Thursday, July 29, 2010

Multimillion Dollar Summer 'Rental'

The MLB non-waiver trade deadline is Saturday, so you'll be hearing a lot of talk in the next 48 hours about teams "renting" a player--grabbing a stud for the 2010 stretch drive, only to have him walk when his contract is up at the end of the season, whereupon he goes to the Yankees in a six-year, $175 million deal.

C.C. Sabathia was a rental for the Brewers two years ago. He helped them get to the playoffs, but they didn't last long once they got there.

This year's prime rental--that gabled manse on Georgica Pond in Sagaponack--is Cliff Lee. The Rangers of course grabbed Lee a few weeks ago from the Mariners, but seem to have little hope of retaining him for 2011.

Prior to the trade, several publications desscribed Lee as a seasonal acquisition.

Wrote the NY Post in a headline:

Mets willing to 'rent' Lee from Mariners


The Twins organization has a new revenue stream in Target Field, but I still can't see them offering Ramos and another of their top prospects or young players for a rental such as Lee...

With Lee in a Rangers uni, Cubs hurler Ted Lilly is suddenly among the most attractive "rentals" on the market, said recently.

After Roy Oswalt and Dan Haren, Lilly is the most desirable “rent a starter’’ available on the market...

Haren of course shipped out to the Angels, and the Phillies may just be sizing Oswalt for a uniform today.

The rental market is not limited to pitchers. Since the Angels lost Kendry Morales to a broken leg during a home run celebration (not to be confused with the Marlins losing Chris Coghlan to a buggered MCL in a pie-in-the-face incident), the Halos may--or may not--be looking to "rent" a first baseman for August, September and, presumably, the playoffs.


The Angels are still looking for offensive help, tweets ESPN's Jayson Stark, but one team he spoke to says they're not going to rent a first baseman for two months. This runs counter to Ken Rosenthal's July 10th report that the Halos are "looking only at rentals" at first base since Kendry Morales will be back in 2011.

Way down on the lower end of the food chain, the most infamous of summer rentals--the Jersey Shore crew--has its season premier on MTV tonight.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

'Metssimism' Reigns in Queens

Met fans are like Red Sox fans pre-2004 Word Series: They know not to get too excited when the team is contending into mid to late summer, because the crash is inevitable. Any time the Mets look like world beaters, ask most true Mets fans if they think the team will still be around when the leaves start to change colors, and they'll offer a weary shake of the head.

There's a word for this Metsie mindset: a Metssimist, says very funny Wall Street Journal sports guy Jason Gay.

Gay effectively sums up the last few weeks for Met fans, which he describes as a roller coaster only a sadist would design.

Just a few weeks ago, Metland was celebrating a successful first half of the season. The team tripped early, but they corrected nicely, finding unlikely life with contributions from surprise presents like knuckleballer R.A. Dickey and outfielder Angel Pagan. Entering the All- Star break, they were tailgating the first-place Braves, and getting back their All-Star center fielder, Carlos Beltran. They were poised.

But then the West was lost. For weeks, the 11-game swing through Arizona and the Republic of Schwarzenegger loomed dangerously on the schedule, but only a deep Mets pessimist (A Metssimist?) predicted it would unravel so spectacularly.

UPDATE: Oddly, Gay wasn't the first to coin the term. I see the blog referred to "Metssimists" before the 2007 season even started--when Met fans had no idea what sort of misery would await them in the ensuing years.

The blog reads:

True Metssimists know...The biggest decline in Mets walk-off wins from one season to the next is 7.

The best index of Metssimism is the brilliant Confidence Rating over on Even after yesterday's 8-run output and rare win, it shows a Dubya-esque 47%.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

No 'Cookies' For A-Rod in Pursuit of 600

Besides being those frisbee-shaped biscuits comprised of chocolate chips or shortbread, "cookies" are the little thingees inside your computer that remember your password and what you put in your shopping cart on and other essential personal information.

When it comes to baseball, "cookies" are easy-to-hit pitches down the middle, says Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez.

“Every time I come to the plate, there’s a potential damage situation and they know that,” Rodriguez said of opposing pitchers in today's NY Times. “So they’re not just going to throw cookies at me.”

(There's a "potential damage situation" every time he comes to the plate...A-Rod is not a modest man. That's why fans, not pitchers, would like to throw cookies at A-Rod.)

