Monthly Archives: March 2009

The style remains the same

Ken Griffey, Jr., is a little thicker in the legs and the waist, but the swing remains the same. I saw him in a Spring Training game on TV; he with the same relaxed stance with his hands close in, near his neck. Legs pretty straight, a little rockety rock through the hips, head cocked towards the pitcher. With the swing, his hands move in that protractor-grade arc and the bat moves on such an assured plane that it suggests the pitch was thrown to the path of the bat, that the swing is the constant element in the equation, and that the pitch just meets it where it always is. His front leg stays straight, his back leg gives a little. The swing is over in an instant.

It’s the same swing that I saw when I saw Griffey as a kid, when the Kid was a kid, proving in one sense that as age and ability evolve–increasing in the case of the former and diminishing in the case of the latter–style will kick it around for a while. Style is what stirs the embers of sense memory and emotion. Griffey’s swing stirs the embers, while his home run count does not.

I watch baseball through this style lens. A result, probably, of all the time I spent on the bench. My baseball career spanned a couple of decades–a run that took me through D-3 college ball–the last six or seven years of which I spent backing up better catchers than I. In other words, I did a lot of watching, a lot of ruminating about the games progressing on the other side of the chain link fence. When you aren’t in the game, making quick decisions and throwing yourself around, the currency that you rely on most for entertainment and for insight is style. The stances and swings of my college teammates are as familiar to me as those of Bagwell, Biggio and Berkman (my hometown heroes) and as characteristic as a smile.

Devo, an outfielder with a puckish grin whom I once met up with on his home island of St. John, USVI (he was floating in blue water up to his neck, with his sunglasses on): he held his hands by his waist so that the top of the bat made it maybe up to the top of his head, and he swiveled his hips Griffey-like before improbably cranking the ball. Ethan, a senior who looked to my freshman eyes like a 35-year-old: from a deep crouch he jerked the bat up and down again in the box, unloading from the left side of the plate and letting his front toe fly in the follow through; firmly in the Barry Bonds school. Danny Dynamite, my friend and roommate and an academic masochist: he held his arms straight out behind him as if they were pinned in place.

You can tell a really good friend from 200 yards just by the way he walks, or takes a walk.

Baseball observers swim in deep, still waters, the slow, satisfying current of which is familiarity. Griffey, Jr., is that current for now, and though he’ll be gone from the big game sometime soon, I’ll bet that his swing will be the same when he’s eighty.

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The flash and the slow burn: the oceans and tide pools of fantasy baseball

Stare long enough at the fantasy baseball draft window on your widescreen monitor and it starts to look like a roster of high school crushes; people that you used to know or should’ve known better but were quickly forgotten in favor of the latest. The names scroll by, picked by others, gathered up as quickly as you could think of them and the only way to think of them is “ah well, he’s probably not what I was looking for anyhow,” or “it wouldn’t have worked out anyhow,” orĀ  “all the better that he’s gone before I could go and screw it up.”

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bigPumaLinks, March 13 edition

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PS#’s MLB 09: The Show is drawing rave reviews from critics and crowdsources. GameSpot

Negative World Baseball Classic columns continue to bash stupid positivity, hoping, I guess, to tip the scales. Philly.com

Jason Kottke asks: “do athletes see themselves as two different entities?” Kottke.org

Via Joe Posnanski, the MLB Network sums up the PECOTA prediction system, ends up talking too much. YouTube

Hanshin Tigers cite curse of handless, muck-covered Colonel Sanders. Mainichi Daily News

“Yankees’ backup 3rd baseman woken up”. The Onion

Writer goes to umpire school, meditates on the strike zone and its airyness. via ShysterBall

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Watching the World Baseball Classic: The grumbling gives way to the Game

World Baseball Classic logo

The WBC is in full swing.

I’ve been watching a good amount of the World Baseball Classic, on the MLB Network, ESPN2 and, most awesomely, on ESPN360 at my leisure, and the early going warrants, I think, some commentary:

First off, clearly the amount of low-hum perturbia surrounding major leaguers in the tournament missed the point and the mark, and that includes those offering up those omniavailable enshrinable columnistic gems: “Does anyone care about the World Baseball Classic?” often followed closely by “Not me.”

Appearances would suggest that the players care about the World Baseball Classic: I watched Pudge Rodriguez get good and ticked when he missed a high cheesy Netherlandish slider; later he and teammate Yadier Molina celebrated the younger catcher’s go ahead hit with even greater intensity. The Italians–loose as that definition might be–looked every bit as invested as the PRs. Mark DeRosa of Team USA pumped a fist after busting it for a triple against the Venezuelans. D. Pedroia laid out on Astro-carpet to field a sharp grounder and make a play to first.

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