David's Blog

On this page, I'll share my thoughts, and any articles or information I think are of interest.  Feel free to use the comments section to join in the discussion!


“It’s definitely not easy,”  

 

 

A Quick Fix in Baseball? Not So Fast

JUNE 20, 2015

Photo

Extra Bases

By TYLER KEPNER

Reminder to anyone who tries to predict the baseball standings before the season: Do not fall for the team that made the splashiest moves. This year, perhaps more than ever, proves the difficulty of a quick off-season makeover.

Consider the plights of the Miami Marlins, the San Diego Padres, the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago White Sox. All made major moves last winter but entered the weekend with losing records. The Marlins and the Padres have fired their managers, and Boston and Chicago were last in their divisions.

“It’s definitely not easy,” said Alex Anthopoulos, the general manager of the Toronto Blue Jays. “To try to get a team turned around in one off-season is tough, no doubt about it.”

 

Anthopoulos would know. After an 89-loss season in 2012, he traded many of his best prospects to get Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, R. A. Dickey and others. But when other players Toronto counted on got injured or stopped performing, the team struggled and won just one more game in 2013 than it did the previous year.

Anthopoulos, though, has kept the team’s core intact. The Blue Jays improved to 83-79 last season, and while Anthopoulos was inactive at the July trade deadline, he struck early in the off-season, trading four players to Oakland for third baseman Josh Donaldson and signing catcher Russell Martin in free agency.

The Blue Jays had won 11 games in a row until the Mets stopped their streak last week, and they find themselves in another pennant race. They have not reached the postseason since winning the 1993 World Series — a drought that now stands as the longest in baseball, after Kansas City erased 29 years of futility last fall.

As he looks ahead to this trading deadline, Anthopoulos needs a starting pitcher and a reliever. But he said he would not let himself feel the weight of the last two decades.

“I don’t want this to sound arrogant, or that I’m absolving myself — I’m accountable for everything that goes on,” he said. “But I’ve been here for five of those 21 years, and this is my sixth year. I can’t look at it that way; I just can’t.”

The Blue Jays tried to hire Dan Duquette, the top baseball operations official for the Baltimore Orioles, as their team president last off-season. That would seem to indicate at least some level of pressure on Anthopoulos to produce a winner soon. But Anthopoulos said he almost certainly would not make a deal strictly for short-term gain.

 

The trade for Donaldson — who seems headed for another All-Star selection — made sense because the Blue Jays control his rights for four years. That followed a pattern of the trades for Reyes, Buehrle and Dickey, who all remain with the team.

These Blue Jays should have a chance to win, if run differential is a hint. The team’s brawny offense has helped it outscore opponents by 82 runs. The 1.2-per-game difference was the widest margin in the majors through Friday.

If the mediocre rotation can simply pitch deep enough in games to keep the bullpen rested, the offense might carry the team to October. But do not expect Anthopoulos to add pitching at any price.

“Integrity means doing what’s right for the organization, and that’s a really easy compass to follow,” Anthopoulos said. “When you’re sitting in this chair debating short-term or long-term, you know what might be the right thing from a selfish standpoint and what’s the better thing for the organization. When you break it down that way, it’s easy to make decisions.”

A Trip Back to 1986

One of the most unusual road trips of the baseball season — certainly the most ambitious — began this weekend in California in a 2002 Honda Accord with 155,000 miles on the odometer and peeling green paint on the sides.

Brad Balukjian, a biology professor at Laney College in Oakland, left Friday for Visalia, where he planned to meet with Rance Mulliniks. A few days later, in Chatsworth, he will speak with Steve Yeager. Then Garry Templeton in San Marcos, before a long drive to Texas to see Gary Pettis and Randy Ready.

The common thread: All of those men, and nine others, were major leaguers depicted in the 1986 Topps baseball card set. They happened to be in the same pack of cards that Balukjian, 34, recently opened. Now he is tracking them all down for a book that will be part where are they now and part coming-of-age.

“I’m the same age a lot of these players were when they retired from baseball and kind of had to grow up and make the transition to normal life,” Balukjian said. “I’m telling their stories and applying them to my own life.”

