Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Strasburg a 'Sensational', 'Spectacular' 'Stunner'

Sportswriters need some new terms to describe Stephen Strasburg, says word ref Delia Cabe on "Wunderkind" is overdone when talking about the Nats', well, wunderkind, she opines in her "All the Cliches Fit to Print" essay.

Cabe writes:

Wunderkind. Did you hear about Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg? A wunderkind. Also, some bloggers, a convicted real estate mogul, conductors, musicians, writers, ad infinitum. You’d be surprised how many wunderkinds there are out there.

C'mon, are the baseball pundits out there really that lazy and simple-minded? I mean, Batter Chatter would never fall into the trap of spitting out the same hackneyed terms used by mediocre sportswriters who are biding their time until their Chapt. 11 owner offers them a buyout.

Er, in fact, we did. In a post a few weeks ago about people describing Strasburg's repertoire in video-game terms, we said this:

Today of course marks the Major League debut of wunderkind pitcher Stephen Strasburg, and the MLB Network is capitalizing on the monstrous interest in the Nationals' #1 pick by showing the game tonight...

It seems Strasburg is simply too much of a wunderkind to describe him any other way: his age, his ability, his Germanic surname. defines "wunderkind" as "1. a wonder child or child prodigy. 2. a person who succeeds, esp. in business, at a comparatively early age."

Certainly both apply to Strasburg.

Then over to (will my children ever know what an actual reference book feels like?), where the suggested synonyms include: brain*, child genius, curiosity, enormity, freak*, genius, intellect, marvel, mastermind, miracle, monster, natural, one in a million, phenomenon, portent, rare bird, rarity, sensation, spectacle, stunner, talent, whiz kid, whiz*, wizard, wonder, wonder child. (The * denotes informal usage.)

We promise to not use wunderkind to describe Strasburg, who turns 22 next month, in these cyber-pages for a period of not less than 18 months--at which point Strasburg may still be a "wunder" (meaning "wonderful," according to Google's German-to-English translation), but most certainly will not be a "kind" (a "child", per Google Translate). scribe Rick Reilly uses a loose translation of wunderkind in his name for Strasburg, "The Superkid."

Another baseball writer cliche made Delia Cabe's list: embattled. Among the "embattled" folks kicked around in the media these days are BP boss Tony Hayward, of course, Lindsay Lohan, GOP chairman Michael Steele, and Mets skipper Jerry Manuel.

Manuel of course was embattled before the Mets' recent hot streak, though dropping a pair this week in Puerto Rico likely has Jerry back in the 'battle.

[image: Yahoo]

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Pavano Stays Off Eponymous List

Twins hurler Carl Pavano looked strong in shutting down the Metsies over the weekend, allowing just three hits while going the distance for his ninth win--and second consecutive complete game.

It's difficult to determine to what degree Pav's new porn-star moustache flummoxed the Mets batters. Twins fans love the 'stache; they've even taken to calling Pavano "Super Pavario."

All of that would've been inconceivable a few years ago, when Pavano incurred so many injuries with the Yankees (some might suggest they were, in fact, "injuries") that his teammates actually referred to the disabled list as "The Pavano."

In the Joe Torre/Tom Verducci book The Yankee Years, Mike Mussina explains the problems that befell the Yanks early in 2007 on page 388.

"Our problem right now is we have too many pitchers on the 15-day Pavano," said Moose. "That's what it's officially called now. Did you know that? The Pavano. His body just shut down from actually pitching for six weeks. It's like when you get an organ transplant and your body rejects it. His body rejected pitching. It's not used to it."

Monday, June 28, 2010

Yanks Thrive on 'Core' Values

With the Bombers facing old autumn nemesis the Los Angeles Dodgers out west this past weekend, the Gotham papers focused on the players' reunion with former skipper Joe Torre. Numerous papers invoked the increasingly popular phrase "Core Four" for the Yankee veteran quartet of Jeter, Rivera, Pettitte and Posada.

"Joe Torre knows sentiment will be pushed aside when Core Four Yankees visit Dodgers," read the Daily News headline Friday.

Going back to April, the Daily News reported: "This week's Sports Illustrated features a tremendous cover shot of the Core Four - Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte - having some fun with each other."