As we've noted here numerous times, ballplayers love to mix food terms into their baseball lingo, such as a can of corn, a snow-cone catch, and a player hot-doggin' it. Fittingly, a "meatball" is also used to describe a fat pitch.

So it appears A-Rod won't have a nice cookie to enjoy after his pre-game PB&J.

Garza Commits Major 'No-No'

Yes, yet another no-hitter yesterday in this, 2010, the Year of the Pitcher.

After five no-hitters this season, the no-hitter still lacks a great nickname. The grand slam has the grand salami, and the perfect game has the perfecto. A "perfecto" is also a cigar that is thick in the middle and tapered on the ends, according to Merriam -Webster. It's a delightful cigar to have after a grand salami sandwich.

Speaking of grand salamis, Rays outfielder Matt Joyce gave Garza a little breathing room after slugging a salami in the sixth.

But what's another term for a no-hitter? Some call it a no-no, which isn't a very good term. No-no is already in use as something you tell your children not to do, such as run across the street with scissors without wearing pants.

I remember Mets announcer Ralph Kiner (not yet a "former" Mets announcer, because he still makes cameos on sunny home Sundays) would refer to no-hitters as "no-hit, no-run games." It was a cumbersome, clunky and style-bereft phrase to say the least--the opposite of today's slick ESPN patter. Fortunately, the Mets are one of but two teams without a no-hitter (the Padres also have no no-no), so Kiner didn't have to utter "no-hit, no-run game" very often.

(It always sort of sucks when one of the newbie teams throws a no-hitter, such as the D-backs' Edwin Jackson and Randy Johnson; the Marlins' Al Leiter, Kevin Brown, A.J. Burnett and Anibal Sanchez; and the Rays' Garza, adding insult to the Mets'--and Pods' no-no injury. "The only tourists in Cabo San Lucas without a tan," according to ESPN's Jerry Crasnick of the two teams.) referred to Garza's accomplishment as a "no-no."

Tampa's Bay News 9 called it, simply, a "no-hitter." The reporter did note that the opposing hurler, Max Scherzer, had a "no-no" until the sixth inning.

The Tampa Tribune didn't stray from the "no-hitter" term either. Carl Crawford told the TT: "Feels good to finally be on the right side," as the Rays had been no-hit three times in the past year.

That's a real no-no for a team with an eye on the pennant.

All these sportwriters sitting around in the press box, and armchair pundits out there in the blogosphere, and no one can come up with a good nickname for the no-hitter.

[image: AP/]

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Jerry Manuel's 'Bag' of Tricks

It is young Ike Davis's second appearance in the hallowed cyber-pages of Batter Chatter this week, though this one is not based on merit whatsover. Ike has been a miserable 1 for 13 with 6 Ks in Phoenix, and skipper Jerry Manuel suspects it's because Davis, a native of Scottsdale, is trying to impress his friends and family in the crowd at the D-backs' Chase Field.

SNY guy Gary Cohen related last night how Manuel said the young slugger was out of sorts this week. "Ike is trying a little too hard to impress," said Manuel, according to Cohen. "He's swinging at the rosin bag."
'Swinging at the rosin bag' sounded like a classic Jerry Manuel ad lib; if you haven't watched Manuel's post-game interviews, they're delightful. He's a fun mix of hepcat jazzbo and funky English professor, with a knack for quirky language.

The phrase suggests that Davis perhaps ingested some of that peyote our American deserts are famous for, which threw his hitting intuition slightly out of whack.
In fact, swinging at the rosin bag is an established expression, piped up Cohen's boothmate, Ron Darling. "It's an old baseball term," said Darling. "It doesn't matter what the pitcher is throwing up there--he's swinging."

Indeed, this past spring, Cubs farm director Oneri Fleita said this about prospect Starlin Castro:

"He was never really a guy who went up there swinging at the rosin bag,'' Fleita said. "He had plate discipline."

Back in 2005, when the Angels were back in Anaheim, then-DH Jeff DaVanon told the L.A. Times he was no longer making like a boxer and hitting the bag.

"I started walking more last year because I stopped swinging at the rosin bag," DaVanon said.