Balukjian, whose writing has appeared in National Geographic and The Los Angeles Times, has an agent but not a publisher; he is waiting to gather interviews before shopping the project. For now, he is excited about catching up with the players of his youth, from prominent names like Dwight Gooden, who was also in his pack, to obscure names like Jaime Cocanower.

“The role players, the underdogs, those are the guys I really liked the most,” Balukjian said. “I was worried about getting too many star players in the pack.”

The book will be titled “Wax Pack,” after the wrapping that cased 15 cards and a stick of gum. Balukjian and a friend, Jesse Brouillard, decided that all the players in the book would have to come from the same pack, to preserve the spirit of random discovery that comes with every pack of cards. They opened a few packs before finding a suitable one, with enough living players and the right mix of stars and journeymen. (One card was a checklist, saving him a chapter.)

Twelve of the players, along with the family of Al Cowens, an outfielder who died in 2002, agreed to be interviewed. Only Carlton Fisk has resisted, though Balukjian plans to look for him, anyway. The journey will stretch through early August, and Balukjian has already survived perhaps the most treacherous part: chewing the 29-year-old gum.

“It was never good in 1986,” he said. “It literally crumbled in my mouth, like a bone cracking into pieces as soon as you touched it. It was pretty nasty.”

No Hard Feelings

Steven Souza Jr., an outfielder for the Tampa Bay Rays, returned to Nationals Park in Washington on Wednesday and homered off Jordan Zimmermann. It was probably hard for Zimmermann to be too mad at Souza, though, since it was Souza who made the diving catch that sealed Zimmermann’s season-ending no-hitter last September.

The Nationals’ organization got the most out of Souza, and not just because of one indelible highlight. After Souza hit .345 in the minors last season, the Nationals traded him at the peak of his value to the Rays last December. He was part of a three-team, 11-player deal that sent outfielder Wil Myers to the Padres from the Rays.

In return, the Padres sent two prospects to Washington: pitcher Joe Ross, who jumped from Class AA to the majors and earned his first victory with eight strong innings last week, and a player to be named. That player was widely known to be shortstop Trea Turner, who finally joined the Nationals last week.

By rules, the Padres could not officially trade Turner, their first-round pick last June, until he had been with the organization for a year. He made the most of his final months in the Padres’ farm system, hitting .322 in Class AA and looking more and more like a bargain replacement for Washington shortstop Ian Desmond, who can enter free agency.

Myers underwent surgery on Thursday to remove a bone spur in his left wrist. He lost most of last season to wrist injuries and is expected to miss the next two months.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/21/sports/baseball/a-quick-fix-in-baseball-not-so-fast.html?ref=sports

 

“the physical and statistical attributes of each pitch type.”

 

 

June 19, 2015

Release Points

Pitch-Type Benchmarks

by Dan Rozenson

What's an average fastball speed these days? Which pitch types get the most groundballs? It's been several years sinceHarry Pavlidis last looked at the benchmarks of each pitch type using PITCHf/x. Let's revive the tradition.

Since 2011, the Pitch Info data set has improved in several ways. Harry, Dan Brooks, Lucas Apostoleris, and I, along with readers like you, have vetted our classifications many times over. The data is now corrected for system calibration errors. We've been able to spot more pitchers' split-finger fastballs, moving them out of the changeup group and correctly into the much smaller splitter category. We've also been able to identify pitch sub-types that add to the depth of research we can do, such as by creating a separate “slow curveball" tag for pitchers who throw eephus-like curves in addition to a normal one.

I've broken this analysis up to check on a few aspects of pitch attributes. The data below represents all pitches thrown in baseball in the 2014 season. The horizontal movement of left-handed pitchers is mapped across the Y-axis, so the charts below represent all pitches, but are presented as though coming only from right-handed pitchers. I've also excluded screwballs, because in 2014 almost all the pitches we labeled as screwballs were Trevor Bauer's “reverse slider." If you're really curious what that pitch is like, I invite you to visit his Brooks Baseball player card.

