Friday, May 8, 2015

Baseball has Zero Tolerance for Careless Behavior

The arbiters of baseball have their jobs because the game controls wreckless behavior because it represents health
hazards. It's up to the arbiters of the rules (umpires) to pay close attention to any shenanigans some mindless player sees fit to attempt because "anything goes" as long as your team wins, right? It is of  utmost importance that the umps put a player's safety first and foremost.

When the rookie for the Angels' was hit by his teammate's line drive (Matt Joyce) he was called out because the fielder did not have an opportunity to field the hard hit ball.

It's all about fair play.  If a runner goes out of his way to get in the way of a fielder he will be called out as well as the batter-runner.

(Note: It is an unwritten rule in baseball that you not say "I got it!" if you're running the bases and a pop-up happens in the vicinity of your whereabouts. That's also bad sportsmanship.)

Kevin J. Marquez

Friday, April 24, 2015

Fortunately the Umpire Has Been Around

The play in Wednesday night's 3-2 Giant victory in which Brandon Belt singled Gregor Blanco over to third base from second base that Don Mattingly felt was Interference by a Coach was correctly not ruled as interference by Fieldin Culbreth. It was fortunate for the Giants that Culbreth has been around because had he been the ump who called balls and strikes on Wednesday (Manny Gonzalez) it may have been a different story.

I was at the game and when Belt rapped a line drive to a pulled-in Andre Ethier, I immediately looked to Blanco (number 7) and watched what he was doing. He didn't hesitate. He stopped at third base. Roberto Kelly, a newcomer at the third base coaching gig, just got caught up in the moment and stood too close to the bag. Now, I understand it could still have been perceived as interference but there was absolutely no intent. And Culbreth got the call right. I couldn't believe Mattingly moaned and groaned on that call. He was the one who orchestrated bringing Yasiel Puig in from right field to third base when Joe Panik was up to bat. There were only 2 outfielders and the one with the best arm was the guy he moved to third base. Just so happens Panik hits a high fly ball to right-centerfield, not deep but deep enough for Blanco to score on Joc Pederson's arm. But had it been Puig the game may very well have gone extra-innings. That was what cost Mattingly the game. His bonehead re-alignment of his players.

Rule 7.09(h) states "It is interference by a batter or a runner when (in the judgment of an umpire) the basecoach at third base, or first base, by touching or holding the runner, physically assists him in returning to or leaving third base or first base."

Seems the new, unknown umpires have a need to "be known" when calls like this occur on their watch. Who can forget the time when Harry Wendelstedt ruled that Giant's batter Dick Dietz had failed to make an attempt to get out of the way of a Don Drysdale pitch that would have forced a run home and ended Drysdale's consecutive scoreless innings streak? It was such a ludicrous call that to this day I still think it is in the Top 3 of all-time worst calls by an umpire.

(Note: The coup de grace was reading how Wendelstedt used to hound Tommy Lasorda for tickets to events that Lasorda had access to. It just proved that Wendelstedt enjoyed the limelight and was the perfect candidate for pulling off a shenanigan like the one he did in a 1968 game at Dodger Stadium. He was on a stage and took full advantage of that moment, the BUM!)

Sure, it's a wild hair in my nose. I remember first learning about the game of baseball when the umpires were: Al Barlick, Foghorn Bradley, Ollie Chill, Nestor Chylak, Jocko Conlan, Shag Crawford, Satch Davidson, Augie Donatelli, Billy Evans, Lee Fyfe, Tom Gorman, Doug Harvey, Jim Honochick, Alamazoo Jennings, Bill Klem, Bill Kunkel, Stan Landes, Bill McGowan, John P. McSherry, E. Durwood Merrill, Edward M. Montague, Larry Napp, Jerry Neudecker, Hank O'Day, Orval Overall, Chris Pelekoudas, Frank Pulli, Dutch Rennert, Edward P. Runge, Paul Runge, Al Salerno, Marty Springstead, Dick Stello, Ed Sudol, Terry Tata, Ed Vargo, Lee Weyer, and Emmett Ashford.

These were the backbone of the umpiring fraternity. Guys who made the call and there were no if's, ands, or buts. Not like today with all this apparent need to be captured on film and shown over and over on ESPN until you want to puke.

If you don't see someone on this list, like Bruce Froemming, it's because I didn't like his style. This is my list of names I saw mentioned in a book on baseball or how I remember their flash, style, and grace between the foul lines. This is my list and it's personal. I respect the game and those players who gave their all only to have some skibozo squelch their moment of glory by blowing an otherwise obvious call.

