Tuesday, October 25, 2011

'Rally Beers' Come Up Flat

We've all heard of rally caps, and even Aubrey Huff's fearsome rally thong. But thanks to the boozing and losing 2011 Red Sox, now we have rally beers.

Jon Lester told the Boston Globe that he and other pitchers who were not scheduled to pitch would sometimes drink a "ninth-inning rally beer" in the clubhouse during games, reports CBS News.

Funny how slugging Jack Daniel's was considered key to the Sox' unlikely comeback against the Yankees in 2004, but chugging beers doomed the 2011 lot.

The Sox are not the only team to partake in a rally beer.

Reports Sporting News:
Chicago White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski admits a "rally beer" sometimes is necessary.

"Yes, absolutely I have before," Pierzynski said on 'The Dan Patrick Show' when asked if he ever had a drink in the clubhouse. "Sometimes you're just really struggling and you just say, 'Hey, you know what, I need something to calm me down and let's have a beer.' A couple of us will do it together, and sometimes it works out.

"It's just, sometimes you just need a rally beer. If you're in extra innings and you're in about the 15th inning and you really need to get going again, that sometimes works for you."

Pierzynski says he and some teammates also did shots before a 2008 ALDS game against the Rays.

The Rays won that series, 3-1.

The Sox of course imploded amidst the rally beering in September.

Maybe we're better off leaving the potent potables to the fans in the stands.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Swift Pitcher Throws 'Asprin'-Fast

When a player is hitting well, the ball looks as large as watermelon, or perhaps a cantaloupe (pamplemousse, en francais).

When he's not, it's a seed or a pill.

Or an aspirin tablet, as noted in a recent Sports Illustrated.

There's a very entertaining feature in the October 17 issue on a career minor league pitcher with a golden arm. "The Invisible Fastball" is about Jack Swift, who turned heads at backwater baseball stops such as Savannah and Buffalo and Elkin, NC in the '40s and '50s, all the while befuddling hitters with a blazing fastball, and racking up astounding numbers of innings.

Write Chris Ballard and Owen Good of the fastball:
"Teammates say it hissed, as if searing the air. In the parlance of the day Jack threw an aspirin tablet--that's how small the ball appeared to the hitter."

The writers take a close look at Swift's performance in 1953, pitching in Marion, NC. Swift threw a stunning 287 innings in a 108 game season, striking out 321 and winning 30.

Swift pitched before the radar gun offered a precise number to show just how hard a pitcher threw, and so his legend grew.

It's a really fun read.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Red Sox Lester 'Wears' Scarlet Letter Proudly

"Did we drink an occasional beer? Yes," Jon Lester told the Boston Globe Monday. While his Popeye's eating cohorts Josh Beckett and John "Oh-my-god-please-pay-this-mans-entire-salary-and-gift-him-to-a-low-market-team-imediately" Lackey still haven't uttered a word about the Sox epic September fail, Lester tried his best to take some responsibility for his actions.

"We ordered fried chicken maybe three times in six months. Other guys who were not playing that day would come in and have a bite to eat," Lester said. "But what people are trying to do is a witch hunt. They're looking for any reason to basically tear somebody's head off because we lost, and people right now are saying it's because we did this. I'm not shying away from saying I did it."

This, in baseball clubhouses, is what is known as "wearing it." Wearing it is what ballplayers do when they are forced to take responsibility for something they may or may not feel responsible for. It also implies falling on one's sword for the greater good of the team.

I spent this summer in the sweltering heat (like 47 straight days over 100 degrees, my head is melting off sweltering) of Shreveport, Louisiana calling games for Your 2010 American Association of Independent Baseball Champion Shreveport-Bossier Captains. The 2011 Captains, much like the 2011 Red Sox, were underachievers. Shreveport returned 17 players from their championship run, but they never really got it going.

The Captains worked through a lot of injuries (our 35-year-old pitching coach who hadn't pitched professionally in three years and weighed close to 250 pounds started a game) and a lot of questionable roster decisions (the first position player the Captains cut ended up being the only one to return to the Major Leagues this year...pinch runner extraordinaire Joey Gathright, who ended up watching the September debacle in Boston in a Red Sox uniform in the Fenway Park dugout) and ended up 10 games under .500 and out of the playoffs.

It was in the Captains clubhouse that I learned about wearing it. Our catcher was charged with an error on an attempted steal when his throw bounced off the glove of our shortstop, bounded into centerfield and allowed the baserunner to take third. After the game he was upset about the official scorer's decision. "I've been wearing calls like that all year," he said.

Our second baseman got his legs taken out from under him covering second on a double play grounder. "Shortstop should have gotten me the ball sooner," he said. "I just gotta wear it."

Our pitching coach (who walked six guys in two innings...it was a less-than-Ali-like comeback, was griping about his pitchers blaming pitch selection for their woes. "Pitch your game. If you don't like the call, shake him off. If not, make your pitch and wear it."

As you can tell, it was a season of wearing it over and over. We wore it all summer.

And I learned that ballplayers do not like wearing it. In fact, they hate wearing it. Baseball is such an insular environment where players are allowed, and sometimes encouraged, to act out teenage whims and desires (like drinking beers and playing video games when you know you're not supposed to) that when players are called out by the public, they are put in the uncomfortable and unfamiliar position of taking responsibility.

Instead of "owning it," which connotes taking full responsibility without passing the buck even passively (as Lester did when he said his former manager Terry Francona "didn't rule the clubhouse with an iron fist,") ballplayers often "wear it," which implies carrying around the burden of responsibility. Which is what most adults do when they make a mistake.

But hey, if Carl Crawford doesn't give that Robert Andamo base hit "the Union Pacific", the Sox might be in the playoffs and no one would be discussing who is going to be owning it and wearing it all the way through a very long winter.

--Guest post by David Tanklefsky

[image: CBS News]

Friday, October 7, 2011

Word of the Day: SCHADENROID

SCHADENROID /noun/ shadd en ROYD: Taking great pleasure from the failure of ballplayers linked to performance-enhancing substances.

performance enhanced...not!

Usage: My schadenroid shot through the roof when I saw A-Rod whiff with the bases loaded in the 7th last night, and then strike out to end the game--and the Yankees' season.

[image: NY Times]

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Later, Tater: AP Says No to Baseball Lingo

With the playoffs just about upon us, the Associated Press (AP) sent out a memo to the nation's newspapers, requesting they cut down on the "hackneyed words or phrases" that appear in newspapers' baseball coverage--and that keep Batter Chatter humming along like a Aroldis Chapman heater.

The AP has focused on home runs as the biggest cliche offenders.

Home runs are also homers, but avoid calling them “dingers,” “‘jacks,” “bombs,” “taters” and “four-baggers, reads the memo.

Then on to pitching.

Pitchers can pitch two-hitters, but avoid “twirling” or “chucking” or “fireballing.”

RBIs, meanwhile, are just that--RBIs, and not RBI.

And definitely not Rib-Eye Steaks.

Thanks to reader Gorgeous Francis for the tip.

[image: Rogertgastman.com]

Monday, September 26, 2011

Carl Crawford and Casey Stengel in Unholy 'Union'

As if things weren't going poorly enough for the Red Sox (or "Red Sux," as my neighbors in the heart of Yankee Country never tire of posting on Facebook), $142 million bust-thus-far Carl Crawford made like Joan Crawford on a Jeter shot to the outfield yesterday against the Yanks, earning the dubious "Union Pacific" honors from NY Times scribe George Vecsey.

Wakefield’s butterfly jumped so much that one of Derek Jeter’s three hits (putting him at .300 overnight) took a goofy carom away from Carl Crawford, who was nonchalantly sticking out his glove. (Casey Stengel used to call such a timid sidearm effort “the Union Pacific” after a long-ago brakeman waving his lantern.) Crawford was given an error.

The Union Pacific, which was a hit restaurant for Rocco DiSpirito before he turned into the John Lackey of the restaurant world, is aking to the Turnstile award in football, given to defensive players for feeble attempts to stop the opposition with their arms.

