Billy Hamilton, Replay and the Transfer Rule

April 17, 2014

I am trying out a subscription to this month. Due to blackout restrictions, I can’t watch the Twins, but I am able to see every other game involving every other team. Since MLB seems to hate my money (seriously, every team except the one I want to see…), I probably won’t renew. It has been fun though. Some observations from the first few weeks of the 2014 season:

The Reds have become the must-watch team for me because of Billy Hamilton. I was trying to explain to my 7-year-old son why we keep watching the Reds. It came down to this: he changes the game. As David Roth puts it, he is an “injection of happy” in a game that has perhaps become a little too serious about itself.

He is also a perfect fit for the .gif age.


My favorite: Hamilton scoring on a popup just beyond the infield.

Unfortunately, he is not getting on base enough this season to show off his unique skill set. In reality, he probably isn’t getting on base enough to secure a major league roster spot for long. Here’s to hoping that the happy injection sticks around for a while.

I still hate the challenge system for instant replay, and really hate the visual of a manager “arguing” with an umpire while facing his own dugout. That said, having replay in place for a couple of weeks has made me rethink my overall stance on the use of replay in baseball.

The system in place has exposed the number of questionable calls that are made over the course of a game. If it takes some form of instant replay to get those calls right, then I am grudgingly for it.

There is no reason, however, that the inefficiencies and downright stupidities of the current system can’t be fixed. The first step is to get rid of the challenge system. It takes people watching at home roughly five seconds to determine whether a given play needs another look – why can’t a fifth umpire “review” every play and communicate to the field umpire on plays that need another look?

Major League Baseball, somewhat quietly, tinkered with the transfer rule during the offseason. It is not a secret anymore. There have been several games impacted by the new rule. Essentially, a catch is not a catch until the ball is transferred cleanly to the fielder’s throwing hand. A safe call could be made, under the current interpretation, if the fielder catches the ball, runs the length of the field with the ball in his glove, then drops it in the course of exchanging the ball to his other hand. This strikes me as one of those rule clarifications that was not well thought out. Hopefully a change will be made before the end of the season, or perhaps a manager will force the league’s hand



10-Team Playoffs

March 5, 2012

Major League Baseball has made it official: baseball will add an extra wild card spot to each league, meaning that a total of 10 (out of 30) major league teams will make the postseason each year.

From the home team’s perspective, I don’t think it matters for 2012. Even if the Twins somehow manage to have enough wins to contend for either of the AL wild card spots, they would very likely be at the top of a very weak-looking AL Central.

Overall, I would prefer there be zero wild cards. If you are going to have non-division winners in the postseason, however, I am for anything that gives those teams an additional handicap. Having to play an extra game, even just the one scheduled for the playoff, puts the wild card team at a greater disadvantage compared with the division winners.

So, I hate that the 162-game season means a little less now, but I like that winning the division means a little more. We can call it a push.


January 25, 2012

I lived in southern Texas for the first three years of my life, so the Houston Astros were my first baseball team (really my first favorite team of any kind). Though I still have a small connection, I abandoned them as my National League alternative around the same time they opened the bandbox they call a ballpark (for the record the Washington Nationals have taken the official title of my NL team).

Still, I can’t help but feeling sad for this news.

Morris and the Hall

January 24, 2012

There has been plenty written about Jack Morris and the Hall of Fame over the past few weeks. While it’s not a slam dunk, indications are that Morris will be inducted in 2013.

On one hand, I’d like to see it, if for no other reason than to once again shine a light on what was the definitive baseball game of my childhood: Game 7 of the 1991 World Series. 10 innings. No runs. Jack Buck’s call: “The Twins are gonna win the World Series, the Twins have won it! It’s a base hit. It’s a one-nothing, ten-inning victory!”

As an aside, I would guess that many would argue that Game 6, the Puckett home run, was more memorable and important. I won’t argue with that. Game 7 is more memorable for me for a couple of reasons, mostly unrelated to the games themselves. For one, I remember where I was when I watched Game 7. For some reason, I don’t remember Game 6 quite as vividly. Also, I had the VCR running for Game 7, and have probably viewed that game at least twice per year for the past 20 years. I just recently acquired the 1991 DVD set, and when I get to Game 6 it will be only the second time that I have seen the entire game.

