Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Nicknames Nixed

What's missing from modern baseball?

Fun nicknames, for one.

Quick, who in baseball has a cool nickname?

Who has any nickname?

I remember reading that Derek Jeter would call Melky Cabrera "Leche" and Robinson Cano "Canoe." Joe Girardi calls Brett Gardner "Gardy."
Going back a few decades, there was "Stormin'" Gorman Thomas and Jeffrey "Penitentiary Face" Leonard.

Where's Alligator Arms? Where's Beer Truck? Where's Scuzz Bucket?

Not in the MLB, I'm afraid.

I'm nearly done with the Babe Ruth bio The Big Bam, by Leigh Montville, and it's a fun read. (Personal note: The Babe is laid to rest about a mile from my house. It is my town's only claim to fame.)

Boy, did the guys back then have colorful nicknames, whether it was Muddy Ruel or Hub “Shucks” Pruitt or Grover Cleveland Alexander "the Great" or Ping Bodie.

Even the non-nicknames were colorful: the commish was Kenesaw Mountain Landis. A pitcher on the Ruth-era Yankees was Urban Shocker. Urban Shocker! It sounds like a new kind of stun gun, or the best prank you ever played on your roommate.

The Babe himself had a million nicknames, including, of course, The Babe. (The Babe was born George Herman Ruth and picked up The Babe as a baby-faced young player.)

Yet "The Babe" was not used by his inner circle, writes Montville. "That was the outside world’s name for him. This was the inside. This was the core of the fun."

His teammates called Ruth "Jidge," which was slang for George. Or Bam. Or Big Bam. Or The Big Fellow. (Maybe today's players also keep the best nicknames within the clubhouse. But I doubt it.)

The sportswriters had some fun names for The Babe too. (For the record, the writers -- Grantland Rice, Bozeman Bulger -- were no slouches in the name department.) The Caliph of Clout. The Sultan of Swat, the Colossus of Clout. The Bambino, of course, which came from sportswriter Damon Runyon. The Rajah of Rap. The Behemoth of Bangs.

Alliteration was big when cities had a dozen newspapers duking it out.

Even Ruth got into the name game himself. "I have been a Babe and a Boob," he said after a disappointing 1925 season that saw The Babe take his eye off the ball, both literally and metaphorically. "And I am through – through with the pests and the good time guys. Between then a few crooks I have thrown away over a quarter million dollars."

The Babe even had nicknames for his bats. There were Black Betsy, Big Bertha and Beautiful Bella in his record-setting '27 season. Betsy was responsible for home run #59, while Bertha swatted #60.

After that winning season, the Babe embarked on his usual barnstorming baseball tour of the country. (Honestly, he rode trains and played baseball all year-round.) Babe skippered one squad while teammate and fellow slugger Lou Gehrig captained the other. Gehrig was born Ludwig Heinrich Gehrig and the tabloids thought he needed a cool nickname, so one dubbed him "Buster." It didn't stick, but the players had a moniker for Gehrig: "Columbia Lou", due to his Ivy League education.)
The baseball tour featured "the Batterin' Babes" against "the Larrupin' Lous."

There's simply not enough larrupin' going on in today's game.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Metsies 'String' Together a Win

Well, the Mets pulled of a tidy win against the 'stros yesterday, R. A. Dickey offering his usual quality start and a rib-eye steak or two at the dish. (Mets pitchers know full well they have to do double duty at both the mound and the plate if they want to earn a W.)

Sadly, the win just delays the inevitable for a day. Most any Mets fan would concede that, with a measly 9% confidence rating in the team, the Mets are merely playing out the string.

Playing out the string (POTS) is the phrase used to describe a team that's simply finishing off the rest of its games with no hopes of playing in the post-season--even if the team should somehow run the table and win all of its games. Empty stadiums, scrubs in the lineup, at-bats given away. You'd rather watch football.

Of course, the Mets are not the only team playing out the string. The Pirates, for one, have been dancing along that slice of yarn since early summer. The Cubbies have been a colossal disappointment too as they tiptoe along the twine.

Writes BleedCubbieBlue.com way back on August 2:

The Beginning Of Playing Out The String: Cubs vs. Brewers Preview, Monday 8/2
A few days later, Cleveland.com said the local Indians were not letting playing out the string drag them down.

Tribe not just playing out the string, as Red Sox learn

POTS is not limited to baseball. No lesser light than Tiger Woods was said to be playing out the string last month. Wrote FoxSports.com:

His day was effectively over by the fourth hole, where Tiger Woods needed two tries to get out of a pot bunker. What followed was something rarer still: Woods simply playing out the string in a major.