(Sticking with the train theme, check out my article on a certain Metro-North rider in yesterday's NY Times!!)
The Union Pacific is an apt metaphor amidst this train wreck of a closing stanza for Boston.

[photo: AP]

Friday, September 16, 2011

Sox Curb Their Enthusiasm For Post-Season Baseball

Larry David earns a post in the hallowed pixel-pages of Batter Chatter for the second time this season, as he introduced the verb "Buckner" to the lexicon, as in, "You Buckner'd me" by letting that weak ground ball go through your legs and making us lose the World Series.

Earlier this season, David debuted "Koufaxin' me," as in, refusing to play sports--golf, baseball--on the Sabbath, for which Batter Chatter got considerable traffic.

Buckner had a memorable turn on Curb Your Enthusiasm's penultimate episode, after Larry missed an easy ground ball in Central Park softball, and his Yari's Auto Body team lost the championship.

"You Bucknered me!" screamed Yari. "You fucking Bucknered it! Why is Buckner on my team?"

Buckner was a good sport to go on the show, and sure enough, redeems himself in spades.

Buckner's old Sox team, meanwhile, is Bucknering their very season in its final stanza.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Mets Sucked in by Wizardry of Teheran

SUCK ME? Suck you!

The Mets were done in by a SUCK ME last night, in the colorful parlance of the Kiner's Korner blog. 

That's right, a Shaky Unknown Chucker Kills Mets Everytime--a SUCK ME.

Last night's Chucker/SUCKer was Braves youth Julio Teheran--tough name to have when you're pitching in a city that suddenly went on hyper-alert for terrorist attacks--who limited the punchless Mets to a lone run in 5.1 innings in his first major league win.

Speaking of Kiner's Korner, we had the professional pleasure of profiling Ralph Kiner for our day job this week--one of the game's greats, and true gents. (Here's the link, but it's unfortunately behind a pay wall.)

Ralph is taking yet another losing Mets season in stride.

“I’d lost 112 games one year with the Pirates,” he told me. “I'm used to it.”

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

It's Called Steve Blass Disease, But You Can Call it Steve Sax Disease Too

Chuck Knoblauch.

Mackey Sasser.

Steve Sax.

Mark Wohlers.

Rick Ankiel.

To a lesser degree, Ryan Zimmerman.

What do these guys have in common? All have been struck by a strange condition known as the yips, which makes the most elementary baseball act, the first baseball activity you do as a kid, the first thing every athlete does to begin the day's warmup--throwing the ball to a teammate--a bewitching, beguiling, and, often, crippling, task. (Low moments in yips history: Knoblauch overthrowing first so badly that the ball went into the Yankee Stadium crowd and hit Keith Olbermann's mother in the face. Vast right wing conspiracy, anybody?)

The condition is called Steve Blass Disease, according to a new baseball novel, The Art of Fielding, from Chad Harbach.

In the novel, which was excerpted by Sports Illustrated in the August 29 issue, Henry Skrimshander, star shortstop at Westish College, is seeing his once glittering prospects as a major leaguer plummet due to his painstakingly detailed yips issues.

A few notables in the crowd for Westish's game, college president Guert Affenlight, Cardinals scout Dwight Rogner, and former MLB star shortstop Aparicio Rodriguez, are discussing Skrimshander's throwing woes.

"They call it Steve Blass disease," Dwight explained to Affenlight. "After the first player it happened to. A pitcher for the Pirates. That was a little before my time."

"Those were the Pittsburgh teams of Clemente," said Aparicio. "They won the Series in '71. Clemente was named Most Valuable Player, but the honor could easily have gone to Mr. Blass. He had an exceptional ability to control the baseball.

"A year later, on New Year's Eve, Clemente was killed in a plane crash while delivering aid to Nicaragua. When the next season began, Mr. Blass could no longer do what he'd always done. It happened  very suddenly. Walks, wild pitches. Two years later, only a few years removed from the height of his career, he decided to retire."

"You think it was related to Clemente's death?" Affenlight asked.

Aparicio sat silent for a long while before answering. "I suggested as much by the way I told the story, didn't I?"

The three embark on a long discussion on the psyche of an athlete who is consumed by the yips.

It's expertly written, Harbach showing a keen appreciation for human nature, and for the nature of baseball.

For the record, Harbach is not the first to use the term "Steve Blass Disease." In fact, it turns up in Chuck Knoblauch's Wikipedia entry:

 In 1999 he began to have difficulty making accurate throws to first base, a condition sometimes referred to in baseball as "the yips", "Steve Blass Disease", or "Steve Sax Syndrome" in more recent years. By 2000, the problem had grown serious enough that he began seeing more playing time as a designated hitter.

The blog Mental Floss offers a brief history of Steve Blass Disease, reaching beyond sports to Hollywood to detail the victims of this dreaded malady.

After his promising debut, let us hope the author Harbach never gets the writing yips.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

'Frozen Ropes' Origin Something of a Cold Case

Who came up with the term "frozen rope," as in, Adrian Gonzalez smacked a frozen rope off the Monster, but only ended up with a single?

It doesn't appear to have been former Yankees broadcaster Dom Valentino.

Crippled and wracked by disease, Valentino was profiled in a sad NY Times article last week. He's cared for by his son, David, who tries to keep Valentino's spirits up with details from his dad's broadcasting past.

Writes Barry Bearak:

"You had your own signature phrases, didn’t you, Dad?” David asked his father. “Frozen rope, wasn’t that yours, dad?” But the announcer shook his head no. “What about, Going, going, gone,?” But that wasn’t original to Valentino, either.

Wikipedia's Glossary of Baseball defines frozen rope as: A hard-hit line drive. Also a strong throw from the outfield.

UrbanDictionary says: an absolute monster of a linedrive completely cutting through the air

Frozen Ropes is also a chain of baseball and softball camps; there's even a "Frozen Ropes Tigers" rep-level teen baseball franchise.

So if it wasn't Valentino, who came up with frozen ropes?

The authoritative Dickson Baseball Dictionary credits Baseball Digest with defining the term as far back as 1963, with Leonard Schecter writing, "You can almost see the icicles dripping of it."

Dickson also notes an interesting use of the term in espionage circles. A frozen rope in that world is shorthand for "a very important signal intercept," and was used in Clear and Present Danger in 1989.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

New Term 'Walks On' to Baseball Tonight Set

Even the casual baseball fan knows what a walk off home run is.

But howzabout this for a new baseball phrase--the walk on home run.

I caught the phrase on Baseball Tonight Saturday night. I think it was Doug Glanville who said it, riffing with Aaron Boone. My memory is a bit hazy, as I'd just walked in from our annual summer block party, and I'd been foolish enough to try the guy across the street's key lime pie extract cocktail mix.

Do I look authorly enough?

"You always hear about the walk off home run," said I-think-it-was-Glanville. "What about the road team starting off the game, BAM!, walking on with a home run."

Certainly Rickey Henderson comes to mind when one thinks of walk on home run kings.

"That may have some legs," said Boone, who owns one of the Top 10 walk off home runs in Major League history. (2003...Boston-Yanks...Wakefield...but you knew that.)

Glanville is a word guy. He went to Penn. He wrote a book. He writes about baseball, and life, for the NY Times as well.

It was a weird edit...a commercial for the movie Contagion, then that little outtake-y banter between I-think-it's-Glanville and Boone, then another ad for Claritin, then another ESPN program.

Contagion is about a lethal airborne virus. We shall see if I-think-it's-Glanville's phrase goes similarly widespread.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Mets 'Slot' Studs of Future

It's a little hard to imagine, but the Metsies were the recipients of some positive publicity this week, the NY Times commending the kings of Queens for spending big on their future.

On August 15, the Mets signed top pick Brandon Nimmo for $1.656 million, and 15th rounder Phillip Evans for $650,000--the latter in particular a larcenous sum for a lower round guy.

