Tuesday, May 29, 2012

You Just Can't Do It

We've all heard about the unwritten rules of baseball.  And through my reading (about the history of baseball) I have come to learn that this really meant the league had an cop out.  A way to keep the African-American and other persons of color- other than caucasion or white- out of "their" game.

Kennesaw Mountain Landis was a proponent because he was a hypocrite.  He could kick an illiterate man like Joe Jackson out of baseball but think this type of behavior was acceptable.  Landis was a bigot who would have made Archie Bunker blush.

Fast-forwarding to 2012, there is a matter of the Strike Zone in baseball.  You have your rule interpretation of the strike zone AND the umpire's understanding of what type of pitch he believes falls into the parameters of a strike or falls out of this "zone" which would make the pitch a ball.

To me, there is one underlying ultimate unwritten rule of baseball and that is DO NOT PITCH to the umpire's strike zone.

Do not adjust your mechanics to fit what he believes to be a strike because you will have to do it each and every time a different umpire is behind the plate. Besides that, don't go out of your way to appease someone who is judging by association.  You cannot rely on this "vision of perspective" to call the same pitch a ball or a strike.  

On those days when an umpire is consistent to your strike zone you most likely will achieve the best there is to get.  Then again, how about those days the umpire needs to wipe the smudge mark off his spectacles?  Where he's having a difficult time following the flight of your pitches because he lacks the concentration and (most importantly) the focus to hone in on your pitch selection.  

There is also the factor that he may be a "hitter's" umpire. That is really the best of all reasons not to trust in the umpire.  You must trust in yourself to be able to adjust to his geometrical specter of sector.  As daunting as it seems, know the person pitching for the other team has the same potential struggle.

(It is for this very reason, that on those occasions when one team gets the benefit of a generous strike zone but the opponent is the recipient of the kind of strike zone that fluctuates due to its being intermittent I think the home plate umpire should be severly reprimanded.  Like say, a day's pay, for a minimum penalty and maybe he misses his next turn behind the plate.)

Kevin J. Marquez  

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Flemming Flemmang II

On May 23, 2012, the Giants were visiting the Milwaukee Brewers for a day game.  Unfortunately, for those who have no access to a television and their only hopes of following the Giants are by listening to the radio, this game was torturous.  Why?  (Dave)Fleming-Flemang and his bucket of negativity.

Dave Fleming as in "your Giants' broadcaster."  Flemang as in 'mang he sure does miss a good game.'  Primarily because he is drawn toward the worst-case scenario happenings (the way he harps on balls lost in the sun or bad bounces as if they were routine plays) versus a way to see things that have a positive effect. 

Milwaukee just so happens to have a retractable roof.  On this day, the way it was left open intrigued Dave Fleming.  As he began to describe the effects of the partially opened roof it was unbelievable to me that such a thing would be allowed by the umpires.  The Giants' dugout was in the bright sunshine while the Brewers were nestled away in the shade.  The infield was in bright sunshine but foul territory, for the most part, was in the shade. How could the umpires let this happen.  I mean you leave the roof open because of overbearing heat or you close the damn thing because water is falling from the sky.  There are no exceptions, know what I mean?

This clearly put the visiting team at a disadvantage. While Duane Kuiper was filling in (for the 4th and 5th innings) he made mention that although this was a beautiful park, the way the light shines on the field when the roof is opened does the game a disservice.

Then there were the issues of the home plate umpire (Kellogg) and first-base ump (Eric Cooper).  Kellogg had a "generous" strike zone for the hometown nine while every play at first base was a "close" call and tallying the final total, the hometown nine benefitted greatly from this blindspot in blue.

Flemang, 'he's doing it again,' moaning about how Zito's pitches were strikes according to some system he had access to in the broadcast booth but when the Giants were batting it wasn't about where the ball crossed the plate but rather that they clearly DID NOT cross the plate.

A horrible game to tune into on the radio.  Bad play-by-play and one-sided umpiring.  The only consolation is that had you been a Giant fan and decided on attending this game you would have picked the worst game to see in-person.  A bad game broadcasted by the San Francisco Giants' play-by-play people is most assuredly NOT the game you wanted to witness in-person.

Kevin J. Marquez

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Reflecting on the Genesis of Baseball

John McGraw:  "I had trained myself to think up little and big things that might be anticipated by the rule changers...With us, only the written rule counted...and if you could come up with something not covered by the rules you were ahead of the slower-thinking opposition by at least a full season." (quoted in David Voigt's The League That Failed, 63).