Something called All Headline News used the phrase to explain why the Yanks won the World Series last fall: George Steinbrenner, a.k.a. "Boss" and the "Core Four" of Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada are among nine reasons the New York Yankees won their 27th World Series Wednesday night.

The first references to the Yanks' Core Four appears to be around the time of the 2009 World Series.

It appears the Yankees aren't the only team with a Core Four. The Mets have one too, says the NY Post. Quick, can you name the foursome?

The Bombers group of Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada are know for World Series titles, while the Mets bunch of Jose Reyes, David Wright, Carlos Beltran and Johan Santana are distinguished by collapses and injuries.

NBC Sports even referred to D'Brickashaw Ferguson (D'Brickashaw that's a name!) as part of the Jets' "Core Four", drawing the ire of one pinstripe-wearing reader.

HOW DARE YOU use a Yankees reference "Core Four" for the Jets.

Get it straight. "most" Yankees fans are Giants Fans. "most" Jets fans are Mets fans.

Oh snap!

No lesser light than Alex Rodriguez--most certainly not part of the Core Four--referred to the foursome, though not by its moniker, when describing his own cool relationship with Torre.

He tells the NY Times:

"I can’t say that I have the same relationship he does with Jorge and Pettitte and Mo and Jeet. I’d be lying to you. Those guys have a 10-, 12-year history. They won a lot of championships together."

Pettitte's three-year stint in Houston notwithstanding, it's more like a 15 year history for the Core Four, and that doesn't include the minors.

After all that time, you'd think Pettitte and Posada would have cool nicknames like the other half of the Core Four.

Handy Andy? Mr. Posada Head?


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Waiting For Good 'Joe'

When you think ballpark beverages, you think a cold beer up in the stands, and some Gatorade down in the dugout, unless Paul O'Neill has come out of retirement to smash the defenseless tub of sports drink to oblivion.

Yet there's a long history between baseball and coffee--especially among elite Yankees named Joe.

Joe DiMaggio of course was a spokesman for Mr. Coffee decades ago, causing many to think that the term "cup of joe" was a reference to the Yankee, Clipper.

In fact, cup of joe is named for former U.S. Navy Secretary Josephus Daniels, who eliminated booze from the officers' mess hall a half-century or so ago, which prompted the naval officers to refer to the next strongest drink available to them--coffee--as "a cup of joe."

It's interesting that DiMaggio was also known as Joltin' Joe; Jolt was a super-caffeinated cola (it billed itself as "The Espresso of Colas") that hit the beverage aisle in 1985, and has since been rebranded as an energy drink. Jolt's effect on the nervous system was similiar to the spiked coffee pots in baseball clubhouses before MLB started testing for uppers; rookies who didn't get the memo about the enhanced clubhouse coffee probably thought they were having a heart attack.

These days, I see Yankee, Clipper...uh, skipper Joe Girardi lending his name and visage for the new Dunkin Donuts "Box o' Joe." Girardi doesn't really strike me as a put-your-face-on-a-box-of-coffee kind of guy; he told MyFoxNY last month that Box o' Joe benefits his Catch 25 charity, which raises funds for Alzheimer's and cancer research, among other worthy causes.

His predecessor at the Bombers' helm was, of course, a Joe as well. But Joe Torre, unlike Joe DiMaggio and Joe Girardi, wasn't a pitchman for coffee. Torre hawks Bigelow Tea-- because there's no coffee in T-E-A-M, but there sure as hell is a T-E-A.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Seinfeld Gives Gaga the 'Finger'

Jerry Seinfeld of course mans the SNY booth for three innings during Mets-Tigers tonight, setting up the sure to be delightful reunion with Keith "I'm Keith Hernandez!" Hernandez.

Seinfeld is a bit fired up after Lady Gaga snuck into his empty luxury box at CitiField last week and made a scene, which included giving the crowd the finger.

Erected middle fingers are, of course, as old as peanuts and Cracker Jacks at the ballpark.

But, as is his m.o., Seinfeld has some fun with the concept of "The Finger"--as in, what makes it "the finger," and why do people get so upset when you isolate it from the rest of the finger family?

Jerry let 'er rip on The FAN earlier this week:

"You give people the finger and you get upgraded? Is that the world we're living in now? It's pathetic. And why is she giving the finger? How old is the finger? How'd it even get to be the finger? Somewhere along the line somebody decided this is the bad finger."

