Jerry Manuel vows to make the Mets work on fundamentals

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Jerry Manuel.jpgWhen it comes to spring training evergreen stories there aren’t many more venerable than “best shape of his life” and “Player X spent the winter working on a new arm angle to get on top of his breaking ball” pieces. After those, however, you have to go with “Manager X plans on emphasizing fundamental baseball this spring” rebop. According to Allen Barra, this year it’s the Mets singing that tune:

Looking for bright spots as the Mets pitchers and catchers report?
Here’s one: Jerry Manuel has vowed to put his team through a starter
course in fielding fundamentals.

Two observations:

  • The major leagues is a bit late to be teaching anyone fundamental baseball. The best way to ensure good fundamental baseball at this level is to, you know, get guys who are fundamentally-sound baseball players and use them a lot; and
  • As Barra notes, the the Mets are likely to realize a dramatic improvement on defense simply by having Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes back on the field.  Query: is Manuel clever/devious enough to be aware of this, plant some “I’m emphasizing fundamentals” stories in the press and then later try to take credit for the inevitable improvement brought on by Beltran and Reyes being back?

Probably not. He’s got more to worry about than silly spin games. But part of me likes to think of Jerry Manuel trying to play the angles in advance of what could be an ugly summer in Queens.

Matt Shepard to be the Tigers new full-time play-by-play guy

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Fox Sports Detroit has named Matt Shepard their new full-time play-by-play guy for Tigers games. Shepard will work with analysts Jack Morris and Kirk Gibson, who will split time.

This is the move in response to former longtime announcers Mario Impemba and Rod Allen getting suspended and later fired following an in-booth altercation in Chicago last September. The two of them, who weren’t exactly friends, reportedly fought over a chair, with conflicting reports of how serious the fight was. An anonymous witness said Allen put Impemba in a choke hold. Allen recently gave an interview in which he denied that and said it was only some pushing and shoving. Either way, it ended their 16-year team-up for Tigers games.

Shepard has worked for Fox Sports Detroit for nearly 20 years, doing fill-in play-by-play for the Tigers — he replaced Impemba for the last few weeks of last season — and for Detroit Pistons games. Gibson has been a part time analyst for the network for the past couple of seasons, splitting time with Allen. Morris has done Tigers, Blue Jays and Twins games over the years, sometimes even splitting time between the Twins and Tigers, which is rather unusual.

Shepard is pretty good at his job. While Tigers fans liked and were familiar with Impemba, there won’t be a falloff in quality. Gibson makes some good analytical points and has a surprisingly sharp and biting sense of humor about him, but his gruff and monotone delivery is not everyone’s cup of tea. You get used to it. Morris is not my cup of tea — he tends to do a lot of the “back in my day” stuff former players often do — but I’m pretty sure he could recite the dictionary on TV in Detroit and a lot of Tigers fans would tune in. Such is life.