John Baker

Mike Fiers

The Dodgers don’t care about what might have been on Mike Fiers’ glove during his no-hitter


Astros starter Mike Fiers no-hit the Dodgers on Friday night, but his achievement was quickly downplayed on social media when an image showing what appeared to be a shiny substance on the inside of the right-hander’s glove. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly never questioned it, nor did anyone else on the team, during the game.

Asked about the alleged substance after the game, Fiers said, “It could be different lighting or something,” as Jose de Jesus Ortiz reports.

Even after the fact, the Dodgers aren’t interested in pursuing the matter. Via Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times:

“I don’t want to take anything away from his night,” outfielder Carl Crawford said.

Manager Don Mattingly also viewed the social media-driven controversy as a non-issue, saying, “I think it sounds like you’re whining if you look at it and talk about it.”

The consensus around the clubhouse was that a significant number of pitchers use something to improve their grip on the ball.

“I think it’s pretty much accepted, unless it’s blatantly obvious somebody’s doing it,” Mattingly said.

Fiers donated his cap and one of the balls he threw during the no-hitter to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Those and other items were authenticated, as Astros manager of authentication Mike Acosta tweeted on Friday night.

Yankees starter Michael Pineda was suspended for 10 games last season when he was caught using a “foreign substance” on his neck.

Former major league catcher John Baker, when asked to cite the percentage of pitchers who liked using a foreign substance, said, “100%.”

Must-click link: former major leaguer John Baker talks about how a gay teammate would be welcomed

Clubhouse door

Gotta hand it to Rob Neyer, Fox and the JABO folks for getting ex-major league catcher John Baker. His stuff has been interesting, well-written and insightful. There is so little actual real talk from former major leaguers — so much of it is just Schilling-style analysis that barely scratches the surface of what we really want to know about — that hearing Baker’s perspective has been fantastic.

The latest: in the wake of the gay marriage decision, Baker talks about how a gay teammate would be received in a major league clubhouse. The answer: like anyone else, eventually. There would be some weirdness at first but eventually the six-month-long game of dozens, the camaraderie, the antagonism and the way-too-close quarters that characterize the big league season would encompass a teammates’ gayness too.

Someone would make a joke about the gay guy missing the cutoff man and the gay guy would make a joke back about the bald guy missing a sign and the bald guy would make a joke about the dude who likes the crappy music not hustling. That’s if the team is winning. If they’re losing, that all happens with anger instead of joking. In other words: it’s just a thing. They’re all there for the baseball and would prefer to play it with guys who aren’t jerks. The other stuff is secondary. Interesting and something everyone would get used to, but it takes a back seat to the baseball and the non-jerk thing.

I’ll defer to Baker here, as he knows and because it flows pretty well with what we do know about how clubhouses work.

And I hope he’s right about it too.

Must-click link: Playing the game “the right way” is a relative thing

Tom Lynn -- Getty

Former major league catcher John Baker has a great article up over at Fox’s Just A Bit Outside. It’s about one of your favorite topics around here: “playing the game the right way.” and what it really means:

The longer I played baseball, the more I realized that across America, that cliché – Play the game the right way – actually means something very specific: Play the game MY way.

And that “my way” means something very different to different people everywhere. Specifically, he has a great anecdote about his time in the Dominican winter league, where the constant celebrations, bat flips and the sorts of things that could get a guy thrown at or punched in the big leagues is actually a sign of respect and love for the game to others:

The next day I asked some of the local players why they participated in what I’d been taught was excessive celebratory behavior. Their consensus answer was perfect and humbling. They explained that most of them hadn’t spent much time in school beyond fifth grade, and they practiced baseball all day because they didn’t want to chop sugar cane in the fields or do laundry at Casa De Campo, the main resort in town. Job opportunities were slim, and job opportunities with potential upside were nearly nonexistent. They weren’t flipping the bat to show up the pitcher. They were flipping the bat to show everyone watching that they appreciated where they were, and that they really, truly loved playing baseball. They pimped everything, and it was awesomely poetic.

He learned this from a Padres prospect who was also playing down in the Dominican and who showed him one excellent bit of celebratory flair after a homer in a winter ball game. You may be interested to learn who that prospect was. And it may change your perspective on what “playing the game the right way” really means.

Excellent piece by Baker. And a good reminder that the “right way” we’re so often told about is just one way. One way favored by guys who learned to play in one particular part of the world. Well, they have no monopoly on the “right way” and we should not expect anyone, let alone everyone else, to conform to it.


John Baker, Jeremy Brown, coal mines and class

Coal Miners

NOTE: John Baker responded to this article on Twitter. His comments are reproduced below.

Larry Stone of the Seattle Times has an interesting article about journeyman catcher John Baker, who is trying to make the Mariners this spring. Interesting in multiple ways, really.

Baker, a self-described liberal from the Bay Area, comes from an educated background. His parents both have graduate degrees from Stanford and his brother is a highly skilled musician who plays in a symphony orchestra. Baker, for his part, is well-read — especially for a baseball player, not a lot of whom seek to debate Christopher Hitchens with teammates — and has an intellectual bearing which makes him something of an exotic in baseball circles. There aren’t a ton of players in the game at any given time like Baker. And when there is, they tend to get hung with the nickname “Professor” or something.