The Mets lost in 14 last night. Davis struck out thrice, but took heart in sending a rosin bag to the edge of the warning track in right-center, where it was caught by Justin Upton.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Joe Torre Managing With 'House' Money

Ballplayers probably don't gamble much anymore, knowing full well their exploits will end up on YouTube or Deadspin.

Yet there's a quirky phrase in the clubhouse that brings to mind pockmarked pit bosses and leggy gal-pals clinging to the arm of whoever's got the hot hand in baccarat. (Uh, do you actually have a "hand" in baccarat? I honestly don't know.)

The phrase is either "playing with house money," or "playing with the house's money," and it suggests one is blessed enough to be extending one's career longer than one might have hoped or expected. It's like "gravy," or "bonus time."

I first heard "playing with the house's money" from Al Leiter, I believe, five years ago when he was somehow still getting Red Sox out while with the Yankees. (Funny Al Leiter note: I once saw Al, one of the worst hitters ever to play baseball, do the butcher-boy fake bunt play while with the Mets and actually slap a single through a hole. He then tried it just about every time up after that for the rest of his career, not because he might actually fool the third baseman into coming in for the bunt, but because it worked for him that one time.)

After signing with the Yankees, Leiter used the "house money" metaphor to say that he'd essentially earned the free mini-golf game by acing the 18th hole. He thought his career might be done--he would turn 40 that season--but in fact was still wearing a uniform and drawing a giant paycheck each day.

Joe Torre and Tom Verducci described Torre's long Yankees stint in the same manner in their Torre bio, The Yankee Years. Torre was all but done with baseball, having managed the Mets, Braves and Cards, before interviewing with the Yankees in 1995. When he got the job, he saw it as gravy.

"Torre saw the Yankee job as playing with house money," reads the book. "He called Steinbrenner 'George.'"

It's notable that both Leiter and Torre invoked "house money" when it came to their time in the House That Ruth Built. If ever there was an owner who did not give out money for nothin', it was the late George Steinbrenner.

While we're on the topic of house money, I don't gamble much...not at all, in fact. But are casinos really giving out a lot of money to gamblers? I know the high rollers get rooms and drinks and probably some other things that may or may not be legal, but are they getting actual cash in hand from the house?

I'll call Foxwoods and see what I can find out.

Better yet, I'll call Mohegan Sun, because of the cheesy "My Sharona" commercial ("M-m-m-my Mohegan!) that's been stuck in my head since I saw the spot 12 days ago.

A Cal Tech website dedicated to robotics, of all things, offers a variation of house money, saying it's not money given to the gambler by the casino, but money won legitimately from the casino.

"The 'house money' concept boils down to saying, "All the money I still have invested in X is pure profit I got from investing in X. Thus even if X goes to zero, I'll still be better off than if I never invested in X at all, thus I won't feel too bad about it."

Joe Torre is, of course, still plying his managerial trade out in Los Angeles, earning $13 million worth of house money over three years. The Dodgers' owners, Frank and Jamie McCourt, are locked in awful and well-publicized divorce proceedings--which some believe may cloud the team's payroll picture in the future. (For all the sleazy details, check out

So Torre is still playing with house money--only it's a house divided.

Monday, July 19, 2010

I Like Ike's 'Takeback'

The pitcher is poised.

The hitter takes his last half-swing in the box and awaits the offering.

The pitcher winds up.

The hitter's hands go back, then spring forward in a swing.

That's his hitch, right?

As children we were constantly instructed not to have a hitch, much the same way we were told to avoid inserting our size 8 Nike "spikes" into the "bucket."

Yet every swing naturally has some sort of hitch, and a "violent" hitch from Gary Sheffield--was Sheff's swing ever described as anything but violent?--didn't stop Sheff from amassing 509 home runs.

Of course, Hitch is also a 2005 comedy with Will Smith teaching King of Queens star Kevin James how to be a stud. You don't want that kind of hitch either.

So maybe there should be a less negative moniker for that backswing. Speaking of kings of queens, yesterday, Mets announcer Keith Hernandez repeatedly referred to Mets rookie slugger Ike Davis's "takeback"--that he'd start with his hands low, raise them high just before the pitch, then bring them back down to Earth again as his swing commenced.

His takeback. I'd never heard that before. You might say I was taken aback by it.

