Monday, March 28, 2011

When is a Baseball Player Not a *Baseball Player*?

What's one of the highest compliments you can pay a baseball player?
You can call him a baseball player.
This may be evident already; the guy wears a baseball uniform and works at a baseball stadium and gets a giant check from a baseball team every two weeks.
Yet it bears repeating that a player who plays the game right, not to mention plays it well, is considered a baseball player.
Last week, Mets skipper Terry Collins endorsed second-sacker Luis Hernandez to
"I like his enthusiasm," Collins said. "I love his defense. I like the fact that he switch-hits and he's a baseball player, as he's shown the last couple games that he's played."
One eagle-eyed fan of our national pastime noted that Terry Collins isn't the only one who likes to stock his baseball team with baseball players. "Chico" posted thusly on
Just thought I'd note that Buck Showalter was on with Francesa today and used exactly the same line about Nick Markakis.

Now, I'm not saying Hernandez and Markakis are even in the same universe.
But I'm getting the idea that it's manager talk for a guy who does the little things like sliding hard into second to break up double plays and having an understanding of situations when at bat and in the field. Stuff like that.
For his part, Showalter also wants "pile-jumpers" and "nuggets" among his baseball players. 

Luis Hernandez is a baseball player.
Last summer, Mets hopeful Daniel Murphy earned that unique distinction from his manager at the time, Jerry Manuel.
“He’s a baseball player,” Manuel told the NY Times. “I wouldn’t put anything past him as far as adjusting.”
[EDITOR'S NOTE: We here at Batter Chatter will miss the quote-worthy Jerry Manuel very much, and hope for his speedy, if unlikely, return to Major League Baseball management.)

Alas, not everyone shares Manuel's characterization of Mr. Murphy, nicknamed "D-Rex" for his short arms and angled running style.
Writes commenter RAVELO on the NY Times site earlier this month:
"Does anyone remember how horrible this guy [D-Rex] played LF? he is not a baseball player, hes a batter."
Murphy and Hernandez are both alive in the Mets' ignominious second base sweepstakes, though neither looks like a starter right now. What we do know is that Luis Castillo, cast off by the Metsies and resurfacing in Philly, won't be starting at second in Queens.
No range. No speed. Iffy attitude...
Luis Castillo is definitely not a baseball player.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I'll See Your 'Parachute Changeup' and Raise You One 'Garden Hose' Sinker

Fun piece about the most hated man in Mets history in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week. (No, it's not about Mel Rojas, or either of the megamillions slackers Sandy Alderson cut loose this week.)
Doug Sisk went from hotshot young reliever--the guy bagged 11 saves in '83, his rookie year, and for a brief spell was known by one of the NY tabloids as "The Man With No ERA"--to a player that Mets fans quite literally wanted to either beat up or put a bullet in, according to Jeff Pearlman's story. (Pearlman, it is worth noting, wrote the delicious The Bad Guys Won, about the fussin' and fightin' '86 Mets.)
While some pitchers rely on parachute changeups, backdoor sliders, front-door sinkers, or other pitches named for sundry household objects, Sisk's out pitch had pretty much devolved into a "garden hose" by '85.
Orosco and Sisk (right) comprised two-thirds of the '86 Mets' famed "Scum Bunch."
Pearlman writes:
Sisk spent much of the 1985 season pitching with loose bone chips in his right elbow, but he followed the code of the tough-as-nails ballplayer and said nothing.

What ensued was an ode to the Bump Hadley School of Mound Ineffectiveness. Sisk's once-reliable sinker turned into an unmanned garden hose, twisting left, spinning right, spiraling into the ground and high up in the air.
At least to me, that unmanned garden hose seems to it'd be a real bitch to hit. Alas, batters must've laid off, as Sisk simply stopped getting people out--and Met fans never let him forget it.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

What to Do When Godzilla's at the Front Door

In baseball and in music, it's all about the back door.
There's the back-door slider, a pitch that breaks late and sneaks across the ass-end of the plate.
In rock and roll, it may have started with "Back Door Man"--written by Willie Dixon, performed by Howlin' Wolf, and perhaps best known for its cover by the Doors. That's followed by Creedence's "Lookin Out My Back Door," then on to Deep Purple's "Knocking at Your Back Door."
The front door? Nothing cool about that. Nobody sneaks in or out of the front door. That's where the flag flutters, the seasonal holiday accoutrement (the heart, the shamrock, the fuzzy bunny) hangs, the mail arrives, the Girl Scout hawks her cookies.
It's where Dallas Braden's sinker turns up too.

Indeed, we are getting into the spring swing of things (trying saying that three times fast!) over at Batter Chatter, as today's NY Times reports of Hideki "Godzilla" Matsui's arrival in Oakland.
Dallas "Don't FREAKIN' Step on My Mound!" Braden greeted Matsui with an inflatable Godzilla he bought on eBay for $150.
Matsui, the ultimate team guy, surely appreciated the gesture, though he probably wouldn't mind retiring the Godzilla moniker once and for all, seeing as it was given to him for his monstrous acne as a teen, not for his prodigious home runs.
Braden is happy to see Matsui for a number of reasons: the A's have almost no offense, for one, and Braden never really could get Matsui out--especially during a gem he'd been throwing just after his perfect game last season, until Matsui took him deep.
Tyler Kepner writes:
“Breaking ball,” Braden said ruefully, recalling the moment the other day in the A’s clubhouse. “It was middle — but it was down — and he got it. I’ve thrown him changeups, sinkers in, I’ve thrown him front-door sinkers; if I had a knuckleball I’d throw that. I’m just glad I don’t have to face the guy anymore.”

As he showed on Real Sports last year, Braden is a zag-when-everyone-else-zigs kind of guy, so it's no surprise that he's throwing front-door sinkers when everyone else opts for back-door sliders.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Met Igarashi Stuck in JICS-ville

The sun is shining!
The sky is blue!
The sports pages are filled with baseball!
And it's time for Batter Chatter to get off its lazy ass and turn up to spring training.
Sunday's New York Times Sports section kicked off a new season of collecting arcane baseball-speak in a story about Mets hurler Ryota Igarashi.
During spring training, teams frequently take minor league pitchers along for road trips in case the game goes into extra innings, so the front-line pitchers don't blow out their arms with the extra workload.
These players, notes the Times, are called "JICs"--for "Just In Case.
Reports Dave Waldstein:
Teams usually take minor league pitchers on the road during camp to provide an inning or two in relief should the game go extra innings, and some managers call them J.I.C.’s, for just in case. When Igarashi signed his contract last year, he never expected to be included in that category.

That's Igarashi's ignominious role now, though he's being a good citizen amidst his JICs duty.
Other notable JICs around the world include the Jicks--the name given to Stephen Malkmus's post-Pavement band.
On, Malkmus--addressing the "Jicks people" of the world--said last year was a return to Pavement for him, with a giant world tour. The two best shows on the tour? Tokyo and Osaka, he said.
Not sure if Mets JIC Igarashi was in attendance.