Friday, July 9, 2010

In honor of the mid-summer classic, I present my all-time MLB team.

A discussion in the dugout this afternoon sparked my interest in making this post, and with the MLB All-Star Game close at hand, I felt it was the right time to unveil my all-time MLB team. Below I will post a position by position roster and lineup with discussion on why I made each selection. Feel free to comment, post your own teams or irrationally attack my selections!

The Starting Nine

C - Mike Piazza - Yeah, yeah, he couldn't throw... So what? With the pitching staff I've assembled, I don't think he'll need to/ What he could do though, is MASH. The guy clubbed 427 homers during his career and hit .308 lifetime. There is no question he is the most productive offensive catcher to ever play the game, and despite common (and incorrect) opinion based on his poor throwing arm, he was a very good defensive catcher. If you don't believe me, ask some of the guys who threw to him. remember, the position is called CATCHER, not thrower to seconder. In addition to his incredible stats, he was a 12 time All-Star and won 10 Silver Sluggers... That's a little award they give to the best offensive player in the league, no big deal.

1B - Lou Gehrig - Let's face it, there have been a slew of fantastic first baseman in the history of the game, in fact, one is playing for the Cardinals right now. Albert Pujols might one day ascend to be the greatest first baseman to ever play, but he's still got to make up ground on this monster. Gehrig's career line: .340 batting average, .447 on base percentage, and .632 slugging with 493 dingers and 1995 RBI's - that's an average of 143 per year. The Machine (Pujols if you live in a tool shed) is pretty damned impressive, but all of those numbers I just mentioned? Yep, they're all higher than Albert's. Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention that Gehrig scored an amazing 1888 runs during his career batting BEHIND Babe Ruth. Not impressed? You might also recall the Iron Horse set the original games played streak, and who knows how much longer he'd have kept it going if illness didn't end his career prematurely.

2B - Rogers Hornsby - Hornsby's .358 career batting average is second only to Cobb's. That alone warrants mention, especially considering he played in the big leagues for over 20 years. He also smashed 301 long balls and posted a .400 or better average 3 times in his career. His mark of .424 in 1924 still stands as the highest batting average since baseball became baseball at the turn of the century. "The Rajah", as they called him, is one of a very select group of ballplayers to hold a career OPS of over 1000, and he anchored the Cardinals' lineup during the legendary "Gashouse Gang" years. Not only that, but he apparently called Jimmy Dugan, Tom Hank's character in A League of Their Own "a talking pile of pig shit." This alone would get him on my club, but here it's just icing on the cake.

3B - Alex Rodriguez - There really aren't a ton of third baseman who have posted legendary type numbers. Mike Schmidt comes to mind, and Chipper Jones (as much as I'm not a fan) is a future Hall of Famer, but the list doesn't go much deeper. Even if it did, A-Rod's .304 lifetime average, 597 homers, 1773 RBI's, and 299 steals would separate him from the pack. He's already out performed Schmidt and Jones in every meaningful category, and for those of you who want to scream "but Mike was a great defender!" can cram it too! A-Rod has a pair of Gold Gloves on his shelf, and plays a fantastic third base. Add that to 12 All-Star appearances, 10 Silver Sluggers, 4 Hank Aaron Awards, and 3 MVP's, and you've got one hell of a trophy collection. Let's not forget that he's led the league in bleezo's and runs 5 times, RBI's twice, slugging 4 times, and won a batting title. Oh, by the way, he's a 40-40 clubber too. 1st ballot Hall of Fame, and he gets to play the hot corner for yours truly.

SS - Derek Jeter - "HERESY!!", you cry! I think not. Honus Wagner doesn't qualify for 2 reasons, 1. He played in the 1800's for part of his career. 2. He played the OF for a good portion of his career. "Well, there has to be someone besides Jeter doesn't there??" Ok, who? Robin Yount? Nope, he played alot of CF and Jeets has put up better numbers in fewer seasons in the Majors. Luke Appling? Great player, but still doesn't match Jeter's production. Ozzie Smith you say? The Wizard was a phenom with the leather, but you've got to play both ways to make my team. "Surely Cal Ripken was better!" Yeah, Ripken never took a day off and he did beat 431 balls over the wall in his 21 years in the big leagues, but for my money, I'm still taking the Captain. Jeets is hitting .316 for his career thus far, and though he doesn't have as much thunder as Cal, his lifetime slugging and on base are both far better, and he's scored 1631 runs to Ripken's 1647 in 5 fewer years in the league. He's also swiped 314 bags, won 4 Gold Gloves and been a World Series MVP. I bet that trophy is right next to his ring vault. Take that, Robin Yount.