Back to Morris. While his affiliation with the Twins was short, it was important. There is no chance he’ll have a Twins’ hat on his Hall of Fame plaque, but he is nonetheless identified very closely with the local team thanks to the Game 7 performance. If Morris does get in, it will be fun to see him honored at Target Field.

That said, I don’t think that Jack Morris belongs. The numbers just aren’t there (follow the links above if you want a statistical walk-through). What is interesting is that whether you approach the question with a SABRmetric slant (WAR, WHIP, etc.) or take a more traditional view (Wins, ERA, etc.), Morris falls well short of the current Hall of Fame standard.

The reason he will likely get in, I think, is due in part to his reputation as a “big-game pitcher,” but some of it may be a sort of backlash to the Blyleven vote last year. For all of his superior numbers, the knock on Blyleven has always been that he didn’t “feel” like a Hall of Famer and never seemed like a dominant pitcher. I have trouble getting into the head of someone who still makes that argument, but I suspect that a Morris induction might be a way for a few writers to reclaim the vague but persistent notion that the gut feeling is the best way to evaluate a player’s Hall of Fame candidacy.

I don’t find that argument to be particularly persuasive, but Jack Morris was a very good pitcher, and is as responsible as anybody for my Twins’ fandom and love of baseball, so I won’t complain too loudly if and when he is inducted.

Wooden Shoes in the Hall

January 7, 2011

It has been written about at length, but at long last Bert Blyleven got the call from Cooperstown.

Over the past five years, there have been few questions in baseball circles that produce as much debate as Blyleven’s HOF case. It represents, in a way, the line between the traditional baseball press and the new breed of baseball bloggers (who may or may not be writing from mother’s basement). In the end, the “you had to be there” and “he never felt like a HOFer” arguments (which, I believe, were more about his reputation as uncooperative with the media – the gate keepers off the Hall can be a fickle bunch) lost out to the overwhelming statistical evidence.

While Bert’s inclusion feels like a victory for sanity, it may well be a short-lived one. The Hall of Fame voting this year signaled an entirely new wave of voter insanity – the PED witch hunt.

Well, I guess it will continue to give my favorite writers a reason to continue writing.


A Truly Scary Development

December 1, 2010

Around the time the Twins were being swept out of the 2010 playoffs by the Yankees, I had drafted a post comparing the New York Yankees to a professional wrestling villain. It was surely a brilliant work of literature, but it didn’t meet the high editorial standards of CW, so it was relegated to the WordPress trash bin.

I was reminded of that post while updating myself on the Derek Jeter contract controversey.

On one level, the tabloid-ish fill to the whole affair is somewhat delicious being that the player in the center of it all is constantly praised for the “great character” it takes to stay out of tabloids and police blotters. Additionally, it must be a bitter pill for Jeter-lovers everywhere to discover that Yankees management, of all people, do not buy in to the Jeter hype. I’ll admit, it’s hard not to enjoy the daily updates for these very reasons.

Still, there is a disturbing undercurrent to the ordeal. Is it possible that the Yankees are turning a corner as an organization? Might they actually begin to leverage the financial advantages of being the Yankees by making intelligent, statistically informed baseball decisions instead of throwing large sums of money at marginal free agents?

Nah, I prefer to think that they will ultimately listen to the star-crossed media-types who are indignant that the icon of a generation might have to make ends meet on a mere $15 million-per-year salary and give in to the Captain’s demands.

That would be a characteristic of the Yankees we know and hate.

The Yearly Gold Glove Scam

November 10, 2010

Joe Mauer won his third gold glove yesterday. Also of note was the fact that Torii Hunter did not win the award for the first time in nine years – no small feat considering that he probably hasn’t deserved the award for the last five seasons.

That is about all the time and space I am willing to waste on an award that recognizes Derek Jeter as the best shortstop in the American League.

Triple Triples II

July 7, 2010

It has been almost a week since Denard Span became the 29th player in major league baseball history to hit three triples. To put that in perspective, there have been 21 perfect games in major league history, so it is a feat just slightly more common than the perfect game.

The Minnesota/Washington franchise has been involved in five of those games – three times on the “right” side, including Span’s game.

The last time a member of the Minnesota Twins hit three triples in a game was on July 3, 1980 when Ken Landreaux did it against the Texas Rangers.

One of the more recent occurences came at the expense of the Twins. Lance Johnson, then with the Chicago White Sox, hit three triples in a 14-4 win late in the 1995 season.

