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!
Big leaguers have love-hate affairs with bats
Recent conversation overheard in the Toronto Blue Jays’ dugout:
Player: Hey, you got any hits in that bat?
Player B: Nah, this one’s 0-for-3.
Asked later about it, Vernon Wells rolls his eyes: "Oh yeah, the bat’s 0-for-3."
Around this time, 141 years ago, Harry Wright sent a member of the Cincinnati Red Stockings up to face some rounder from a semi-pro team to look at the first pitch ever tossed to a fully professional baseball player.
A few minutes later, that guy, or one just like him in silly short pants and red dyed stirrup socks, swung and registered the first strike in pro ball history.
We can speculate that he then swore, stared at the bat, and called it all sorts of names unacceptable in polite society, even one that had so recently been savaged by a bloody civil war.
Thus was born the difficult and complicated relationship between a man and his bat. Or bats.
Lots of bats, actually, because major leaguers can take delivery of a dozen at a time and, once they’ve finished feeling them, eyeing them, stoning them, sanding them, listening to them, tarring them and praying to them, they will likely choose just two or three to be their "gamers."
The rest are consigned to batting practice or used as autographed giveaways for friends, family, admirers and that guy up in the fifth row whom our hero just beaned with a broken "gamer" bat that got away from him.
Did he just say listened to it?
Cito Gaston (Louisville Slugger, models P72, P55 and S2) says so, and he was there.
"I used to see Roberto Clemente … he used to shake his bat, before he hit … shake it … put it down, pick one up and shake it … then he’d pick one out and go up and hit," says the Toronto manager, who played in the National League at the same time as the Pittsburgh Pirates hall of fame legend.
Did you ask him why?
"No, I didn’t ask him that. I knew Roberto, too, and I could have asked him, but I didn’t," Gaston says. "He was probably just feeling it, probably had it close to his ear (listening) when he was doing it.
"Because all bats are not the same, very seldom do they feel the same."
Best bat I ever had — Part 1
"I had a bat in the minor leagues that lasted me the whole summer. I only used it for batting practice, then it broke about a week left in the season – that was my September call up [to the majors] in ’06, and it broke just before the season ended."
— Adam Lind, Jays designated hitter.
Adam Lind (Old Hickory AP1) says whatever you do to a bat, if it works then it’s not crazy. Personally, he chats with his.
"I talk to it when I’m on deck," he says, relaxing in front of his locker, pre-game. "I stare at it and say ‘please work.’ "
Lind shakes his head, thinking of his .213 batting average as of Tuesday, down from .320 in 2009. "Not this year."
At least not right now.
Pitchers can get annoyed at bats, too, he recalls.
"When I was in AA, our team wasn’t hitting real well, so before a game all of our bats were in the bat rack and [one of the pitchers] threw them on the ground – every bat – to try and wake them up."
"I don’t know if it worked that day, but our bats came alive shortly after that."
When you have a good bat, and it finally breaks, it can be an emotional time.
"There’s a moment of silence if I’ve had a good run with it," Lind says, smiling.
Best bat I ever had — Part 2
"It was in the minor leagues. It was short season A ball, in my first year in Miss oula, and it lasted at least a month, if not a month and a half. It had … two knots, right on the barrel, right there (gestures) … I used it, I think I remember, that month of July in ’99. I think I had 53 RBIs. And it was all that bat. I was sad to see it go."
— Lyle Overbay, Jays first baseman.
What finally happened was Overbay (Louisville Slugger P72, 34 and 32) hit one right off the tip of the bat and it cracked as the ball went for an out. That’s what really hurt.
"Usually you are alright with [breaking] it, if you get a hit with it and it goes down a winner. A champion, I guess," he says. "But it didn’t this time. It had plenty of hits, so I was very sad to see it go."
The whole approach of stoning a bat (rubbing a smooth rock over it is supposed to harden the surface) or pine tarring it, or rubbing bone on it, or shaving down the barrel, doesn’t impress Overbay much.
Though understand, he means for himself, not for anyone else. If someone wants to sleep with a bat and it seems to help, he’s all for it.