When you think of it, The Bad Finger is actually a better moniker for the middle finger than, simply, The Finger. Of course, there might be legal issues with the '60 Welsh pop band Badfinger, the vaguely Beatles-esque outfit with the extraordinarily long Wikipedia entry and the cheesy hit "Come and Get It" to its credit.

Jerry and ribeye steak-eater Keith will likely spend some time sharing their mutual distaste for kids today, and the strange customs they live by.

Seinfeld concludes:

"I look at Lady Gaga the way Keith Hernandez watches these kids when they pull the pocket out, they wear the inside-out pocket. ... Do you think he could understand that? He can't understand that. That's a new game, that's kids."

[image: Getty/AP]

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Warner Wolf is in a 'Foul' Mood

Shots off the foul pole have to remind any New York native of a certain age of the inimitable Warner Wolf. Wolf of course was our local channel 2 sports guy who brought some SportsCenter shtick to the airwaves before there even was a SportsCenter.

Among his bits were a hearty "Let's go to the videotape!", "Gimme a break!," "BOOM!" and a little act he'd do every time a hitter rang one off the foul pole. No, it wasn't the foul pole to Wolf--it was the fair pole.

"Cuz if the ball hits it, " Wolf would exclaim, "it's a fair ball! C'mawn!"

Local sports guys are lucky if they get a few minutes in the newscasts today, and luckier still if more than a handful of people in the market even know their names in this ESPN age. It's hard to imagine people talking about them 20 years down the road.

Wolf left channel 2 about six years ago, and is currently toiling on the Imus show on radio. I also hear Warner Wolf's voice on various commercial voice-overs for cars these days.

It doesn't seem like any of Wolf's shtick bits held up all that well over time--you really can't "go to the videotape" in the digital age, Nell Carter bogarted the "gimme a break" phrase, and you really can't work a sanguine "BOOM!!" into a car commercial.

The fair pole, on the other hand--maybe ol' Warner had something there. No less a source than has an entry for "fair pole", and there's a blog that had some momentum until, oh, late 2008 called The Fair Pole.

And this being 2010 and all, Facebook, of course, has a page dedicated to "Fans Who Think the FOUL Pole Should Be Renamed the FAIR Pole."

Warner Wolf does not appear to be among the 33 Friends of Fans Who Think the FOUL Pole Should be Renamed the FAIR Pole.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Robinson Cano's 'Kitchen' Confidential

If you found a strange man in your kitchen, you'd probably call the cops, or beat him with your fire extinguisher.

But that's what happened to Yankees second-bagger Robinson Cano last night, according to YES-man Michael Kay.

The Phillies were having their way with the Yanks in the Bronx, and J.C. Romero looked to get the torrid Cano out in the ninth inning. A fastball zoomed in on his hands, and even appeared to have hit Robbie C.

In fact, the ball hit the bat, and went about two feet past the plate.

"He got right in Cano's kitchen!" howled Kay as Cano, currently the A.L.'s leading hitter, lazily trotted in the direction of first.

Getting in a guy's kitchen, or even his bread basket (which is way into his kitchen), has been said by baseball announcers since I was a kid.

The implication is that a pitcher got way in tight on the batter--too close to home for the batter's comfort level.

But why the kitchen? The kitchen is probably the most public part of the house, though the family room and its big ol' plasma TV has a claim to that honor too. You have friends over for dinner. You might play cards with your buds around the kitchen table.

If you really, truly wanted to suggest that a pitcher got up (too) close and (too) personal on a batter, why not say he got in his bathroom? Or his bedroom?

Or we could sex the term up a bit, and say the pitcher got in the batter's boudoir.

Cano wouldn't want Romero, or any of the Phillies, in his kitchen. (Ryan Howard, for one, looks like he could cut a serious swath of destruction through one's pantry.) But Robbie would probably be even more displeased to find one of the Fightin' Phils in his boudoir.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Helton Hitting in a Mile-High 'Hole'

Ageless Rockies slugger Todd Helton, he of the similarly ageless goatee, has thrived in the #2 spot in the batting order.

Helton apparently still has to get used to calling his slot "the two-hole," however.