Physical characteristics 

Pitch type

Speed

H-mov

V-mov

Dragless H-mov

Dragless V-mov + gravity

Four-seam

93.2

-4.8

9.3

-6.6

-14.5

Sinker

92.0

-8.5

5.8

-12.4

-20.7

Cutter

88.9

0.6

5.6

2.0

-22.8

Splitter

84.8

-6.1

2.6

-8.8

-30.8

Slider

84.5

2.6

1.0

-5.1

-33.3

Changeup

84.1

-7.8

4.7

-11.4

-28.2

Curveball

78.4

5.1

-5.7

8.9

-49.6

Knuckleball

76.3

-0.2

1.5

0.0

-40.6

Slow Curveball

72.2

7.2

-8.5

11.5

-62.0

 

A few thoughts:

  1. Unsurprisingly, four-seam fastballs are the fastest pitch type, coming in at an average of 93.2 mph. In 2008 it was 91.8 mph. We've gained a mile and a half in just six years.
  2. Sinkers and cutters—especially hard cutters—are essentially mirror images of each other to a hitter, as they are often designed to be. They get similar amounts of drop at a similar speed, but break in different directions.
  3. Knuckleballs have a slight bias toward backspin, but in terms of horizontal movement there is no pattern whatsoever—as the pitch is designed.
  4. In general, changeups tail more and drop less than splitters. Changeups' spin pattern and path to the plate imitate a slow sinking fastball, while splitters are more like four-seamers with the bottom dropping out.
  5. Slow curveballs have more spin movement than regular curveballs, which means one (or both) of the following things: (a) there's a selection bias of slow curveball pitchers toward those who get lots of RPM on their curve normally, and/or (b) the throwing motion of the slow curve lets pitchers add spin to their normal curve.

Pitch outcomes

Pitch type

Swing %

GB %

LD %

FB %

PU %

AVG

SLG

ISO

Whiff/Swing %

Four-seam

45.0

36.5

26.4

28.0

9.1

.264

.424

.161

18.0

Sinker

43.9

53.8

24.2

17.8

4.2

.293

.424

.132

13.2

Cutter

48.5

45.8

24.4

22.6

7.3

.261

.395

.134

21.2

Splitter

53.8

55.1

22.4

17.5

5.0

.208

.321

.113

34.3

Slider

48.3

45.6

24.1

22.4

7.9

.212

.327

.115

34.8

Changeup

51.6

50.6

22.9

20.3

6.2

.239

.373

.134

31.5

Curveball

39.7

50.4

24.0

20.4

5.3

.219

.328

.109

31.1

Knuckleball

47.0

46.0

22.2

22.7

9.2

.228

.375

.146

25.1

Slow Curveball

40.4

51.6

21.7

22.4

4.4

.197

.279

.082

23.7

Some more thoughts:

  1. There's a huge difference in the batted-ball types between four-seam and two-seam fastballs. Part of that surely is related to the locations those pitches are thrown to, but it's a big gap.
  2. Fastballs, both two-seam and four-seam, get hit fairly hard and aren't whiffed on very often. Part of that is probably because of their relatively frequent usage, and also because of what counts they tend to be thrown in.
  3. Splitters are very good at getting swings, and very good at getting whiffs on those swings. They're also the best at inducing grounders and have the second-lowest slugging percentage allowed. A well-executed splitter is a weapon unlike any other.
  4. Slow curves are unique in that they don't get many whiffs but they do appear to get very poor contact.

Fastball speed benchmarks by role

 

Overall

RHP

LHP

Starter

92.7

93.0

91.7

Reliever

94.0

94.2

93.4

Presenting the precise benchmarks for each pitch attribute for right-handed and left-handed pitchers and starters and relievers might be data overload. To give you a picture of one instance where there's a very visible difference, fastball speed is 2.5 mph higher for a right-handed reliever than for a left-handed starter. Adjust your expectations by pitcher accordingly.

The fastball-slider continuum

Pitch type

Speed

Whiff/swing %

GB %

Four-seam

93.2

18.0

36.5

Hard cutter

90.1

19.8

45.8

Soft cutter

87.5

22.5

46.1

Slider

84.4

34.5

45.6

Based on the research I did a few weeks ago about the distinct attributes of fastball-like and slider-like cutters, here's a look at a few traits of the pitches on the fastball-to-slider spectrum. What's interesting is that there's not a consistent change from pitch to pitch. The drop-off in speed is linear, sliders get way more whiffs than even the soft cutters, and only four-seamers get hit in the air much more than average.

