about their access to and development in a baseball culture that encourages them.

So, yes, I think women could play major league baseball. To the extent people say they couldn’t, I think that says more about the culture we have which doesn’t allow us, for various reasons, to picture it happening.