Games » Los Angeles AngelsJun11
Breaking down the breakdown
Well, if you watched this one to its conclusion, you know it wasn’t pretty. The Royals gave this game away.
It started when the usually reliable Chris Getz booted a double-play ball and that led to a four-run second inning for the Angels. I don’t know of any statistic that would back this up, but in my experience (managing more than 500 games with former college and pro players), a lot of errors are made on double-play balls.
Either the guy fielding the grounder or the pivot man will get in a rush, and not only do you not get two outs, you fail to get one. Making sure of the first one is the main goal of the double play, and Chris failed to do this.
A couple of other plays helped bury the Royals: Reliever Aaron Crow bounced a breaking pitch and the usually reliable catcher, Matt Treanor, tried to glove the ball instead of blocking it. That allowed the Angels to score the run that put them ahead to stay in the seventh inning.
Eddie Rodriguez, the Royals’ usually reliable third-base coach, sent Melky Cabrera home in the top of the inning, and Melky was an easy out. There were a lot of reasons not to send him: Jeff Francoeur hit the ball hard to right field. Angels outfielder Torii Hunter has a lot of assists and was moving forward on the play. There was only one out, and Billy Butler was on deck. (On the other hand, hold Melky up and you’ve got runners at first and third with a double-play candidate at the plate.)
I generally assume that the people involved know more than I do because, when I get to talk to them, that has turned out to be true roughly 100 percent of the time. I also know the third-base coach gets screwed because if the runner is out, the coach gets blamed. But if the runner is safe, the coach gets no credit.
So maybe Eddie (who knows more baseball than most of us combined) had a good reason for sending Melky … but I don’t know what it is.
It wasn’t all horrible
Royals starter Felipe Paulino, who had an error on a pickoff throw that led to a run, pitched well again. He worked fast (and everyone appreciates that), walked one batter and struck out five. Before the Royals left for the coast, Felipe said he would do whatever the team wanted, but as a reliever had to concentrate on using just two of his pitches and as a starter could make use of all five. Maybe that’s the difference.
Chris Getz made a leaping stop of a Scud missile thrown by Matt Treanor on a stolen-base attempt. The ball seemed destined for center field, but Getz made the catch. That was the play that set up the line-out double play that happened immediately afterward. Chris caught a line drive and thew the ball to Alcides Escobar to double off the runner at second base. If Matt’s throw had gone into center field, the runner’s on third and there’s no double play.
Here’s a bit of wild speculation: When Matt threw the ball down to second, it was so high and to the right, I wondered whether it had slipped out of his hand (wild speculation). Then the TV broadcast showed Matt talking to the umpire. Batter interference seemed to be the logical subject (wild speculation). Then the cameras showed Treanor angrily explaining something to Royals manager Ned Yost, and the umpire not calling batter interference seemed to be the logical topic (wild speculation).
A few games back, Matt had the same thing happen but chose not to throw the ball. He was told that he needed to attempt the throw to get a batter interference call (no speculation: I was there). So now he attempts the throw and risks chucking it to East L.A. and still doesn’t get the call?
So maybe that’s why he was so angry (really wild speculation). I’ve got no clue if this was what really happened, but if this speculation thing catches on, maybe I could get a sports talk radio show.
Don’t mess with Mac
The Royals pitchers have been getting ready for interleague play by taking batting practice and working on their bunts. Hitting coach Kevin Seitzer hopes every plate appearance by a pitcher is a bunt situation. And with pitchers, any time there are less than two outs, a runner on base and an empty base to be gained, it’s a bunt situation.
So the pitchers are around the batting cage. Danny Duffy is bunting, and there’s a sudden burst of laughter. Duffy is now on his backside, much to his teammates’ enjoyment. What happened?
Duffy apparently popped off about something to pitching coach Bob McClure, who was throwing BP. In the time-honored justice system enforced for more than a century throughout major-league baseball, Mac did what pitchers do when they don’t like what a batter has done. He dumped him.
There was never any danger. The pitches are slow enough to avoid and wouldn’t do much damage if they weren’t, and Mac can still put a ball pretty much where he wants to. Bob might look like your kindly uncle, but professional athletes are all super-competitive and retain that quality throughout their lives. (Look at all the former pros who play in amateur leagues just to keep competing.)
Just remember, if you want to pop off to someone, make sure they’re not standing on a pitcher’s mound, holding a baseball when you do it.
Snakes in the grass
Trevor Vance, the Royals’ head groundskeeper, told me that the patterns cut into the diamond’s grass are for the fans. The real test for a groundskeeper is the dirt. That is where most of the plays are made. So if the patterns are only decoration, are the players aware of them?
They have to be.
As a ball bounces through those patterns, the patterns “snake.” That means they change direction slightly every time they hit a new spot and the lay of the grass is different. You can see this slight snaking action whenever the TV camera follows a ball in super-slow motion.
There’s nothing a fielder can do about it except be very aware that the ball might shift slightly as it approaches him and watch the ball as it goes into his glove. Just be aware of this when you see a guy muff what looks like an easy chance. He may have just been bitten by a snake.
Gordon doesn’t want to think about it
In a recent game, Alex Gordon came to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning with two runners on base and the Royals trailing by two runs. At that point I thought, “If he hits a bomb they win … but I bet he’s not thinking that.” I asked Alex about it the next day, and he confirmed it.
While we’re all sitting in the stands, hoping he hits a long one, he’s doing his best not to think that. “If I think that, I’m done,” Alex said. “I’ll strike out or rollover. I’ve maybe hit two home runs in my life when I was trying to.”
I told Alex that I had heard Fred McGriff was asked how he hit 30 home runs a year, season after season. McGriff said there was a certain pitch in a certain location that he could hit for a home run. “Thirty times a year, someone throws it to me,” McGriff said.
Alex totally agreed. You can’t will a home run. You’ve got to get the right pitch, or it can’t be done. And if you try to do it with the wrong pitch, something bad will happen. Take what the pitcher gives you.
Alex is so adamant about this approach that he asked that the scoreboard operators to stop showing a video of him hitting a walk-off homer when he came to the plate late in a game. This kind of cracked me up: Alex is trying not to think about it, and the rest of us are doing everything we can to make sure he thinks about it.
He must be doing a pretty good job, though. That night, Alex came up in the ninth inning when a homer would have tied the game. He went the other way for a double. If he tried to pull that ball, he probably would have made an out.
So the old “Think Big” advice doesn’t work in baseball. But “Try Not To Think At All” is not a slogan corporate America is ready to promote … but they do seem to follow it.