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By In Stuff

Taking Betts

Nick Cafardo had an interesting piece in the Boston Globe the other day about Mookie Betts. The theme of the story is that one of the first things that Alex Cora did after moving from coach in Houston to manager in Boston was try to make Betts more aggressive at the plate … like George Springer was last year.

To quote:

“Right after he got hired he called and he just wanted everyone to pay attention to detail,” Betts said. “He showed me the numbers and scouting reports that indicated to me that I should swing more.”

Is it that simple? Is the difference between 2017 Mookie Betts (when he hit .264/.344/.459) and Super Mookie of 2018  (leads league in runs, doubles, homers, total bases, batting average, slugging and OPS) simply a matter of him being more assertive and swinging the bat more often?

Well, sort of yes, sort of no, sort of yes but it’s a lot more complicated than that.

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Modern Romonce

There’s a fundamental tension in spectator sports that goes a little something like this: The things a player or coach or team will do to win and the things that make the game fascinating and authentic and fun and are rarely the same. Much of the time they are at odds with each other.

We’ve seen this over and over and over in sports. The most obvious example of this involves performance-enhancing drugs. When players take PEDs, they obviously are not worried about their sport as a whole. They obviously don’t care how it will impact the fan experience or the sport’s integrity or any of that. Taking PEDs is a fundamentally selfish move which is, I think, the big reason why so many fans stay so angry about it.

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Adjustments and Didi

For his first 25 games of the 2018 season — a span that ended on April 27 — Didi Gregorius was hitting .368/.459/.828 and was basically making a case for immortality. My pal Brian Kenny, who had the audacity not to include Gregorius umong his Top 10 shortstops, was spending roughly 95% of his time trying to fight off a screeching mob of Twitter villagers.

It seemed a losing battle. Gregorius had come to the Yankees in 2015 as a no-hit, good-field shortstop whose sole job seemed to be to hold down the fort in the post Derek Jeter years until the Yankees could figure out who wuld really play shortstop for them. He hit a little bit better than expected, then a little bit better than that, then last year he hit .287/.318/.478 with 25 homers, which isn’t A-Rod or Jeter but is quite good.

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By In Stuff

Links May 19

Teams keep on shifting Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman, even though he crushes the shift. Weird.

The 21-strikeout game is coming. A look back at the strikeout record’s rise, going back to 1884 and  an jealous teammate of Old Hoss Radbourn.

Is Bryce Harper a superstar? 

From The Athletic: Part two of our greatest ever series, who should be in discussion for NHL’s greatest player? Is it a one-man race?

From The Athletic: Weird, but I thought Tiger’s somewhat feeble “The wind came back into me,” excuse at The Players Championship was actually a sign that he might really be back.

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By In Stuff

Links: May 11

Looking back at Nomar Garciappara’s greatest day … and his brilliant but too short career.

This was a fun one. I heard a startlingly loud crack on a home run ball hit by Bryce Harper, and it sent me back to ask that great Buck O’Neil question: What are the loudest home runs I’ve ever heard?

For The Athletic: I’ve been thinking a lot about the Hall of Fame and career numbers. So many players play several average or below average seasons to reach what we might consider Hall of Fame caliber numbers. Is that really how we should look at things?

In other words: What should averge or below average seasons do for a Hall of Fame case?

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Links for May 8

Quick: Who is the best pitcher in baseball? For years now — a generation even — the answer was obvious and immediate: Clayton Kershaw. Well, for the first time in a long time, that’s not the answer.

The Athletic: Starting a series where we are trying to get some parameters for the Greatest of All Time discussions in each sport. The idea is to get our nominees. We start with the NBA.

Also a personal note:

I have this idea, and I could use your advice because I can’t quite tell if it will work. I very much want to rebuild this blog, get it going again the way it was before my life got so crazy busy. I love writing for this audience, always have. This has always been a fun little corner of the Internet and a nice escape from the rest.

But, now I only have time to post infrequently … and realistically, my life shows no sign of getting less crazy busy. I think I have figured out a way to get it rolling again … but that way will require hiring some help. Which requires, yeah, money.

As you know, this blog has never been about money. It has always been about trying to build a community. No advertising. No clickbait. None of that stuff. Sure, I might have asked you to buy a book or two, and maybe you did, maybe you didn’t (did I mention I have a Houdini book coming out next spring …)

So the question at hand is: Do I create a Patreon for this blog to try to get it going again? The idea of Patreon as I understand it — and I readily admit I don’t fully understand it — is that people are asked to chip in a little money per month to get stories or art or video or whatever plus various other PBS tote-bag like perks. It seems to me the idea is more about chipping in to keep the project going than it is about a straight subscription thing. At least that’s how I understand it.

I’m still trying to work out the details. I guess what I’m asking is if you would be willing to come along and pay some money for regular stuff on this blog. Baseball 100. Crazy rabbit hole dives. Springsteen worship. Infomercials. All that stuff. It’s perfectly fine if you’re not, I get it. My kids wouldn’t pay to read this blog, and half of it is ABOUT them.

But would love to hear from you in the comments as I try to figure this out.