In early baseball it was customary to use a single ball in a match unless it was lost or entirely demolished.

The replacing of balls was largely responsible for ushering in the home run era.

A coin toss decided who batted first.
In a 1921 Sporting News article about Candy Cummings noted, "In (Candy) Cummings' days ball clubs at the start of the game tossed up for their raps by playing 'hand-over-hand' on the bat." (Sporting News, December 29, 1921.)

Foul Ground.  The concept of foul territory is one of baseball's distinguishing characteristics.  David Block pointed out that most previous bat and ball games had no foul territory at all and that in the two exceptions, trapball and rounders, a foul counted as an out.

Tagging.  Early versions of the game allowed fielders to retire base runners by throwing the ball at them and hitting them before they could reach a base.  Ergo the phrase, "the runner was tagged by the fielder with a wicked toss."  This tactic was known as "soaking," "patching," and "plugging."  Historian David Block observed that "without a doubt, this rule is the Knickerbockers' single greatest contribution to the game of baseball." (The one that made for a defensive player tagging a runner with the ball in hand or with the ball in glove hand.)

Jim Brosnan commented on the injunction against deception in the balk rule. "Deceive is a most ponderous choice of words. What in hell do they think a pitcher is doing when he throws a curve?  If deceit is, in truth, a flagrant violation of baseball morality, then the next logical step is to ban breaking balls, and let the hitter call his pitch."  (Jim Brosnan, The Long Season, 86).

Brosnan was born in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Went to school there.  It was in Cincinnati that he had his finest major league season.  1961, as a reliever, he won 10 and lost 4, with an ERA of 3.04.  He also saved 16, his highest total.

In 1958 he was traded by the Chicago Cubs to the St. Louis Cardinals for Alvin Dark, the same "Swamp Fox" who played for the New York Giants and managed the San Francisco Giants in the 1962 World Series. (The one where Bobby Richardson snagged McCovey's liner to end the series.)

On June 8, 1959, Brosnan was traded by the Cardinals to the Cincinnati Redlegs for pitcher Hal Jeffcoat.

In an up and down season, when the Giants are scuffling to stay at or around .500 I need to venture away from the orange and black and dig up tasty morsels of yesteryear.

Kevin J. Marquez

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Fleming Fle-MANG

To borrow, no, take the words from Mike Krukow's mouth, "You cannot have a bucket of negativity around the clubhouse."  As an avid listener of Giants' baseball on KNBR 680AM, I have to say that Dave Fleming is a bucket of negativity.

Bucket of Negativity were the words Kruk enunciated and it was about attitude.  Fleming-FleMang is about over-doing it.  (If Fle-Mang was acting it would be considered over-acting, like a ham.)

Last night (May 14) with the Rockies visiting the Giants and a rookie southpaw pitching for the Rockies the fans got to see how a game is won without getting a lot of hits.  You have to manufacture runs in those instances and with Gregor Blanco at the top of the lineup these things seem to be happening. But I digress, I'm talking about Fle-MANG, he did it again! That is, rip into someone as if he (Fle-MANG) never ever made a mistake.  It makes this listener root for him to syllabically spew errors as frequently as his description of the 2012 San Francisco Giants.   

But more than that, late in the game a foul ball by Dexter Fowler went into the Rockies dugout and plunked their star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.  Tulo (as he is referred to in Colorado, an oddity when you consider the word for the state was derived from the word coloratus which means colored and that nickname couldn't be any less colorful) would bat later in the inning.

Nobody on the field saw what actually happened but they knew the ball reached the dugout in split-second time and the chances of somebody getting drilled was real good.  Fleming, on the other hand, is sitting comfortably with access to television monitors (for easy viewing) and the opportunity to use a pair of binoculars (was no doubt within reach) to further clarify what he thought he may have seen.  In other words, Fleming had all of the modern conveniences at his fingertips that would enable him to SEE just what happened.

When Tulo hit a weak grounder between the pitcher's mound and third base, Fleming commented how Joaquin Arias had plenty of time to throw out Tulowitzki because he was hobbling running out his weak grounder.  Not so fast FLEMING!  Arias didn't see who got hit and he knows Tulo has better than average speed.  He was fielding the ball anticipating the fleet-of-foot Tulo NOT the just got hit by a foul line drive Tulo.

That's just the stuff I'm speaking of when I refer to Fleming-Flemang as a bucket of negativity.  He doesn't tell the whole story which would have given Arias the benefit of the doubt based on his not knowing who got hit, if anyone did.  He just jumped on the guy for not making a clean play and now the Giants were facing another uphill climb because of a miscue on defense.

