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.


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.