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Links for May 4

Loved this one: Went back 30 years to look at the astonishing 0-21 start of the 1988 Baltimore Orioles.

On MLB.com, I riff off the recent Sporting News story let’s talk about the very real possibility that Nick Markakis will finish with 3,000 hits.

The Athletic: Our friend Negro Leagues Museum president Bob Kendrick, every now and again, comes across an amazing idea. The Hall of Game is one of those ideas.

 

 

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Links for May 1

Our baseball roundup, featuring Oakland early-season sensation Sean Manaea, who is getting people out by pitching slower.

For The Athletic: LeBron.

For The Athletic: That crazy Yankees-Twins thing (featuring Michael Schur)

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By In Stuff

Some personal news

You probably know this but, whew, the business I’m in has changed. I’m sure this is true for every business, but I don’t know about any other business. I barely understand my own business. When I became a sportswriter some 30 years ago, there was a clear path for dummies like me. You started at a small newspaper and made your bones.  If you were lucky, a slightly larger newspaper might call. If you did well there, an even larger newspaper might give you a shot, and then an even larger one.

Rock Hill, S.C. to Augusta, Ga. to the afternoon paper in Cincinnati to the Kansas City Star.

This was my path but, more, this was THE path. Newspapers were the life then. When I got to be the columnist in Kansas City I had arrived at the greatest job my mind could comprehend. And the job was even better than I imagined it would be. I was home.

Then Sports Illustrated called with a job BEYOND my comprehension, the job I only dared to dream about when no one was looking.

And … well, you know what happened next. The Internet happened. Progress happened. There was a time, not so long ago, when you got newspaper for a million reasons: The coupons, movie times, car ads, real estate ads, the comics, your horoscope, a crossword puzzle, a Jumble, to find out where yard sales were, to look for a job, to check out the box scores, to check out stock prices, to buy a used sofa and, oh yeah, to read about the news and to learn about trends and to find out what the local sports team was doing. Think about the apps that do each and every one of these things now.

Newspapers began shriveling up. Magazines began feeling outdated. The news — well, we don’t have the bandwidth here to talk about what happened to the news. The point is that everything changed. The challenge is to change with it.

And I have changed. A lot. SI. Sports on Earth. NBC Sports. MLB. It has been a whirlwind. I’ve loved every place I’ve worked, I really have. Always though there was a shift that pushed me in another direction.

So, I’ve got a couple of things happening in my life — maybe you care, maybe you don’t, but this is my blog so I’ll tell you.

One, I will continue to write at MLB.com, a terrific place. I’ll be writing three times a week. On Tuesdays and Fridays, I’ll be writing columns — usually live off of something trendy and live in the news. And every Thursday, this should be fun, I’ll be doing a Throwback Thursday piece where I go back into baseball history and tell a story. There will be other surprises here and there, but that’s the bulk of it.

Two, I’m proud to say that beginning today, I will be writing columns for The Athletic. You are probably aware of The Athletic because they basically been hiring amazing people just about every other day; it’s really cool to be a part of it. I’m still working on the schedule, but I imagine I’ll be writing twice or so a week to start and it will be about every sport. We kick off today with a piece about the Cleveland Browns draft.

The Athletic, you might know (or you will figure out if you clicked that link) is a subscription service. As part of my start, they’re offering a sweet discount with this link — just $2.99 per month. Look, you know I don’t sell stuff on this blog but even if you never intend to read a single thing I write, $2.99 per month for the amazing people at The Athletic — Ken Rosenthal, Seth Davis, Johnette Howard, Dana O’Neil, look, I don’t even KNOW all the amazing people who work there yet — is an impossibly awesome deal. Three bucks. Come on. You can’t get anything for three bucks.

Three: Mike Schur are trying something new with The PosCast. We will have a special bonus PosCast at some point in the next couple of weeks and then we are starting the new season of the PosCast on July 17. So what is this “new” thing we’re trying? Well, I can’t go into all the details but I can tell you that we intend to improve our PosCast recording success rate (up from the 37% we’re at now) and would like to improve the sound from “voices coming from inside a garbage dumpster” to “noise that will not cause your dog to hide in the pantry.”

There are other things happening, and I’ll share with you as we go. There’s a famous Chinese curse that is loosely translated as, “May you live in interesting times.” Well, I don’t know if it’s a curse. But these are interesting times.

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By In Stuff

The King of Fouls

On Sunday, San Francisco’s Brandon Belt had an at-bat for the ages against Los Angeles’ Jaime Barria. First inning, Belt was the second batter of the game. He fouled off 16 pitches. Yes, Belt fouled off 16 pitches, including 11 in a row. He eventually flew out, but that 21 pitch at-bat is the longest at-bat since we started recording such things.

Naturally, instead of qualifying it like that — longest since we started recording such things — people started calling it the longest at-bat EVER, which brought out the history folks, including Keith Olbermann.

Sure, you may have heard this one before — Hall of Famer Luke Appling supposedly fouled off 24 pitches in a single at-bat. Is that real? Did it happen?

Sounds like a rabbit hole to me.

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