LF - Barry Bonds - Steroids, schmeroids. I know we all want to hate Bonds because he was often douchey with the press and isn't a very likeable personality. I know we want to crucify him because he played in the steroid era and has been connected with the BALCO deal. Get over it. Before he got swole, he'd already collected 3 MVP's, made the 40-40 club, and been the hands-down best player in baseball for 10 years. The guy hit 762 dingers and we ran him out of the league. Maybe without the juice he'd have only hit 700, but with the extra years he'd have played I don't think it would have mattered. The man walked 2558 times in his career. That's more than another pretty good ball player that wore number 3 for the Yankees. Of those free passes 232 came in one season. TWO HUNDRED AND THIRTY-TWO!!! 120 were intentional. No one has ever inspired fear in an opposing team the same way Bonds did. Buck Showalter actually intentionally walked him with the bases LOADED. Twice. Bonds won 8 Gloves in his career, along with 14 Silver Sluggers and All-Star appearances. He was an MVP seven times. You can say his career means nothing because he padded his numbers at the end all you want, but he's playing left and batting third for me.

CF - Willie Mays - Alot of Ken Griffey Jr. fans are probably foaming at the mouth right now, but the numbers speak for themselves. Mays hit .302 with 660 homers, 1903 RBI's, and 338 stolen bases in his career. He also posted an on base of .384 and a slugging of .557. Every single one of those numbers is better than what Griffey was able to produce. I don't give credit for games missed to injury, either. Maybe Griffey would have bested each of those marks, but we'll never know will we? Mays made an incredible 24 All-Star games, he won 11 Gold Gloves in center field, and he was named MVP of the National League twice. The Say Hey Kid played in golden era of centerfielders in New York, competing with the likes of Mickey Mantle and Duke Snider, both of whom also in the Hall of Fame. With the exception of Barry Bonds, Mays is considered by many to be the greatest all around ballplayer to have ever lived. I guess in this case, I'm lucky to have them both playing right next to each other!

RF - Babe Ruth - C’mon, did you really think it would be anyone else? Sure, Hank Aaron was great. He played in almost 1000 more games than Ruth did and only truly outperformed him in a couple categories despite the huge disparity. Maybe Hammerin’ Hank was a better defender, but we tend to forget that Ruth didn’t just hit home runs, 714 of them to be exact, he also pounded out a career .342 average, and he set (then) records for walks, runs, and RBI’s. His career OPS of 1.164 is astonishing, and if they’d had awards back then, he’d have won them all. In 1921 his 59 homers were more than any other TEAM in the American League. The intentional walk was invented to keep Ruth from creating souvenirs. Hard to believe he was a winning pitcher in a World Series BEFORE his hitting made him a legend. Modern baseball is played the way it is because Ruth changed the way the game was played back then. He was the first slugger, and he’s eating hot dogs, calling his shots, and shagging fly balls in right field for me.

DH - First off, I hate the DH, but it exists, so get off my ass already. That said, Ted Williams - Sure, I could put Teddy ballgame in right field for a defensive upgrade and let Ruth DH, but I’m not gonna be the guy who doesn’t let the Bambino get as much face time with the crowd as possible. Williams is one of the greatest hitters there has ever been, period. He sports a .344 career average, he blasted 521 home runs, and if he wasn’t busy flying planes in WWII and Korea for 4 years you could have easily added another 130 bombs (pun intended) to his tally. Williams won the batting title 7 times in his career, made every All-Star team he was eligible for, and won the Triple Crown twice. He would have won it a third time too, if his .343 average in ’49 wasn’t just the second best in the league that year. As a side note, Ted wrote a pretty sweet book, too. Anyone who likes baseball should pick it up. I’m not sure if it applies point by point across the board anymore, but it still have a heck of a lot of value.

The Bench

Catcher - Ivan Rodriguez - You’ve gotta have 2 catchers, and I know all you Johnny Bench fans are gonna have a meltdown, but Pudge is just better.