The Mets "went over slot" by doing so.

Huh? you may say.

Clarifies Andrew Keh of the Times:

The practice of bypassing Major League Baseball’s guidelines — commonly known as “going over slot” — is neither new nor uncommon for other clubs.

In layman's terms, the Mets spent more than the league recommends, which teams who prefer winning to losing tend to do.

"The slot" is of course a hockey term for a key offensive position within shooting distance of the goal.

It's also the name given to a body of water running through the Solomon Islands, a little south of Papua New Guinea.

It was also the name of a column I wrote for the defunct New York Sports Express several years ago, in which I found offbeat sports stories (women's fastpitch baseball, bowling leagues, gay hockey tournaments) around New York City.
"Slot" appears to be a somewhat familiar term to those who cover baseball for a living; Jon Heyman of SI.com saw fit to use it in verb form without any sort of explanation for readers:

"[Selig] is more determined than ever to get slotting," one person who knows Selig well said.


Selig's hope that the union would accept binding slots rests partly on a belief that current players aren't concerned about incoming amateur players.

If Batter Chatter condoned branded integration in any way, or thought we could make a nickel of it, we'd probably throw in a plug for Foxwoods having the "loosest slots," as their billboard boasts, right around here.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Terry Francona Has Not Come to Eat Sabathia, Or to Beat Him

This was kind of interesting. Terry Francona was addressing the media recently, and trying to explain the Red Sox' uncanny success against C.C. Sabathia, who of course beats up every other team he faces.
Francona, who does the whole befuddled thing pretty well, was fairly befuddled to explain.

Reported the NY Times:

“Believe me, it’s not like we see him and say, ‘We’re going to punch up on this guy.’ But we did have good at-bats.”

Punching up on Sabathia, or, as Francona put it, not punching up on him. It's a good little sound bite.

Yet the Associated Press scribe, surely sitting in the same Dunkin Donuts-signage adorned Fenway press conference, heard it a little differently.

"Believe me, it's not like we go, 'We're going to lunch up on him.'"

Lunch up. I daresay it's an even better sound bite than punch up. You probably never heard lunch as a verb before, for starters, and it brings up the mental image of the likes of Youk, Ellsbury, Pedroia and Papi, napkins around necks, rubbing their hands as Sabathia is brought to the table. (J.D. Drew sadly had to miss the meal due to a strained pharynx.)

So was Francona saying his ballclub does not throw haymakers at the husky lefty, or it does not see him as a steak for 25?

The Providence Journal beat guy heard lunch.

Four years ago, RedSox.com had Francona saying about minor leaguer Jeff Bailey:

"He's the type of hitter that, in my view, can hit Major League pitching. He's lunching up on some average Triple-A pitching."

I will revisit this topic after, well, lunch.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Morgan Makeover is Mostly 'Mental

Nyjer Morgan, suspended last year for starting fights with everyone but the ball girl and the guy in the Abe Lincoln costume at Nationals Park, is successfully rehabbing his image in Milwaukee thanks in part to an alter-ego called Tony Plush, reports the NY Times.

Nicknamed T-Plush, Morgan's seemingly better half is "a fun-loving personality who creates words and nicknames," according to the Times. When he was a kid, little Nyjer and some pals invented swaggering pseudonyms for themselves. Since Bono Vox, The Edge and Johnny Rotten were taken, they settled upon Frankie Sleaze, James Dot Dean and Tony Plush.

Morgan...er, T-Plush...has created a baseball term as well. Writes Pat Borzi:

Morgan calls the fundamentals of his game, like bunting and moving up runners, Plushdamentals. Morgan’s teammates often salute T-Plush by forming a timeout signal with their hands.

“It’s a legend, man,” Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun said. “The guy’s brilliant.”

It's the second variation of "fundamentals" covered in these cyber-pages; Mets announcer Keith Hernandez often talks about "fundies"--or, as is increasingly the case out in Flushing, the lack thereof.
Full disclosure: Morgan had a short and unmemorable run on my Loisaida Luckless Pedestrians fantasy team last year.

This year, he's hitting .320.

T-Plush's surreal post-game appearances have become something of a YouTube sensation, and he's a Twitter star as well.

As Plush tweeted yesterday, "Throw up yo T, Nation!!! Aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh".

It being Milwaukee and all, the Aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh may or may not be an homage to Fonzie's Aaaaaaayyyyyyyyy!

These days are all happy and free for the schizophrenic centerfielder.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Is it a Coincidence That Officer Hightower Died the Other Day?

With a tip of the Stetson to Bryce Harper, Batter Chatter is sticking with the tower theme in its Special Saturday Edition, after the YES men calling the Yankee game last night identified light tower power  as a key to the Yankees-Red Sox series opener.
"Both these teams can hit some home runs," said Ken Singleton, making his second appearance in Batter Chatter in the past week. "The Yankees are first and the Red Sox are second. There are some power offenses here."
In case light tower power wasn't self-explanatory, Singleton broke down LTP for viewers. "Sometimes the veteran scouts say a player has light tower power," he said. "Capable of hitting a home run over a light tower."
(Editor's Note: Should you be in, around, or traveling toward Telluride this weekend, venerable horn outfit Tower of Power is playing the Telluride Jazz Celebration.)
Surprisingly, the game was a little light in the light tower power department. The Yanks prevailed 3-2, with Big Papi clouting the encounter's lone home run--a moonshot to right that traveled 408 feet but, sadly, did not clear a light tower.
One of the benefits of having light tower power? The right to do a little home run pimping, as Jonathan Mahler puts it.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

'Buzz'-Worthy Bryce Harper 'Lightyears' Ahead of Competition

Teen slugger Bryce Harper has a bright future in the Major Leagues--and in the hallowed annals of Batter Chatter. Tom Verducci profiles Harper in the Aug. 1 Sports Illustrated, and Harper shows a welcome willingness to sling the baseball lingo around.

Verducci examines an incident where Harper was caught on video, blowing a kiss to the pitcher in the midst of his home run trot, which only fueled the fire for the haters who say Harper is an arrogant ass. He also looks at another well publicized play where Harper went from first to third on an infield out--with his team up by 8.

The opposing pitcher threw at Harper's head next time up, as the unwritten rules of baseball dictate, and Harper took it in stride.

"If I was pitching, I probably would have done the same thing," says Harper. "A kid going first to third with the score eight-nothing? If I was up on the bump, I would buzz the tower too."

The Bump...Buzz the tower...listen to this kid!

The phrase appears to pre-date Harper's birth by about six years, and reinforces the notion that all male culture comes from Top Gun.

Says IMDB.com:

Goose: No. No, Mav, this is not a good idea.

Maverick: Sorry, Goose, but it's time to buzz a tower.

Urban Dictionary offers up the term too, which is apparently widely enough used that it's got its own text-message shorthand:

Informing someone to call your cell phone at a later time; (ie. Call me later..); if texting, use "btt".

Wikipedia's Glossary of Baseball acknowledges BTT as a baseball term:

To throw a high fastball up-and-in to a hitter, typically with intent to back the hitter off the plate or make a statement. Also see brushback and purpose pitch.

Verducci shows Harper to be cocky, but probably no more of an a-hole that any other 18 year old who's been the best baseball player in his age class his entire life.

Harper has been splitting his time between Hagerstown (MD) and Harrisburg (PA) this year, but may be getting his tower buzzed with the Nationals as soon as next season.

[image: martysworldofsports.blogspot.com]

Monday, August 1, 2011

Pus-sy Galore Surrounds Irabu Death

I'm not here to make fun of Hideki Irabu. Suicide is awful in every way, and worse still when you leave children behind.

But an interesting linguistic angle popped up out of the former Yankee hurler's death. Ask any baseball fan which two words come to mind when they hear "Hideki Irabu" and the answer is, inevitably and
unfortunately, "fat toad."