But on the question of outies and innies, now there’s a point for discussion.
In the 1970s someone came up with the bright idea of hollowing out the tip of the bat to save an ounce or so in weight. "Cupped" bats caught on, and Overbay was one of their adherents.
Until he ran into Houston’s Lance Berkman in an off-season and the Astros star pointed out that extra little knob on the tip of the bat might just buy you an extra hit here, and another one there.
And in a sport where the difference between hitting .250 and .300 is one lousy hit a week (as Crash Davis taught us), that was worth thinking about.
So Overbay switched back. But that’s just him. Some players still think non-cupped makes the bat top heavy and they won’t use them.
One other point. If a guy is going really good, like say Aaron Hill was last season (.286, 108 RBI), others will start to ask about his bat. Or maybe borrow one.
No one is asking this year with Hill hitting under .200. Must be the bat.
Don’t believe it? In 2001 when Barry Bonds hit 73 home runs with a new fangled maple wood bat, more than half the players in the majors switched from ash.
Then word got around that maple broke more quickly (and spectacularly) than ash, so the switch began to reverse.
But ash trees may be disappearing because of the emerald ash borer beetle and you might suddenly not be able to get any. And maple is harder and the ball may travel further (not proven by science, by the way). But maple doesn’t have grains to count and ash does. But Ash seems to break less often. Blah blah blah.
Best bat I ever had — Part 3
"I remember having a bat that went for a month. I didn’t use it in batting practice, only in the game. And it just went for a while …didn’t break it. When you broke it, you went ‘aww,’ I broke my bat.’ "
--Dwayne Murphy, Blue Jays’ hitting coach (Aww seems a big-time expletive for the coach, by the way). .
Murphy (Louisville Slugger, C243) played 12 years in the bigs and now teaches major leaguers two key things – how to stay hot when they’re hot, and how to get hot when they’re not.
He knows it’s mostly confidence. Guys will, he says, believe anything. Including it can’t be me, it must be the bat.
"You get hooked on these bats," Murphy says. "[For some] it’s all about the grain – how many lines [of grain] are in the bat. You see bats shatter and break and guys come back to the dugout and they say they scored that bat – they hit it right on the barrel – and it still broke."
Bats are getting lighter and lighter (Babe Ruth used a 42 inch, 42 ounce battle club, now the average weight is just over 33 ounces) and yes, a player can tell if it’s just an ounce wrong either way.
Justin Morneau, of Minnesota, is said to weigh every bat he gets out of a box on the postal scale in the team’s office. If any are more than .3 of an ounce off, either way, they’re dumped.
Murphy understands that. Heck, guys will scrape the pine tar off the bat because they think it’s making the bat too heavy.
Best bat I ever had — Part 4
"The best one I ever had was the last bat I used in 1970. The last game of the season I used it and it went 4-for-4. That was a good bat."
— Cito Gaston.
Tigers' Galarraga: Baseball needs instant replay
Last Updated: 9:43 AM, June 23, 2010
Posted: 2:23 AM, June 23, 2010
Armando Galarraga handled the blown perfect game perfectly, but he would like to see baseball use instant replay so another pitcher doesn't miss out on perfection like he did as a result of a bad call.
"I say yes because [instant replay] is going to help the game," the Tigers right-hander, who will start against the Mets tomorrow, said last night. "Technology now is so involved in the game. I think with stuff like that, really big things, you can use it. But you don't want to slow the game down."
At the least, Galarraga, 28, should be named Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year for the way he reacted after first base umpire Jim Joyce blew the call on June 2 vs. the Indians on what should have been the final out and a perfect game.
He said players come up to him all the time and congratulate him for the way he has handled everything. The Mets' Henry Blanco gave him a hug yesterday and told him, "Man, you handled it well. You're doing a really good job."
Said Galarraga, "This is all fine now, it's all a nice memory and now it's time to move on. Hopefully we can make the playoffs and I can have a good career.