Writes the Denver Post:

Todd Helton has hit well in the two hole — 8-for-20 through Tuesday — but he's hoping his time there is short. Said Helton, when asked if he liked the two hole: "I love Tulo."

Tulo is, of course, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. You'd think Helton might find it peculiar for a beat writer to ask him if he "likes" his teammate, like it's a junior high girl asking a junior high boy if he "likes" her friend. But maybe that's how things work in wacky Denver.

Back to the two-hole. Off the top of my I ever do any actual research here? seems as though the second slot in the lineup is the only one with "hole" in the nickname.

Hitting first is, of course, leadoff. (Recently, Jose Reyes referred to hitting first as his "house" after a stint at hitting third. "As soon as I went back to leadoff, it clicked for me," Reyes told the NY Times. "That’s my house there."

Batting third is simply batting third--you're the best hitter on your team, and your slot in the order doesn't need some cute nickname in place of the regal third.

Unlike the cleanup guy behind you.

Fifth is fifth ("cleaning up after the cleanup guy" never quite caught on), and sixth is simply sixth.

If ever there was a faceless spot in the order, it's seventh. You don't get on base, you're not a great hitter, you're not even a good hitter and you don't hit for power, but you don't suck enough to hit eighth.

Why does hitting second get "two-hole"?

Holes are, of course, not unique to baseball. If you're due up after the guy who is on deck, you're in the hole. Wunderkind hurler Stephen Strasburg had some trouble with a hole on the mound at Cleveland's Regressive Field--as have Metsies Santana and Niese this week.

My guess is that the second spot in the order is still living down its impotent past, when it was manned by choking up, slap-hitting Felix Millan types whose main focus was hitting a weak grounder to second so that the leadoff flyer could motor to second and get ready for the boppers to bring him home.

These days, the two guy is expected to hit with some pop--he's no longer stuck in some strength-sapping hole. Witness Helton--as well as his teammate Jason "Yes, I'm still drawing a Major League Baseball salary" Giambi.

Notes that same Denver Post in late May:

Jason Giambi in the two hole? The Giambino? The proud owner of 410 major league home runs and 1,335 big-league ribbies?

That's the guy.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

It Is Unclear if Strasburg is 'Nuclear'

A piece on today compares the hype surrounding Stephen Strasburg's nascent career to other media circus events in baseball history, such as the Sosa-McGwire home run derby of 1998 and Doc Gooden's unforgettable rookie campaign in 1984.

Fireballer Kerry Wood is also included on the list, after he struck out 20--while walking none and allowing one hit--in his fifth career start back in 1998. Here at Batter Chatter (not to be confused with '80s snack food Better Cheddar), we like to detail how various baseball terms pop up and catch on.

Jerry Crasnick's ESPN story suggests that the term "electric", as in a pitcher having an electric fastball, was hatched around the same time Kerry Wood's arm was trouble-free and he was mowing down every hitter in his path.

"There's a new term being used in baseball these days: electric," veteran scout Gordon Lakey said that season. "Like, 'This guy has an electric fastball' or 'This guy has an electric curveball.' Well, this guy ain't electric. He's nuclear."

It doesn't seem as though "nuclear" ever caught on. Maybe it's because the word calls to mind bombs and the utter annhilation of nations, or because it's hard to say--hey, no lighter luminary than our 43rd president had lots of difficulty saying "nuclear."

Unfortunately, Kerry Wood, with a Pavano-esque knack for injuries both mundane and bizarre--the guy once was injured climbing out of a hot tub--didn't stay "nuclear" for long. Sadly, Wood--who turns 33 today, as luck would have it--is hardly even "electric" anymore.


Baseball's 'Checks' and Balances

Hockey is finally over, right?

I mean, the kids are in the pool, the hot dogs are on the grill, and the skates and sticks and ice have finally been retired for the year, yes?

Then what was Ben Shpigel of the NY Times doing referring to "cross-checkers" in a story about the Yankees' first round draft pick, Cito Culver? Far as I know, cross-checkers are hockey goons who wallop the opponent with the middle part of their stick, though it could be a variation on the boring old board game involving red and black plastic wafers, similar to Chinese checkers.

