Tuesday, June 15, 2004
Winnie Poohs Another One
Randy Winn butchered Brady Clark's double in the third inning. Clark's hit was almost an exact copy of Boone's single in the top of the inning, a hard line drive up the third line that lands fair, hooks into foul territory heading for the corner. In most parks, those hits are easy doubles, but in Miller Park the seating configuration along the left field foul line redirects many of those balls back into fair territory in front of the left fielder.
In the top of the third, Geoff Jenkins plays the carom perfectly and throws out Boone at second. In the bottom of the third, Winn plays it as he were in Safeco, and when the ball caroms out it stops on the grass in fair territory about 50 feet in front of Winn. Winn scrambles forward to get it, and there is no play on Clark. (Of course, with Winn's arm, there probably wouldn't have been a reasonable play even if Winn had played the ball correctly.)
If Winn was watching Boone's at bat, there is no way he should have been surprised by the carom on Clark's ball. On the telecast, the ever obsequious Dave Valle and Rick Rizzs (are there two worse announcers in baseball?) excused the misplay because Winn was unfamiliar with the park.
Sorry, guys, after Jenkins gave an object lesson on playing the carom when he gunned down Boone, Winn's play on the ball was inexcusable.
Piston Engine Goes Boing-Boing, but the Mariner Engine Goes Klunk
Quite a contrast watching the Pistons and the Mariners this afternoon. The Pistons were on a roll in the Finals. It appeared to me that the Pistons almost at will could put themselves in the "Zone", where the entire team is playing at a level of excellence that exceeds the sum of the parts. It's an incredible feeling when you're in the middle of it.
A book I used to own had excerpts of Bill Russell talking about being in the "Zone" during his basketball career. Russell described it as a slowing down of time, in which all his senses were heightened, his reflexes and stamina were enhanced, and he became totally aware of everything happening on the court, including things outside his vision. During those periods, Russell said he knew exactly where a rebound would go before it hit the rim, what cuts his teammates would make, and what plays the opponents would run. The peak performance level usually started when one player would make a good play, another player would feed off of that play, and then other players would elevate their games. Russell observed that often both teams would get into the zone simultaneously, and then the whole game would take off. Russell also noted that as soon as he tried to step away from the situation and think about the Zone objectively, he immediately dropped out of the Zone.
In this series, the Pistons were in the Zone repeatedly; the Lakers only occasionally. And the Lakers knew they were beat when realized they couldn't summon themselves into the Zone as effortlessly as the Pistons were able to.
There is an obverse to Russell's comments, and we are seeing it with the Mariners this year. It's a time when nothing goes right, players press and it doesn't work, and one player's deflation also deflates others around him. Juat as the Lakers couldn't summon themselves into the Zone, the Mariners are unable to summon themselves out of their funk.
P.S. How does an aerial shot from a blimp enhance coverage of an indoor basketball game?
"Mariner-Gate" - Concealing the Best Jokes in the Name of Team Chemistry
So Bavasi and the Mariners are apparently still clinging to the idea that they have a realistic chance of getting back into a pennant race this season. Rather than try to dissect this directly, I will instead allow the great British wit John Cleese to describe the situation. The excerpt below is from the May 16, 1988 issue of Forbes magazine (pp 126-128), titled "No More Mistakes and You're Through!".
In organizations where mistakes are not allowed, you get two types of counterproductive behavior. First, since mistakes are "bad", if they're committed by people at the top the feedback arising from those mistakes has to be ignored or selectively reinterpreted, in order that those top people can pretend that no mistake has been made. So it doesn't get fixed. Second, if they're committed by people lower down in the organization, mistakes get concealed. …
In the healthiest organizations, the taboo is not on making mistakes, it's on concealing them. But in a mistake-denying culture, they are concealed and therefore are not corrected. Worse, lies have to be told.
This is the essence of a particular form of comedy that has traditionally been popular in Europe – the farce. In America, you have a similar form of entertainment, usually called Something-Gate, where entire departments of government officials pass their working days trying unsuccessfully to conceal one key mistake. This type of comedy is less successful in Britain, simply because the government has much greater power to conceal the best jokes in the name of national security. …
So once the corporate ethos is that the corporation cannot have made a mistake, then it’s going to go further and further off course. The CEO becomes a bit like a pilot in an aircraft who says to the altimeter, "What's the height?" and hears the altimeter reply, "What would you like it to be?" So we have Mariner-Gate, in which an entire MLB front office tries to conceal the best jokes in the name of team chemistry.
Would You Like to Swing from a Steroid?
Here's a link to an article in yesterday's NY Times discussing both the physical and mental effects steroid use might have on baseball players. A couple of excerpts below:
Scientists say they do not believe steroids improve hand-eye coordination, but because they agree the drugs help build strength, some extrapolate that steroids would also quicken bat speed. Better bat speed gives the hitter more time to wait on a pitch, to read it and follow it. The player most likely has an extra split second to decide what pitch is approaching and whether he wants to swing at it.
“Steroids make your hands faster in that they increase muscle in your forearms and pectorals and numerous muscle sets involved in hitting a baseball,” said Dr. Charles Yesalis, professor of health and human development at Penn State. “If you need less time to get around on the ball, you have more time to tell if it’s a slider, knuckleball or curve. That makes complete sense.”
As the player steps out of the batter’s box, he does not necessarily have more speed, but he does possess greater explosiveness, because of stronger fast-twitch muscle fibers. When Caminiti admitted to Sports Illustrated in 2002 that he used steroids, he said: “I’d be running the bases and think, ‘Man, I’m fast!’ And I had never been fast.”
Given the state of justice in Major League Baseball, the user will probably be punished only by his own body. As he continues to develop, he could lose flexibility and his muscles might become so strong that the tendons will no longer be able to connect them to the bone. Doctors have seen an increasing number of elbow injuries, knee injuries and tendon ruptures, in which the muscle strips completely away from the bone.
“The muscle mass gets so great that the tendons sometimes can’t carry the weight,” said Dr. Robert J. Dimeff, director of sports medicine at the Cleveland Clinic.
Sunday, June 13, 2004
More on Pitching
The NY Times today has a couple of interesting articles about pitching. First up is an article about Rick Peterson, describing some of the history that led him to be the pitching coach he is today.
Next is an article about the Wilmington Cannons, Class A franchise of the Cincinnati Red, where they are using a four-day rotation with their starters, with a 75-pitch count limit. Actually, the Cannons have divided eight pitchers into four pairs. Each pair of pitchers sees action every four days, and each pitcher has 75-pitch limit. One pitcher startes the game, and after he reaches his 75-pitch limit, the other pitcher takes over.
The item on the Potomac Cannons will not be news to regular readers of this blog. In my January 15 post about The Mariners Pitching Medicine Mess, I talked about this experiment by the Reds, and provided a link to a Cincinatti post story discussing the Reds intent to implement this program.
Added Note:In a recent e-mail, Peter White at Mariner Musings mentioned this post he made about the Cannons' tandem starter program. Peter also passed on this link to an article in the Washington Post from May 20 about the Cannons' pitching program.