(thanks to Wikipedia for the ability to look up and find the former umpires who made this game as great as it is despite the camera hogs.)

Kevin J. Marquez

Friday, April 17, 2015

It's Only April

This is not your 2014 San Francisco Giants. The roster has had some changes. We don't have a Panda playing third base and we don't have a suspect left fielder who when he came to bat it was Morse, Morse, Morse. But as with every season, you have changes. And it takes time to find the right mixture of players to make it through the long, six month season, that you push to make into the seventh month.

It doesn't appear the Giants will have a repeat of the Barry Bonds 2001 season or Willie Mays in 1965 in which they both belted 17 homers in one month. (Bonds hit his in May, Mays hit his in August)
But something else will happen that will surely put them among the National League's elite.

After what I've seen in 2010, 2012, and 2014, I will not count a Bochy-led bunch out of any race, unless they are mathematically eliminated. (Note: Of the 8 home runs allowed by Giants' pitching, 4 have been 3-run homers and one was a grand slam. This is something to keep an eye on as the season progresses.)

Kevin J. Marquez

Monday, April 6, 2015

People Who Listen to Baseball Games on the Radio Will Miss You, Lon Simmons

1958-1962 KSFO (560 AM) Russ Hodges, Lon Simmons, Bill King
1963-1964 KSFO (560 AM) Russ Hodges, Lon Simmons
1965-1968 KSFO (560 AM) Russ Hodges, Lon Simmons, Bill Thompson
1969 KSFO (560 AM) Russ Hodges, Lon Simmons, Bill Thompson, Bill Rigney*
1970-1971 KSFO (560 AM) Lon Simmons, Bill Thompson, Russ Hodges**
1972-1973 KSFO (560 AM) Lon Simmons, Bill Thompson
1974-1975 KSFO (560 AM) Al Michaels, Art Eckman
1976 KSFO (560 AM) Al Michaels, Lon Simmons
1977-1978 KSFO (560 AM) Lon Simmons, Joe Angel

Lon did San Francisco 49er games from 1957-1980 and 1987 to 1988. He left the Giants to broadcast Oakland A's games from 1981-1995. I always felt like the Giants got what they deserved when the A's swept the Giants and Lon got to call a World Series champion when KSFO cut him lose without 'splainin' themselves.

His call of Jim Marshall 'running the wrong way' at Kezar Stadium in a 49ers vs. Vikings game was vintage Lon. Or his description of Steve Young 'getting away again' through the ravaged Viking defense to score a 49-yard touchdown in 1988 in what was an amazing run. I should know, I (along with schoolmate Alan Kern) was there!

I used to enjoy the way he would teach me about a player's strengths and how the real good players would turn a weakness into a strength because they were students of the game. They were always looking for ways to be one step ahead of their opponent. Like if they knew the pitcher was throwing to the outside corner, to shade that batter in that direction anticipating the whereabouts of the ball once the batter swung.

Of course, there were always the exceptions to the rule when a batter hit the ball off the end of his bat and the ball squibbed in an unlikely direction. But that was baseball. You learned to accept the unexpected especially when your home field was Candlestick Park.

As one who tunes into the radio to follow a baseball game I miss those announcers who paint the word picture. To me, it IS better than being at the game. I can keep score and tell you exactly what happened because as a listener, a fan of his spoken word, I remembered it as if it were something I myself had written down. And the more I listened to what he had to say I too could anticipate a word or two and just be in sync with whatever story he was telling his audience.

Thanks for the memories Lon. You did the game right.

Kevin J. Marquez

Friday, March 27, 2015

A Rule Needs to be Changed

In the 1930s and 1940s the good hitters of the league almost always had more walks than strikeouts. It was their belief, and should still be held in high regard, that you had to have productive at-bats.

During a cactus league contest in which Gregor Blanco grounded into a double play with less than 2 outs with a runner on first and third base but the run did score to tie the game at 5-5, it was Jon Miller's contention that Blanco did his job. Albeit his at-bat cost his team two outs he did in fact get the runner in from third base.

Miller referred to something Reggie Smith, the former Red Sox, Cardinal, Dodger, and Giant's slugger who belted 314 career home runs, told him while he was a hitting coach. Smith expressed his dissatisfaction that grounding into a double-play with less than two outs but scores the runner does not count for a run batted in. Because the runner didn't pop-up, strikeout or do something in which the runner had no chance to score. His at-bat allowed the runner to score.