A look back at knuckle curveballs
A little over a year ago, I found that knuckle and spike curveballs are thrown harder and generate different batted-ball tendencies. Let's see if it held true in 2014.

Pitch type

Speed

Whiff/swing %

GB %

Knuckle curve

80.0

32.7

55.4

Regular curve

77.8

30.5

48.5

Sure enough, the trends are the same. I should add that at least 89 pitchers threw a knuckle curve in 2014.

I encourage you to use the tables above as reference when you want to know the physical and statistical attributes of each pitch type.

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=26710

 

“The most overused, overwrought cliché in baseball?”

 

PLAYING THE RIGHT WAY?

John Baker

The most overused, overwrought cliché in baseball? Play the game the right way. What does that even mean, though? The answer to that question must take into account three important factors: When, Who, and Where.


When. We learn this game as children, when our reasoning skills are developing and our emotional awareness is in its infancy. The reason grown men cry and cheer and cuss and throw beers at baseball games is because baseball turns us into our 8-year-old selves for three hours (or five hours, if it’s a Red Sox-Yankees game).

Who. Everyone who’s played or watched baseball has learned about the game from someone. We could have been taught by Dad, an uncle, a grandmother, maybe a beloved Little League coach. Someone taught us how to play before MLB Network and "Baseball Tonight" began bombarding us with new catch phrases for homers and endless highlights of bat flips, punch-outs, and diving plays.

I learned about baseball from my dad. A former professional player himself, with a degree in Psychology from Stanford, my father hammered one nail of an idea into my brain over and over again: “Son, it takes NO talent to hustle.” And so I hustled. I never flipped bats, celebrated excessively, or anything else. I never even thought about doing those things. Whatever one’s personal opinions about these ever-changing “unwritten” rules, they were implanted by someone during childhood. 

Where? I’m from suburban Northern California. I grew up an avid fan of the entire Oakland Athletics, and one San Francisco Giant: Will Clark, because of his beautiful swing. The only baseball-related altercations we had involved over zealous slides into second base or balls being thrown too close to someone’s head. I never thought about bat flips as sources of debate until I caused benches to clear with one of my own against the University of Arizona in 2002. I had never heard of Dallas Braden’s “Respect My Mound” idea, and we grew up forty miles apart. Original location might be the most important piece in a baseball player’s fundamental development.

The longer I played baseball, the more I realized that across America, that cliché – Play the game the right way – actually means something very specific: Play the game MY way.

After the 2011 baseball season, I accepted a contract to play baseball for the Toros Del Este of La Romana in the Dominican Republic. I’d just completed my tenth pro season, but had missed most of the season while recovering from Tommy John surgery.

When I arrived in the Dominican, one of the first people I met was a young, power-hitting American first baseman in the Padres system. He had been called up for a month or two the year before, but really struggled, and was down in the Dominican for more at-bats. After the usual pleasantries, we boarded a bus to San Francisco de Macoris to take on the Gigantes. On the way, we had a conversation I’ll never forget. (I am paraphrasing here, because I can’t remember the exact wording. So much for never forgetting.)

Him: “Bro, wait till you see a game here. It’s incredible.”

Me: “Whaddaya mean? Like, the atmosphere or something? I’ve seen a lot of games.”

Him: “No, everyone pimps everything down here. Everything: groundball base hit in the four hole: huge bat toss, and wait until you see the antics after homers. It’s unbelievable, I love it. I can’t wait to hit a homer and pimp the hell out of it. The best part is that no one cares. It’s just part of the game down here. The pitchers will do ridiculous fist pumps after strikeouts, and infielders will pimp ground balls. It’s crazy!”

Me: “Seriously, all of that is just part of the game?”

Him: “Yep. Part of the game.”

At a truck stop in the middle of our long drive, a vendor was selling handmade jewelry, including brightly painted rosaries. My new friend bought one of the rosaries and then outlined his plan.

“I’m going to hit a bomb today, pop this rosary out of my jersey, and spin it around my neck before I walk halfway down the line.”