Hernandez, a very good hitter in his day, said the reason for Ike's recent slump was that he was bringing his hands too high in the takeback, leaving what Keith said was "a lot of margin for error" in his swing.

Davis, son of former relief pitcher Ron Davis, slammed a pair of dingers out in San Fran Saturday night, and added two doubles yesterday--including the game-winner in the 10th, high off right center's brick wall at AT&T Park.

Maybe Hernandez should "take back" what he said about Ike.


Friday, July 16, 2010

Big Papi 'Cheated', Still Couldn't Hit

A fun New Yorker profile about Red Sox slugger David Ortiz details Big Papi's exceptional cursing skills ("Two bleep-bleep games and already you mother bleep-bleeps are going crazy!", he bellowed after a two-game slow start to the season), as well as his propensity to "cheat" when his hitting was out of sorts earlier this season.

And no, we're not talking about Ortiz getting nailed for some over the counter supplements he bought in the Dominican

"He was thirty-four, and already cheating, as they say: starting his weight shift before the pitcher's release, and thereby leaving himself vulnerable to changeups and breaking stuff, the mark of a novice--or of a has-been."

I've heard that usage of cheating to describe defense before--a shortstop "cheats" toward second base if he thinks the batter might go up the middle. But I don't know that I've heard it in the offensive sense before the New Yorker article.

Writer Ben McGrath follows Papi's plodding progress all through the spring, and the hang-wringing and hysteria it wreaks in Boston. His fourth shot of the year, against the Angels, may have been a product of "cheating" as well.

"Similarly dismissable, then, was No. 4, which came the night after the epic failure against the Angels, because the Los Angeles starter had made the curious mistake of throwing an offspeed pitch--one that Ortiz pushed the other way, over the Green Monster in left. This could have been interpreted as evidence that Ortiz wasn't cheating as much as was suspected, but we were too deep intothe farewell narrative by this point."

Papi of course got his stroke back before summer hit, and didn't have to resort to cheating anymore.

McGrath also picks up on some non-verbal baseball language in the Sox dugout. Earlier this year, the slumping Ortiz and banged up Mike Lowell platooned at DH, one of the uncommon examples of the Red Sox really, truly not getting good value for their dollars. In this scene, Ortiz--hitting well once again--has been called on to pinch-hit for Lowell, a reversal of an earlier scene when Papi was unceremoniously called back to the dugout in favor of Lowell in a crucial situation.

"Seventh-inning stretch, eyes on the dugout: Ortiz grabs a helmet and heads for the bat rack, pausing briefly in front of Mike Lowell, whom he touches gently on the shoulder. No words are necessary. Lowell, grizzled and stoic, deposits his shades in his cap. His night is done."

Exit dugout left.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Cricket's Baseball Lingo a Sticky Wicket

Baseball terms are slowly but surely making their way into the lexicon of British bat-brethren cricket, reports the New York Times.

In fact, a baseball exhibition is being co-hosted at the esteemed Lord's cricket ground in London--think, England's Yankee Stadium--by both the Marylebone Cricket Club and the Baseball Hall of Fame up in Cooperstown.

If American baseballers--and business-folk--"swing for the fences," cricketers (or are they cricketeers?) "slog for the boundaries."

Yet the two sports--both of which include a guy trying to cream a ball that another guy is attempting to throw past him (key difference: baseball uses a bat, cricket uses a fraternity ass-paddle)--increasingly share some terminology. "Batter" has apparently replaced "batsman" in English cricket, and the Times reporter also overheard "catcher," "pinch hitter," "outfield," "switch-hitter" and "curveball" while at Lord's cricket ground.

Mind you, a "splitter," "rib-eye steak" and "sink" have not yet been picked up by the Brits.

And it's worth mentioning that the baseball-language-to-cricket is not a one-way street. I have childhood memories of baseball announcers--not sure if it was Bob Murphy or Ralph Kiner or even Lindsey Nelson--saying a ground ball skittering between a shortstop's legs went "through the wickets."

Wickets, of course, are the cricket sticks a pitcher, known as a bowler, aims to knock down if he can sneak the ball past the batter. Jerry Seinfeld famously complained of a "wicket googly" while cricketing in an old American Express commercial. Offers Wikipedia (uh, shouldn't someone across the pond create a Wicketpedia for cricket fans?):

Most of the time, the wicket is one of the two sets of three stumps and two bails at either end of the pitch.[1] The wicket is guarded by a batsman who, with his bat, attempts to prevent the ball from hitting the wicket.