Writes Shpigel about Derek Jeter's heir apparent:

Damon Oppenheimer, the Yankees’ vice president for amateur scouting, said the Yankees had scouted Culver for more than a year, following him at showcases and tournaments. Oppenheimer estimated that his scouts and cross-checkers had seen a few hundred of Culver’s at-bats.

I dropped Shpigel an email (I swear, every time I type 'Shpigel', I'm sure I got it wrong) to see what he's talking about. Obviously it's some sort of ballclub bird-dog who follows around prospects and makes sure they have good fundamentals and don't get in trouble. Maybe the cross-checkers are like the second wave of scouts--checking up on the scouts' work to make sure their findings are airtight?
We shall see.
[image: flickr/yahoo]

Monday, June 14, 2010

Alex Cora Is So 'Money', and He Doesn't Even Know It

It's pretty clear that the Mets keep Alex Cora around because he's a smart baseball guy, almost another coach. Frequently you'll see skipper Jerry Manuel conferring with Cora about some decision he's contemplating.

Cora's on-field skills alone probably wouldn't merit a spot on the roster: a .223 average, less power than my neighborhood after that crazy windstorm in March. But despite having zero home runs (a bagel!), Cora's got 14 ribbies in just 94 at-bats--nothing to sneeze at.

SNY guy Gary Cohen noted Cora's knack for hitting with runners in scoring position yesterday against the Orioles. (Speaking of the Orioles, can Selig send the whole team down to triple A for a year and bring up the top AAA team in the country in their stead? I mean, c'mon! They look like Australia's Socceroos out there!)

"Cora's been amazing this year," said Cohen. "He hasn't hit at all except when money's been on the table."

Hadn't heard that phrase before, maybe because of the iffy relationship between baseball and gambling.

When we were kids, we called baserunners "ducks on the pond" in that situation--a quaint idiom that fits baseball's rural profile.

We've mentioned before the overlap of corporate-speak and baseball-speak; business types frequently mention not "leaving money on the table", as in, not charging enough (or anything) for a good or service that people are probably willing to part with a few shillings for.
"Don't Leave Money on the Table!" bellows a headline from Forbes back in 2008 in a business story that kicks off with a small-time seller of sweet syrups who Forbes figures should be doing much better revenues.
"Money's on the table" brings up just shy of 29,000 links on Google. At a quick glance, none of the links seem to be related to baseball.
In other cases, the player himself is the money. Witness the Miami Herald discussing moody slugger Hanley Ramirez:

He is also fully aware that he isn't producing the way he did a season ago when he won the National League batting title and was money with runners in scoring position.


Friday, June 11, 2010

SEPP BLATTER* CHATTER: U.S. 'Result-Oriented' in World Cup

I don't plan on straying from baseball on this blog very often, but with the World Cup underway and all, I told myself I'd do something soccer-related if I saw 10 people wearing soccer jerseys in Manhattan today.

I did. I saw Italy, Brazil and even Ivory Coast, though no U.S. and no England--who face each other tomorrow at 2.

England will be gunning for a win; losing to the rebels would be unconscionable.

The U.S., on the other hand, is shooting for a "result."

In high-level soccer parlance, a result is a win or a tie--the two possible outcomes that would merit points in the standings.

Writes George Vecsey in the NY Times:
The Yanks have at least a chance to gain what soccer fans call a result — a draw or a victory, a point or maybe even 3, in the traditionally slippery first match of group play.

ESPN's SoccerNet sees it similarly:

...the U.S. knows it will have to play the perfect game (or something close to it) to get a result against England.

It's important that you know this because there's obviously a lot of talk about the U.S. trying to get a "result" tomorrow. ESPN was chastised in the last Cup for not having knowledgeable enough soccer commentators, so don't expect this Cup's crop of overseas pundits to dumb down the soccer-speak for the U.S. audience at all.

While some would say losing a match--and it's always "match," not "game"--would be considered a negative result, it's not considered a result in this context.

[image: NY Times]

* Sepp Blatter is the president of the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA). But you knew that.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Even Better Than a Saturday Night Special

Friday night lights is all about football, right?

I mean, there was Friday Night Lights, the book, and Friday Night Lights, the movie, and Friday Night Lights, the TV series--each one looking at our violent other pastime in the dusty Texas plains under the lights, with the whole town watching as a strapping kid named Cody throws three TDs and runs for four more.