When the game began, it didn’t take long for this Ruthian prophecy to come true. He hit a towering home run 450 feet, stood there, popped the chain, spun it around his neck, looked at me in the dugout and walked half way to first. My first instinct was to look into the other dugout, where the Gigantes seemed to find the display funny, as did our dugout. He came in after his trot around the bases and we laughed and laughed. Baseball is supposed to be fun, and we were having fun. Had the same thing happened during a game in the U.S., the other dugout would have freaked out, both teams would have to play the “Hold me back, no hold me back” posturing game we play when we’re all too scared to fight (everyone except Jeff Samardzija). There was no fake posturing, nobody’s feelings were hurt, the pitcher didn’t care. Just a part of the game.

The next day I asked some of the local players why they participated in what I’d been taught was excessive celebratory behavior. Their consensus answer was perfect and humbling. They explained that most of them hadn’t spent much time in school beyond fifth grade, and they practiced baseball all day because they didn't want to chop sugar cane in the fields or do laundry at Casa De Campo, the main resort in town. Job opportunities were slim, and job opportunities with potential upside were nearly nonexistent. They weren't flipping the bat to show up the pitcher. They were flipping the bat to show everyone watching that they appreciated where they were, and that they really, truly loved playing baseball. They pimped everything, and it was awesomely poetic.

Every day on our way to the ballpark, we passed a large field, almost always with a bunch of kids practicing. The style of baseball on that rundown field was the same as the style I saw in our professional games. The kids in La Romana were learning a very different style of baseball than what I’d learned in California. The main point of their practice, however, was the same as mine: learning to score more runs than the other team. The more one practices, the better one gets and, ideally, the better the opportunity. More than their abilities and their accomplishments, these kids celebrated their opportunities. Their celebrations were, in essence, highly personal thank-you notes to the game for the opportunities.

My experience in the Dominican Winter League shifted my point of view. As I played the game I loved in a different country with a different set of unwritten rules, I was forced to adapt. Down there, I didn’t get mad when someone watched a home run. I wasn’t bothered when the pitcher celebrated after he struck me out. And there were a lot of strikeouts. Still, I enjoyed learning from my teammates. I also didn’t change the way I played, I still ran out ground balls, still hustled to back up first, still played to win, still played the way I was taught. I played my version of the right way. Plain and simple, I was what I had learned. 

When we watch Major League Baseball in 2015, we are watching the game’s elite, through the lens of what we have learned. These players bring their own unique perspectives, their own nuances, their own personalities to the field. Foreign players do their best to learn unwritten rules in a foreign language. Some are written off as hot dogs or showboats, when in many (but not all) cases, they are merely showing anyone watching how much they love playing baseball.

I challenge baseball fans to learn a little more about the players and the situations that lead to confrontations in baseball; ask questions that go beyond whatever statistical acronym we create next. When and where did your favorite player grow up? Who taught him the game? If we’re supposed to “act like we’ve been there before,” how come the power hitters that go there the most often are the ones we allow to stand at home plate and watch their home runs? Our media has taught young players that acting like they’ve been there before must involve some sort of Brett Boone-esque bat flip. It will teach a new generation of kids to shoot imaginary arrows after pitching accomplishments, pantomime deer antlers or binoculars after base hits, and (we hope) take home run celebration to a new, unforeseen level. It must be incredibly difficult for a Yankee fan to watch David Ortiz become a spectator to one of his clutch home runs, but ask yourself: Had you hit that baseball on baseball’s biggest stage, how would you act?

That first baseman from my winter-ball team was Anthony Rizzo, who (in my view) plays the game the right way. Without him calling his own shot, my point of view might not have shifted. That moment gave me the courage to reassess what I had learned, allowed me room to grow as a student of baseball.

When we discuss these things unwritten, there are no absolutes. I do, however, know one thing. I know that the more I watch the game, the more I learn. And the more I learn, the more I find how little I actually know.

http://www.foxsports.com/mlb/just-a-bit-outside/story/playing-baseball-right-way-depends-three-factors-when-who-where-061615

 

"I never felt out of place," he said, "when it came to sports."