Nearly every Irabu obit mentioned "fat toad," as George Steinbrenner infamously--and inaccurately--was said to have called his pricey eastern import after Irabu failed to cover first on a ground ball during spring training in 1999. Here's MLB.com--baseball's mother ship--using the quote, and here's CNN borrowing the wrong quote from MLB.

Kudos to the NY Times for being perhaps the only major outlet to check its facts and get them right: Steinbrenner, in fact, called Irabu a fat pussy toad, and any publication saying the quote is "fat toad" has quoted Steinbrenner inaccurately. Wikipedia too has "fat pussy toad," to their credit.

Yet even "fat pussy toad" may not be entirely correct. The Times actually had the quote as "fat pus-sy toad," as in, a fat toad that's full of pus. (Sorry, not the most pleasant of images here.)

But here's a theory: the NY Times initially reported The Boss saying "fat pussy toad," and the Yankees did some damage control, because you can't have your owner, this conservative champion of clean cut living, say the word "pussy" in family-read newspapers nationwide. So the Yankees' PR wing went at it, saying that George actually said "pus-sy"--again, filled with pus, instead of the racier "pussy." Could the reporters really argue?

I reiterate that it's just a theory. But it sounds believable, doesn't it?

Back when Steinbrenner used to be his own beat--have a few dozen reporters hanging on to him, hoping he'd say something that would fill the back page of a tabloid paper--one can imagine that 30-40 scribes heard "fat pus-sy toad" firsthand. Could they say for sure whether he said "pus-sy" or "pussy"? Say both of them to yourself, preferably without female coworkers around. The difference is subtle.

Either way, somehow both "pussy" and "pus-sy" got edited out of the phamous phrase, and countless media outlets--perhaps censoring it for the perceived good of their readers (and advertisers)--incorrectly reported the quote. If they published the quote as "fat...toad," that's journalistically sound. If they ran it as "fat toad," like AOL and countless other publications, it's wrong. (Alas, even the NY Times at times got it wrong.)

The New York Daily News even added another wrinkle by moving the hyphen one space to the right to turn Irabu into a "fat puss-y toad." Not sure how they came up with that one.

In a statement, the Yankees said "Every player that wears the Pinstripes is forever a part of the Yankees family."

And sometimes family members call each other mean names.

[image: NY Times]

Friday, July 29, 2011

BoSox Catchers Best Platoon Since Ollie Stone's Vietnam Movie

What's been one of the keys to the Red Sox' stellar first place performance this year?

 Jarson Varitamacchia, of course.
Jarson Varitamacchia is a mashup of Jason Varitek and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, according to Grantland e-in-c Bill Simmons, the thus far surprisingly thriving catching platoon up in Boston.
Writes Simmons in his very sharp and funny look at the Bostonians' first 100 games:
[Salty's] thrown out 21 of 56 baserunners this season; since May 18, he's rocking .280/.385/.505 splits. Remember when catcher was considered THE question mark of the 2011 Red Sox? Well, Jarson Varitamacchia owns the 7th-best OPS in the majors (.748) and has thrown out 31 of 122 baserunners (much better than the past two years: a 65-for-385 catastrophe). Throw in Salty's age (26) and Tek's history (two titles) and the Yawkey Way store should be printing "Varitamacchia" T-shirt jerseys with a "3933" number right now.
Saltalamacchia may just have the biggest slope to the name on the back of his jersey as any current ballplayer, to accommodate all 14 letters. He easily surpasses Sox greats Garciaparra and Yastrzemski in that department too.
Saltalamacchia (geez, I can't wait until this post is done and I can stop typing Saltalamacchia) is also the subject of a lively web discussion about what, exactly Saltalamacchia means in Italian. 
The front-runners? Jump the Stain, and Salt Wing Stain.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Singleton Lets Singular Love of the Game Spill Over

Johnny Damon was facing his former teammates in the Yankees, with Bartolo Colon once again defying all logic, his ginormous frame hanging tough late in the game. (Best description of Colon you'll read all day comes from Michael Sokolove in the NY Times Mag: ...the build and bearing of a boxer who let himself go after leaving the ring and put on about 80 pounds.")

Two strikes against him, Damon looks to protect.

The pitch shoots out of Colon's giant hand. It looks inside. At the last minute, it bends to the right, catching the inside corner.

"Johnny Damon is gone on a spillover fastball!" enthuses YES man Ken Singleton.

The spillover fastball is not to be confused with the parachute changeup, the front-door slider, the garden hose sinker or the bowling ball sinker.

UPDATE: July 30, Bartolo Colon pitching to Felix Pie. "It starts at the hip of a left handed hitter, and just spills right over the plate," explains Singleton.

It is, by all indications, a Ken Singleton original term.

The term simply does not Google, outside of a 2008 chat room cameo that features, yes, Ken Singleton, back when Mike Mussina did crosswords in the Yankee clubhouse, and took the hill every fifth turn.

Offers "LennyD23" on sternfannetwork.com:

Just saw the encore of my favorite batter Moose faced. It was Lorretta, who didn't swing once. Started him off with the hook for a strike, finished him off with the "spillover" fastball as Kenny put it, and that's when I says, "nice two seamer" and Kenny of course repeats what I say on the replay of it.

The "spillover effect," according to Wikipedia, is defined thusly:

Externalities of economic activity or processes those who are not directly involved in it. Odours from a rendering plant are negative spillover effects upon its neighbours; the beauty of a homeowner's flower garden is a positive spillover effect upon neighbours.

And then:

...when one's emotions affect the way they perceive other events. For example "arousal from a soccer match can fuel anger, which can descend into rioting or other violent confrontations."

In other words, the departure of Carlos Beltran could, say, make me lash out at a co-worker for her annoying laugh.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Walk, Don't Run, to Your Nearest Baseball Stadium

The walk is playing an increasingly large role in baseball.

Of course, any fool knows four balls means a free pass to first base--a,k,a, a base on balls, or a walk.

But here's a pair of more modern baseball terms involving the walk.

The snippet of music that accompanies a player to the batters box, music you deem to be droning "rap is short for 'crap'" drivel that only serves to remind you of the great yawning disconnect between you and the modern player, has become known as "walk-up music."

Not all is droning hiphop. A recent visit to Citi Field learned me that young Lucas Duda prefers Hendrix, while Daniel Murphy likes that Celtic reel that may or may not have come from Riverdance.
The Albuquerque Journal looks at some of the more popular choices, including Chipper Jones' "Crazy Train."

And speaking of the Metsies, Angel Pagan clocked a walk off home run last week, while Carlos Beltran is in his walk year (even his walk week)--that singular season when a guy plays out of his spikes because he needs a new contract, and is set to walk to a new team. Two weeks ago, the NY Times analyzed some standout walk year performances.

There is no shortage of cautionary tales of players who posted their finest seasons in their “walk years.” Javier Lopez set the single-season home run record for catchers in 2003 with 43, his last year with Atlanta. Chone Figgins compiled a career-best .395 on-base percentage in 2009 before signing with Seattle and suffering an offensive collapse. Gary Matthews Jr. bested his previous best batting average by 38 points in 2006, his final year with Texas. Adrian Beltre has managed to compile two stellar walk years: he received a $64 million contract after a 2004 campaign that was perhaps the best season by a third baseman in history, then was rewarded with a $96 million deal last winter after a terrific year with Boston.

Speaking of walks, Bob Walk went 105-81 during a long and impressively mediocre career with the Phillies, Braves and Pirates. Walk walked 606 batters during his 14 year career. Not a terrible hitter, Walk hit .145 for his career, with a home run, 48 rib-eye steaks--and 16 walks.

He's the only "Walk" in major league history, though there have been dozens of Walkers, and even a pair of guys named Jim Walkup.

James Elton Walkup and James Huey Walkup played in the Depression era, when walk-up music choices consisted of "The Good Ship Lollipop" and "I'm Wearin' My Green Fedora", and having a strong walk year kept you from working in the stockyards for another year.

Rushin to Conclusions On Baseball Injuries

Ya know who does a really good job of finding the oddity and the humor in the language of baseball?