"I smiled because I was nervous," he said of his immediate reaction to Joyce's call. He said he still has two boxes of mail at his locker, "I feel like a superstar," he said, and his emails "have been crazy."
The humanity he showed toward Joyce has made Galarraga one of the more beloved players in the game.
"I felt bad for him," Galarraga said of Joyce. "When you see the guy, he can't even talk because he was crying and crying and crying. He tried to tell me, 'I'm so sorry.' He told me I was perfect and he was not perfect. I was sick, because a perfect game is a dream come true for any pitcher, but when you saw the guy it made me feel so sorry."
In the end, there were no words and Galarraga and Joyce hugged.
Galaragga loves the metallic gray Corvette that Chevrolet presented him with on the day after the game.
"That surprised me, and I said, 'Oh my god,' " he recalled. "My wife has a Mini Cooper and I said, 'We will sell it right now. Sell the Mini Cooper.' "
The Most Disliked People In Sports
Tom Van Riper, 06.18.10, 11:00 AM ET
When it comes to turning off the public, Michael Vick and Al Davis are champions.
Michael Vick has been out of prison for almost a year. He's publicly apologized for his role in a dog-fighting ring that landed him behind bars for 21 months. He's got an uncontroversial year on the football field behind him as a part-timer for the Philadelphia Eagles, who have picked up his option for another season.
Yet Vick's image rehab is moving along at a snail's pace. For the second year in a row he tops our list of Most Disliked People in Sports, with 69% of those polled citing Vick as someone they "Dislike a lot," "Dislike," or "Dislike some" according to E-Poll Market Research.
The ASPCA turned down Vick's offer to work with them on animal cruelty prevention. Nonetheless, Vick still appears poised for a recovery with the public. Unlike some athletes whose main talent seems to be getting in trouble, Vick was a popular and dynamic player before the dog-fighting episode--all he must do is repent for the single episode that sent his stock dropping like lead.
But it takes time, especially when minimal playing time leaves few opportunities to draw enough media attention to match the nonstop coverage his criminal case drew last year.
"The general public largely still knows him for the dog fighting," says Gerry Philpott, E-Poll's CEO, citing his unusually high 54% awareness rating. "If you were to limit the responses to just NFL fans, Vick's number would probably skew lower." as a player, coach, manager, broadcaster, agent or owner. A 10% minimum awareness level was also a prerequisite (that eliminated drug-using cyclist Floyd Landis and money-grubbing baseball agent Scott Boros, both very much disliked by the few but anonymous to the many).
Right behind Vick in this year's poll: Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, a longtime maverick with a history of clashing with the NFL, coaches and politicians in northern and southern California over stadium deals that have led him to move the club twice. Also making the list is fellow renegade NFL owner Jerry Jones, who likes to run the Dallas Cowboys as more of a freestanding business than as part of a league.
Others making an appearance: baseball's steroid poster boys, Alex Rodriguez and Mark McGwire (McGwire's return to coaching this year made him eligible for the list), along with football wide receiver diva Terrell Owens and gun-wielding NBA star Gilbert Arenas
The most significant new entries this year, unsurprisingly, are Tiger Woods and Ben Roethlisberger, the latest pair making tabloid headlines for their extracurricular activities. Woods' infidelities have been well chronicled since last fall, with most crisis-management experts saying his public apology came too late. Now that he's back on the course, most think a tournament win or two, coupled with good behavior, should get him back on track. But as with Vick, it takes time.
Roethlisberger, though, has his work cut out for him. While accusations of sexual assault against him by a Georgia college student didn't lead to formal charges, the episode left the public with a picture of him as a 28-year-old frat boy.
The assault allegation "was bad, but the videos of Ben at the night club didn't help him either," says Cindy Rakowitz, a Los Angeles-based crisis management consultant. "His apology didn't seem sincere, nor did it get as much airplay as the video of him handing out shots and dancing to Miley Cyrus."
And, unlike Woods, he plays a team sport. The six-game suspension levied against him by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell hurts the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2010. Fans can be tough when what they see as selfish behavior has consequences for the team. The fans' memo to Big Ben: Grow up.