[Editor's Note: What the heck is a pot bunker? Did I eat one of those in college by mistake?]

Oddly, I saw Yankees skipper Joe Girardi refer to the Bombers playing out the string just about a month ago, with the Yanks, of course, on top in the AL East. He was simply referring to the Yanks' remaining games--not the more common usage of meaningless games with no post-season implications. A rare misspeak for smart and savvy Joe G.

One might think the string, in this usage, is the schedule--the remaining opponents for the team to play.

In fact, according to a post on WordReference.com, the "string" is actually the losing squad itself. The phrase comes from football, reports the WordReference poster, and refers to the team playing players from the second and third string during the garbage time that the rest of the season represents.

Writes MonsterWonster:

The expression comes from American Football. When a team has lost all chances of winning a league, they will do what is referred to as "playing out the string". Strings in American Football are lineups of players in relation to ability, with first string being the best players on the team, second string being the next best players and so on.

So when a team plays out the string, it allows all its players to play, from the first string downward. Normally the third and fourth strings wouldn't get a chance to play, but because the team has no hope of winning the league, it allows players of the third and fourth strings to play

So when the rosters expand later this week, the Mets--and the other MLB also-rans--will have lots of second and third stringers to help them play out the string.
[image: mrgin.blogspot.com]

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What's Funnier Than 'Fundies'?

Quick, "Fundies" are a new line of kids' underwear branded with their favorite cartoon characters, a new brand of savory-sweet snack (a mix of Funyons and Fun Dip), or the name given to an eighth day of the week proposed by Congress, falling between Sunday and Monday and during which no work can be done, only fun.

None of the above. In fact, "fundies" is the shorthand SNY announcer Keith Hernandez has come up with for baseball's "fundamentals."

(On a personal note, I loved the word "fundamentals" when I was a kid. Ed Asner would do a public service announcement about books under the "Reading is Fundamental" [RIF] rubric, and I'd wonder how "fundamental" ended up with three separate words in it [fun, dumb, mental]--and quality words at that.)

Hernandez has tossed "fundies" around a few times this season, almost always after a player, typically a Met, has failed to execute an elementary baseball play, such as hitting a cutoff man or getting down a bunt.

Last night's utterance came when R. A. Dickey was looking to sacrifice bunt. The replay showed Dickey assuming textbook bunting position: knees bent, shoulders square, bat parallel to the ground.

"Proper fundies here!" said Hernandez.

(That Dickey's bunt had gone foul was but a technicality.)

"Fundies" coughs up a quarter million links on Google. It's primarily a pejorative abbreviation for religious fundamentalists, and also--I am not kidding about this--a brand of underpants built for two people.

One suspects that a fundie would never be caught wearing fundies.

Hernandez is a busy man (spokesmanning for Just For Men moustache dye and Gold Coin of Oyster Bay, the schleps to and from his base in the Hamptons), and has been tossing around abbreviations quite readily of late.

"Trips" is his new shorthand for a "triple," such as the one Jeff Francoeur juiced off the Minute Made Park wall Tuesday, and Jose Reyes' last night.

As your mother used to say, be sure to pack clean "fundies" when you go on "trips"!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Beating the 'Bushes' For Bad Behavior

Let's not beat around the bush--K-Rod beating up his father in law and leaving the Mets without a closer for the rest of the season was a bush league act.

"What a bush-league thing to do!" wrote one commenter on NYDailyNews.com. "DOCK HIS SALARY!"

To be sure, this is not the typical usage of bush league, which usually connotes on-field actions that transgress baseball's unwritten rules.
Of course, K-Rod has been cited for a few of those too. Earlier this season, he lashed out at Willie Harris after Harris complained about being hit with a pitch.

"I’m not going to paint his uncontrolled, unnecessary behavior on Sunday as something inspirational, or something we need to see more of from the Mets," wrote one commenter on MetsToday.com. "It was bush league, and did nothing for the Mets’ reputation other than to make them look like crybabies."

Perhaps K-Rod's bushiest behavior thus far occured last year, when he and then-Yankees closer Brian Bruney almost came to blows after BB called Rodriguez out for over-exuberant celebrations.

"[K-Rod] is not a very well liked player and in fact their were always rumblings in the Angel clubhouse about his bs antics and bush league celebrations," wrote one reader on the Journal News (NY) baseball blog.

