Wednesday July 9, 2003
Today, Iíll keep it short. Some people have told me that Iím too long winded. Probably true. Sometimes.
The Twins lost (AGAIN) to the Rangers tonight. After jumping out with 5 runs in the 2nd, Kyle Lohse struggled again and gave up 7 runs in just 3 innings. Juan Rincon gave up 1 run in 2 innings. Grant Balfour was really the story though, at least when trying to find anything positive about the game last night. He pitched 3 innings and gave up 0 hits, 1 walk and struck out 2. The Sydney, Australia native has been solid in now his first three outings. Last Thursday, in his first game with the Twins since pitching 2 games for them in 2001, Balfour went 2 1/3 innings, and struck out 5. Saturday night, he pitched 2 innings and struck out 4. So, through 3 outings, Balfour has struck out 11 batters in 7 1/3 innings. Not too bad! Thatís Santana-like!
Oh, and the Twins did purchase the contract of James Baldwin! It meant that they decided to designated catcher Tom Prince for assignment. This means that they now have 10 days to either trade him, or heíll be released and become a free agent. Hopefully the Twins will be able to get something in return for him. There were rumors of Tampa Bay having some interest in him.
But, I donít want to talk about the Twins right now. So, Iím not going to. Iím going to rant about something else that really bothers me. Something that really came to light on Monday afternoon in the Red Sox-Yankees game.
The first two hitters for the Yankees were hit in the hand by Red Sox starter Pedro Martinez. The same Pedro Martinez that had to meet with the commissioner while he was with the Expos for headhunting. The first batter was Alfonso Soriano. First, letís be honest, his front elbow is in the strike zone. Martinez threw a running fastball that moved in on Soriano, and Soriano actually checked his swing on it and it hit his hand and bat and was called a foul ball. He had to leave the game and didnít play on Tuesday either. The next batter, Derek Jeter, who also stands right on the plate, was also hit in the hand with a running fastball.
After the game, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner thought that something must be up. Why? Because Martinez threw a pitch that was maybe 6-8 inches off the inside corner?
So, this is what bugs me; when did hitters become such babies and get mad and/or charge the mound whenever they get hit, or even almost hit? This hasnít always been the case.
I remember listening to former Dodgers great Maury Wills on a drive home one weekend. He was doing color analysis for the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks radio broadcast. He tells a lot of baseball stories. He told of a time when the Dodgers were winning by 4 or 5 runs, and Wills tried to drag bunt on the first pitch of an at bat. The pitcher took exception and just missed Willsí head with the next pitch. So, what did Wills do? Laid down another bunt the next pitch. That too went foul. So, what happened on the 1-2 pitch? You guessed it, the pitcher drilled Wills right in the back. Did Wills charge the mound? No, he sprinted down the first base line. He proceeded to steal second base on the next pitch.
Thatís how things used to be in baseball. Now, there are a bunch of rich millionaires that canít stand if a pitcher even pitches a couple of inches inside. It might hurt!!!! WAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!
Let me say this: I think that pitching inside is great and absolutely necessary for any pitcher to succeed. However, I do totally think that once a pitch gets above the neck, the pitcher deserves to be charged/suspended.
But, so many times, guys charge the mound for absolutely no reason. How many times in the last couple of years have you seen someone get hit by a slow curveball and charge the mound? Too many! How many times have you seen a hitter get hit in the foot with a pitch and charge the mound? Lots!
Itís really ridiculous!
A couple of things make it even worse than it even seems on the surface. First, how many players where hardware on their elbows? Not as many as a couple of years ago, but still many do. Second, because the small strike zone called by umpires (a strike zone that has shrunk even more this year because of Major League Baseballís insistence on grading their umpires with QuesTec), hitters are able to dive out over the plate. Umpires over-react whenever there is an inside pitch, so pitchers canít throw inside anymore, even though it is vital to a pitcherís success. How many hitters stand right on top of the plate? As mentioned before, Alfonso Soriano is right over the plate. Carl Everett is known for standing right on the plate too. David Eckstein may not have a big strike zone, but he stands on the plate. But, heís an exception. He gets hit, he runs down to first, with no thought of charging the mound.
A couple of Twins examples:
Last Friday afternoon, my grandma asked me what was wrong with the Twins. I said that, in watching them, it looks like they donít care, like theyíre playing with no passion or heart whatsoever. I told them that what the Twins needed was a good bench-clearing brawl. Something to get their blood flowing and make them give 100%. Well, thatís the night that Torii Hunter got brushed back and took a couple steps toward Indians pitcher Jason Davis, and Davis screamed back, and the benches cleared and Davis and Hunter were ejected. I thought that was just what they needed to right the ship. Well, the Twins won that game 9-2, so for that one day, I kind of looked like Nostradamus! But, that didnít last long. The next night, Joe Mays started and was did his best to lose his spot in the starting rotation. Then Sunday, the Twins wasted a great performance by Brad Radke.
But, aside from the side-angle that I thought the Twins needed a brawl to come together, a couple things made it just dumb. First, it was an 0-2 pitch. What are pitchers taught to do on an 0-2 pitch from the time theyíre young? Pitch inside with a fastball to set up something slower, low and away on the next pitch. Thatís what Davis did. Second, the pitch was waist-high. It wasnít near Hunterís head, or even his shoulders. Third, it didnít even hit him. It wasnít that far inside. Normally, that was no situation to charge the mound. Hunter made some comment about how the pitch Ďinvaded his personal spaceíÖ that might be the worst reply Iíve ever heard!