Surely kids down in the ol' Don't Mess With state carry Friday Night Lights lunchboxes to school, emblazoned with their favorite gridiron stars.
But don't count baseball out of the Friday night, under the lights action.

Reds pitching wunderkind Mike Leake was described by Mets slugger Ike Davis in the NY Times as "our Friday night guy" while both played at Arizona State. (Freaky stat of the day: Leake is not only 5-0, but is hitting .417 this season.)

An explanation from reporter Tyler Kepner:

The Friday night pitcher is the ace of a college team, the one who pitches under the lights to open a weekend series.

Kepner adds that Nationals superman Stephen Strasburg too was, surprise surprise, a Friday Night Guy at San Diego State.


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

When Extra BP and Your Lucky Rabbit's Foot Fail You

Today's entry comes from the minor leagues, where Wilmington Sharks play-by-play guy David Tanklefsky dishes about the "slump-buster."

We know that Mark Texeira tried taking more swings from both sides of the plate to bust his current slump, then tried taking fewer. Neither seemed to be working.

Big Tex was three for four with a pair of walks and a pair of rib-eye steaks last night, so it's entirely possible that he partook in a little slump-bustin' this week.

Tanklefsy writes:

Ballplayers are a superstitious bunch, as anyone who follows the game closely knows. An assistant coach I recently met took to cutting his spiked red hair into a mohawk and drawing mullet-like lines into his sideburns after his team went on a winning streak--a one game winning streak.

So it should come as no surprise that ballplayers mired in the doldrums of a slump will do some [ahem] less than conventional things to break out of it.

Enter the slump-buster.

Urban Dictionary's most PG explanation of this phenomenon is that a slump-buster is an unattractive female that a player has relations with in the effort to get out of a slump. The term has also found its way into the non-baseball world (which may be where it came from to begin with) to mean a person who helps a friend or acquaintance who has been lacking in the department of corporal relations to "break their slump."

The theory behind the slump-buster seems to be that once you get back on base, the hits will come in droves.

As you might imagine, there aren't a lot of first source texts that point the way as to which ballplayers have utilized slump-busters over the years. Wade Boggs drew plenty of unwanted headlines to the Red Sox in the late '80s when he was found to have carried on an extramarital affair for four years, but the guy only hit below .300 three times in his 18-year career. It's hard to have a slump buster if you never have a slump.

Also, when trying to determine who constitutes a slump buster and who does not, it's important to note that the guy in the slump isn't typically attracted to the slump-buster. So, no A-Rod--Kate Hudson and Cameron Diaz do not count.

David Tanklefsky is a freelance writer and musician from Boston who is currently calling play-by-play on internet radio for the Wilmington Sharks in Wilmington, N.C.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Fun and 'Games' for Strasburg

Today of course marks the Major League debut of wunderkind pitcher Stephen Strasburg, and the MLB Network is capitalizing on the monstrous interest in the Nationals' #1 pick by showing the game tonight.

It may be the most eagerly awaited rookie pitcher start since portly pitcher Fernando "Eyes to the Sky" Valenzuela was taking the hill for the Dodgers back in '81.

One thing to look for amidst all the Strasburg hoopla--his pitching repertoire is so wicked (notice I didn't say "nasty") that pundits often compare it, not to other flesh-and-blood pitchers, but to video game pitchers. In short, mere mortals do not compare.

Harrisburg Senators closer Drew Storen had this to say about his former teammate:

“He’s got Nintendo stuff. You create a player on a video game, and that’s what he has. The ball just comes out differently from his hand. He does something that nobody else can do.”

Strasburg was also said to post video game-worthy statistics while at San Diego State. Strasburg turned a few heads when he struck out 23 against Utah back in 2008.

Reported the Las Vegas Sun:

His coach had never seen anything like it, and that’s saying something, because his coach has seen a lot. Tony Gwynn, a baseball Hall of Famer, once saw Kevin Brown strike out 16 Astros. But he never saw anybody strike out 23. That’s just crazy, Gwynn said.

“It was like a Nintendo game,” he said.


He also has Nintendo numbers through two seasons at San Diego State with 180 strikeouts, 31 walks, and 79 hits allowed — only 18 of them for extra bases — in 134.1 collegiate innings."