Bush league of course means low-level, trashy behavior--actions not deemed worth of men who've made the Big Show. Maybe it's a Rodriguez thing, but it seems the game's best player--yes, Alex Rodriguez--is the one ballplayer most identified with bush league play. The slapping incident against Bronson Arroyo and the Red Sox in the ALCS. ("You know what, it was a bush-league play," said Curt Schilling.) The barking at the Blue Jays infielder as he attempted to catch a pop-up ("Big league smarts or bush league stunt," wondered the AP.) The stepping on Dallas Braden's mound. The announcing his free agency during the World Series.

You get the picture.

Bush league. Geez, the games in the bush league must've been fun to watch! Brawls! Fielders getting pantsed, catchers sliding Wet Willies through batter's ear holes! Players rubbing their rear ends on pitchers' beloved pitching rubbers.

Where does "bush league" come from? Wikipedia's baseball glossary offers this definition:

A slang term used to describe play that is of minor league or unprofessional quality. The "bushes" or the "sticks" are small towns where minor league teams may operate, the latter term also used in the acting profession.

Dictionary.com says the term dates back to 1908.

...from bush in the slang sense of "rural, provincial," which originally was not a value judgment.

The Seattle rock outfit Pearl Jam offered the song "BushLeaguer" on 2002's "Riot Act" album. The song ripped then-President George Bush, and featured some baseball-inspired lyrics about the former president and Texas Rangers owner.

A confidence man, but why so beleaguered?
He's not a leader, he's a Texas leaguer
Swinging for the fence, got lucky with a strike
Drilling for fear, makes the job simple
Born on third, thinks he got a triple

Five Bush's have played in the major leagues, according to Baseball-Reference.com, most recently Randy Bush (1982-1993) and Homer Bush (1997-2004).

Don't let Homer's moniker fool you--the guy only hit 11 dingers across nine seasons.

Bush's on-field behavior, however, was anything but bush league.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

K-Rod's History of 'Violence'

A little friendly fist-bumping went too far between K-Rod and his father-in-law

The latest on [former?] Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez is that he's out for the year in an injury sustained while pummeling his father-in-law outside the kiddie room at Citi Field. Any Mets fan knows K-Rod's had a string of violent incidents this year, including a grapple with the Mets bullpen coach. (The bullpen coach? Isn't that like the Barney of the coaching squad?)

I don't recall K-Rod ever having such incidents--or ever having his character questioned--while he was with the Angels. Then again, New York has a way of coaxing bad behavior out of people.

In fact, K-Rod and "violence" have long been linked. So herky jerky, so spasmodic, so whiplashical, is Rodriguez's windup that it's typically described as "violent."

Back in 2008, Scout.com said Rodriguez was, in fact, trying to take some of the "violence" out of his approach to the plate. "I have a really violent delivery," conceded K-Rod.

Last year, a pundit on FanNation.com said of Rodriguez:

K-Rod's violent windup makes you wonder how his shoulder stays in socket and how he also doesn't fall on his face. Rodriguez's windup also screams desire and emotion.

K-Rod isn't the only hurler who's prone to a bit of violence while on the bump. (And I borrow "bump" as a synonym for pitcher's mound from RiverAvenueBlues.com.) A thread on MinorLeagueBall.com is dedicated to "violent" deliveries and grave pitcher injury resulting from them.

Writes some dude:

[Tim] Lincecum will have major issues. He has a violent delivery and has thrown a LOT of offspeed stuff, and a lot of innings all together.

Of course, pitchers aren't the only "violent" players on the field. Here's a quiz for you...when you think of a swing that was described as "violent" over and over throughout his career, who do you think of? Who put the fear of God in third base coaches when he stepped into the plate due to the amount of bat speed that violent delivery generated. Who had a face that Bill Simmons described as the last man you see when you owe your bookie a giant sum of money?

That's right, Gary Sheffield.

"Sheffield mounted a career based on the violent and swift swings of his bat," wrote Bleacher Report last year.

In fact, Sheffield "used the most violent swing in baseball to hit 478 home runs for seven teams," wrote the Washington Times three years ago.

The saturnine Shef always struck me as a violent guy by nature. But if he ever raised his hand to his father-in-law, he wisely did it away from the stadium.

And did not tear thumb ligaments while doing so.

[image: MetsGuide.com]

Monday, August 16, 2010

Why Can't Ballplayers 'Make Plays'?