The origin of the word is from the standard definition of wicket as a small gate. Historically, cricket wickets had only two stumps and one bail and looked like a gate. The third (middle) stump was introduced in 1775.

By that definition, you could have a picket fence with a gate, and that gate would of course be a picket wicket.

That would be, as they might say around Fenway, wicket cool.
[image: NY Times]

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Valverde Splitter a Real 'Downer'

We've discussed the myriad nicknames for the split-fingered fastball, including the "splitter," the "split," and of course Roger Clemens' beloved "Mr. Splitty."

Tim McCarver introduced another moniker for the gravity-embracing pitch last night in the All-Star Game: the "downer."

Tigers closer Jose Valverde was positively mowing down the National Leaguers in the eighth last night when he threw a particularly filthy splitter to Marlon Byrd.

Valverde and Byrd provided one of the night's more memorable moments, Byrd smiling at Valverde following a close pitch that he didn't bite on, and Valverde smiling broadly back. You don't see that in the regular season.

Valverde then froze Byrd with a nasty splitter. As Fox showed the replay, the pitch spinning toward the dirt like an airplane with a blown engine, McCarver--rarely one to sum something up in a lone word--said, simply, "Downer."

Downer. More common usage includes a person or event that ruins an otherwise positive moment, a depressant or sedative drug, and the last name of Rachel Dratch's killjoy Debbie character on Saturday Night Live.

More recently, "downer" has been used to describe livestock that's been victim of Mad Cow Disease.

1. a. a depressant or sedative drug, esp. a barbiturate.
b. a depressing experience, person, or situation.
2. Animal Husbandry . an old or diseased animal, esp. one that cannot stand up.

Now "downer" is a split-fingered fastball too, at least when the gifted Valverde hurls it.

Byrd, McCarver and a Fox replay were also central to another fun linguistic moment. In the 9th inning, Byrd came through with a true heads-up play on a bloop single to right-center, firing the ball to second to force out Big Papi. (Ever notice how similar Papi's running style is to Babe Ruth's? They seem to have the exact same build too.)

Fox showed a few replays of the pivotal play, including one from the wall in right-center that showed the action from Byrd's perspective.

"Byrd's-eye view," said McCarver without skipping a beat.

Sometimes announcers can be all-stars too.


Monday, July 12, 2010

'Voice of God' Silenced

Describing a great voice is like describing a killer sunset. Even for the most deft wordsmiths, words don't do it justice.

The local newspaper folk took a hearty crack at describing former Yankee Stadium emcee Bob Sheppard's pipes after Sheppard passed away yesterday.

"Voice of God" seems to be the most popular. Sheppard had a good laugh when he was asked to read from the Bible at a players mass in the old Yankee Stadium.

"I've been called the Voice of God," Sheppard said in the NY Post. "This morning, I really am the Voice of God."

Sheppard, who was 99, was the personification of "the image of Yankees grandeur," wrote Richard Goldstein in the NY Times.

"Elegant intonation," Goldstein added.

"Majestic enunciation," said George Steinbrenner in a statement.

“The organ at church," suggested former Yankee star Paul O'Neill to the Bergen Record a few years ago.

Joe Girardi too thought of Sheppard as something close to a deity. He had a voice not from the stadium, but "from up above," the skipper told the NY Post.

Clyde Haberman of the NY Times described it as "a voice that sent sportswriters to the thesaurus in search of adjectives equivalent to sonorous, dignified, mellifluous and stately."

Perhaps it's best left to Sheppard himself to describe his voice. He said a stadium announcer should, above all, be: "clear, concise, correct," as opposed to "colorful, cute or comic."

Words for all of us to live by.


When Business--and Politics--Get Too 'Inside-Baseball'

We've written about corporate speak bleeding into baseball speak, such as Evan Longoria saying Carl Crawford had a high ceiling.

We're also seeing more of the converse--baseball terms inching their way into corporate boardrooms. In the newsroom where I work, I hear the term "inside baseball" a lot--meaning the topic is so detailed and so, well, up its own ass that the common person really won't care about it.