The first Stephen Strasburg-as-video game-reference I found came from none other than Tony Gwynn, MLB Hall of Famer and Strasburg's old coach at San Diego State.

Strasburg also tallied exBoxcellent numbers in the minors, reports Buffalo News.

Strasburg allowed just three hits, struck out nine and walked two. He's 3-0 in Triple-A, throwing 18 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing just four hits and four walks and fanning 22.

Those are PlayStation numbers.

Sadly, no one references Atari 2600 anymore. I remember Atari skiiing (good), hockey (very good) and track (lame), but did Atari ever do baseball?

Either way, get those joysticks out of storage--it's game on at 7 p.m. tonight.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Manuel Labors For Right Word Regarding Bad Ollie

I swear, sometimes this blog just writes itself.

Mets skipper Jerry Manuel was chatting with reporters over the weekend about what's really the only downer in Metsville these days--Ollie Perez's refusal to go to the minor league Buffalo Bisons to learn to become a major league pitcher again. ("The buffalo in the locker room," deftly quipped NY Timesman Joe Lapointe.)

The Mets avoided a sticky situation by putting Perez on the disabled list. The move raised some eyebrows, because no one seemed to know that Perez was injured.

Manuel, however, said the team's front office deserved better than skepticism that it was playing a little dirty pool.

Writes the Times:

Manuel acknowledged that the timing of Perez’s injury would raise suspicions, but he defended the legitimacy of the injury, going so far as to coin a new word.

“In my years that I have been here, the Wilpons, Saul Katz, Omar Minaya, they have had similar situations where they could have used what I would say would be a less integrious option,” Manuel said, referring to the Mets’ management. “But they never chose that.”

It's not surprising for ballplayers to make up new words (or "strategery"-minded presidents, for that matter); you'll recall that Roger Clemens said former friend Andy Pettitte likely "misremembered" Clemens doing juice. Of course, Clemens was called The Rocket, not The Rocket Scientist.

It's less common for bookish, jazz-bo managers in chem professor glasses to make them up.

I just hope the Mets continue their victoriginous ways.


Friday, June 4, 2010

Beaned Pitcher Huff Wakes Up With Herculean Strength

We've already discussed pitchers throwing "sinks" this week, but how about pitchers throwing entire bullpens?

Tribe skipper Manny Acta was speaking with the Cleveland Plain-Dealer about his pitcher David Huff, who started yesterday after taking a horrific A-Rod smash off his noggin over the weekend. (It simply had to be A-Rod, didn't it?)

Sadly, Huff's appearance--three innings, six hits, five runs--was almost as ugly as the A-Rod incident. But Acta said the real victory was seeing Huff get action against real batters, as opposed to simply tossing warm-ups to the backup catcher.

"It's easier to throw a bullpen than to see a ball come off the bat again," said Acta. "That's what we'll be watching."

I don't know, is it really easier to throw an entire bullpen than to face a live batter? Those bullpens are large.

Of course, we jest. A "bullpen" is popular shorthand for a bullpen session.

In the same breath, Acta introduced DL--as in disabled list--in an uncommon usage as a verb.

"I was on the conservative side from the get go," said Acta of getting Huff back into action. "I said let's DL this guy and give him some time off. But the very next day he was in the dugout for the whole game like nothing happened."

Of course, using nouns as verbs has been popular in corporate American for years; maybe we can "trial" our new product after we "baseline" the competition's sales and, of course, "synergize" with our sister businesses.

Like Evan Longoria referring to Carl Crawford's "ceiling," Acta's noun-as-verb is another example of corporate-speak oozing into baseball--and leaving linguistic tar balls all over the diamond.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Gonzalez Gorges on 'Steaks' in San Diego

Maverick Mets announcer Keith Hernandez did not appear to make the trip to San Diego with the club this week, so we weren't treated to one of our better-liked baseball-slang terms in the past few days: the Rib-Eye Steak.

The Rib-Eye Steak is longhand for an RBI, which is of course shorthand for a Run Batted In. I think I first heard Hernandez--who I got to interview last year--mention Rib-Eye Steaks as RBIs toward the end of last season. (Of course, some baseball purists drop the 's' in the plural and use RBI to denote multiple runs batted in, as you don't say "runs batted ins".)