The temperatures in our corner of the country were downright sub-tropic this past weekend. The Jets are playing the Giants tonight, and the Jets coach, Rex Ryan, is making headlines for his foul mouth in the HBO reality show Hard Knocks. (Uh, didn't Rex get the stomach staples? What's with the girth?)

Indeed, football is creeping into the sports fan's mind these days, which prompts us to wonder--how come football players are the only ones who are allowed to "make plays?" You hear it all the time, and I mean ad nauseum, in football: Announcers say Team X has to make plays in today's game, players say they've got to step up and make some plays, blah blah blah.

Dennis Dixon, other locals make plays in NFL exhibitions
, said a headline in yesterday's Portland Tribune.

Ball Ready To Step Up, "Help Make Plays, writes NBCDFW.com about Cowboys safety Alan Ball.

Of course, "make plays" is shorthand for "make good plays." Throwing an interception is making a play. Coughing up the pill on the goal line is making a play. But recovering the fumble is making a good play--although that doesn't make for a very cool sports expression.

Football has around 125 plays a game, reports Answers.com.

How many plays in a baseball game? I can't find it online. Say, 54 outs, 20 hits, and a pair of errors, and these are, of course, back of the envelope estimates. So around 77 "plays" a game. It's much less than in football--meaning the importance of each baseball "play" is greater, as is the importance of a player making such a play.

Yet ballplayers don't get to make plays.

I guess things all even out. After all, football involves a ball, just as baseball does. Yet you never hear football guys referred to as ballplayers. The baseball guys get to keep that one all to themselves.

Then again, aforementioned Cowboys safety Alan Ball might be classified as a Ball player.

[image: Dallas Cowboys]

Friday, August 13, 2010

When a Starter is Also a Stopper

I enjoy it when a baseball terms means two very different things. Take "hook," for instance. On one hand, it's a pitcher's curveball. ("Jon Lester's got his good 'hook' today.")

On the other hand, it's what a manager does to his pitcher when he doesn't have a very good hook on the day. ("Looks like Joe Girardi's giving Burnett the 'hook' here in the fourth...")

Then there's "stopper." The most common baseball usage is, a starting pitcher--typically an ace--who can be counted on to stop a losing streak. Johan Santana comes to mind. With closer K-Rod simmering in a jail cell somewhere in Queens, Santana told skipper Jerry Manuel he could go 10, if needed, before yesterday's game. He only needed 9 in blanking the Rockies. (Don't Mess With the Johan! crowed the Mets blogs.)

Almost exactly a year ago, the NY Daily News saluted Santana for being a stopper.

Johan Santana plays sweep stopper with arm, bat as Mets beat Padres, read the headline.

Any great starter has been described as a stopper: Curt Schilling, Randy Johnson, CC Sabathia, etc.

But stopper can also be a synonym for closer--not the ace starter, but the blue-chip finisher.

Of course, outside of baseball, a stopper is the thing that keeps the water in your bathtub. There is also the gobstopper, which would probably work as a tub stopper should yours be out of commission.

Back to baseball. A recent New York Times Magazine cover story on Mariano Rivera, "The King of the Closers," got into the short history of the closer role. James Traub wrote:

The great Yankees teams of the ’70s relied on one such fabled stopper, Rich Gossage, better known as Goose.

Traub's closer-as-stopper usage is less common than starter-as stopper. (Starter as stopper...what a concept!) I'll chalk it up to Traub not being a baseball guy. He's been with the Times Magazine for eons and has written books on everything from India to Times Square to Kofi Annan. Smart guy, indeed. Baseball guy? Not so sure.

But get this: Answers.com says "stopper" is, in fact, a baseball closer.

Check out the third definition:

1.A device, such as a cork or plug, that is inserted to close an opening.
2.One that causes something to stop: a conversation stopper.
3.Baseball. A relief pitcher, especially one called upon to protect a lead.

So if you're going by the book--or at least Answers.com--a stopper is a reliever.

But if you're going by the baseball book, a stopper is a starter.

[image: NY Daily News]

Thursday, August 12, 2010

David Wright Sports Gilded Lid of Shame

I don't feel good about what I've done.

I really like David Wright, just as any Mets fan does.

He's terrific on both sides of the ball, plays every day, and does not beat up his father-in-law (In case you haven't heard, teammate K-Rod is being arraigned for assaulting his father-in-law after last night's game. Surely many Mets felt like doing so after Melvin Mora's crushing grand salami, but you don't actually do it.) Wright "plays the game the right way," as the old-timers say.