Interestingly, all three events were home games for the Twins, one at each of the parks the team has called home.

Washington was involved twice, once when Joe Kuhel did it against the White Sox in 1937, and once when the Nats were the victims of Charlie Gehringer and the rest of the Tigers in a 21-5 loss in 1929. Since Gehringer had his three triples at Griffith Stadium, that makes four ballparks in franchise history that have played host to a three-triple game.

A Crazy Half Inning

June 3, 2010

I had the ESPN game between the Cardinals and the Reds on in the background, so I was able to catch the last six outs of Armando Galaragga’s should-have-been perfect game. I didn’t see any of Dallas Braden’s or Roy Halladay’s until after the fact, so I thought I might have lucked out. As it turned out, I did. I saw one of the most entertaining and frustrating half-innings that doesn’t involve my favorite team.

First, the could-have-beens. This would have been the third perfect game in less than a month. There have been 20 in the history of major league baseball. I don’t think it is anymore than random chance that there have been so many recently, but it is a remarkable stretch, even without Galarraga’s.

Now, the should-have-beens. Jim Joyce missed that call. There have been a lot of terrible calls in the first two months of the 2010 season, but that was easily the biggest of the bunch. It was probably not the worst. In Joyce’s defense, there was some strange footwork on the base, and the play was not as clear at full speed as it seemed in the slow motion replay (the worst thing that can come from this is a louder cry for instant replay).  Galarraga, the Tigers, and baseball should be celebrating another perfect game. As it stands, it was one of the most fascinating one-hitters I can remember.

What should be remembered about that game – Austin Jackson’s back-to-the plate catch in (very) deep left-center field. That is what an outfielder with range looks like. He went and got the ball, and the sheepish grin on Galaragga’s face immediately following the play told the story: he got away with one there. That was a ball that drops most of the time (it might even be a home run in some ball parks). I suppose, then, in the end it evened out.

Though it wasn’t a perfect game, what actually happened is probably going to be more memorable.

That Reminds Me of a Story…

May 14, 2010

The Mariners are up in arms about a report by Tacoma News-Tribune reporter Larry LaRue that Ken Griffey Jr. was unavailable to pinch hit in a recent game because he had fallen asleep in the clubhouse. As I have picked up little pieces of the controversy over the past week, I am reminded of a Jim Souhan column from a few years ago in which he leveled the charge that Joe Mauer had invented a leg injury.

What is intriguing about the two columns is how different the Mariners’ and the Twins’ players reaction to the charges were.

Mariners players have been very publicly shutting LaRue out, to the point where Cliff Lee would not speak at a press conference until the reporter left the room. This was on the heels of a team meeting in which Mike Sweeney reportedly offered to fight the two anonymous players quoted in the original report. Unsurprisingly, nobody took Sweeney up on his offer, leaving the team to conclude that LaRue had simply made the story up. For its part, the Mariners organization has stayed out of the fray, issuing a statement essentially hoping for an “organic” end to the dispute.

In September of 2007, Jim Souhan penned a column in which he expressed the opinion that it was time to move Joe Mauer to third base. Tucked in that column was the somehow related nugget:

In 2007, Mauer – like the Twins – revisited 2005. In spring training he caused a scare with what was termed a “stress reaction.” I’ve spoken with trainers in other sports who have told me there is no such thing.

Souhan flat out said the team’s young superstar and future franchise player had concocted an injury out of thin air. Unlike LaRue, he did not cite team sources, he instead talked to a few of his trainer friends who said there was no such injury (never mind that a Google search at the time turned up several hits on “stress reaction”).

I don’t recall any team push back on Souhan. I don’t recall it even being an issue outside of the Twins’ blogosphere at the time.

It’s not that I am particularly impressed with the Mariners players. The “reveal yourself so I can beat you up” is probably not an effective way to start a team dialogue, and not speaking to the reporter, who simply did his job, comes across as childish. Still, it’s a team sticking up for a teammate.

Perhaps the Twins handled the allegations the right way in 2007 – it is possible that a player or group of players privately communicated disgust with Souhan. Smart money says they didn’t. The 2007 Twins clubhouse was dominated by Torii Hunter, who had questioned Mauer’s toughness in the past. It is likely that team leadership agreed with Souhan’s sentiment, or perhaps had even planted the seed of doubt. In any case, I wonder if, given the new makeup of this team, there would be a different reaction in 2010.


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