Games » Oakland AthleticsMay8
The church of baseball
Empty ballparks are the most peaceful places on earth. It’s Sunday morning, 9:23 a.m., and I’m staring out the press box window at Kauffman Stadium. There’s a player on the field, one of the Athletics, wearing shorts and a T-shirt, doing stretches and running sprints. The grounds crew is raking the warning track, and stadium maintenance is spraying water on the seats and walkways.
The camera crews are checking the equipment. Writers and players are starting to straggle in after last night’s game. People walk around with cups of coffee, trying to wake up and get ready for the circus that will take place in a few hours.
Maybe that’s it: The park seems so peaceful because last night 30,000 people were here, screaming as Jarrod Dyson made a mad dash for home to score the winning run in the bottom of the ninth. Maybe it’s the contrast between bedlam and utter serenity that makes an empty ballpark seem so peaceful.
I’m going to grab my cup of coffee and a book and head down to the clubhouse and see who’s around. After that, I’ll take my book and sit in the dugout, going back and forth between reading and just staring at the field. It’s 9:23 on a peaceful Sunday morning.
You go to your church … I’ll go to mine.
(Sorry to go all George Will on you, I should be back to normal shortly … but, man, it’s a beautiful morning.)
Confident in his masculinity
So it’s Mother’s Day and the Royals are opening the shoe boxes containing the pink cleats they’re going to wear during the game. The reaction is they sure are … pink. Like, hot pink. Loud, hot pink. Everyone’s kind of shaking their heads and saying, “OK. If we gotta do it, then we gotta do it.”
Then Jeff Francoer comes walking by, wearing nothing but his underwear and his new hot-pink cleats and heads for the indoor batting cage to take batting practice. Of course everyone falls out laughing, and Jeff has taken care of anyone feeling ridiculous in their new footwear. Nobody could have looked more ridiculous than Jeff. Weirdly enough, this is another example of the clubhouse leadership Frenchy provides. It may not show on the field, but stuff like this, matters.
Let’s just hope the look doesn’t catch on.
Speaking Of Dyson’s dash
I spent some time talking with Eddie Rodriguez talking about sending Jarrod Dyson home on a short fly ball to left in Saturday night’s game. He said one of the reasons he decided to send him was the footwork of A’s leftfielder Ryan Sweeney. Sweeney was unable to get lined up and come forward through the catch which would make for a strong throw. When Eddie saw Sweeney still shifting his feet, he knew the throw wouldn’t be strong.
Eddie talked about all the stuff he has to pay attention to: wind, arms, who’s on deck, who’s warming up in the pen (He’s got to know possible matchups) and … I had it right … if the grass is wet. Right after a rain delay, they will be more aggressive on a ball that gets down than a ball caught on the fly (one’s wet, the other’s dry). Eddie checks the grass as the game goes along and as it dries out, might get less aggressive.
He also mentioned being familiar with Coco Crisp’s arm (it’s not strong) and knowing the middle infielders will have to go out further to relay the ball on any extra base hit and the fact that they’re out further means longer throws to the bases. In short, we stood there for half an hour while Eddie talked about all the factors that go into sending a runner. It’s complicated, and Eddie’s got to make the call before he knows the outcome.
He accepts that he’s going to get booed when he’s wrong by three inches, but next time a runner’s safe at home, give part of the credit to the guy who sent him.
Quit innovating. You’re screwing up our system
Normally making the first or third out at third base would be considered a mental mistake, but I have to take the Royals new base running philosophy into account. In Sunday’s game, Jeff Francoeur slid into second base on a force play, and the flip from the second baseman to the shortstop got away, which forced the third baseman to run into short left to pick up the ball. Frenchy looked up, saw no one covering third and set sail. The pitcher saw what was happening and just barely beat Francoeur to the bag. It’s not a mental mistake if it’s what the team asked you to do (at least in my opinion).
Wilson Betemit had a different situation: Maier had singled, Hosmer was scoring and Wilson rounded second too far and got picked off from the outfield. Luckily, the home-plate umpire decided that Eric hit home before Wilson was tagged. Betemit did not appear to be seriously thinking about going to third, but even if he was, once the throw beat him to the bag he needed to get in a rundown and make sure Hosmer scored.
It’s why they usually win
A’s pitcher Tyson Ross was dealing. So what do you do? If you take pitches in order to get his count up and drive him from the game, you’re falling behind in the count and things get worse. If you swing early and don’t get hits, you keep his pitch count low. Ned Yost said there’s no other solution beside hitting your way out of it … that and trying to keep the game close and hope you’re within striking distance when the bullpen come in.
Why Eric Hosmer tried to turn two
Early in the game, Hosmer had the choice of cutting a run off at the plate or trying to turn a double play. He went for the double play, and the Royals didn’t get it. The usual baseball philosophy is to stay out of the big inning early (let a run score if you have to in order to avoid a bigger disaster … you have all game to get the run back) and try to stop single runs (if they’re important) late, because you’re running out of time.
We also got a preview of some unfamiliar athleticism on Betemit’s wild throw to start the game. Hosmer leaped to keep the ball from going past first and just missed a spinning tag as the runner went by.
Everything changes everything
You can’t just look at a box score or numbers or this website and think you know what happened. Here’s an example: In Saturday’s game, Eric Hosmer got walked in the ninth inning because Jarrod Dyson’s fast. A’s manager Bob Geren needed to load the bases so there would be a force play at home. He was afraid Dyson could beat a tag play at the plate. There’s always more to every situation than meets the eye.
Lee Judge shows "The Bruise"
The Star's Lee Judge shows and talks about the bruise that resulted from getting hit (on purpose) by a 92 mph baseball. May 6, 2011 (Video by John Sleezer/The Kansas City Star)