Scenes from Spring Training: Random observations from Salt River Fields

6 Comments

Earlier updates from today’s doings can be found here and here.  And now here are some other random observations from my day at Salt River Fields:

I watched the Dbacks’ catching drills.  I caught a little when I was a teenager and I found it to be very difficult. These guys get their butts beat simply training.  But they also seem to be enjoying it.  I’ve never watched a defensive drill that was louder and more lively than this one. Each ball in the dirt was met with whoops and cheers and taunting by the other guys.  If it wasn’t for all the bruises they were getting, I’d guess that they didn’t do anything more fun in their lives.

Miguel Montero, Henry Blanco, Kirk Gibson, Kevin Towers and a bunch of other guys were hanging around the batting cage. Montero was complaining that he never “gets the green light” to swing away when it’s 3-0.  Towers said “don’t complain to me about it.”  Montero went on, naming other guys who got the green light, acting as though he was disrespected.  When he was done, Gibson said “Hank gets it too. I even give the green light to Hank,” referring to Blanco.  I get the impression that picking on Miguel Montero is a major pastime in the Dbacks’ clubhouse.

Speaking of Blanco: he was doing a drill in which he got out of his crouch and ran down to first base.  He’s probably one of the slowest guys in baseball, but when you’re right next to him you realize that even the slowest guys in baseball are way faster than you are. Remind me of that next time I make jokes about the Molinas and Blanco and others who are not so swift-of-foot.

The big white buckets full of baseballs during BP and fielding drills had “Dbacks” written on them with a marker.  I got a mental image of someone having to do that after the Rockies stole their baseballs.  Really, this place is wonderfully designed and I’m sure they’ve thought of everything, but I wonder if there are any territorial issues that crop up between teams who share facilities.  I asked one of the ballpark workers about it. These guys know absolutely everything about this place and made it a point all day to tell me about its features, even when I wasn’t asking — did you know that at all times, at least 85% of the seats are in the shade? It’s true! — but this guy claimed to not know anything about problems arising over equipment and stuff.  Not sure if I believe him. My skeptical side is skeptical.

Matt Williams was hitting grounders during infield practice.  This is not newsworthy, but I like to point out that bald guys are awesome.

It was kind of hard to find the Colorado Rockies out here today.  The Dbacks had access to the main stadium field today — their first workout in the stadium itself — so it’s understandable that they were easier to find.  Sorry if I gave your team short shrift here, Rockies fans, but one thing I’m finding about these shared spring training facilities is that it still takes a full day to capture any one team’s zeitgeist.

As I write this the Diamondbacks have left to go to a team-wide golf tournament. The Rockies are slowly leaving as well, off to enjoy one of the last few afternoons on which they won’t have a ballgame in a while.  Tomorrow I go to the Giants’ joint in Scottsdale to hang around the World Champions and then to enjoy a real live game between these Dbacks and those World Champs.  In the meantime, I’m going to do a lot of this:

Stay thirsty, my friends.

MLB executive: Bruce Maxwell’s kneeling may keep him from finding work, not his arrest

Rick Yeatts/Getty Images
41 Comments

In September 2017, former Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first major league player to kneel during the national anthem, joining the handfuls of NFL players who had been doing the same to protest police brutality and racial inequality. Maxwell’s effort was laudable, but he got into trouble a month later when he was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct. Maxwell allegedly pointed a gun at a food delivery person.

Maxwell, 27, played sparingly for the Athletics in 2018 and then was designated for assignment at the beginning of September. He officially became a free agent on November 2 and has had trouble finding work in the month-plus since.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Maxwell fired his agent, Matt Sosnick on Thursday because he’s still jobless. According to an unnamed MLB executive Slusser spoke to, “It’s the kneeling thing that might keep him from getting another job, not the arrest. Owners aren’t going to want to deal with that whole anthem issue.”

That makes a lot of since since abusive players haven’t had too much trouble finding new work otherwise. Addison Russell, Jeurys Familia, and José Reyes, among others have either stayed with their teams or quickly found new work. Given the relatively weak catching market, had Maxwell only had the assault charge, there is no doubt he would have been signed to be a backup catcher somewhere.

In the NFL, Colin Kaepernick — who popularized kneeling during the anthem — has remained unsigned even though teams have opted to sign and start clearly inferior quarterbacks like Mark Sanchez, Josh McCown, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jay Cutler, Matt Barkley, and Sam Bradford, among many others. Team owners tend to run conservative in terms of politics, so they may not like the protest to begin with, then there is the public blowback to signing such a player as those who dislike such protesting make up a slight majority in the U.S., according to various polls including one done by the Washington Post.

It’s worth noting that Maxwell has a career .240/.314/.347 triple-slash line in 412 plate appearances. We’re not talking about J.T. Realmuto or Buster Posey here. That being said, there have been 15 other catchers to have put up a lower aggregate OPS since 2016 (min. 400 PA). One of those players, Derek Norris (.600 OPS since 2016), signed a minor league contract with the Tigers just three months after being suspended by Major League Baseball for violating its domestic violence policy. Makes you think.