I googled the Rib-Eye Steak and RBI and found mostly steak recipes, some seemingly delicious, along with one relevant listing on It reads: RBI are sometimes referred to in slang as ribbies or ribs, or as steaks (as in 'rib eye steaks.')

The key middleman in this equation is the Ribbie: Ribbie of course is the phonetic pronunciation for RBI, and Rib-Eye Steak takes the "Rib" from Ribbie--sort of like God making a woman from a man's rib in the Book of Genesis--and stretches it out into a new and funny term.

The post-game spread is never far from players'--or announcers'--minds. Witness some of the more flavorful baseball lingo: as we learned in recent weeks, a string of shutouts is a bagel; a four-run homer, such as what 1st-sacker Adrian Gonzalez used to thwart the Mets last night; is a grand salami; an easily gloved pop-up is a can of corn;and a home run is a tater.

I probably should've written this post after lunch--now I'm starving.

Anyone know a place in midtown Manhattan that serves Rib-Eye Steaks on bagels?


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

What's Nastier Than Nasty?

Several years ago, then-Mets catcher Mike Piazza acknowledged one of the great cliches in sports.

Piazza may have been useless at throwing out base-stealers, but Big Mike was no dummy: He was a media-savvy guy and a decent interview after games. (Full disclosure: I may or may not have started the rumor that Mike Piazza starred in the movie Teen Wolf under a different name.)

Speaking with a New York Magazine reporter, Piazza opined:

"I've been trying to invent a new cliché to replace stepping up," he says. "That's the most overused term in sports. I've got to invent a new one. I'll test out a few phrases and see what catches on. How cool would that be, if you could think up a term like step up and see all these guys using it in interviews? I need to start watching more of Don King's interviews. I heard him say one time, 'These are tribulations and infractications! These are hypocrisies and hypotheticals!' He's funny, man -- he's amazing. Maybe I can borrow something from him."

A decade later, here's another baseball cliche that needs to be retired: A "nasty" pitch.

I tuned into This Week in Baseball over the weekend for the first time in years. Notably, and perhaps of no surprise to anyone, there's really nothing about the current week in baseball in the show; ESPN and its myriad tentacles of course have covered all that ad nauseum. Instead, it focuses on longer-form insider topics, such as who's got the toughest pitch in the game.

That segment showed clips of several pitchers showing their signature pitches. Accompanying each pitch was the live announcing; out of maybe 20 clips, all but two had the word "nasty" in the call.

Ben Sheets' curve? Nasty!

Johan Santana's changeup? Nasty!

Tim Lincecum's entire repertoire? Nasty, nasty, nasty!

The two non-nasty descriptions, if you're scoring at home, were "devastating" and "filthy."

Nasty is so overused that it's taken, well, the nastiness out of it. We're here in New York, so we're particularly attuned to pitches being called nasty due to a certain bat-smashing closer taking the hill every couple days, though the Yankee games are so damn long that Mariano is almost taking the stage around the same time Jay and Dave are.

So let's put "nasty" to rest. Filthy, I'm fine with. But I'm open for suggestions. Any announcers around the country coming up with good substitutions for nasty? Anyone else like the sound of nastardly?


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

'Bloused' Pants Mystery Solved

Last week, we questioned what the heck Derek Jeter was talking about when he mentioned Yankees being made to wear their pants "bloused". Was he referring to his baseball pants, or his post-game, late-dinner at Tao trousers?

I reached out to a fashion expert, who'd never heard of the term.

I then reached out to Paul Lukas, who operates the incomparable Uni Watch website and column, which obsessively studies sports uniforms and is one of the great niche-sports reads around.

Lukas was good enough to hit us back over the long weekend. It was fitting that it was over Memorial Day that Lukas memorializes the concept of bloused baseball pants.

He writes:

Bloused pants refers to the proper method of wearing one's pants high-cuffed. It's not enough to have the pants bunched up at the knee -- the proper method is to have the elastic cuff tucked under and out of sight, which causes a slight bulge at the point where the fabric breaks underneath. This is blousing.

Look here:

See how the pant leg fabric turns under?

See how the cuff point is wider than the stirrup just below it? That's the blousing effect.

Nowadays, of course, the Yankees don't enforce this rule. Neither does anyone else. A pity.

[images: Daily Mail]