But there’s a second level of interesting here, and that comes when Baker — part of the famous 2002 Oakland Athletics “Moneyball” draft class — talks about fellow “Moneyball draftee” Jeremy Brown. Brown, a fellow catcher, may have been the most famous of anyone in that draft class for he was the non-traditionally physiqued fellow who prompted Billy Beane to famously tell his assembled scouts that “we’re not selling jeans here.” In the movie, film is played of him falling down while circling the bases, making him both a focus of some humor and a symbol for Beane’s non-traditional approach.

As Jerry Crasnick reported a few years ago, Brown quit baseball after a brief career which saw him make the majors for a cup of coffee but not much more. Crasnick’s story suggests that Brown had an issue of some sort adjusting to baseball life and that he went home to Alabama. Brown now works in a coal mine. Baker elaborates on that:

“That’s a sad one for me, ‘’ Baker said. “We were catchers drafted at the same time, we played together for a long time and became really close. We had contrasting personalities. You have the kind of liberal, educated guy from Berkeley, and then the Southern coal-miner’s son from Hueytown, Alabama. Me and him hit it off really well and became very, very, very good friends while we were playing, even though the A’s kind of tried to pit us against each other and make us compete.

 “We took that as, let’s figure out how we can win baseball games and be good teammates to each other. We became close, so it’s been sad for me since he quit in 2008. It’s sad to see that path and him in a coal mine because he’s one of the more talented guys I’ve ever seen in baseball.”
It’s the kind of comment that may not make a lot of people bat an eye. But contrast it with Brown’s own recent comments about his lot in life and job in that coal mine. This comes from a photo essay by photographer Tabitha Soren, who has followed the 2002 Athletics draft class around for over 12 years, chronicling their progress through life:
In 2008, the Alabama native announced his retirement, walked away from the game and returned home to Hueytown to follow in the footsteps of his father and become a coal miner. In his life after baseball, Brown and Dad descend into the mines at night, emerging the next morning covered in coal dust. “Playing baseball is something that I loved to do, but I’m happier now because of my family and not because of my job,” Brown says. “I’m married with a little boy and a little girl. I’m able to coach youth baseball.” Most important? “I’m home and not traveling all the time.”

Coming from West Virginia, I grew up with a lot of kids whose fathers, uncles, brothers and cousins worked in coal mines. Indeed, I grew up with a lot of kids who themselves ended up working in the mines. My children have several uncles and cousins who do as well. It’s hard work most of us couldn’t begin to imagine and the danger it presents and the toll it takes on miners’ bodies is extraordinary. The companies which run these mines exploit their workers and the land they mine in ways are just as shocking as they are criminally underreported and under-regulated. Most people in coal country would prefer it if their children didn’t have to follow them into the mines. Most people realize, however, that there isn’t always that kind of choice available given all manner of circumstances.

But that notwithstanding, Brown doesn’t sound particularly “sad” to me. Does he sound sad to you? Yes, all of us try to put the best face on our life to strangers, but it’s quite a presumption, however well-meaning, for Baker to assume that Brown’s lot in life is a “sad” one. It’s certainly a life that a son of two Stanford educated parents who grew up in the Bay Area in relative comfort and who has made a few million dollars playing baseball can’t particularly relate to, but I wonder if Brown truly thinks his situation is “sad,” even if coal mines are bad places to work. Even if he’s not living the life he dreamed of when he was a teenager.

I don’t mean to be too critical of Baker here. I doubt there was a ton of thought or meaning behind his comments to Stone. But there is a tendency among people of a certain type — educated, usually liberal and of a certain financial and social class — to assume people of a different type — rural, blue collar — are unhappy with their lot in life. Or, more to the point, can’t be happy with their lot in life by virtue of where they live or what they do for a living. There’s a paternalism and a classism to that sort of sentiment that grates on me. It’s a phenomenon that lends itself to a lot of hand-wringing about the “poor souls” of less unfortunate circumstances but not a whole hell of a lot of action or change which could actually make those “poor souls'” lives better.

You know what makes the lives of people with hard, blue collar jobs enjoyable and endurable? Family and religion and, sometimes, country music and stuff like that. Next time you find yourself in a conversation with a well-off person who grew up in a liberal background in the Bay Area who likes to read Christopher Hitchens and whose brother plays in a symphony orchestra, turn the conversation to evangelical Christianity, country music and family. Oh, also bring up the idea of building a nuclear power plant someplace in the Bay Area (nothing would close coal mines faster than a few more nuclear power plants). I’m guessing that conversation will be kind of fun.

And yes, here I am now stereotyping. We all do it to some degree. We should probably do it way less. And we should probably avoid trying to determine how happy and content someone is based on where they live and what they do. For the simple reason that we’re not, in fact, in their shoes.

UPDATE: After some extended conversation between someone on Twitter and me, Baker responded:

Mariners sign John Baker

John Baker marlins

Veteran catcher John Baker has signed a minor-league deal with the Mariners that includes an invitation to spring training, according to Jon Heyman of

Baker was once a solid starting catcher for the Marlins, but he’s been mostly injured for the past five seasons and hasn’t produced offensively when healthy enough to be in the lineup.

Dating back to 2010 he’s hit .209 with a .540 OPS in 186 games, including .192 with a .504 OPS in 68 games for the Cubs last season.