 

Rays' Chris Archer, academy make pitch to attract urban kids to baseball

 

By Tim Brown13 hours agoYahoo Sports

LOS ANGELES – On opening day near the corner of E. Artesia Boulevard and Santa Fe Avenue in Compton, their names rasped from a bullhorn, they stepped forward and, when they remembered, they waved. Their proud parents, bored brothers and sisters, and doting aunties and uncles applauded politely from the greenish knolls that backed up to a row of trees that brought relief from the surprisingly aggressive late afternoon sun.

The field was perfect – chain-link dugouts, foul lines, outfield walls, a scoreboard and red, white and blue bunting lashed to the backstop. The baseballs were newish. The bats were of proper size. The chatter from the knolls was appropriately supportive.

These are the grounds of the Urban Youth Academy, the league of Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) and the young men of Compton, all built around a sport that reputedly may or may not be dying here, but certainly would not on opening day.

All for $25, unless their parents could not afford it. In that case, it was free, and take this uniform, this glove and these cleats with you. See you Saturday, we'll have some fun.

Chris Archer played baseball like this – from T-ball to coach pitch to machine pitch and beyond – in a small town outside Raleigh, N.C. called Clayton. He had the money for the registration fees and for lunch. He wasn't ever ashamed by the condition of his shoes, never had to share a glove, often had two parents in the bleachers, and didn't slink away when everybody went for ice cream afterwards. Even then he felt lucky that way, ahead of a game that was good to him before he was old enough or big enough or skilled enough to be good to it, too.

He was not at that field in Compton on opening day last week, but he believes he knows those boys and girls, or can come to know them. He knows what they face in a day, and what they see in the mirror, and maybe even what they fear over those trees on the knoll that keep the baseballs from rolling into the streets. He was born to a white mother and black father, adopted and raised lovingly by his mother's parents, and discovered what might have made him different, but maybe in a good way, maybe in the best way.

"I never felt out of place," he said, "when it came to sports."

He is 26 years old and making good money. The game is hard, of course, but he is finding his way, having become the ace of a Tampa Bay Raysstaff that carries a growing tradition of aces. His charity, the Archway Foundation, gained traction with youths in the local community, though Archer felt there could be more focus. He called Major League Baseball about RBI, a program born about the time he was, beginning with 11 young men on a field in South Los Angeles. This year RBI will host, organize, operate, fund and, if necessary, hit fungoes to 250,000 primarily underprivileged boys and girls in more than 200 cities.

They, Archer decided, would be his focus. On Saturday, he will meet some of them in Cleveland – start there, introduce himself, tell his story, and hope it helps. He won't promise them a 97-mph fastball. He will not guarantee baseball will do for them what it did for him, or for the 55 RBI graduates chosen in the past four drafts, but he will promise the chance for it, and the rewards from it, and the balance and accountability that come with the hours spent among teammates and friends. He'll promise a good time, too.

"My parents," Archer said of Ron and Donna Archer, his biological mother's parents, "had this selfless character trait. I hope I learned that. I was adopted, bi-racial, living in the South. Ron Archer, my dad, had no reason to have a desire to raise me other than that's the person he is. He was going to do his best to make the best possible life for this human being."

That included a lot of important stuff, and baseball too. And he would peer down a dugout bench of kids who hardly looked anything like each other, and perhaps especially not like him, and a thought would come, "They're no different from me."

So, he shows up. He spends time. He smiles and reminds a peanut-sized right-hander to keep his elbow up. He'll be in Cleveland anyway, so why not?

"I'd like for children to look at me and think, 'He looks like me,' " Archer said.

Every big-league market has an RBI program. Nineteen of the 30 teams serve as directors of those leagues. In urban settings, there are ballfields to play on, coaches to learn from. At a time when baseball seems to have lost its footing in cities where the games are basketball or football or nothing at all, and when the number of black major leaguers has thinned, RBI lines a field and invites the neighborhood boys and girls to take their hacks, often whether they can afford it or not.

David James has run RBI for seven years. He'd not before received a phone call, or had a meeting, with anyone quite like Archer.

"It's refreshing that he made the reach-out to us," James said. "He was very heartfelt and sincere in wanting to get involved, supporting the efforts. … This is not a kick against anyone else, but sometimes certain player appearances tend to be scripted. And Chris just wants to be."