Kevin Marquez

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Schierholtz Can't Lose the Bonehead Label

Sure Tim Lincecum left three pitches up in the "hit me zone."  And sure Andre Ethier, Bobby Abreu, and Tony Gwynn, Jr. did not miss them.  But the game's momentum changed when Nate Schierholtz got picked off of second base when outfielder Matt Kemp threw behind him.  Unfortunately, for the Giants, he was tagged before Brandon Belt crossed the plate.  So the run DID NOT COUNT!

Seems Nate has had the kind of career where he'd be red hot or ice cold.  His defense has generally been nothing less than stellar and that is the reason he is in the big leagues. But in the bigs, if you want to stay and play, you must contribute offensively.

What I can't figure out is what was Tim Flannery doing at the third base box?  (How come this guy gets a clearance for the boneheaded baserunning blunders made by the Giants?)  Where were the semaphore signals to get the attention of #12?

Doesn't Nate know that the run doesn't count if he gets tagged before the runner crosses the plate?  Duane Kuiper was wondering why he didn't just keep on running.

That being said, what was Flannery doing or was Nate looking the other way?  This was not a bobble of the ball or a throw to the wrong base. This was a mental error (a.k.a. bonehead play) that cost the Giants the momentum which ultimately decided the game.

Nate's time is up. It should be considered, by the powers that be within the Giants' organization, to place him on the trade block.  Time to see what others in the farm system can do. 

Kevin J. Marquez

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Aubrey's Huff and a Puff Hopefully Has Settled

When I first read Henry Schulman's article on Aubrey Huff explaining his anxiety I was touched.

When you put his scenarios together (with your own) you felt like at one point you could have experienced similar things that perplexed you to a moment of chaotic fear.

When Schulman wrote that Huff said, 'It took everything I could to get up here from Tampa after I freaked out.'  My heart went out to him.

In the dream-like season of 2010 all Giants fans know what a contributor Aubrey Huff was to that World Series champion team.  Just like we have all either witnessed or lived through tough times of our own we can empathize with him.  At least I can, that's for sure.

Perhaps Aubrey can still be a contributor to the 2012 team.  His presence and baseball experience can be felt by those younger ballplayers on the team who could use some guidance.

God bless you Aubrey.  Your wife and your teammates will help you work it out.  You've got a good support system.

(thanks to the Henry Schulman article of 5/5/12 for my inspiration)

Kevin J. Marquez

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

That's the Way the Ball Bounces

Last night's San Francisco Giants' game vs. Miami's Marlins was a heartbreaker. Bad bounces, one missed fair/foul ball call and a whole lot of missed opportunities by the home nine.

Not that they weren't trying, of course, they were.  But on several occasions line drives found gloves because they were hit right at the fielders.

Not the heartbreak in the fashion of the
Rolling Stones' 70s hit...

(The police in New York City
chased a boy through the park
And in a case of mistaken identity
They put a bullet through his heart.

Heartbreakers with your forty-fours
I want to tear your world apart.)

Just the 2011 and those years before the 2010 Giants type of blues.

Listening to the game I was waiting for the play that broke the spell of bad breaks. I recall many moons ago, Joe Morgan (the Hall of Famer), saying how there is usually a point in every game where the team trailing has a chance to get back into the game. And if things go accordingly that same team may steal the momentum and victory from the jaws of defeat.

In the game, on May 1, 2012, it was the ground ball to Pablo Sandoval that he turned into a 5-3 double-play to end the top half of the 8th inning.  When the Giants came to bat, Gregor Blanco led off for Matt Cain and promptly doubled. (Unfortunately, while listening to the Giants Wrap, after the game, I learned that the ball bounced off the fence right to the fielder which was considered by all to be a bad break. I wondered why they were unable to score.)

Leadoff hitter Angel Pagan bunted Blanco to third and made it to first-base safely on an errant throw by the hurried-up motions of the catcher.  First and third and nobody out. Melky Cabrera grounded weakly to the left side of the infield which allowed Pagan to move to second safely but there was one out.  This left first base open and the Fish walked Pablo Sandoval to load the bases with one out.  Up stepped Buster Posey and after fouling one off he grounded into a double-play.

There would be no further scoring opportunities.  Miami-2 San Francisco-1. Matt Cain lost another game where he got little support.  Such is Cain's career with the Giants.

Kevin J. Marquez