Rule 10.04 Runs Batted In
(b) The official scorer shall not credit a run batted in
(1) when the batter grounds into a force double play or a reverse-force double play; or
(2) when a fielder is charged with an error because the fielder muffs a throw at first base that would have completed a force double play.

I got to thinking about this as I was listening to all the player and position changes and I think you have to account for your at-bats. Back in the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, players were career minor leaguers if they struck out excessively (in comparison to bases on balls). Regardless if they hit 30 to 40 home runs. Those guys got called up in September and got to show a little of what they were capable of but for the most part they were not given a chance to show, over the long haul, that they were worth the look by the big league club.

Things are beginning to change nowadays. Teams are more willing to sign the Mark Reynolds's in hopes of catching lightning in a bottle. Especially if those constructing the team feel their team has the pitching and defense. If they have players with the ability of making plays to squelch opponents' efforts to build a rally, a batter who strikes out most of the time but does connect often enough to reach 30-HRs and 90-RBIs might be have a place within their budget. Teams are willing to sacrifice the out whereas the contact hitter may ground into a few more double-plays and kill any potential for a big inning which to their way of thinking does a team more harm than good. The team can still pay based on what their numbers produce, regardless if it's inning-ending double-plays or multiple strikeouts per game played.

The player, back in the day, that first came to mind was someone who hit several home runs but who only played one full season in the major leagues. That player was Steve Bilko. In 1953, with the St. Louis Cardinals he hit 21-HR and had 84-RBI. But he also struck out 125 times versus 70 walks. Teams didn't go for the big power numbers if the batter struck out a good percentage of the time.

Bilko was the only player in Pacific Coast League history to win the league's MVP award in three consecutive seasons (1955-57)..In 1956 he won the Triple Crown with 55-HR, 164-RBI, and .360-AVG.

(Note: There is a current ballplayer who has shown he can hit the long ball but has a knack for swinging-and-missing, and that player is Mark Reynolds.)

Rank/ Player (age that year)/Strikeouts/Year/(side of plate player)Bats
1. Mark Reynolds (25) 223 2009 R
2. Adam Dunn (32) 222 2012 L
4. Mark Reynolds (26) 211 2010 R
5. Drew Stubbs (26) 205 2011 R
6. Mark Reynolds (24) 204 2008 R
Adam Dunn (30) 199 2010 L
Ryan Howard (27) 199 2007 L
Ryan Howard (28) 199 2008 L
12. Mark Reynolds (27) 196 2011 R
13. Adam Dunn (24) 195 2004 L
15. Adam Dunn (26) 194 2006 L
16. Ryan Howard (34) 190 2014 L
Adam Dunn (33) 189 2013 L
Rob Deer (26) 186 1987 R
Ryan Howard (29) 186 2009 L
33. Mike Trout (22) 184 2014 R
Mark Trumbo (27) 184 2013 R
Rickie Weeks (27) 184 2010 R
Carlos Pena (34) 182 2012 L
41. Ryan Howard (26) 181 2006 L
46. Rob Deer (25) 179 1986 R
47. Richie Sexson (26) 178 2001 R
48. Adam Dunn (29) 177 2009 L
Adam Dunn (31) 177 2011 L
In the days of Joe DiMaggio (790-BBs,369-Ks) and Ted Williams (2021-BBs,709-Ks) you would see these highly impressive numbers but if the superstar struck out more than he walked he most certainly did not get a raise or, even more startling, got a pay reduction. It was a tough go for those old-timers but I firmly believe their approach was appropriate.(Stan Musial's all-time strikeout to walk ratio was 1599-BBs to 696-K's. He's also the guy with the most incredible statistic ever, of his 3,630 hits, exactly 1815 were at home and 1815 were on the road. How about that!)

Just as Carl Reginald Smith was accurate in saying Gregor Blanco should be credited with a run batted in. He did his job even if two outs were made during his plate appearance. He wasn't butting heads with the establishment as to why they choose who they choose, he was just saying that the ground out double-play with less than two outs IS a productive out.

And if you look at current lists of batters who went deep more than the average player, but were players who didn't spend a whole lot of time in the majors
why don't these batters get a longer look? Bad glove, one-dimensional, just not meant-to-be, etc. See the following list, these guys didn't get much of a shot to excel at the major league level, despite their minor league totals.