An intense and arcane breakdown of, say, President Obama's new financial overhaul proposal might be construed as too "inside baseball"--does Joe Six-Pack really want to know the nitty gritty? (We know for certain that Joe the Plumber does not!)

In an issue of the TV trade mag Broadcasting & Cable recently (if disclosures are expected in a baseball blog, I in fact work at B&C), a Fox exec said: "The conclusion we all came to is we have to start taking some at-bats in the summer."

Translation: Broadcast TV needs some hit shows in the summer, when it usually airs repeats and lets cable TV show its new programs.

It's a variation on a pair of more common business phrases set between the white lines of the batter's box: "step up to the plate" and the more ambitious "swing for the fences." says Blackberry manufacturer RIM may dig its spikes into the box with some developments to rival the iPhone and iPad.

Report: RIM to Step Up to the Plate With Tablet, New Touch Screen BlackBerry, meanwhile, invoked swinging for the fences earlier this year when pondering why the Broadway hit "Fences" isn't made for the silver screen. The headline read:

Can't Hollywood swing for the 'Fences'?

Of course, a company that has strayed from its core competencies, if we can toss around a little B-school lingo, has "taken its eye off the ball."

General Motors marketing chief Bob Lutz told NPR:

[W]here we really messed it up and took our eye off the ball in terms of product was in '70s, '80s and early '90s.

That's a really, really long time to take one's eye off the ball. Lutz is no longer with GM.

The phrase is not limited to business. In fact, President Obama told Katie Couric in January 2009 that our leaders were guilty of a wandering eye when it came to our various wars:

I talked frequently during this campaign that we took our eye off the ball when we invaded Iraq. And now it's done. My job is to withdraw in a responsible way from Iraq and stabilize the situation there.

Baseball and business, business and baseball. Sometimes I wish they weren't so inextricably linked.

Pass along any other baseball-business terms you can think of.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A-Rod Would Like His PB&J Now

A darkly lit, leathery steak-and-whiskey joint might be described as "clubby."

Tweak the suffix a bit, and you've got the poor schlubs who service Major League ballplayers' every whim in the stadium clubhouses. Known as "clubbies," they're essentially concierges that are also tasked with laundering jockstraps.

It sounds like a mostly miserable job, except for the fact that players lavish the clubbies with the kind of tips one might associate with guys who make $15 mil a year. Visiting players rip off mighty checks after the team wraps up a road series; I'm not sure how frequently home players settle their clubbie tabs.

After the Yankees' clean sweep of Oakland this week, including a two-homer, five rib-eye steak night from A-Rod Tuesday, the A's clubbies might be in a position to reap some major tippage.

We mention A-Rod because the guy has a special relationship with clubbies, notes Tom Verducci and Joe Torre in The Yankee Years:

One of the first things Rodriguez did as a Yankee was to ask for his personal clubhouse assistant. The Yankees typically employ four or five young adults in their clubhouse and another three or four in the visiting clubhouse to run all sorts of errands, such as picking up and washing dirty laundry, cleaning and shining spikes, ordering and stocking clubhouse food, etc. They are drones known as "clubbies" to the players. Rodriquez wanted his own clubbie.

The Yankees, notes Verd-orre, had never heard of such a thing.

A-Rod and Yankees chief clubbie Lou Cucuzza struck a deal: So the rest of the Yankees wouldn't suffer from a dimished clubbie staff, the Yankees would take a clubbie from the visiting clubhouse and have him be "on call" for A-Rod at all times.

"On call" turned out to be essentially "24/7."

Rodriguez would have his personal clubbie lay out his practice and game clothes each night, in the manner of a dresser for a king. When Rodriguez needed something--such as a bottle of water during batting practice or stretching--he would call his clubbie and the clubbie would come running.

When the Yankees were on the road, A-Rod was often lost without his own on-call clubbie.

One time in Detroit, when his personal attendant was not available, Rodriguez was jogging off the field after batting practice, saw a Comercia Park visiting clubhouse attendant, a young kid in his first months on the job, and simply barked, "Peanut butter and jelly."

We have something similar in concept here at work. They're called summer interns.