Sadly, no--not Batter Chatter.

Steve Rushin of Sports Illustrated, that's who.

Rushin of course penned a weekly SI column for years, before departing to marry Rebecca Lobo and write a few books ("It's the wordplay—not the alcohol consumption—that drives the novel," Publishers Weekly said of his latest, The Pint Man.)

Rushin now writes an online column called Rushin Lit, and is at it in the new SI with an essay called Name That Pain, which pokes fun at the bizarre contortions pro sports teams go through to cover up personnel injuries. (Hey Time Warner--thanks for making me jump through hoops to dig up my password and "confirmation code" to access the story online, only to give up and find it through Google.)

Rushin writes:
Sports injuries used to come in six basic flavors: charley horse, raspberry, bruise, sprain, break and pull. (The pull had two subsidiary options: groin and hammy.) But somewhere along the line, breaks became fractures, cuts became lacerations and bruises became contusions. These contusions bred confusion, as they were designed to do.

All the major sports are guilty of purposely obfuscating injury reports (Bill Belichick of course treats Patriots injury reports like classified Cold War documents), but Rushin suggests baseball
takes it to a new level.

He writes:

In 2006, Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon was diagnosed with a "transient subluxation event in the setting of a fatigued shoulder." At the time manager Terry Francona said of the transient subluxation, "It sounds like the guy who lives under the bridge." This summer, though, when Sox shortstop Jed Lowrie left a game after aggravating his injured left shoulder, Francona said, "He felt that there was a mild subluxation." The phrase has entered the baseball lexicon.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Service Dogs Plan Citi Field Protest Today

Without Keith Hernandez, I don't know that there would be a Batter Chatter. There would be no rib-eye steak. There'd be no cheddar. There'd be no fundies.

Let's face it, there'd be no fun.

Last night, Mets versus Cards. Metsies are chipping away at Kyle Lohse. Ronnie Paulino is at the dish when he sends a slow, but perfectly placed, grounder between the 2nd baseman and Pujols.

Base hit, a run scores.

"Paulino could not have hit it any slower," remarks Gary Cohen.

You can almost hear the wheels turning in booth partner Keith Hernandez's brain, as he weighs the P-and-L on what he's about to say and, as he always does, shoots down the little voice telling him that perhaps he should not say it. 

"In baseball parlance, back in my day, we called that a seeing-eye dog," says Keith.

Then he adds, perhaps unnecessarily, "I don't mean to offend anybody."

You can see what Keith is thinking: a metaphor that tangentially involves handicapped people. You can tell he'd been chastened, at least in theory, by network brass for past off-color statements. (How can we forget "I won't say that women belong in the kitchen, but they don't belong in the dugout"?)

But really--would anyone be offended by comparing a baseball hit to a service dog?

And even if they were, would that ever stop Keith Hernandez from saying what he wants to say?

As always, Cohen is there with his metaphorical dustpan and broom to clean up after Keith.
"It's a 17-hopper," he said.

I've heard such cheapo hits referred to as variations of both Hernandez's and Cohen's terms: seeing-eye singles and 38-hoppers.

A more common baseball usage for "seeing-eye dog," on the other hand, is typically directed at a struggling umpire. BaseballTips.com offers a big ol' batch of umpire hecklings, including:
"I forgot the Milk-Bone for your seeing-eye dog!"


[image: cafepress]

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Larry David Produces Reasonable 'Fax Simile

If the season premiere of Curb Your Enthusiasm is any indication, Larry David still has, as the saying goes, his fastball: Larry helping a young girl in the neighborhood figure out how tampons work, Larry dropping the n-word in an office building lobby, Larry pushing Super Dave Osborne, a.k.a., Marty Funkhouser, to get a divorce. (Successfully, we should add.)

The new season of Curb on HBO has a lot of baseball in it, notes Richard Sandomir of the NY Times. The premiere riffed on the nasty divorce involving Frank McCourt, owner of the Dodgers, and an episode toward the end of the season involves a guest appearance from Bill Buckner, counseling David after the saturnine funnyman's horrific softball error. (Best known as a bow-legged Bostonian, Buckner broke in with the Dodgers in '69 and spent more time with L.A. than any other team.)

The Dodgers also get name-checked in an upcoming episode when David plans to golf with a pal, and coins a unique expression when the date falls through.

Writes Sandomir:

When a newly spiritual Jewish friend tells him he will not play golf with him at a tournament on the Sabbath, David complains, “You’re Koufaxing me!”

(This is not to be confused with "Faxing me," an archaic method of telecommunications that had its heyday in the early '90s.)

In 1965, Sandy Koufax famously did not take the mound for Game One of the World Series, as it was Yom Kippur--making him a hero in the Jewish community (though surely some Jewish Dodger fans were dismayed). Koufax spent the day at a temple in Minneapolis, while Don Drysdale instead faced the Twins and got shelled.

"I bet right now you wish I was Jewish, too," Drysdale reportedly said to skipper Walter Alston when
Alston came to take him out in the second inning.

More recently, Shawn Green opted to sit out a key game amidst a pennant race during his breakout 2001 season with the Dodgers. (Apparently, some Mormons won't play sundown Friday to sundown Saturday either.)

There is, in fact, a long history of players "Koufaxing", as Larry David puts it, well before Sanford Braun Koufax made that fateful decision in Minneapolis.

Since we can't seem to escape the Dodgers today, ESPN.com's Jeff Merron notes that Jake Pitler refused to coach for the L.A. squad on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in the '40s and '50s.

So perhaps "you're Pitlering me!" would be a more accurate description for Larry David, and a Jewish guy named Pitler certainly seems like something LD could mine for cringe-worthy comedy.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Cano SEO is Bliss Family Robinson

With a lifetime .307 average and .838 OPS, very few pitchers, if any, "own" Robinson Cano, in modern baseball parlance.
But we'll tell you who owns "Robinson Cano"--Batter Chatter, for some strange reason.
Assuming you don't work the phrase "search engine optimization" into your daily conversations, and think "Boolean search" involves looking around for some tasty soup, we'll explain the concepts of what the new media guy here at work calls "SEO." Batter Chatter gets extraordinary web traffic from people searching for facts, figures and fotos of Robinson Cano--way more than one might reasonably expect for a dinky little narrow-cast site, especially since we of course don't pay a dime to move ourselves up in the Google pecking order.
It all stems from a little item we did last year on Cano and the term about getting into a player's "kitchen."
And as you surely heard, Robbie Cano won the Home Run Derby last night, walloping 12 homers in the final round to top Adrian Gonzalez. (A quick thought on the Home Run Derby--should anyone over the age of 13 truly care about this ludicrous spectacle? Cano's dad grooving meatballs and Chris Berman yelling his head off at each monster shot? Exactly what kind of skills are we measuring here?)
We're seeing around 10 times our normal web traffic today, thanks to people (many surely over the age of 12!) searching for info on Robinson Cano after his derby crown.
Here are the terms people searched to arrive at our site.

robbie cano 
robinson cano
robinson cano pictures
robinson cano pics 
robinson cano images 
pictures of robinson cano 
pics of robinson cano 
robinson cano image
robby cano

Cano is only 28, so hopefully Batter Chatter can hang on to his Google doppelganger for the next decade or so.

[image: NY Times]

Monday, July 11, 2011

Jeter Makes 'Whoopee' Status Official

Since New York is ensconced in all things Derek Jeter this week, in the wake of DJ's historic 3,000th hit (not to mention # 3,001, 3,002 and, most important on the day, 3,003), we figured we'd offer up a Jeter-themed entry. (By the way, Mayor Bloomberg is in discussions with the Yankee principals to officially rechristen this Saturday, July 16, as "Jeterday," and anyone heard calling the day "Saturday" would be made to purchase one of the uber-expensive empty seats behind home plate at Yankee Stadium.)

In attendance over the weekend at the Stadium was the scout Dick Groch, who'd pushed the Bombers to draft Jeter back in 1992. Talking to the NY Times, Groch shared a little scout-speak that we found colorful.

