Monday, May 31, 2010

Throw the 'Sink' At Them

Throwing a sink sounds like something world's strongest men hopefuls do on ESPN 9.

In fact, "sink" is the new nickname given to the sinkerball, as evidenced by the New York Post's scoopmeister Joel Sherman describing Mets hurler Mike Pelfrey's effective "sink" against the Phillies late last week.

Pelf "used his trademark sink to record 19 of his 21 outs either in the infield or with strikeouts," wrote Sherman. Also in Friday's Post, Sherman said Pelfrey's "sink was splendid."

You don't need to be Tim McCarver to figure out that a sink is a truncated term for sinker, which was itself a truncated term for sinkerball.

Sink follows the same pattern as its gravity-lovin' brethren, the "split." "Splitter" took over for "split-fingered fastball," which was way too long for anyone to say, and "split" seemed to relieve "splitter" when the pitch was all the rage in the mid-'90s.

Of course, jocular former Yankee/Blue Jay/Sawk starter Roger Clemens was the only Major Leaguer to refer to his own "split" as "Mr. Splitty."

Pelfrey strikes us as the self-effacing type; we'd be surprised if he ever called his signature pitch "Mr. Sinky."


Friday, May 28, 2010

Phillies Bring the 'Bagels'

The Phillies pulled off the unique feat of failing to score across three games at CitiField this week, prompting the NY Times to offer "Philadelphia Brand Bagels" as a headline today. (Due to the rain delay, the NY Times did not have a game story in the paper; it instead suggested readers go to the web. Lame.)

"Bagels" of course refers to the three zeros the Phils put on the scoreboard this week.

When we played Little League, we called them "goose eggs," though I doubt any of us had ever actually seen a real goose egg.

The Times actually introduced the "bagel" concept, at least to me, a week ago in an article about the extremely rare fraternity of men who've blanked tennis ace Roger Federer. "Putting a Zero on Federer Is a Rare Achievement," went the headline, and the story, like any good New York bagel shop, actually offers several version of "bagel":

* The Double Version: "Reto Schmidli, 31, a police officer and part-time psychology student in Arlesheim, Switzerland, is the only person who has “double-bageled” Federer..."

* The Plural: "If he’s leading, 6-0, 5-0, 30-40, he’ll be desperate not to lose that one game. That’s why you find so few bagels with Federer..."

* The Past Tense: "He then went nearly a decade without being bageled before losing the 2008 French Open final to Nadal, 1-6, 3-6, 0-6..."

As today's NY Times suggests, a little Philadelphia cream cheese goes nicely with a bagel.

'Nightly' Nieve is 1-A for Saturday

I like how the Mets' announcer crew, Gary Cohen, Ron Darling, and the inimitable Keith Hernandez, has taken to calling Mets bullpen guys Fernando "Nightly" Nieve and "Perpetual" Pedro Feliciano, due to the ridiculous amount of work they get for the surging Mets.

A couple nights ago, the camera flashed over to the bullpen, where Nieve was throwing. Cohen wondering if he would get the nod against the (Formerly) Fightin' Phils, then pointed out that Nieve may be "1-A" for Saturday.

1-A sounds like some sort of deferment Richard Blumenthal may have used to avoid touching down in Vietnam. What exactly did Cohen mean? The context of it was that Nieve may be the starting pitcher Saturday; I'm guessing "1-A" is an actual slot on the manager's lineup card, and Cohen was using some inside-baseball speak that probably went right over most viewers' heads.

I lobbed a query in to Cohen at SNY; hopefully we'll hear from him before the three-day break.

I did a quick search on Google, the way lazy reporters do, for "starting pitcher" and "1-A". It turned up this on, a list of the top pitchers of the game.

Zack Greinke is described as "1-A", but the writer is saying Greinke is second only to Tim Lincecum among MLB pitchers, and 1-A means he deserves a piece of that top spot too.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Derek Jeter and the Case of the 'Bloused' Trousers

In a NY Times article earlier this week, Harvey Araton attempted to break down exactly what makes the Yankees the Yankees, and what makes the Mets, well, the Mets.

He interviews Derek Jeter, who says Yankees learn the Yankee way from the first moment they step onto the field in rookie ball. "Every level in the minor leagues, we were taught that the team game first," said Jeter. "There were always a lot of rules. No facial hair. We had to have our pants bloused. Rules a lot of teams don't have."

So...Yankees' pants are bloused. What does that mean? I've never heard the term "bloused" before--and certainly not from a ballplayer. Does bloused refer to the uniform pants, as in, they should be loose, like a blouse? (Blouses are loose, aren't they? And isn't blouse a funny word when you say it a few times? Go ahead, try it.)

Or should the off-the-field pants be bloused?

I checked in with an old friend, the New York fashion designer (and my former East Village roomie) John Bakel, who's prevalent enough in the New York fashion scene to actually have his own Wikipedia entry--and a glowing one at that. John says he too has never heard the term bloused--in all of his years in fashion, in fact. (He's heard the term "fabulous" a lot, but not "bloused".)

"I'd imagine it refers to pleated pants, not straight ones," he says.

Not straight indeed. "It's definitely not a menswear term," he adds. "I mean, what guy would want to buy something that's described as 'bloused'?"

Batter Up!

Hello, and welcome to my blog.

My name is Mike, and Batter Chatter is the intersection of baseball and language, two passions of mine, and two topics I've gotten to write about a bit in the past.

The language of baseball evolves every day, whether it's the players messing around in the clubhouse or putting on their serious face for the media after a walk-off homer, the front-office brass analyzing a game or new prospect, or the announcers up in the booth, breaking down the game.

Batter Chatter will collect the unique speech heard on and around the Major League Baseball diamonds of America.

For instance, what did Red Sox hurler John Lackey mean when he said teammate Clay Buchholz's pitching reportoire--his "stuff," in ballplayer patois--"plays"?

Has Rays third-sacker Evan Longoria been spending too much time with men in suits, as evidenced by his saying teammate Carl Crawford's "ceiling is above him?" (Unless you've been victimized by some sort of natural disaster, or you're Lionel Richie performing "Dancing on the Ceiling", your ceiling is just about always above you.)

Speaking of the resurgent Rays, what exactly did skipper Joe Madden mean when he referred to his ballclub as "more of a liberal-arts form of playing baseball"?

I'll collect the various oddities I read and hear in the sports pages, at the ballpark, and on TV, find a little humor in them, bring in expert witnesses when appropriate to help explain what a ballplayer meant or where a certain expression came from, and share it with you.

Batter Chatter will focus primarily on the Mets and Yankees, as that's my home market. But I'll check out the sports pages of other MLB teams too, will tune into games when I'm on the road, and hope readers will share the linguistic oddities they unearth in their own corners of the U.S.

Thanks for stumbling upon Batter Chatter, and please come back soon!