Hector Espino, 484
Nelson Barrera, 479
Andres Mora, 444
Alejandro (Alex) Ortiz, 434
Buzz Arlett, 432
Nick Cullop, 420
Merv Connors, 400
Mike Hessman, 400

I just think productive at-bats always trumps the occasional long ball.

Kevin J. Marquez

Monday, January 26, 2015

Madison's 2014 Series was Fantastic but I Remember Lew Burdette in 1957

Let me clarify. I wasn't born yet but I read a heckuva lot about the game of baseball and this story piqued my interest as much as any other I have been fortunate enough to come across over the years.

In the 1957 World Series a pitcher by the name of Lew Burdette dominated the New York Yankees. For one year somebody other than the Bronx Bombers got to celebrate a World Series crown. (The Bombers would defeat the Braves the following year in the Series)

Burdette was originally signed by the New York Yankees but due to the depth of the Yankees roster he was dealt to the Boston Braves in 1951, along with $50,000 for pitcher Johnny Sain (the other guy with Warren Spahn who you prayed for rain when facing the tough Brave lefties).

Fast-forward to the 1957 and Burdette gets his shot at showing just how bad a mistake the Pinstripes made in dealing the Nitro, West Virginian.

In three games, he shutout the Yankees twice and one other time the Braves won 4-2, all complete games.

The first shutout was against World Series ace Whitey Ford, in which Burdette won 1-0 and in Game 7, subbing for Warren Spahn who had the flu, on 2 days' rest he shutout the Yankees 5-0. Naturally, he was named the Series Most Valuable Player.

Other things of note about Lew Burdette. He was the opposing pitcher in the game on May 26, 1959, when Harvey Haddix pitched a 12 inning perfect game. And although he yielded 12 hits he walked none and was able to pitch into the 13th inning when Joe Adcock hit a homer.

Burdette was forever fidgeting on the mound, wiping his brow, fussing with his cap and jersey and going to his lips, prompting the Braves' manager, Fred Haney, to remark, "Burdette would make coffee nervous." Those machinations, combined with the effectiveness of his breaking balls, brought accusations that he threw a spitter.

While denying that he wet the ball, Burdette said the suspicions helped him by distracting batters.

On a personal note, I always felt like the movie Rio Bravo used Burdette's name for the movie. John Wayne's character (John T. Chance) held Claude Akins (Joe Burdette), a worthless drunken thug, for murdering an unarmed man. Joe's brother Nathan owned a big chunk of the county. Wayne's only help was from Dean Martin (Dude/Borachon) his former deputy who spent the past two years stumbling around in a drunken stupor over a woman that left him.

In a list of characters: 15- bar fly's (all uncredited)
1- bar cowboy watching fistfight (uncredited)
3- henchman
Feathers- Angie Dickinson
Colorado Ryan- Ricky Nelson
Nathan Burdette- John Russell
Stumpy- Walter Brennan

"A small-town sheriff in the American West enlists the help of a cripple, a drunk, and a young gunfighter in his efforts to hold in jail the brother of the local bad guy."

Only in Hollywood. Unforgettable plot but the names, I believe, were borrowed sometimes from heroic ballplayers.

thanks to for my extensive research on this blurb.

Kevin J. Marquez

Friday, October 24, 2014

You've Got to be Kidding!

How in the hell can Major League baseball be telling everyone that it grades the umpires on a day-to-day basis and they go and assign an umpire (Eric Cooper) the job of calling balls and strikes in Game 2 of the World Series, when the sumbitch chooses not to call the corners?

Mike Krukow, has created a fantastic book on how umpires call games. He no doubt used one when he was pitching for the Cubs, Phillies, and Giants. If in his scouting report he says the person in charge of calling balls and strikes 'doesn't call the corners' and the games goes by innings one through nine and the umpire doesn't call any corners I would say that's a nightmare for the both the batter and the pitcher. Jake Peavy is a pitcher who relies on being able to pitch to the corner. Take away a part of his game and you put a choke hold on their entire staff for that night's game.

How in the hell can you have someone as visually challenged as Eric Cooper umpire a game in the World Series? "It's the World Series, Nurse Ratched!" The major leagues doesn't get it. They have the review but what you and I see on the video replay say one thing and what those booze hounds in the New York central studios (those grand poobahs of the loyal order of imbibe) see are two different things. And that just proves there's a flaw in the system.

So far no tag plays have been blown by the umps. But assigning an ump to call balls and strikes who doesn't call the corners is inexcusable.

Kevin J. Marquez