On that lovely diamond in Compton, the boys are setting their caps just so and the catcher is sorting through which shin guard goes on which shin and some local college players, serving as coaches, are explaining who's going to hit when. Soon, they'll chant, "One-two-three, play ball!"

In the office, Rodney Davis, senior manager of the Academy (and the father of Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Khris), sat at a long white table. Over his right shoulder, a flat-screen television carried the amateur draft. In a few minutes, the Texas Rangers, choosing fourth overall, would select pitcher Dillon Tate, who'd played on these fields and in RBI leagues. Rodney Davis has been in his position for five months, and before that scouted for several teams over 23 years, and before that played three seasons in the Dodgers organizations, and before that played ball in the parks and on the playgrounds of Compton, even watching an older Kenny Landreaux play over at Cressey Park. Landreaux, just then, walked into the office, and they laughed over an 8-year-old Davis who'd insisted on tagging along with the older boys. Landreaux works at the Academy, too.

"The greatest resource we need are people who care," Davis said. "That is what's been lacking."

Yes, it's sort of about baseball, the next generation of ballplayers and the next generation of fans. It's also about the next generation, just that, whatever it does or wherever it goes or whoever it chooses to be. A long time ago, Ron and Donna Archer took in Chris, and one day Chris understood what that meant, and today he believes it is his turn. He chose RBI, because he looked at all those boys and girls and thought, hey, they look like me.

"My role," he said, "is to be there and make it real for them. Just something real for them."

http://sports.yahoo.com/news/rays--chris-archer--academy-make-pitch-to-attract-urban-kids-to-baseball-004823242.html

 

“When you're in the Minor Leagues and a teammate dares you to eat a raw egg for $20, you eat the raw egg”

The real cost of being a Minor Leaguer: A look inside Todd Van Steensel’s bank account

By Ashley Marshall/MiLB.com

The Cleveland Indians made headlines earlier this month when its bullpen kept Brandon Moss’ 100th home run ball hostage. Later, the Indians’ starters presented a list of expensive demands to Francisco Lindor to recover the ball from his first big league hit.

Something similar is unlikely to ever happen in the Florida State League, where Australian right-hander Van Steensel is plying his trade.

It’s been well documented that Minor Leaguers don’t make too much money, and Van Steensel is a perfect example of just how paycheck-to-paycheck some Minor Leaguers live.

I reached out to Van Steensel, the closer for Class A Advanced Fort Myers, in Spring Training to see if he would be willing to itemize his expenses throughout the 2015 season. With the first half nearing a close, here are the findings.

* * *

From Opening Day through June 17, Van Steensel earned $3,213 in wages and he was given $737.50 in per diems — the money the Major League organization allocates to players each day for food.

The bad news is he has already paid $570 in taxes, $2,688.75 on rent and a combined $903 on dinner, lunch and groceries. He was forced to borrow money from teammate Brandon Peterson to pay his rent when the landlord demanded the first four months up front plus a security deposit, and he’s already paid $609 in clubhouse dues with a similar number expected in the second half of the season.

Van Steensel is in the red before he takes into account other everyday expenses like coffee or occasional trips to the cinema or an ice cream cone.

In total, Van Steensel has spent $700 more than he’s earned, and he still owes Peterson almost $450.

“We get by, but we’re not comfortable with it,” Van Steensel said. “You have to watch what you buy. When the season started, I had $50 in my checking account and then waited 10 days for my first paycheck. I don’t have enough money for a savings account because I try to save money for emergencies like rent.”

The reliever has spent $431 on groceries, $206 on lunch and $266 on dinners. Over the course of 71 days, that averages out to $12 a day, hardly an extravagant amount.

“I go to Jimmy John’s and Chipotle a lot. I know my Jimmy John’s sub is $7 and I know my Chipotle is $7. That helps me budget,” he said.

On the road, Van Steensel’s meals of choice are the No. 9 Italian Night Club sandwich — genoa salami, Italian capicola, smoked ham and provolone with lettuce, tomato, onion and mayo — at Jimmy John’s and the chicken burrito bowl at Chipotle. He considers both meals good value for money, especially when he needs carbohydrates and protein.