But I was rooting for Wright to strike out in the 9th against the Rockies last night.

Why would I do that? Well, it was sort of a foregone conclusion that Wright would K; when he's slumping, you can see the strikeouts coming a mile away, usually with weak swings on on low and outside offerings.

Wright's strikeout was his fourth of the game, earning him the ignominious Golden Sombrero, as all four-strikeout victims are figuratively awarded. And I'd been waiting for a reason to write about the Golden Sombrero for weeks.

SNY announcer Gary Cohen set up Wright's fourth K by saying that he'd already struck out 124 times this season--well on pace to obliterate last year's awful 140-K performance.

"And one more," says Cohen after Wright's sorry attempt at contact. "A Golden Sombrero for David Wright."

The term has its origins in the hat trick, which we know comes from hockey and represents a threesome; three goals, three home runs, three straight titles (more commonly known as a "threepeat.") The Golden Sombrero, as the theory goes, takes the hat trick one step further.

Says Wikipedia of the Sombrero:

The term derives from hockey's hat trick and since four is bigger than three; the rationale was that a four-strikeout performance should be referred to by a bigger hat, such as a sombrero.

Wikipedia then goes one--and two--better than the flaxen fedora. It says:

The "Olympic Rings" or platinum sombrero applies to a player striking out five times in a game,[1] while a horn (after Sam Horn of the Baltimore Orioles, who accomplished the feat in an extra-inning game in 1991) or titanium sombrero is bestowed upon a player who strikes out six times in a single game.[2]

I'd love to know who's got the record for career Golden Sombreros (would one call such a contest a, uh, "derby"?) . It's probably someone really good, like Reggie Jackson. Or maybe it's Tony Clark.

Wikipedia says Major League Baseball has issued 57 platinum sombreros in its history--most recently to Justin Smoak on June 13. Wouldn't you know it, "The Golden Sombrero Baseball Blog" has a running tally of 2010 Sombrero-wearers.

The New York dailies were quick to award Wright his dented crown.

"Wright dons 'Golden Sombrero' with four K's," blared a Daily News headline.

"Mets' Wright gets golden sombrero and boos," went a Newsday hed.

Speaking of peculiar headware, back in May, Mets outfielder Jason Bay told the NY Times he'd don his "cheerleading cap" after being benched for poor performance. "That’s baseball," said Jay Bay. "I went out there and put a cheerleading cap on and tried to help that way.”

Bay is of course wearing the cheerleading cap now as he recovers from post-concussion symptoms. If he'd been wearing the thing when he slammed into the wall against the Dodgers last month, perhaps he could've avoided the head injury.

[image: nydailynews.com

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Reds Not 'Dead' Yet

If you missed the Cards-Reds brawl last night (boy, are there a lot of words for sports brawls: donnybrook, melee, brouhaha, etc.), you missed the spectacle of Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto kicking spasmodically like Maradona on cocaine. [Here's the video.]

The brawl began after Reds infielder Brandon Phillips called the Cardinals whiners, whereupon Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina replied, "I take issue with your perjorative declaration, hale fellow!", and the fisticuffs commenced.

Cueto was pinned against the backstop (catchers are also referred to as "backstops" at times, but Cueto was most definitely not pinned against Yadier Molina). Panic seemed to set in for Cueto, who feared becoming one dead Red.

Speaking of dead Reds, what a peculiar baseball term "dead red" is.

Dead red is defined by the Baseball Glossary as a battter sitting on a fat pitch.

If a batter is "sitting/looking dead red" on a pitch, this means he was looking for a pitch (typically a fastball), and received it, usually hitting a home run or base hit.

In the Joe Torre/Tom Verducci book The Yankee Years, former Red Sox Kevin Millar--he of one of the great baseball terms in "cowboy up"--described a vital hit he had off Mariano Rivera in the 2004 ALCS.

"I just just actually looking for one pitch. I was looking dead red and in."

Earlier this season, ESPNNewYork.com's Ian O'Connor used the term to describe David Wright failing to connect on a 3-1 pitch against the Yanks.

Before he took a third strike way too close to take, Wright sat dead red on a 3-1 Joba fastball and still couldn't beat the pitch to the punch.

Out there in the webosphere, "Dead Red" is a blog that never got off the ground, a dyslexic's take on a popular video game, an album from a miserable-sounding punk band, and a detective novel.

Fittingly, the Cards and Reds--both whom sport red uni's--are tied for first in the NL Central. As such, and in stark contrast to the previous, oh, 30 seasons, the Reds are hardly dead in the dead of summer.

