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Baseball Needs Instant Replay

Sure it helps that ESPN has been brainwashing me with constant replays of every single questionable home run call over the past week, but hey, I’ve felt strongly about this subject for a long time. I’m not saying we should review pickoff plays, dropped third strikes, balk calls, whether or not a batter went around, and certainly not balls and strikes, but come on, when it comes to a call that changes a ballgame by anywhere from 1-4 runs, we need to get it right. This really came to my attention last year when I wrote about Rockies’ manager Clint Hurdle getting upset over some of the unfavorable calls his team had received. I thought about it then and feel even more strongly now that just to review whether or not a ball went out of the park, instant replay is a useful tool.

I just can’t even fathom why the unimaginative purists would want to keep the game free of instant replay. Why, will it slow a game played at Bengie Molina-like speeds by 150 seconds? Oooh, that’s just too much for us to handle. Big deal — the people in the crowd pop open their phones to blast off a few texts and catch up on some scores around the league on their blackberrys. What’s the problem? Isn’t it worth it to get it right when it’s something that significant? Moreover, all you need is two minutes reviewing a potential home run ball to get the call right. It’s not like in football where you can deliberate and still get a call wrong because of funny angles and stuff; this is pretty easy, if the ball clears the yard, it’s gone. Then again, I’m not really sure why I’m ranting to you about this — it’s probably the people who still haven’t warmed up to the idea of computers that are against instant replay in the game, anyhow.

The Secret Behind Chase Utley’s Success

I always thought guys at the Major League level make it to that point and stay there because they work hard. Sometimes I even chuckle at TV and magazine fluff pieces that try to convince you how hard team A or player B works; they all work hard, practice hard, and try hard, don’t they? We only hear about players working hard when they’re performing well. Richie Sexson may be batting .200, but he’s watching video, I’m sure. You know? Anyway, that’s what I’ve always thought. But maybe, just maybe, the All-Stars are better because they work harder. Maybe Chase Utley does indeed prepare more than the average ballplayer. Check out his routine:

Video via the Philly Phanatics over at The 700 Level. Now some players may get to the park early, but they’re there to screw around. Seems like Utley not only arrives early but that he makes good use of his time devising his approach at the plate. And most impressively, he’s done this since signing his big contract. Many players have a tough time keeping their focus after seeing all that green.

Player Traded for 10 Baseball Bats

True story. It’s so old school, it’s fantastic. There were always rumors of players being traded for a bucket of balls or a few bats, but this one is actually real. As FanHouse points out, John Odom was traded from the Calgary Vipers of the Golden Baseball League to the Laredo Broncos of the United League for 10 maple bats. The reasoning behind the trade is actually pretty funny. Apparently this Odom character had some legal infractions on his record that prevented the Vipers from getting him into Canada. They just gave up and decided to trade him away instead, getting 10 bats back in exchange.

This Vipers team also seems to be quite creative when it comes to dealmaking — they are said to have asked for blue chairs in exchange for a player when they were building a stadium. If their goal was to garner some publicity from this trade, they certainly succeeded. I won’t exactly be going out of my way to take a trip to Calgary so I can watch one of their games, but I certainly appreciate their creativity. And hey, at least Odom can keep his head high knowing that at least he’s worth the equivalent of $650 in baseball bats — that’s something to be proud of.

Jonathan Papelbon Wants His Money

I was planning to write up on this yesterday when I first saw this quote, but as you probably noticed, I didn’t do any posting. You can chalk that up to LBS being out with “flu-like symptoms.” Funny how multiple athletes have symptoms of the flu, but they never get it. Anyway, I never quite understood this quote by Papelbon last year, but it was pretty clear making money is one of his main focuses. Which brings me to Pap’s comments on Thursday:

“I have no problem with pushing the market up,” Papelbon said before last night’s 6-3 win against Kansas City at Fenway Park. “I have no problem with guys holding out for what they’re worth.

“I have no problem with going year to year.”

While Papelbon has no problem going year to year, as he said, I have a little problem with his mentality. First off, I’ve already made it clear that I’m not a fan of baseball’s arbitration system and I prefer players and teams avoid it where possible. Clearly Papelbon couldn’t care less about going to arbitration because his numbers speak for themselves. But what’s wrong with financial security? What’s wrong with signing a long-term deal with the team you’re currently playing for so that contract issues don’t become a distraction? What’s wrong with keeping together the pieces of a winning team? Unless Papelbon isn’t enjoying playing for a winner in Boston, I don’t understand his thinking. And especially as a pitcher, going year-to-year can be somewhat risky; going longterm seems to be the most secure option. Man, if I wind up seeing Papelbon in Brewers jersey down the line after signing a monster free agent deal with them, I’m going to be scratching my head.

Return of the Fat Boy Pitchers

Last month I was defending overweight MLB players from irrational criticism by the media. I would like to add that since the writing of the post, C.C. Sabathia has a 1.45 ERA, and Prince Fielder has five home runs and has raised his slugging percentage by 151 points, all the while being just as fat as they were the first few weeks of the season. Anyway, getting back to business, I would like to note that fat boys could be the latest trend in MLB. Witness Wednesday night in Boston and Minnesota.