But you can't get them to so much as copy something for you, much less whip you up a PB&J.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Johan Santana Tussles With 'Fan'

Spectators were fanning themselves amidst the 95 degree gametime heat at CitiField last night (would it be too confusing to say "fans" were "fanning" themselves?), and Mets ace Johan Santana was fanning Reds--he K'd five different batters on the night.

More importantly, what Santana wasn't fanning was his mitt. Santana had suffered through a mini slump that leveled his record at a very pedestrian 5-5, presumably due in part to the lefty tipping his pitches.

Reports David Waldstein of the NY Times:

Several veteran Mets noticed that Santana was fanning his glove as he switched to a changeup grip. Santana assumed that if his teammates saw it, so too did the Twins, his former team, who battered him for five runs last Saturday.

Opposing players had spotted a tell, in poker parlance, in Santana: spreading his glove wide in front of him, like a preening peacock, before throwing his changeup. Adds Waldstein last week:

Santana, who gave up at least four runs in each of his last four starts, spent the past week working on keeping his glove at his waist when he gets in the set position before throwing a pitch.

That is the same position his hands were in when he threw 19 consecutive scoreless innings in late May and early June. But since then, his hands have drifted up toward his chest. There, it becomes more evident to hitters if he widens his glove while changing grips on his pitches.

Of course, the more common usage for "fanning" in baseball is striking a batter out, an homage to the children-on-the-sandlot taunt of "feel the breeze!" after a kid swings and misses. It's a flexible word: a pitcher fans a batter, and a batter fans against a pitcher. It's the same verb for both players, yet both players go through very different actions in the process.

Santana appears to have his fanning woes worked out, which should mean he'll be fanning more batters in his future starts.

We can't confirm that it was Dakota Fanning giving the finger to fans from a CitiField luxury box last night.

Maybe the jock-talk outlet The FAN has details.


Monday, July 5, 2010

Butterfly Outduels Jet Fighter

R.A. Dickey is an interesting fellow. The Mets pulled R.A. off the scrap heap when their number 3 and 4 starters went down, and the guy has been excellent in going 6-1 with a 2.62 ERA.

Dickey of course throws a knuckeball, and bears a resemblance to Will Ferrell. When he faces Adam Dunn of the Nats, it's like Will Ferrell pitching to Will Ferrell.

Knuckleballers are known to be a bit off kilter, and Dickey is no exception. After a recent Mets win, he explained his knuckleball's lively movement as "an overflow of personality," which struck me as a much more interesting thing for a ballplayer to say than the fact that he'd "stepped up" on the day, or the season was "a marathon, not a sprint."

R.A. always seems to have something interesting and at times even sort of mystical to say to reporters after games. Wikipedia cites his full name as Robert Alan, but I can't help but wonder if it's Reads Alot.

UPDATE: In fact, I was correct. In the July 9 NY Times, Dickey reveals his plan was to be an English professor if his Major League career cratered.

The Times writes:
Dickey loves to read. He keeps a volume of writings by C. S. Lewis and the novel “Life of Pi,” by Yann Martel, on the top shelf of his locker in the Mets’ clubhouse.

Dickey faced Batter Chatter's favorite son, Stephen Strasburg, Saturday, and actually outpitched the young stud. Dickey allowed no earned runs over 7, while Strasburg was out after 5. Only a blown save from Frankie Rodriguez spoiled Dickey's seventh win.

The irony of the aging knuckler facing the strapping fireballer was not lost on Dickey.

Reports the NY Times:

The game started out with such promise as the battle between the butterfly, R. A. Dickey, and the jet fighter, Strasburg, went the way of beauty over power.

Dickey, who used that comparison to describe the matchup between his slow-moving, unpredictable knuckleball and Strasburg’s high-octane fastball, outpitched Strasburg.

Dickey had, true to character, an interesting perspective on seeing Strasburg close up.

The Times says:

“It was kind of anticlimactic,” Dickey said. “Not that he’s not very good. He’s good. But I felt like the ball was going to be invisible. I actually saw it.”

Cool stuff.

And while we're slinging around fun Dickey metaphors and observations, we may as well toss in a little poesy too. Times reader Larry Eisenberg offered this up about R. A.

The knuckle ball of R.A.Dickey
Makes his Catcher's chores a bit sticky,
His pitches do flutter
And turn knees to butter,
So many an at-bat's a quickie!

[image: Wikipedia]