While there seems to be plenty to write about in Los Angeles, as Don Mattingly fights to manage under the threat of being fired, it is interesting to note how much is being written about a far less important story. Terry Francona returns to Boston as a manager of another team for the first time since being fired. He has been back as a broadcaster, and he took part in Fenway’s 100 year celebration, so it really shouldn’t be that big of a deal.
Yes, Francona is loved by the city. And the Red Sox probably should have paid him to stick around and sign autographs and so some spring training coaching, but they didn’t, or he didn’t want to, whatever. So, with little to write about today, this has become a story- how wiill Terry Francona handle returning and how will the fans handle seeing Francona in another uniform.
The press has to write something, how they fill that space could be to put down a player, or to write a game story. Sometimes, it is filled by looking forward and anticipating what might be meaningful. Francona’s returns should be just a blip. Why then do so many have to write so much?
Wilmington Blue Rocks host Lynchburg Hillcats
Yesterday, I was lucky enough to watch a game at Frawley Stadium, where the single A affiliate of the Royals, the Blue Rocks hosted the Braves A affiliate, the Lynchburg Hillcats.
Frawley Stadium is a lovely stadium, located just off of I-95. The food choices are above the basics, with Breyers ice cream and some good pizza being offered beyond the basic baseball food. The Royals are becoming known for having a strong farm system, but the Blue Rocks were sitting at the bottom of their division. The Braves traditionally have a strong fundmental team, but not today. Very sloppy, very lazy and undisciplined is what showed up from the visitors. Their pitcher, AJ Holland started off throwing in the mid-90s and hitting his spots. The Blue Rocks pitcher, Aaron Brooks, in contrast was in the high 80s and low 90s in the early innings. Didn’t look like he would be around too long. By the 4th inning, Brooks had only given up one hit, and his velocity had moved up to the mid-90s. Holland, on the other hand was getting tired, missing his spots and then finally, the Blue Rocks, by working the counts, had a big inning. At the beginning of the game, Holland looked like the better pitcher, but as it wore on, it was clear that Brooks had a game plan, and was getting stronger. (It helped that the Hillcats didn’t seemed interested in working counts.) Brooks threw strikes, and the infielders were on their toes, which made their defense tighter. It was text-book baseball.
Aaron Brooks ended up going 8 innings- one of the longest starts by a minor league player so far this year. The shutout was blown by the closer for the team, who had struggled against the Hillcats in the past, actually blew the shutout, and would have blown the game if not for an amazing Lane Adams diving catch in the outfield.
Most teams hope that by the time a player gets to the big leagues, he has little growing-up left to do, but honestly, few have that luxury. Some of the lessons that still need to be taught can be handled in the privacy of the clubhouse, between veterans and the rookies. But on teams where the rookies outnumber the veterans 20-1, that becomes a little more difficult. Clearly, Jordany Valdespin is young and may not have gotten enough seasoning in the minor leagues.
Stories are beginning to emerge about many acts of bad behavior, but what is interesting is how Terry Collins dealt with one bad moment. Valdespin admired his meaningless home run on Friday night. Teammates failed to acknowledge him when he returned to the dugout. Next day, he is asked to pinch hit, he tries to get out of it by asking a trainer to tell Collins he is unavailable, but eventually gets in the game, wearing an elbow pad that might make Barry Bonds feel safe. He was plunked, and when he returned to the dugout was angry about being placed in that situation.
Flashback one year, May 15 2012. The Mets’ DJ Carrasco has given up a home run to the Brewers’ Rickie Weeks and then hit Ryan Braun the next hitter. Carrasco was immediately ejected, because the plunk looked intentional. It was obvious to everyone watching that the Brewers would retailiate in the next inning. First up is David Wright, the only real power threat, the captain of the team, and the obvious that Wright will be the person hit when he steps into the box. Collins pinch-hits for Wright, who goes ballistic because he thinks its his duty to go into that box and take that hit. Its about setting the example. Its about taking one for the team. Its about not being scared. Collins couldn’t afford to allow Wright to get hurt by being plunked, so he protected him. The type of player Wright is came through anyway.
Collins didn’t feel he needed to protect Valdespin. Or perhaps, he felt the kid might learn more this way. Two similar situations, two very different actions. Valdespin hasn’t spoken about the weekend- so its hard to gauge whether he has actually learned something. But one only needs to compare these two moments to know there is still a lot of teaching the Mets need to do at the big league level.
Barry Bloom starts us off with this interview with Ryne Sandberg, about his journey towards becoming a big league manager. It is interesting to hear Sandberg talk about his extended path, the extra work it has taken as a Hall of Famer to prove he deserves the shot, and finally, to hear how good he is at staying in the moment at least with a reporter.
The second piece I am sending you to is the follow-up to a story in New York that I missed earlier in the week, where Mets manager Terry Collins backpedeled after ripping baseball fans. On Tuesday, Collins said, “I don’t answer to fans. They don’t play this game. They have no idea what goes on. They have no idea what goes on in there. They have absolutely no idea what it means to be a professional teammate at this level.” This in response to fans reactions to how he handled a seemingly self-absorbed Jordany Valdespin’s reaction to a late inning meaningless home run. And of course, he is right. We don’t understand that, we can’t. But what we can understand, and as Collins pointed out the next day, that wasn’t the way to say it. This Kristie Ackert piece tells the entire story.
I do believe Collins knows he was wrong. New York fans are among the smartest fans in the world. And Collins couldn’t very-well through Valdespin under the bus in the media. He handled the situation. He should have just said that he hoped the fans would trust him to know what was best. And as fans, perhaps we should trust a little. But those in baseball need to trust us- and Collins has trusted us to take his apology. What do you think? Do you accept it?
Owners are in New York for their quarterly owners meetings this week. That makes them very available for reporters, who seem to have taken advantage of the accessibility by either calling them out this week, or just asking them what the heck they were thinking…
Amando Salguero takes the opportunity to tell the commissioner about the damage Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria is doing, not just to the Marlins franchise but to baseball in general. The Marlins haven’t just turned off fans to their franchise, but they have made it very possible to ignore baseball wherever it is being played. Unless they are really solid baseball fans, people won’t turn away from their local franchise towards another. They just will stop watching, and caring about baseball. And while Salguero makes a great point about how that affects young people as future fans, he misses the point that it also hurts those young athletes who might turn away from playing baseball because of a disdain for the local team. South Florida makes a lot of future baseball players- if they learn to distrust MLB at an early age, why would they continue to play.
Arte Moreno, owner of the Angels, is taking responsibility for all decisions that have been made for the team, and tells Jon Paul Morosi that his manager Mike Scioscia is not responsible for those hitters that aren’t hitting. Moreno has some good reasons for holding onto his manager, as Morosi shares, but the piece also shows that Moreno has realistic expectations for the Angels- and while he would like them to make the playoffs every year, he seems happy as long as the team is moving in the right direction. That being said, is the team moving in the right direction?
Lastly, the Blue Jays who were expected to be contenders are terrible, giving up more runs than any team other than Houston, and the second highest ERA in MLB. Beeston wants to believe that his high payroll team can turn it around, with some health issues getting resolved, and some players starting to warm up. And while there is a lot of baseball yet to be played, Beeston needs to look at the other teams in his division, especially the Yankees who should have been easy to beat up on and are now in first, with their big guns ready to return from the DL. More details in this Chris Toman piece.