Bartolo Colon made his season debut for the Red Sox going five innings of two-run ball, picking up the win in the 6-3 game. (costing me a gentleman’s bet while we’re at it). He beat the Royals by throwing his fastball from 91-94, spotting it with excellent placement. He wasn’t hit too hard and only had to go his five since the Red Sox supported him with a bunch of runs in the 5th. This is the same guy who was torched last year with the Angels because of a partially torn rotator cuff. I wonder how long his shoulder will hold up, but for now, he’s good enough to get the job done.

Meanwhile in Minnesota, another blast from the Farmer John past was handling business as well. The Fat Aruban, Sidney Ponson, who’s been an break in case of emergency starter the last three years, had yet another strong start for the Rangers. I have no idea how this guy manages to get it done, but he somehow went the distance allowing only seven baserunners all game. Ponson is 3-0 for a patchwork Rangers staff right now. He’ll only last one or two more before he starts getting bombed. But it just amazes me how as the season goes on, teams start scraping so badly because of injury that you start seeing Jody Geruts, Bartolo Colons, and Sidney Ponsons getting action. Paging David Wells, anybody?

Mike Piazza to Hall as Dodger or Met?

Now that The Dude has officially called it quits, the discussion begins: will Piazza go into the Hall as a Dodger or a Met? First off, The Dude goes down as the best hitting catcher in the game. He was crappy behind the plate and couldn’t throw out a special olympics hurdler, but man, could he hit. So in my eyes, there’s absolutely no question that he’s a Hall of Famer — first balloter at that. So does he go in wearing that Dodger cap, or the Mets shrouds?

Piazza was drafted by the Dodgers, started his career with the Dodgers, and first made his name as a Dodger. He was a relative of Tommy Lasorda’s — how much more Dodger can you get than that? And if it weren’t for the Dodgers and Lasorda, Piazza might never have been a professional baseball player. Piazza was the Rookie of the Year with the Dodgers, finished second twice in MVP voting with the Dodgers, and was an All-Star in all five full seasons he played in LA. The Dude hit over .318 in every full season with the Dodgers, including a ridiculous .362 in ’97. When Piazza was at his peak, it was with the Dodgers.

On the other hand, a larger part of Mike Piazza’s career was played with the Mets. Piazza played seven full seasons in New York, and spent the most part of ’98 there as well, the year he was traded. He duplicated his 40-homer season in his second year with New York and hit over 33 dingers with them four straight years. His skills declined as the years in New York went on, but Piazza was still an icon there. Most importantly, The Dude led the Mets to the World Series in 2000.

So when it comes down to it, how will The Dude be remembered? I think it’s as a Met, and I think that’s how he should go into Cooperstown. He spent a longer part of his career there, reached a World Series there, and was an All-Star there. And recent history tends to stand out more than ancient history, which is what the Dodgers are in his career. It’s a tough call, but I think The Dude goes in as a Met.

Oh yeah, and if Piazza makes it into the Hall first ballot, second ballot, or before McGwire, Bonds, Clemens, etc., that’s going to upset me. It shouldn’t be so subjective. As long as there’s a place for Mike Piazza in the Hall — which there is — he belongs in the same category as all the aforementioned characters — the steroids wing of the Hall. They were all legends of the game during the same time period and all belong in the same group.

Jon Lester and Fluke No-Hitters

I feel as if I’m not allowed to say anything negative about the guy because he overcame cancer. I mean no ill-will towards Jon Lester, and I certainly respect him for having dealt with such a severe issue and making it to the major leagues where he’s even won a Game 7 in the World Series. But I’ll judge him like any other pitcher, because that’s exactly what he is. And while throwing a no-hitter in the Majors is no small feat, I still don’t think too highly of Lester’s longterm prospects, though he clearly has the propensity to dominate in single games. So with that in mind, I would like to present some of the biggest fluke no-hitters in the history of the game. After all, in 10 years, I expect Lester’s name to be on the list. Joe Sports Fan essentially did the same thing a month ago so I’m taking a lot of their work here.

    Jose Jimenez – a career record of 24-44, he spent most of his short career as a reliever for the Rockies. Still, he was good enough to turn the trick for the Cardinals against the D-Backs in ’99.
    Bud Smith – One of the shortest shelf lives ever, Bud threw a no-no against the Padres for the Cardinals, and only managed to last one more year in the bigs. At least the Card parlayed him into Scott Rolen at the trade deadline.
    Astros, Party of six – It’s just strange to see such a good hitting team like the Yankees get no-hit by not just one pitcher, but a combination of six different arms including the likes of Peter Munro and Kirk Saarloos.
    Hideo Nomo (at Coors) – In the middle of Coors’ heyday and the Blake Street Bombers, Nomo did the unthinkable throwing a no-hitter for the Dodgers in Denver. Probably won’t ever be done again. He proved it wasn’t a fluke by throwing another one later in his career.
    Anibal Sanchez – He threw one for the Marlins while I was having a fantasy football draft in September two years ago. While he certainly had good stuff, injuries have kept him down, and you probably won’t remember this name in five years.
    Jon Lester – Dominated a Royals team in ’08, allowing just two base runners. In 10 years, he’ll be just a note in Red Sox history. Or at least that’s my guess.

There are plenty more on the list, so feel free to add one if you can think of it. And as rare as the accomplishment is in history, there’s definitely proof that you don’t have to be an exceptional pitcher to make it happen. You just have to be exceptional on one given day.