Groch said that scouts often categorize players they sign as either a “whoops” (a mistake) or a “whoopee” (a star), and with Jeter, “I can’t give him a bigger whoopee.”

Whoopee has a pleasantly archaic ring to it, tinged with a dash of musk. The word of course was an oft-used euphemism for sex on The Newlywed Game, but goes back even further: "Makin' Whoopee" was a hit song in the 1928 musical called "Whoopee."

Writes Wikipedia:

The title is a euphemism for sexual intimacy, and the song itself is a "dire warning", largely to men, about the "trap" of marriage.

(A Whoops, meanwhile, might be the result of some careless Whoopee-making.)

Jeter paramour Minka Kelly was whooping it up with Dr. and Mrs. Jeter--her future in-laws, perhaps--in a private Yankee Stadium box Saturday.

Over a year and a half ago, the NY Post had a Jeter-Kelly wedding slated for Nov. 5 at Oheka Castle in Huntington, NY (coincidentally, the wedding locale of Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin, but that report proved spurious.

Perhaps the Yankee Captain, similar to the "Whoopee" protagonist some eight decades before, is carefully avoiding the trap of marriage while presumably enjoying the fruits of whoopeedom.

[image: NY Times]

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Two Things You Do With a Guitar: Hold, Play

The runner takes his lead off first. It's a good lead.

The pitcher looks over.

The pitcher turns to the plate and looks in for the sign.

The runner is itching to steal and waits impatiently for the pitcher to throw to the plate.

He waits. He waits. He wiggles his fingers in anticipation.

The pitcher stares in at the plate. The batter says, one more second, and I'm calling time out.

Finally, the pitcher deals...

It happens dozens of times each day in the Majors, yet you probably never knew the name for it: the Hold Play.

Yes, this little lingo diamond came from none other than guitar virtuouso (or at least famous former baseball player who happens to play a little guitar, it can be hard to tell sometimes) Bernie Williams, in a New York Times Arts & Leisure profile about ballplayer-musicians.

Bernie says rhythm is essential both to baseball and music.

The Times writes:

Stealing a base — which Mr. Williams acknowledged was not his strong point, despite his great speed — also depends on the pitcher’s rhythm. Would-be base stealers can be thrown off their rhythm by the “hold play,” when a pitcher holds the ball interminably. He likened the tension of the delay to the space between notes in a jazz solo.

Williams nicked 147 bases in his career, with a season-high of 17 in 1996.

Ever the Renaissance man, Williams has co-authored a book, Rhythms of the Game: The Link Between Musical and Athletic Performance, that's soon to hit stores.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Mr. Mojo Rosin

The Mets may not have Ike Davis to smack that little rosin bag into the right-center cheap seats these days, but Jason Giambi took a hack at the little burlap sack while visiting Yankee Stadium over the weekend.

Writes the AP:
“I wasn’t touching the ground,” Giambi said. “There’s an incredible energy playing in this stadium with the fans that they have here, just being excited like old times to have that opportunity to play in front of them again. I think he could’ve thrown the rosin bag 2-0 and I would’ve swung no matter what.”

Swingin' at the rosin bag is the phrase given to overanxious hitters who will swing at just about anything near the plate.

But other reporters clustered around the Giambino heard things slightly differently.

"I think he could have thrown the resin bag at 2-0," wrote the Star Ledger.

"If (A.J. Burnett) would've thrown the resin bag up there at 2-and-0, I would've swung at it," wrote the Daily News.

I'm not sure what the "resin" bag is, but I'm pretty sure that, as with crying, there's no place for one in baseball. This Webster's definition truly does not help:

Any of a class of nonvolatile, solid or semisolid organic substances, as copal or mastic, that consist of amorphous mixtures of carboxylic acids and are obtained directly from certain plants as exudations or prepared by polymerization of simple molecules...
Yet there at the very end of the second definition for "resin" is the word "rosin," implying that the terms can at times be interchangeable.

Nonetheless, the proper baseball term is "rosin bag", which--for what it's worth--outnumbers its resin counterpart on Google by 3 to 1. Here's how Ron Darling defined it on SNY last year:

"It's an old baseball term. It doesn't matter what the pitcher is throwing up there--he's swinging."

Of course, Jason Giambi being a likeable lunkhead and all, and one who "clapped several reporters on the back," reports the NY Times, when he returned to Yankee Stadium, he very well may have said "resin bag," only to have some reporters quote him verbatim, and some scribes do JG a favor and correct his malapropism.

[image: NY Daily News]

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Javy Vazquez Prefers Living in a Tree to Living in New York

If I heard correctly--and I find myself saying that a lot when listening to Keith Hernandez during Mets games--I heard Keith say Marlins starter Javier Vazquez was "living in a tree" after giving up 10 hits--and, critically, zero runs--in 5 plus innings against the Anaheim Angels Tuesday night.

"I hope he doesn't fall out!" piped in partner Gary Cohen.

I hadn't heard that term in a baseball sense before, and googling "living in a tree" coughs up a YouTube music video from Priscilla Ahn and a clutch of companies that custom-build tree houses.

The thinking behind the idiom is, Vazquez is living dangerously, scattering those 10 hits without being touched for a run. Living in a tree is difficult. You can fall.

Hernandez and Cohen then discussed exactly how many hits you can "scatter" before there are too many to be considered scattered.

Elias Sports Bureau opted for another metaphor to describe Vazquez's historic performance:

Vazquez Bends But Doesn't Break

How historic was Vazquez's treehouse performance? Pretty historic, notes Elias:

Only two other pitchers since 1900 have allowed at least 10 hits in less than six innings pitched without allowing a run: Boston's Bill Lee on June 15, 1974 (10 hits and no runs in five innings against the Angels) and the Cubs' Chuck Rainey on August 3, 1983 (10 hits and no runs in five innings against the Cardinals).

Javy Vazquez tried living in a tree while playing for the Yankees--twice--but kept falling out.

[image: ESPN]

Friday, June 17, 2011

Gordon 'Clocks' First Win in Pinstripes

Time stood still for 32-year-old pitcher Brian Gordon as he made his Yankees debut on the mound yesterday. Gordon was good, not great--5 1/3 innings, two earned runs--and that's all the Yankees might've hoped for the guy who was previously pitching for the Lehigh Valley Ironpigs three days ago.

Gordon was an outfielder until five years ago, but didn't have Major League talent. So he tried his hand at pitching.

Bob Klapisch writes in the Bergen Record:

He asked the Astros to let him try pitching, reminding them he’d always had a strong arm, and used to feature an unorthodox curveball as a kid. Only, Gordon never tried to emulate the great, overhand 12-6 hooks of the game’s previous generation. Think of Doc Gooden’s vicious, late-breaking curveball, and you have an idea of what Gordon’s was absolutely, unconditionally not.

Yes, Gordon gets by without the classic, Barry Zito, "12-6" hook. That of course is a curveball that breaks top to bottom, as if from the 12 on the clock down to the six. (A curve that "drops off a table," as every announcer from 1975-1987 used to say.) It is similar to the "parachute changeup" wielded by the likes of Pedro Martinez and Johan Santana.

Gordon is probably more of a 12-8 guy, with a curve that breaks less dramatically toward the outside edge of the plate to righty hitters.
Yesterday, he took the place of Bartolo Colon on the hill. Colon, for his part, is more of a 7-11 pitcher--a body built on Big Bite hot dogs, corn dogs, and those delicious cream-filled Suzie-Qs.
[image: Bergen Record]

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Some Extra-Special Diamond 'Cutters'

Sports Illustrated has a big story on the short but impactful history of the cut fastball or, in ultra-modern parlance, the cutter.

The term "cut fastball" came to be around 15 years ago, notes Albert Chen in SI.