[image: zimbio.com]

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What's Better Than 'Cheddar'?

Somehow, we haven't mentioned the ever quotable Keith Hernandez here in a few weeks, but Keith has been driving a newish term in the baseball lexicon: cheddar.

"Cheese" has been a popular term for a good fastball for some time. The San Francisco Chronicle's "Bleacher Report" (gratuitous shout-out to old friend/SF Chron sports editor Al Saracevic!) had Giants closer Brian Wilson striking out Dodger Casey Blake with "97 miles per hour cheese" recently. (Several have surely described Wilson's fauxhawk as "cheesy" too.)

When the Metsies faced the Reds last month, Hernandez said of the Reds closer, "Cordero is throwing nothing but cheese."

But Hernandez, and perhaps other announcers, have taken the slang term and slanged it even further.

A Mets-Giants game last month prompted Hernandez, who is prone to stream of consciousness musings now and then, to think of old fireballing reliever Bobby Thigpen, who set the since-broken save record with 57 in 1990, and won the award for MLB Player Whose Name Most Sounds Like Pigpen for ten years running.

Keith could not come up with Thigpen's first name, but Gary Cohen, of course, knew it. (That's the Hernandez-Cohen SNY dynamic in a nutshell: Hernandez offering up some loopy thought, and the ever-solid Cohen closing the loop for him.)

"That guy threw some serious cheddar," said Hernandez.

Wikipedia's Glossary of Baseball has "cheese" and "high cheese" in it, but no "cheddar."

It offers: A fastball, particularly one that reaches the mid- to upper-90s in velocity. Also high cheese.

(According to the Babe Ruth biography, The Big Bam, the Babe once jumped into the stands during 1920's spring training to attack a spectator who kept calling him "a big piece of cheese," then quickly retreated when the fan pulled out a knife and threatened to turn the Babe to Swiss cheese.)
If we can squeeze another joke out of Brian Wilson's foul haircut, we would posit another term for his 98 m.p.h. fastball: Herman Munster cheese.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Kerry Wood Minds His 'Peas' and Q's

If we've picking up on any themes in the almost three months of publishing Batter Chatter, it's that baseball lingo owes a gigantic debt of gratitude to the food world. There is the snow cone catch, the can of corn, the rib-eye steak, and so on. By the way, did someone call Jose Reyes a hot dog?

Yankees announcer Michael Kay added another one to the baseball-foodie portfolio over the weekend. New acquisition Kerry Wood--he of the "nuclear" stuff--had just allowed the past three batters to hit noisy, fearsome shots all over the Stadium. (Though thankfully for Wood, none landed in the short porch.)

Kay said Wood had just had three "peas" hit against him.

Yes, a pea. I'd heard it a few times before; I think it comes from the fact that a particularly hard hit ball, to the human eye, is but a tiny orb flying through the stratosphere.

Back when Tim McCarver used to call the Mets games, he'd use the term "seed" in the same way, as in, Todd Hundley just hit a seed to right-center for a double. The way McCarver said it, it had at least two syllables: seee-eeed.

Oddly, Wikipedia's "Glossary of Baseball" defines "pea" as a fast pitch: A pitched ball thrown at high speed. "Clem can really fling that pea."

On a personal note, we saw a few peas and seeds hit last night at "The Dutch," as the Hudson Valley Renegades stadium is known, as the hometown 'Gades took on the Jammers of Jamestown. Fun for the whole family, and the announcer even made fun of me in front of a crowd of 5,000 or so as I tried to distribute the Family Four Pack of hot dogs and sodas to the clan and missed the opportunity to keep a bouncing beach ball aloft in our section.

To be honest, the beach ball looked like a pea out of the corner of my eye.
[image: yankees.com]

Yankees Add to Rap Around 'Porch'

UPDATE: Our best "short porch" intell comes from Ben over at the exquisitely detailed Yankee site RiverAvenueBlues.com.

According to the third edition of the Dickson Baseball Dictionary, the short porch originated with the old Tigers Stadium. It's a right- or left-field wall that is unusually short and provides a friendly target to batters. Says Dickson's, "The term derives from the design of older ballparks which often featured overhanging roofs that made outfield spectators look like they were sitting on a porch."

Late last week, we wondered where the term "short porch," as the close rightfield seats in Yankee Stadium are known, comes from. Sure, it's a short distance from home plate; I ventured that I could pop one out in rightfield with a wind at my back, and no lesser light than Pedro Martinez did too.

