Games » New York YankeesMay10
How the New York crowd changed the game
Players will tell you that umpires get intimidated by the Yankee Stadium crowds. After last night’s game, a cartoonist will tell you the same thing. You can never say a single moment won or lost a ball game, but there are certainly moments of importance.
Home plate umpire Ed Hickox calling Chris Getz out on a check swing with the bases loaded in the 7th inning qualifies.
It did not appear that Getz swung the bat. Unless a player has no intention of swinging, like on a 3-0 count (called a ‘porn take’ because you’re just watching) hitters always start their swing. You could never catch up with a 95-mph fastball otherwise. Hitters select a zone and start their swing towards it. If the ball is there, the swing continues. If not, the hitter shuts it down.
Hitting instructors teach that every pitch is a strike until it’s not. That’s why hitters can sometimes get fooled: they start for the zone, the ball appears headed elsewhere, the hitter shuts it down and late movement carries the ball into the hitter’s zone… and it appeared that may have happened to Chris on a pitch earlier in the at-bat. That’s when you see that look of anguish on a hitter’s face, “THAT was my pitch and I took it.”
When hitters are ahead, the zone gets small (sometimes called ‘keyholing’). When hitters are behind, the zone gets big (a lot of hitters look up and away with two strikes because you can adjust in but not out, down but not up). A smart pitcher, ahead in the count, throws a pitch that appears to be headed to this big zone, but will move out of it. A hitter with two strikes is forced to ‘cover’ every pitch and will start his swing every time.
Getz was 1-2, had just fouled off two 94-mph fastballs and Yankee pitcher David Robertson decided he had Chris’s bat speed cranked up and it was time for the curve. Getz started his swing, you saw everything follow through… except the bat. Chris appeared to shut it down in time, but Ed Hickox punched him out.
The key thing to notice here is that Hickox didn’t ask for help. There’s no way he could’ve been that sure that Getz swung the bat (especially since every camera angle showed he didn’t). Refusing to ask for help on a play is usually a sign of umpire insecurity. Hey, if you got it right asking for help would just confirm that and if you got it wrong, don’t you want to get it right?
Not in Yankee Stadium.
Overturning that call would have made the crowd crazy, but, geez, you’re an umpire, shouldn’t you be used to getting booed by now? Man up.
If you’ve watched the videos on the website you know before every opposition batter steps in the box Doug Sisson gives sign to position the outfield defense. Doug’s at the far end of the dugout, Eddie Rodriguez is at the end closer to home. Doug uses hand gestures to move the outfielders; Eddie uses his head to move the infielders.
If the third baseman is where he should be, Eddie nods at him. If the player needs to move Eddie leans his head in the desired direction. Once the player hits the right spot, Eddie nods again. Before the opening game of every series Rodriguez spends a couple hours preparing the infield defense taking into account spray charts, who’s on the mound and in the field.
So why am I telling you these super-secret signs? Because they’re not super-secret. All teams do this and everybody watches everybody else. So the hitter walks to the plate knowing they’re playing him to pull. Heck, all he has to do is look at where they’re standing to know how they’re going to pitch him. Eddie and Doug agree that if they can get a dead-pull hitter to go away from his strength in order to beat the defense, they’ll take those odds.
Of course, all this depends on the pitcher being able to hit his spots. Mike Aviles made an awkward looking move in a game because the pitcher missed his spot and the ball was on the wrong side of where Mike was standing (defenders sometimes cheat by leaning a direction, but try to hide it long enough for the hitter to be focused elsewhere). Absolutely nothing out here is as simple as it seems.
Speaking of Aviles
Remember the play where Mike got picked off first, broke for second, stopped and the first baseman dropped the ball? Mike made it into second and got a stolen base, but he didn’t do the right thing. It wasn’t getting picked off that was the mistake, it was stopping to get in a rundown. The Royals official policy in that situation is to continue to run hard and head for the middle infielder’s glove. The idea (I’ve mentioned this before) is to make the throw more difficult by creating a bad angle for the first baseman or, even better, to get hit in the back with the throw.
After showing the bruise caused by the 92-mph slider I took in the left kidney a lot of concerned people have asked if I’m OK. Yup…or as OK as I’ve ever been. The truth is that bruise, while a beauty, would fit right in with the rest of the bruises you see in the clubhouse on a nightly basis. The day we made that video Matt Treanor had a bruise on his left leg. He fouled a 94-mph pitch straight down onto his shinbone (much more painful than what I experienced). Matt had a round white spot on his leg, like the flesh was dead, right where the ball hit him and the rest of his shin was Technicolor from knee to ankle. Chris Getz also had a bruise from knee to ankle from a takeout slide at second and the next night took a 90+ pitch in the same spot. Chris then went down and broke up a double play using his twice-bruised shin. Last year Jason Kendall took a fastball off the elbow and it looked like a goose egg with seams. He never touched it or looked at it, just went down to first and stood there like he was waiting for a bus and kind of bored by the whole experience. Kevin Seitzer said he still has a painful lump on his shin from his playing days.
Oakland A’s broadcaster Ray Fosse, the catcher that got run over by Pete Rose in an All-Star Game, loved what I did and wanted a picture of the bruise to show his TV audience (which got me a call from my best friend from high school who was watching the game out in Sacramento). Ray pointed out that a lot of people saw me get hit by a pitch, but he wanted to show the aftermath to fans that don’t understand what players go through.
Players can’t pull up their shirt in a postgame press conference, show a bruise and talk about how much it hurts, but I can. I’ve made a career of whining and complaining so I’m happy to do it in a good cause.
Hey, more whining!
30 years of solid political commentary as a political cartoonist? Zilch. One slider in the kidney? You’re a sensation… and the story still goes on. Monday it was all over Yahoo Sports, and I’m getting calls and emails. At first I thought the misreporting of the story was pretty funny. Nobody has gotten it right, and Monday I was criticized for holding a bat while I did it. (If you’ve played, you know what you do with the bat afterward is a big part of getting hit by a pitch… and you saw Chris Getz downgrade me for getting too cocky with a bat flip.)
What’s scary about this is nobody could be bothered to watch the entire video and get the story straight. If four minutes and twenty-seven seconds of research is more than the media can handle to get one of the simpler (and let’s face it, dumber) stories ever told correct how well are the doing on the complicated stuff?
Damn liberal media.