“If I have a bit of spare change, I’ll get double meat,” he said, only partly joking. “[On the road], we’ll try to find a Chipotle close by and we’ll walk a mile and make it a big team trip, but if [a city] doesn’t have one, we have to eat out and use our meal money, and that gets expensive.

“If there’s a lot of leftovers [in the clubhouse after a game], I’ll take a plate back to the house and eat it for lunch the next day. Pasta, rice, chicken, whatever.”

Van Steensel started the season living in the Twins’ apartment accommodation, which cost just $10 a day. However, after moving into an apartment with outfielder Zach Granite and pitcher Brian Gilbert on May 1, his expenses got a lot more, well, expensive. On the day he started his lease, each member of the threesome was required to pay $2,688.75.

Peterson, now with Double-A Chattanooga, helped him out by loaning him almost $1,250 with Van Steensel footing the rest of the bill. He hopes to have the entire debt paid off by the end of June after paying an $800 installment earlier this month.

“They needed all the rent up front — four months’ rent and a $500 security deposit. Luckily I had some of my signing bonus left — well, what’s left of it.”

Van Steensel got a $60,000 bonus when he joined the Twins in 2008, but he admits there’s very little of that left after more than seven years of living paycheck to paycheck between the Minor Leagues, the Australian Baseball League and the Dutch Major League. He doesn’t get paid during the offseason.

* * *

Since April 8, Van Steensel has spent almost $600 on incidental costs, ranging from snacks and cellphone bills to drinks and nights out. He’s spent $32 on seven cups of coffee, $60 to subscribe to Apple TV, $8 to buy a lanyard for his keys, $20 to pay his membership to the professional baseball association and $80 for two months of cellphone coverage.

Then there’s $43 for an HDMI cable to hook his laptop up to his TV, $95 for a road trip to Miami, $67 on random snacks and $69 on three tips to the cinema to see The Avengers, The Wedding Ringer and Jurassic World.

Van Steensel said he sometimes feels guilty about even the smallest purchase.

“After every road trip, we have lunch at a gas station in Fort Myers. We get snacks or chocolate or stuff, but those $2 and $4 add up. Chocolate milk is my splurge. And $29 for a movie [and snacks] seems a lot, but it takes your mind off baseball and lets you have fun. You can justify spending the money.”

Van Steensel has used the same glove for the past five years — partly because he likes it and can’t find the same model any more, and partly because it’s another expense that he doesn’t need. He only has two pairs of cleats, one that he wears at home and leaves in the clubhouse and the other that he keeps in his travel bag, and he’s responsible for buying all his own other baseball equipment like undershirts and compression pants.

But though his wages are the highest they’ve been since his first season in 2009, he actually has less disposable income this year. In Cedar Rapids in 2014, Van Steensel lived with a host family who didn’t charge him rent and who let him use a car free of charge. Though he only got paid $490 every two weeks, the money stretched a little further.

Despite it all, Van Steensel has found innovative ways to make a few extra bucks.

“One of my Aussie teammates got lazy and I saw an opportunity to make some money,” said Van Steensel, who shares a hotel room with fellow right-hander Alex Muren when the team is on the road.

“We were living in the Twins academy and [Lewis Thorpe] said that he had to do his laundry but didn’t want to. I said I’ll do it for $20. One load of laundry later and I was $20 richer.

“Another time, we were in a car waiting for one of our teammates and Logan Wade told Zach Granite he’d pay him $20 if he ate a raw egg. I think he was grossed out by it, so I jumped out of the car and sucked down the egg.”

For now, Van Steensel is keeping his eyes open for money-making opportunities.

Todd Van Steensel@toddvs35

When you're in the Minor Leagues and a teammate dares you to eat a raw egg for $20, you eat the raw egg #EasyMoney

 

 

“We just get by. At the end of the day, I would rather be here than working 9-5 back home, so I try not to complain too much,” said Van Steensel, who goes back to Sydney to live with his parents from September to February each winter. “If they come to me with their laundry, I won’t say no.”

 http://milbprospective.mlblogs.com/2015/06/19/the-real-cost-of-being-a-minor-leaguer-a-look-inside-todd-van-steensels-bank-account/

 

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