“It’s a level playing field now,” Martinez told the NY Times last week, “except for right field at Yankee Stadium, where even I could hit a home run batting left-handed.”

I reached out to the Yankees PR office about the origins of "short porch." Initially, I got a "Hmmm...that's an interesting one," from one of the guys up on River Avenue.

Last night, we got a little more from the Yanks, though nothing resembling an answer.

The pinstriped PR guys wrote:

Thank you for reaching out to the Yankees. Unfortunately, we do not have any information regarding your question.

Best of luck in the future on your Batter Chatter blog!

Hey, thanks, guys!

Yet the mystery remains unsolved. One reader posits that "short porch" has its origins in street stickball, when you could actually park one on the porch. Another says the porch was built for Babe Ruth, and the term may have come from a sportswriter back in the '60s.

Shoot us any insights or theories you might have.

[image: thisoldhouse.com]

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Milestone A-Rod Shot Misses 'Porch'

Section 136 of Yankee Stadium had the best chance of receiving A-Rod's 600th homer, according to Hit Tracker and SeatGeek, followed by Section 135. Both are in left field.

Alas, the shot went to Monument Park, where a security guard grabbed it, and A-Rod did not have to offer a bat, a game-worn jersey and a date with Cameron Diaz in return for the milestone ball.

Another place it did not land--the "short porch" of Yankee Stadium.

Ever wonder why it's a short porch? Granted, it's not a difficult shot to reach section 105, 106 and 107; I could probably do it, with a healthy breakfast in me, a breeze blowing out, and a mid-summer Mike Pelfrey on the mound.

So it's short, yes. But what makes it a porch? Dictionary.com defines "porch" thusly:

An exterior appendage to a building, forming a covered approach or vestibule to a doorway; a veranda.

That doesn't describe Yankee Stadium's short porch at all. It doesn't jut into right field, and it isn't covered.

Yet pundits and fans alike have been talking about the Stadium's "short porch" for eons.

The official Chicago Cubs website offered this headline about the new Stadium prior to the year's start:

Short porch to beckon at new Stadium

Wikipedia's baseball dictionary cited, yes, Yankee Stadium under its definition of short porch.

It says:

When one of the outfield walls is closer to home plate than normal, the stadium may be said to have a short porch. For example, Yankee Stadium has long had a short porch in right field.

"Short porch" kicks out almost 300,000 links when Googled. Nearly all refer to Yankee Stadium, with a much smaller number offering up something nasty on UrbanDictionary.com.

The Mets, as they are historically wont to do, indirectly tipped their caps to Yankee history when they named the right field section at new Citi Field the "Pepsi Porch." (There may be a sponsor involved in that; I'm not exactly sure who it might be.)

I'll put in a call to the Yankees to see if they know anything of the origin of short porch.

If you've got any theories, please pass them along.
UPDATE: From Ben over at the Yankee blog RiverAvenueBlues.com:
According to the third edition of the Dickson Baseball Dictionary, the short porch originated with the old Tigers Stadium. It's a right- or left-field wall that is unusually short and provides a friendly target to batters. Says Dickson's, "The term derives from the design of older ballparks which often featured overhanging roofs that made outfield spectators look like they were sitting on a porch."
[image: live.drjays.com]

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Showalter: Give Me a Handful of 'Pile Jumpers' and 'Nuggets', and I'll Bring Baltimore A Title

You just can't take Buck Showalter lightly. He's whipped most every team he's managed into contenders, and even champs, and even eked out a win for the lowly Orioles last night in his Baltimore debut against the Angels.

What does Showalter look for in a team? "Pile jumpers," he told a roomful of reporters earlier this week.

Said Showalter:

"In Texas, we had a lot of commitments to people who probably were not going to be a pile jumper, so to speak, somebody you'll see after Game 7 jumping on the pile on the ground. That's what it boils down to. You're looking for 25 nuggets. You get one, you put it over here, you sift some more, you move a rock here and there, but you've got a nugget over there. When you've got 25 nuggets, you get to play in October. It's as simple as that. It's not nearly as complicated as everybody makes it out to be."
Interesting. The guy wants winners, players who've been there before, even if it hasn't been with the Orioles, who haven't had the opportunity to jump on the pile since before Showalter even made a cameo on Seinfeld as Yankees skipper.