No one knows who threw the first cutter. But though the term cut fastball only became part of the baseball vernacular within the last 15 years, a handful of players have been throwing the pitch for generations. (As referred to in the 2004 book The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers, longtime major league outfielder and Yale coach Ethan Allen, in a 1953 instructional book, wrote, "[A pitcher] threw a fastball that was unique because it slid or broke like a curve. It was somewhat like a fastball, but he threw over the side of the index finger to a greater extent. This off-center pressure caused the break.")

More recently, the cut fastball became known as the cutter, just as the sinker has become the sink, and the splitter has become the split. (So it stands to reason that the cutter will further see its name truncated, and become the "cut." Give it a year.)

The cutter has become the money pitch not only for its most famous practicioner, Mariano Rivera, but starters who've redefined themselves, such as Dan Haren, Roy Halladay and Josh Beckett. (It's fitting that the cutter is a "money" pitch; in the bizarro Russo-Cockney language spoken in A Clockwork Orange, "cutter" was the word for money, as in "Could you spare some cutter, me brother?")

Speaking of nouveau baseball shorthand, Chen's SI story introduced another interesting term: velo, short for velocity, as in, the speed with which a pitcher hurls a ball toward the plate.

Chen writes:

"Guys like Haren that used to throw 94 but are now throwing 90, 91, they throw a cutter because it makes the 91-mph fastball seem like 94," says A's shortstop Cliff Pennington. "Haren's is just so hard to pick up and distinguish from his slider-it's got less break but the velo is harder, so you see fastball and you swing and it breaks enough to miss. If you see the spin on it and you think breaking ball, then you're late."

Velo is much better known as a cycling term; a velodrome is an indoor cycling course, Velo News covers competitive cycling, NYC is a place to buy expensive bikes, and Velo Gear is where you buy those funky bike shoes and the rubber shorts.
[Haren pic: SI]

Friday, May 27, 2011

Brett Gardner Fills 'Hole' For Bombers

If we're on the cusp of Memorial Day, it must mean the NHL is close to awarding that gloriously dinged up chalice known as the Stanley Cup.

So it is with hockey on the brain that we mention the five-hole.

The five-hole refers to the space between the goalkeeper's legs. In other words, he is responsible for blocking the puck from entering five holes: above and below his stick, above and below his glove, and between his legs. That's the five-hole.

The term occasionally creeps into the baseball world too.

Writes the New York Post about last weekend's Subway Series:

You let a ground ball from Brett Gardner somehow go five-hole on you, without getting a glove, calf or shoe on it. "The moment I threw it, hard sinker, I'm thinking, 'Be ready, he may hit it right back at you,' and I still can't get a hand on it. Frustrating," Pelfrey said.

Protect that five-hole, Billy B!

A more common--and totally different--use of five-hole in baseball refers to the spot in the batting order, as in, the Mets need some power in the five-hole, since Jason Bay drives the ball with all the power of Erkel. You can pretty much affix "hole" to any spot in the batting order, outside of leadoff. There's no hole in hitting first.

And what's just a wee bit better--or .5 better, if you're scoring at home--than the five-hole?

The 5.5 hole, of course, as the space between the third baseman (#5, in scoring numerology) and the shortstop (#6) is known.

Tony Gwynn was known as a master of hitting it through the 5.5 hole.

Had he played against Mike Pelfrey, Gwynn probably would've racked up a few hits through Pelf's long legs too.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

SI Spits Out New Baseball Phrase With LOOGY

Sports Illustrated shows it can, on occasion, be clever and edgy by dishing the oddball acronym LOOGY in the current issue.

SI's Ben Reiter (Reiter...There's a good name for a writer...) credits Hardball Times with the phlegmatic phrase: A LOOGY is a Lefty One-Out Guy--a left-handed specialist whose sole job is to get mighty left-handed sluggers--Ryan Howard, David Ortiz, Jim Thome--out.

The article is about a pair of tribal elders in the bullpen--Arthur "Is He Still Playing?" Rhodes and Darren "Didn't He Retire Five Years Ago?" Oliver. The patron saint of LOOGYs, notes Reiter, may just be Jesse Orosco, who retired seven years ago at 46.

Hardball Times published A History of the LOOGY--and, presumably, gave birth to the phrase--way back in 2005. A "hard-core LOOGY" appears in at least 20 games, averages less than an inning per appearance, and fewer than .2 saves a game.
SI's Joe Sheehan lists some other LOOGYs around the league, including Aroldis Chapman and Tim Collins, and makes the point that some of them should not be just LOOGYs much longer.

"[They] can all do more than face lefthanded sluggers in big spots," believes Sheehan. "Let them."

[image from 3-Putt Territory]

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Jeter Eager to Turn 'Page' on Posada Flap

Derek Jeter has long proven himself to be a master at a number of things: Stroking that line drive to right center with the game on the line, going deep in the hole toward third to make that jump-throw and get the guy at first by thismuch, and offering banal cliches in lieu of true insight and perspective in interviews.

Jeter has drawn the ire of Yankee brass for defending Jorge Posada's snit over the weekend, and there's ample evidence that the face of the Yankees and its front office are growing a bit tired of each other.

Jeter was happy to put the incident behind him yesterday, and tapped one of his favorite cliches--nine times, in fact--to help him close the book on it.

Writes the NY Times:
“It’s all good,” said Jeter, who in less than four minutes used a variation of the phrase “we’re on the same page” nine times. 

It's funny to picture the beat reporter, Ben "Buy a Vowel" Shpigel," putting down check marks in his notebook next to "We're on the same page" with his timer, er, his Jeter-Meter, counting off the minutes.

The Yankees have lost six straight and don't seem to be doing anything right, on and off the field. And one is starting to wonder if mega-signing Rafael Soriano has played his last Yankee game, due to troubles with his elbow and his mouth.

Jeter actually did offer a hint of insight into his dealings with the media later in the Times story.

“I learned a long time ago,” Jeter said, “the more you talk about things, the longer they last.”

So if his nine "page" utterings are any indication, this "thing" might stick around for awhile.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

R.A. Dickey is Not as Bookish As You Think

Terrific correction in a NY Times this week, explaining that Mets hurler R. A. Dickey's bat, dubbed Orcrist the Goblin Cleaver by the Dickster himself, is not named for Bilbo Baggins' sword, but for Hobbit dwarf Thorin Oakenshield's hardware.

We saluted Dickey's bibliophilin' ways last season, and this correction does not change the fact that we dig Dickey because Dickey digs books.
This represents the second greatest NY Times correction to run in Batter Chatter--well behind, so to speak, Aubrey Huff's infamous rally thong men's underwear.
[image from Mets Blog via Buzz Feed]

Mets Skipper Hasn't Got Time For 'Bull'

It's like dreaded 2009 all over again for fans of Flushing's Finest, as a woeful list of injuries hits the Mets.
The latest wounded warrior is Chris Young, whom the Mets signed for $1.1 million, and got four starts out of.
Looks like Young is done for the year with a torn shoulder.
Said Mets manager Terry Collins in today's NY Times:
"You go into spring training and you're aware of it and you watch him throw his pens, and when he started building up his pitch count and you never saw any discomfort and you never saw any holding back from trying to pitch, you thought, 'OK, he's over this.' "
Ignore the wondrous run-on sentence (hey, Times editors, how about some, ya know, punctuation?) and check out the use of pens. We noted in the early days of this blog the use of "bullpen" in MLB parlance, not as the place where a pitcher warms up, but as the name of the session in which he warms up. To wit:
"It's easier to throw a bullpen than to see a ball come off the bat again," said Tribe skipper Manny Acta about a pitcher taking the mound after being hit in the head with a batted ball.
Apparently "bullpen" is too long to say for a busy manager who suddenly has to keen one eye trained on the waiver wire at all times, and has been shortened to "pen."

