One thing you'll notice watching the University of Louisville's baseball team — yes, the one that got eliminated from the College World Series on Monday — is that most Cardinals hitters wear the same hard plastic elbow pad at the plate. On Saturday night against Indiana, six of the Louisville starters wore that protective device.
Why is that important? Well, it's nice to be safe when you're leading the nation in being hit by pitches, as Louisville did, getting plunked 128 times as a team. And it's not just one guy soaking up baseballs, either — eight different Cardinals took seven pitches or more. Four were hit by 18 or more. By the looks of it, it's a team-wide strategy.
In the upcoming months, New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes could command more than $100 million for a contract of up to seven years. The front office in Flushing may balk at those numbers, but unless the Mets are prepared to make Reyes an offer that will keep him in Queens for the rest of his career, they shouldn’t make him an offer at all. The Mets have never given their fans a hometown discount; Jose Reyes shouldn’t give one to the Mets.
From 2007 to 2010, I was a Mets season-ticket holder. The perks were minimal: for my annual investment in baseball’s most disappointing franchise, my dividends included glossy media guides filled with information more easily accessible on the Internet, a leather mousepad shaped like home plate, and a wood-and-metal pen-holder that looked like a prop from a theatrical adaptation of Babbitt.
Here’s your Friday baseball news long toss covering stories on and off the field.
According to ESPN's Jayson Stark, baseball officials are twisting themselves into knots over the long, languid, Darwinian regular season possibly ending with a three-team demolition derby in the American League wild card race. If the Rays, Red Sox and Angels wind up honors-even at the end of the season, we could see an unprecedented three-team playoff. The Angels lost on Thursday, so this scenario seems unlikely. But the possible match-ups and rules governing said match-ups are so fantastically complex and convoluted, you almost want to see it happen, just for the schadenfreude.
Wednesday night, the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Milwaukee Brewers, 2-0, putting the Cards 8 ½ games behind the Brewers in the NL Central. But the real story, as it usually is in games involving the SWAT Team, was Nyjer Morgan.
St. Louis starter Chris Carpenter struck Morgan out in the top of the ninth. Apparently, in one direction or another, words were exchanged between pitcher and batter, prompting Morgan to throw his delectable Big League Chew/Skoal glob in Carpenter's direction. And in adherence to Marquess Of Queensberry Rules, the benches cleared, with Albert Pujols leaping the defense of his pitcher.
What Morgan did was gross and would probably get him thrown out of a White Castle, to say nothing of a baseball game. But what was really funny were the post-game reactions.
Andre Ethier had battled gamely against three blazing fastballs, a four-seamer at 97, another at 96, and a filthy two-seamer at 97. Now, he was set up. The pitcher reared back and fired, throwing from a nearly identical release point. Only this offering was anything but identical to the previous three. An assassin of a pitch, it started belt-high, then dive-bombed into the dirt in a flash. Ethier flailed wildly at it, caught nothing but air. Strike three.
In another era, you might have assumed it was a spitball or a shine ball, since pitches don't usually move like that without a little help. But this wasn't a product of Gaylord Perry's or Eddie Cicotte's imagination, or saliva. For one thing, the pitcher hadn't done anything illegal. For another, none of the master deceivers of yore could throw a pitch with that much break, and get so much on it.
As Ethier turned to walk back to the dugout, viewers at home could only stare slack-jawed at the radar gun reading. Stephen Strasburg had just thrown a completely unhittable beast of a change-up. At 90 miles an hour. Two minutes later, he made Aaron Miles look like a T-baller hopped up on Nyquil, humiliating him with a 99 mph fastball.
Here’s your Wednesday baseball news long toss covering stories on and off the field.
Is the 2012 season shaping up to be Torii Hunter's version of The Black Album? The Angel in the outfield (self high-five) is quasi-threatening to hang up his cleats after his contract expires. In lieu of a contract extension offer from Anaheim, the 36-year-old veteran doesn't sound like he wants to play anywhere else. At the very least, the one place you won't see Hunter is on the East Coast. "I really don't like the Beasts of the East," he said. "I really don't want to be the Evil Empire, because I didn't like them for so long."
Let's get the disclaimers out of the way, because almost everything that follows in this post is going to sound really ungrateful.
Robinson Cano is a solid second baseman. I'm a Yankees fan, and he's my favorite player. A lot of teams would kill to have Cano at second base, even if he's not the best the league has to offer (this year, that would be Dustin Pedroia). He has one of the smoothest swings in baseball. Last year, he won the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards, and came in third in American League MVP voting. What's more, he seems to be a goodguy.
Here's where the ingratitude comes into play: I keep waiting for him to be better. What limits Cano is selectivity. In the simplest sense, he doesn't walk enough.