Pile jumpers. Look around your office. Who are the pile jumpers? Who are the nuggets? Who are the guys/girls who will close the deal? Who are the ones who wouldn't know a pile if they stumbled on it? Not many of the latter in the workplace anymore, after the Great Recession and subsequent layoffs.

Look in the mirror, boy-o. Will you be jumping on a pile after your own figurative Game 7?

If so, just be careful when you jump. Showalter can ask his Angels counterpart Mike Scioscia about the perils of pile-jumping; guys get hurt in those scrums.

[image: wrigleyseats.com]

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Batter Chatter Introduces Two For Tuesday

We've dusted off that cheesy FM radio staple "Two For Tuesday" to bring you, dear readers, a pair of like-minded baseball lingo oddities today: "gardeners" and "rake."

An old-time "base ball" game was held recently in honor of the famous poem "Casey at the Bat," which of course features the Mudville Nine. Massachusetts' own Mudville Base Ball Club took the field in Stockton, Calif. last weekend against the local Amador County Crushers; both teams claim to represent fictional Mudville. The game featured old-time baseball rules, such as a ball caught on one bounce being an out, and under-handed pitching.

The New York Times reported that "outdated" terminology dominated the day: Outfielders were known as gardeners, batters as strikers, pitchers as hurlers, and runs as tallies.

"Gardeners." How quaint! They're patrolling the wide expanse of greensward, so they are gardeners. Brilliant.

And it's fitting that Yankees speedster Brett Gardner is, of course, an outfielder, or gardener. (Marlin Lee Gardner is, alas, a relief pitcher, while Ranger Tyler Teagarden is a catcher.)

So what's the most essential piece of equipment for a gardener? If we're talking about an outfielder, it's his glove, of course. If we're talking about real gardeners, it would have to be the rake.

Rake is a modern baseball term, a verb denoting a studly hitting record.

Wikipedia's "Glossary of Baseball" defines "rake" thusly:

To really hit the ball hard, all over the park. When you're raking, you're hitting very well. "Mike Gosling allowed one run on five hits over 6 1/3 innings and Louisville raked Pawtucket pitching for 14 hits as the Bats defeated the Red Sox, 7-1, in an International League game Wednesday.

"Rake" of course also means a cheeky guy; Webster's offers "a dissolute person: LIBERTINE" as its fifth definition for rake--short for "rakehell."

I first heard "rake" in the baseball sense about a decade ago, in a fantasy baseball league with a bunch of whiny Californians. One of the guys said some fin de siecle slugger--maybe it was Lance Berkmann pre-Yankees--could "flat-out rake." I wondered if the term had come from California; it sounds vaguely surfer-ish.

If one Googles "rake" and "baseball", one sees thousands of offers to buy a rake for smoothing out the home plate area. (Amazon has a 36 inch baserunner rake with telescophic handle for a cool $120.)

Braves catcher Brian McCann got a sweet crystal bat for winning MVP at the all-star game last month. Perhaps a crystal rake might've been more appropriate.

Blue Jays catcher John Buck said of McCann to the AP:

Catchers know. He can bang. He can flat-out rake, and the reason he doesn't get noticed very much is because he's that good of a catcher."

Monday, August 2, 2010

Straight 'A's For Hessman

Gimme an A!

Gimme another A!!

Gimme another A!!!

And, well, gimme one more A, this will be over soon.

What does it spell?

Mets rookie Mike Hessman.

That's right, the new Met, nicknamed Crash Davis for his long and well-traveled minor league career, is a "4-A" player, according to the NY Times.

A 4-A player is a guy who's too good for AAA ball--the top level of minor league competition, of course, but not quite good enough for the Big Show.

So he wallows in the metaphorical purgatory known as "4-A."

Writes Joe Lapointe in the NY Times:

Sometimes, players like Hessman are characterized as “4-A players,” too good for Class AAA but not quite good enough to stick with a major league team.

“I’m sure people have probably labeled me that,” Hessman said. “It’s just about getting chances. I’ve had a couple brief little stints up in the major leagues, but no regular playing time.”

UPDATE: The Times' Tyler Kepner used the same "industry jargon" on August 8 when writing about former Yankee Shelley Duncan: Still, with Kearns gone and Hafner out, Duncan may have the rest of the season to try to shake his 4-A label, industry jargon for a player who succeeds at Class AAA but is thought to lack the skills to be a reliable major leaguer.

Hessman is two for 10 with a pair of rib-eye steaks since his call-up last week. Fittingly, he occupies the 25th spot on the Mets roster on Mets.com--one rung above AAA ball.