[image: NY Daily News]

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Derek Jeter Has Had Enough of His 'Swinging' Singles Days

You have to feel for Derek Jeter.
I mean, not that much--the guy is still the toast of New York, he's engaged to Minka Kelly, and he's got that mega-manse down in St. Jetersburg.
But there he is, a man who values privacy the way Bartolo Colon values cheezeburgers, on the front page of the New York Times, addressing his season long--make that, year-long--slump. Not the front page of the Sports, he's been there before. We're talking page A-1--sharing space with President Obama and Bin Laden and other global luminaries present and past.
Jeter's stats may be down, way down, this season. But the Times suggests he's leading in one crucial category: the swinging bunt.
Writes Ben "Buy a Vowel" Shpigel:
The only offensive category in which he leads the major leagues is infield hits — and, well, it isn’t his speed that accounts for that.

The swinging bunt. The most flaccid of batter outcomes in baseball, perhaps even more ignominious than the strikeout. At least you don't have to sprint to first--running twice as far as your ball did--after a strikeout.
The swinging bunt. When it happened back in childhood sandlot ball, we called "cheap!" and made it a do-over.
Yet Jeter--the Prince of the City, The Captain--is riding those "cheap" balls all the way to first with frightening regularity.
Writes Shpigel:
[Detroit third base coach Gene] Lamont said the Tigers had not been positioning their infielders any differently to guard against what has become Jeter’s perhaps most noticeable offensive trait this year — the swinging bunt, 60-foot dribblers up the third-base line. He had 10 infield singles, and many have been nubbers or bouncers that do not reach the dirt of the basepaths, as opposed to sharply hit balls that ricochet off an infielder or shoot deep in the hole.
Jeter is 48 hits--swinging bunts and searing liners alike--away from 3,000. It's safe to say he won't enjoy the media's buildup to the historic event--especially if he remains homerless dating back to last summer.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Bautista's 'Load' Helps Slugger Load Up on Dingers

Here's a baseball term I know you never heard before: a batter's load.

No, we're not talking about Prince Fielder's expansive derriere.

A load, as defined by Tyler Kepner in the NY Times this past weekend, is the path of a batter's hands to the ball.

Kepner, who spends a ton of time inside baseball clubhouses, suggests the load is an established term inside MLB's corridors of power.

Speaking of power, he refers to Jose Bautista when discussing load.

[Hitting coach Dwayne] Murphy and Cito Gaston, the former Blue Jays manager, eventually got through to Bautista, who maintains that his swing is the same as it has always been. The difference, he said, is his load — that is, the path of his hands to the ball. Hitting is timing, the saying goes, and now Bautista is on time.

Jose Bautista takes a load off before facing the Bronx Bombers. [photo NYT]
Homerin' Jose went hitless yesterday, but did drive in a run at the Stadium. That gives him 16 rib-eye steaks thus far in 2011--a load by anyone's count.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Bad Piece of Announcing

I was watching a little Red Sox with one of the brothers-in-law up in Cape Cod recently. The Sawx were just starting to bust out of their slump against the Jays.
Carl Crawford got one of his infrequent hits, stroking a fastball the other way, a line drive off the Monster.
"That's a good piece of hitting!" the brother-in-law exclaimed, like all of Massachusetts, hoping the $20 Million Man would finally get untracked.
A little while later, the Sox $22 Million Man, Adrian Gonzalez, followed suit. Gonzo too grabbed an outside pitch and went with it, slotting it to left for a single.
"Good piece of hitting!" said the brother-in-law.
Good piece of hitting. This would be hard to confirm (so sadly, I will not try), but I will bet my stash of baseball cards that good piece of hitting, like frozen rope and that ball was a seed!, came from Tim McCarver.

T-Mac is looking for a 'piece.'
I remember T-Mac saying "good piece of hitting" back when he was the Metsies' announcer in the '80s. (Man, we had it good!). Typically, it came when a guy went the other way with a pitch--a pitcher's pitch. And it had to be a line drive. It helped if there were two strikes on the batter. And I think it may have helped if the batter was lefty.
It took a few years, perhaps a decade--and surely McCarver's move to a national stage helped. But "good piece of hitting" turned into a cliche.
Here's a minor league Elvis Andrus slapping a pitch the opposite way on YouTube.
Good piece of hitting by 20 year old Ranger top prospect Elvis Andrus off San Antonio's Jon Ellis to plate two and win game, writes the poster.
It's at the schoolboy level too. Here's one account of a Region 1-AAAA (no idea what that means) contest between Thomas County Central and Northside-Columbus down in Georgia.

“A lot of it, they just did a good piece of hitting,” Coach Chad Parkerson said. “They hit some balls hard the other way. We probably got too much of the strike zone.”
In fact, "good piece of hitting" calls up 25,000-plus links on Google. Unlike many baseball cliches, I don't see a punk rock band named Good Piece of Hitting.
But I do see a clever essay on the phrase from Tim Marchman, then of the New York Sun. Marchman writes in "Baseball's Worst Cliche":
A good piece of hitting cannot be a home run or a solidly hit double down the line. It cannot be a bouncer, bleeder, trickler, or any other sort of hit that has eyes or relies on the misadventures of the defense. It must be hit well, but not too well, and preferably it should go the opposite field.

It isn’t just the character of the hit itself that defines a good piece of hitting, though, as the game situation plays its role as well. No hitting done by someone whose team is up by 10 runs will ever be said to be a good piece; the game should ideally be tight in order for the piece of hitting to be good. On the other hand, it’s possible to imagine a piece hit by someone whose team is down by 10 runs being hit well, although probably only if there are no outs and he’s at the front end of a rally. “That was a good piece of hitting,” the announcer will say, while we watch the player taking off his gloves at first, clapping his hands, and exhorting his teammates to keep on with the charge.

Frankly, I'm a little sad to see Tim Marchman has beat me to "good piece of hitting" by, oh, four years.
I'm an editor by trade, so I'm constantly on the lookout for easier, shorter ways to say something in print. And if you put "good piece of hitting" under the editor's microscope (for the record, we don't actually employ such contraptions), you see that "piece of" is completely superfluous. I mean, a "good piece of hitting" is one and the same as "good hitting," yes? What makes it a "piece"? A good display of hitting, or a good exhibition of hitting, perhaps. But not a piece.
Then again, no one ever accused McCarver of being succinct.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Chasin' Jason All the Way Home

After Jason Bay's perplexing power outtage at CitiField last year, he'll take any home runs he can--even the Little League variety.
Bay's return to the Metsies' lineup has been key to the club's resurgence, and an oddball four-bagger he was responsible for late last week sparked the Mets' four game winning streak.
Jay Bay and his missus

Writes the NY Times:
Bay, meanwhile, went 1 for 4 with a bloop double and scored a run on a four-base error that looked like a Little League-style inside-the-park stand-up home run.

The Little League home run. There's nothing more American: Your kid hits a dribbler to third, the third baseman throws it past first, the first baseman throws it past second as your kid scoots into the base. Finally, the left fielder throws it past third, enabling your kid to step on the plate and burst into tears of joy.
Then everyone hits Mickey D's for a celebratory Happy Meal.
The BoSox blog FenwayWest.com used the term as a proper noun to describe Bay's round-tripper:
Former Red Sox Jason Bay hit a 'Little League Home Run' last night against the Houston Astros in New York yesterday.
ESPN.com takes it a few bases further, with a brief written history of the Little League Home Run and the Mets. In fact, the Queens Quarrelers (Bronx Bombers-esque nickname for the Mets that isn't quite there yet) have had four times in their history where a batter has touched 'em all on his own hit without the aid of a basehit.
The most recent example was two years ago -- Aug. 24, 2009 against the Phillies -- when Angel Pagan’s leadoff popup against Cliff Lee was dropped by second baseman Chase Utley. Utley then tried to throw Pagan out at second base and threw the ball away, allowing Pagan to scamper all the way around and score a run. In the end, such a break against Lee wasn’t enough, as the Phillies won anyway, 6-2.
As one might expect, you don't see a lot of Little League home runs at the Major League level.

JayBay obviously felt compelled to show the world he could hit a proper home run; on Saturday, he took D-backs hurler Barry Enright 400-plus feet to right, and could circle the bases at his leisure.

[image: NYPost]