How about earlier in the season when Brad Radke got suspended for 5 games because of hitting Tampa Bayís Toby Hall in the butt. Clearly it was intentional, but it hit the hitter in a fairly padded area where no damage could be done. Who cares? That didnít warrant an ejection, much less a suspension!
Or, how about when Jon Garland hit Doug Mientkiewicz earlier this year with a fastball in the butt. Mientkiewicz walked down the line, pointed the bat at Garland a little bit, dropped the bat and went down to 1B. Basically, Mienkiewicz was saying to Garland ďItís Over Now!Ē, and it should have been. Garland did the right thing sticking up for his player, but he did it in a way that wasnít putting anyone (Mientkiewicz in this case) in any danger.
Pretty much the same thing Radke did. But, Garland wasnít suspended! Major League baseballís penalty system is messed up and incredibly inconsistent!
Monday, Mike Mussina did nothing in terms of revenge against the Red Sox batters for the two Yankees being hit. Heís received some criticism for that. Instead, he pitched 8 innings, giving up just 1 run, and the Yankees won the game 2-1. If in the next half inning, Mussina decided to drill someone, well, he gets tossed. Pedro still can pitch for the Red Sox, so Mussina did the right thing.
To summarize, there are times when charging the mound makes sense. To spark a complacent team, and when the player gets hit near the head (read: Shoulder and up, not arm or back or foot!). Thatís really it. But, aside from those 2 situations there is no need for it!
From the pitcherís perspective: Pitch inside, take back the inside part of the plate, BUT stay away from the head! Your 90 mph fastball could cause serious long-term damage to the hitter, even if theyíre wearing a helmet!
Let me also say that neither Jeter nor Soriano charged the mound, and I appreciate that.
What are your thoughts about pitching inside and charging the mound? E-mail me and let me know where you stand!
FAN ETIQUETTE ADDITION-
Another case of things a fan should not do! I didnít think to include this in last weekís entry on the subject, maybe because it was probably just something that simply took some common sense. DO NOT BRING EXPLOSIVES!!! Did you see the Aís/Devil Rays highlights last night? Someone through an explosive from the upper deck down to the lower deck. An 8 year old boy was taken to the hospital for leg burns. Fortunately, that was the only injury, but that is absolutely stupid! AND, how did someone get into the game with an explosive!! Obviously, I donít have many details on this situation, but that is VERY scary!
BASKETBALL THOUGHTS -
Lebron James made his professional debut last night in a game. Sure, it was just the summer league, a game against an Orlando Magic team that had no one with NBA experience, but it was the start. James scored 14 points, had 7 rebounds and 6 assists, running the team from the point guard position. He had a couple of no-look passes, had some impressive dunks and layups, and even knocked down a couple of jump shots! The Timberwolves summer league team will play Lebron and the Cavs on Saturday!
The Wolves summer team beat the Detroit Pistons team 74-72. Former Syracuse star and 6 year NBA vet John Wallace led with 19 points. Former Wolves player, Igor Rakocevic scored 14. But, the important players to watch, Wolves first round pick Ndudi Edi, scored 9 points in 23 minutes, and 2nd round pick Rick Rickert didnít score in 12 minutes, but did pick up 5 quick fouls!
Gary Payton announced that he will sign the mid-level exception with the Lakers next week. That amount will be between $4.6 million and $4.8 million, the amount the Wolves have offered Juwon Howard. He could have received much more money by staying with the Bucks, or having them orchestrate a sign and trade to Miami or Portland, but in the end, Payton wants to win. By taking the mid-level exception, all that is left for Karl Malone is the $1.5 million exception. At 40 years old, and without a championship, my guess is heíll be a Laker by the end of next week too.
So, the starting lineup for next seasonís Lakers:
PG - Gary Payton, SG - Kobe Bryant, SF - Devean George, PF - Karl Malone, C - Shaquille OíNeal.Then with a probably bench of Rick Fox (if healthy), Derek Fisher, Kareem Rush, Mark Madsen, they will again probably be the favorites to win next seasonís NBA Championship. Especially if the Spurs are unable to spend any of the money they have under the salary cap on players like Jason Kidd or Jermaine OíNeal.
I love the NBA, and I love all the offseason stuff, so please e-mail me if you have any thoughts on what the Wolves should or shouldnít do, or any other NBA team for that matter.
BIG BROTHER 4 -
Wow! What a great first episode. I wonít say a lot about it for those who havenít seen it yet. But, eight guests entered the house and really bonded. They won some food for the house for the week. Then, the X Factor. 5 exís showed up in the house, and the instantly, you could see the emotions! Canít wait until tonight to see how Day 1 went!
Hey, I just met a great couple from Denver, Colorado, tonight. Theyíre in town to go fishing on Lake of the Woods. That just reminds me that if any of you are looking for a place to take a fishing trip, check out Lake of the Woods, and if you do, be sure to check out the Reel Adventures Link that I have on the side of the page for information on their launch services.
Well, happy hump day to all!
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