IF - Albert Pujols - There, are ya happy, he’s on the club, he just ain’t startin over the Iron Horse.

IF - Ozzie Smith - Ok, so there are plenty of guys who could out hit him, but no one could out glove him. IF I’m going to a SS off the bench, it’s for his defense.

OF - Mickey Mantle - Greatest switch hitter to play the game and one of the most beloved characters in MLB history. Mostly I just wanna see him swing the bat like a caveman and hit mammoth home runs.

OF - Hank Aaron - Can’t keep this guy off the roster. No doubt one of the greatest ever.

OF - Ty Cobb - You’ve got to have the career batting average leader on the roster, right? Hell yeah you do, and besides, this guy would literally KILL you to win a game. That’s the intensity I want on my ballclub!

How They’ll Hit

1. Rogers Hornsby

2. Alex Rodriguez

3. Barry Bonds

4. Babe Ruth

5. Lou Gehrig

6. Ted Williams

7. Willie Mays

8. Mike Piazza

9. Derek Jeter

I know, do I really want to hit 4 lefties back to back? Hell yes I do, Koufax is pitching for us, so I’m not too worried!

The Starting Five

Walter Johnson - The Big Train mowed down everybody he faced. He also managed to do it while playing for a bad team. He won 417 games in his 20 year career, while striking out 3508 hitters and posting a 2.17 CAREER ERA. Not bad. Maybe it was the dead ball era, but I’m running this guy every 5th day.

Roger Clemens - Read my statements on Bonds above. The Rocket is probably the actual best of all-time. When you take into consideration the guys he played against, the fact that he dominated in the steroid era (even if he used em too), and his gaudy numbers, there is no way you can argue against him being in this group.

Randy Johnson - Johnson’s winning percentage is ludicrous. His strikeout total is second only one man. He won 5 Cy Young awards. He’s super tall and really ugly. What more could you want from the third man in your dream rotation?

Greg Maddux - Alright, he looks like a Math teacher, I’ll give you that. Regardless, this guy could pitch. He was the ultimate control pitcher, and possibly the best control artist of all time. He managed to collect 4 Cy Young awards en route to his 355 career wins. Oh yeah, don’t bunt on him, either, he won 18 Gold Gloves. And you say PFP is a waste of time…

By the way, I feel I should mention that Cy Young is not on my team. I have my reasons.

Sandy Koufax - Did I just put a guy who played half as long as every one else on this list on my all time team?? You’re damned right I did. Maybe Koufax’s career stats won’t boggle your mind, but he was the best pitcher in baseball for 7 years, and I’d bet anyone that had to face him would tell you that no one has ever been better.

The Pen

Steve Carlton - Steve’s slider was the best pitch in baseball for close to 20 years. I hate the Phillies, but there’s no way I wouldn’t put this guy on my roster somewhere.

Bob Gibson - His ERA in ’68 was 1.12. Also, Tim McCarver, who I think is the biggest douche-bag in the history of the game, went out to visit him once. Gibson looked at him and said “What the hell are you doing out here? The only thing you know about pitching is that it’s hard to hit, now get your fat ass back behind the plate where it belongs.” I’d have voted him into the Hall just for that.

Pedro Martinez - Jerry curl or not, Pedro was pretty nasty. By putting him on this team I won’t have to worry about him waking “up the Bambino… Maybe I’ll drill him in the ass.” I also won’t have to worry about him losing a ball game after he gets the nod.

Tom Seaver - “The Franchise”. What else is there to say? They literally nicknamed him The Franchise.

The Closer

Mariano Rivera - The guy has been throwing one pitch at one speed in one place for 15 years and there still isn’t anyone who can hit him. If I need 3 outs to win a game, he’s my guy, end of story.

So there you have it, my all-time MLB team. Love it, hate it, whatever. Comment away with your own teams and feel free to bash mine!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Many meetings... Ok well, one meeting.

The 2010-2011 Pirates met as a team for the first time today. No, we’re not having illegal practices, we held our annual mid-summer meeting. Overall, the meeting went fine, we got our guys registered for classes and covered a large chunk of information that they will need, but will likely forget by the time we get going in August.

The funny thing about this sort of information only, parent/player meeting is that we look forward to seeing everyone, but we walk in knowing we’re about to willfully throw ourselves into about an hour of post-meeting chaos.

