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Kevin Seitzer on Kauffman Stadium
Lee Judge talks to Kevin Seitzer about hitting in Kauffman Stadium. (Video by Todd Feeback | The Kansas City Star)
A couple plays you might have missed
In a game like this there are some obvious story lines: Melky Cabrera’s game-winning hit, Aaron Crow getting the win or Sean O’Sullivan’s solid start. Everybody will cover those and they should. Readers don’t need me to repeat what will be done better by those with more experience, like the Star’s beat writer Bob Dutton. On the other hand, that frees me to spend time on small, but important moments and I’ve got two from this game.
In the 8th inning, Melky threw a runner out at the plate, great throw followed by a great block of the plate by Matt Treanor. (When you see a play at the plate it’s always worth checking the catcher’s feet: does he have his left foot on the third-base line, giving half the plate to the runner, or is he straddling the line, taking the entire plate and inviting a collision? Treanor was straddling.) Clearly a big moment in the game.
But a few pitches earlier, Matt went a long way to his right to block a pitch in the dirt. Without that block, the runner’s on third when the single is hit and scores standing up. That’s why I try to recognize this small stuff. It wins games.
Second moment: 9th inning, nobody out, Mike Aviles on third, Mitch Maier on first, Alcides Escobar hits a hard grounder to the third baseman. Aviles breaks for home and gets thrown out. Dumb play or smart play? Answer: very smart play.
Ned Yost had the contact play on (the runner on third breaks for home on any ball that comes off the bat at a down angle). If Mikey does not break for home the Indians turn a double play on the sharply hit ground ball while the runner on third stands there and watches. As Ned told me after the game, Aviles breaking for home bought the Royals an extra out.
Y’know, this game is pretty interesting if you watch closely.
Jason sits in a corner of the clubhouse next to Matt Treanor and Chris Getz and it’s one of my regular stops. They’re all talkative and smart and don’t mind explaining what I’ve just seen. Getzie stole two bases by a wide margin because the pitcher, Tony Sipp, was a 1.7 (meaning he takes 1.7 seconds to get the pitch home and Chris can beat a 1.3 so he knew he could steal the bases). Chris also told me the Sipp wasn’t a “reader.”
“Hey, Chris, I’ve been around a lot of ball players and the only one I ever saw holding a book was you and it had a lot of pictures in it. None of you read much.”
But what Chris meant was Sipp was not able to lift his knee and “read” the base runner: go home if the runner isn’t going, to the base if he is.
I got a really nice email from a reader saying he’d been watching the game for 60 years and had never read more insightful commentary. (Hold on a second, I’m enjoying the moment.) Unfortunately, the truth is that the insight isn’t coming from me, it’s from the players and coaches.
I was fortunate enough to stumble into this world and found it fascinating (I thought I knew baseball until I met Russ Morman and Clint Hurdle) and wanted to pass along the information these guys were giving to me. I hope that’s what’s different about this website: it’s the game from the players’ point of view. I’m just trying to understand it and pass the wisdom along.
What kind of bench coach are you?
The Royals dugout has a long bench along the back wall (almost everybody sits on top) and a couple of benches on stands up by the railing. At least they did until a couple days ago, the one closer to home plate’s now gone. So I found John Gibbons and asked, “Gibby, you’re the bench coach, where are your benches? Dude, you’re falling down on the job.” (Turns out it was blocking the coaches view.) After giving me the required hard time (baseball humor), we had a discussion about catchers receiving the ball. Never heard this before, but catchers like to receive the ball with the thumb up. If the thumb is up, the elbow’s down and more likely to be in the strike zone. If the thumb goes down the elbow goes up and out of the zone and the pitch looks less like a strike. Who knew?
Announcing the perfect game
A reader gave Ryan Lefebvre a hard time for talking about “perfect” innings in Luke Hochevar’s last start. Isn’t an announcer bound by the same “don’t-jinx-what’s-happening” rule? Not really. Ryan said he kept giving hints, but never said Luke was throwing a perfect game. He then told me about an announcer who refused to mention the no-hitter that was taking place in front of him and then got criticized because people tuning in for just a moment had no idea what was happening and turned the game off. Never thought of that one - damned if you do, really damned if you don’t.
(Although, I have gotten on Ryan’s case for being able to jinx a situation by statements like, “This guy has never hit a home run off Bruce Chen” and then whack! I’ve tried unsuccessfully to get Ryan to say, “Hey, you know Lee Judge has never been attacked by nymphomaniac supermodels.” Ball’s in your court, Lefebvre.)
On Wednesday Kanekoa Texeira and I went to lunch. Ballplayers come to town and don’t know where to eat or go, mainly hanging out in their own neighborhoods. So I drove Tex around downtown, showed him some good restaurants and then took him over to KCK for tacos and gorditas at El Camino Real. Kanekoa loved it and vowed to come back with family and teammates. Today I came into the clubhouse prepared to tell him we should go to Rosedale BBQ when the team comes back off the road.
And he was gone.
Tex sent down, Louis Coleman called up (don’t have him on the roster yet, but we’ll take care of it).
The professional athlete’s life is great in many ways, but this ain’t one of them. You lost your job, pack your stuff up and get going, they need you in Triple A. When you see those guys from opposite teams greeting each other, it may be because the last time they saw each other they were teammates and they never got a chance to say goodbye.
When asked about Texeira, John Gibbons said, “Great kid, he’ll be back,” Sure hope so, we still need to go to Rosedale.