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

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. 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,'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.