The part of the meeting that goes smoothly is the part where Coach Thomas and I basically go over all the stuff our guys need to know to get going in the fall. The part that gets a little hectic is when we unleash the registration packets and start picking out classes. For returning guys, this part takes about 5 minutes. They know what they’ve taken, they know what they need, and they’re familiar enough with the process that they don’t spend too much time pondering their class options. The incoming freshmen are a bit of a different story. No one wants to get off on a bad foot in the classroom, even the guys who wish they never have to set foot in one. With that in mind, they sit down with several sheets of paper outlining the available class options and start putting together our schedule.

Where it gets interesting is in the conversations discussing the importance of this class over that class. It is a perfectly normal concern that most parents have worrying that their son is taking too many tough classes right off, or too many light classes right off, or that he’s going to be put into classes that won’t actually help him graduate. Even for me, it might be difficult to look down and think “You mean to tell me that typing or weight training will help my son graduate??” Hopefully, our moms and dads left today with a better understanding of how the whole system works.

The best part of the day is getting the chance to sit and speak with families and players that I haven’t gotten to know very well yet. I know we’re talking about class, but it is still nice to spend a few minutes discussing things and getting a feel for who I’m going to be dealing with for the next two years. If today is a good measuring stick, it should be another very successful couple of seasons.

So that was today, getting registered, telling guys not to be late, and to show up in shape. We’re one step closer to moving in and kicking this thing off in the fall.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Nolan Ryan, where are you?

It wasn’t that long ago when your typical pitcher threw 9 innings almost every time out and the closer was a term that had yet to be invented. In the big leagues, the complete game is becoming exceedingly rare, presumably because pitchers are being paid ludicrous sums of money, and if they are derailed by injury, their ball club is out a player and a boat load of money.

As with most things that happen in the big leagues, we start to see a trickle down effect to all other levels of baseball whenever Major League teams start doing something different. How long after the designated hitter was implemented was it before college and high schools adopted the rule? Let’s keep in mind too, that the DH was meant to be a vessel for aging stars to stay in the league a few more years to help drive revenue and fan support…

How about the recent addition of helmets to base coaches? This rule stemmed from a coach being killed by a line drive during a game. The ball hit him in the neck, so I’m not sure what the little cap on the top of our head is really doing to protect us. It was obviously a window dressing answer to a frequently debated topic so that Major League Baseball could say they addressed a safety issue, and the bleeding hearts would be satisfied that action was taken. These bleeding hearts are the same people that outlawed breaking up double plays in amateur baseball and require warnings to be issued anytime a ball is thrown too far inside. The real fruits of these labors, by the way, are that players actually get upset when they are taken out by a slide or knocked back by a pitch. We haven’t made them safer, we’ve made them a bunch of pansies that don’t like aggressive competition.

I’m getting off track… The point of this blog post is to talk about pitch counts, and how we use pitchers in the college game. I find it hard to imagine that 15 years ago, an 18 year old athlete could routinely throw 130 pitches and 7-9 innings every time out, but now, even with advances in training and recovery, we can only ask a guy to throw 100 pitches and we get worried after he hits the 5th or 6th innings. We actually have pitchers come in to ask how many pitches they’ve thrown, as if knowing that number will somehow have an effect on their game. We have guys that don’t want to participate in team drills or fundamentals because they threw a bullpen that day or pitched a couple days before. That’s probably a reason why PFP’s (pitcher’s fielding practice) kill so many teams at our level. 18-20 year old guys are actually convinced that they cannot participate in the days following an outing or pen.

“Alright coach, what’s your theory?” I’m glad you asked. Guys need to throw more often. They need to throw longer. They need to learn the difference between being sore and being injured. I’m not saying we should be overusing young arms and forcing guys to put themselves in danger. What I’m saying is that we need to stop being so prissy and that we shouldn’t be “careful” unless there is a good reason, such as a prior injury, or other such circumstance. Young players need to understand that they are not Major Leaguers, and standards that apply to multi-millionaires probably don’t transfer down very well to teenagers. I find it laughable that we actually get nervous when a guy gets near 85 or 90 pitches. It isn’t their fault either, it’s ours as coaches. We should be teaching players to expect a little more than what the television says is acceptable for 27 year old millionaires who have a lot more to lose.