The following story is a great example(even though it's from the NFL) of how players get "lost in the shuffle" in big agencies. This isn't just another player either but a former Heisman Trophy winner who was the first pick in the draft Ricky Williams.
You will see in the story that when his client needed him to stand up & take the heat Leigh Steinberg (who is Jeff Moorad's partner) was nowhere to be found, unlike when there's an opportunity to take credit when he's all over the press. Instead, as you will see in the story, Williams' business is handed to "a Steinberg associate".
Published June 22, 2002
Dolphins officials are privately steamed at agent Leigh Steinberg for some of Williams’ off-field driving problems.
Williams was stopped Tuesday by Fort Lauderdale police and ticketed for having an expired tag and for driving without a driver’s license and proof of insurance. When an officer thought Williams was “acting incoherently” during questioning, he was handcuffed and placed in the back of a police vehicle. A drug-sniffing dog then went through the vehicle before Williams was cleared to leave.
While Williams is ultimately responsible for having the wrong tags on his vehicle, the Dolphins believe Steinberg’s office should take a more proactive approach in helping him get his act together off the field.
The Dolphins also blame Steinberg and Co. for not properly handling a ticket Williams received in February for driving 126 mph. A bench warrant was issued for Williams’ arrest when he failed to appear for an April court appearance in Louisiana, which was a matter the Dolphins claim Steinberg’s office said it would handle.
The matter was eventually settled when Williams paid a $500 fine. But that incident, combined with a slew of others that surfaced this week involving Fort Lauderdale police, are painting an unflattering picture of the team’s most high-profile player.
Don West, a Steinberg associate who works closely with Williams, didn’t return a telephone call seeking comment.
NFL agent, players linked to bank lawsuit
2 players agree to big court judgments; lawyer for third says FBI seeking evidence of criminal fraud
Two NFL players and agent Sean Jones have agreed to court judgments against them totaling nearly $2 million, and a third player has leveled what may be the most damaging charges yet against the prominent agent.
Dallas Cowboys defensive end Ebenezer Ekuban said in a sworn declaration that Jones "fraudulently induced" him into participating in a $1 million real estate loan, and that he never signed an application or financial statement for the loan.
Jones refused to comment for publication.
Terry Ray, Ekuban's Dallas-based attorney, said he and Ekuban spent about six hours meeting with FBI agents last month. "I can tell you the FBI made it very clear that there is an ongoing criminal bank fraud investigation and they are looking at specific transactions," Ray said. The FBI agents are trying to "sort out who was the victim and who was the criminal," he said.
The FBI wouldn't comment on whether it is conducting an investigation.
Shaun Williams of the New York Giants and Brian Williams of the Detroit Lions, both with Jones, agreed to judgments in a federal court in Houston that they must repay more than $990,000 each after Whitney National Bank sued them for defaulting on real estate loans.
Ekuban's case is currently in court.
Marvin Rader, a lawyer who represented both Williamses last year, said both of those players were also interviewed by the FBI about the loans. All of the loans were part of a plan to convert Houston area apartments into condos.
Brian Williams' and Shaun Williams' current lawyer did not return phone calls.
Ekuban recently fired Jones and Marvin Demoff as his contract advisers, Ray said. A letter was sent to Jones, who has represented Ekuban since he was a first-round pick in the 1999 NFL draft, dismissing him and demanding a full accounting of the Whitney bank loan and other business dealings he has with the player, Ray said.
Ray said he has no information to indicate that Demoff was involved in the real estate loan or other financial dealings involving Jones. Demoff said he first heard about the loan through a letter Ray sent to him firing him. Demoff said he was largely responsible for negotiating Ekuban's 1999 contract but has had little contact with him in recent years.
(This is how most "big" agencies will handle your business, The "name" will recruit you & then it's "see ya")
Ekuban, in a November 2002 declaration, said he was fraudulently induced into participating in the loan by the concerted actions of Jones, Jerome Karam, who was the property's seller, and Whitney National Bank vice president David Ranostaj.