Monday, July 07, 2008

I Care


On the very first day I ever played The Great Game, the learning process began (I remember being six years old and being taught how to bat).

On the very last day I ever played a real hardball game--at Age 34 while still playing Semi-Pro Baseball, that schooling never stopped.

Now--nearly 15 years later--I find myself still studying the great game of baseball.

Never have I stopped. Never do I EVER want to stop learning. Never have I not CARED.

So, why is it that some Major League Players today have never understood the game?

Over my entire career playing baseball--I probably played in a few thousand games and practices--covering 28 years. A Major League Player with five years in The Bigs--has most likely competed in over twice that many games and practices in his young career. Cal Ripken, Jr. most likely played and practiced baseball over 10,000 days. Cal understood how to play the game--because he cared and was taught properly. He worked at it--to improve. Thank You Cal!! That's why I have always loved you so much!!

Yet, so many players today don't possess the same qualities. Not even close.

And let's be perfectly clear, this issue of baseball players being unable to make the fundamental play is League Wide, both American and National. This is not a problem solely at the feet of Our Washington Nationals.

Why is it that so few can not square around to bunt the baseball? Why are so many continually jabbing at the baseball why trying to lay one down? Why can't today's players not keep their bat still and let the ball hit it?

Why is it that so few players are patient at the plate? Why is it that so few batters can take a pitch? Especially with an opposing pitcher in trouble?

Why can't fielders cover the proper base? Why do so many not backup plays? Why is the cutoff man often missed?

Why do so many pitchers only throw? Not Pitch?

It's a game. Let's learn how to play it Guys. It's not that difficult.

Sorry, but when I grew up in the 1960's in Alexandria, Virginia, even Our Little League Coaches taught EACH AND EVERY PLAYER THESE BASIC SKILLS. My T.J. Fannon Little League Team may not have been The Best, but we could make The Routine Play. The same holds true for my High School Years at (The Famous) T.C. Williams and then in college ball. Learning the fundamentals came as a youngster. Enhancing my learned skills and talent was what professional ball was all about.

Unfortunately, injuries curtailed my career.

But for so many others--they don't have that excuse.

Why is it that many of today's Major Leaguers can't play the game--properly?

Are there not enough youth coaches out there who actually understand the game?

Are there not enough High School and College programs with competent instruction?

Are there not enough youngsters and adults that want to play and teach the proper ways of baseball?

Or, has the all Glory of Fame and MONEY made too many players--too one dimensional--thanks to agents and handlers having their own personal wants and desires over the talent?

This coming August, my age will reach 49 years. No, I am not as physical, agile or adept as my younger years--although I still work out regularly--swimming 12,000 Meters per week. Age catches up on you, whether I want to admit it or not. But, I will guarantee you that if Our Washington Nationals asked me to advance a runner up one base--I could execute it--more times than not--with a solid bunt.

If a ball was hit into the gap--I would know where to stand for the cutoff throw (I played first base).

If an opposing pitcher was in trouble, you could bet I would patient at the plate--not guaranteeing a hit you understand--but at least I would make the honest effort to work the count.

That's how you play the game. That's the sixth sense learned early on and developed over years and years of play by me.

Instincts and Basic Knowledge missing from some Professional Players today. That's disappointing. I just don't understand it. Who is teaching these guys? Do some of the players just not care? Or is it all just about the money?

It's a legitimate question--not laid just on Our Washington Nationals.

Since that very first days as a six year old in 1965 holding a baseball bat in my little hands--I cared about the game. 43 Years later, I care just as much. Unfortunately, I get the feeling others do not.

Yet, they call themselves, Major League Baseball Players. For them, it's just a job. A place to earn a paycheck.

21 comments:

Andrew said...

SBF wrote....Why is it that many of today's Major Leaguers can't play the game--properly?

Great Blog tonight!!!! I don't think CAN'T is the word, as I think I would insert "DON'T WANNA".

It is much easier to jog to first base and to "hot dog" in the field and try to throw out a runner and miss a cut-off and ignore the bunt sign from the 3rd base coach and screw off in practice.

Do you remember when we were kids we use to catch with 2 hands and ran out the pop-ups and knew how to set up the correct cut-off for the hit to LF with a runner on 2nd base?

rkmert said...

This is something I've wondered for years. You very rarely see anyone square both feet around to bunt anymore. More often than not, they just drop the back leg and hardly slide their hand up the bat. Bunting is a lost art which leads to MANY lost opportunities!

JayB said...

Boy to I hear you on this one!

As one who had a somewhat similar life in baseball, these issues are at the heart of my frustration with the Nationals. I was promised a much different experience from Stan and Manny. I feel betrayed by Acta and I am angry. He promised, he would teach the game and play the players who would learn. That has not happened and in fact is getting worse. The team and Acta seems to be ignoring the promises they made about what type of baseball the Nats would represent and this is causing me to rethink my loyalty to the team at worst and at best it is really pissing me off.

JayB said...

You know, the game is being taught at the High School level correctly in this area in several programs.

I have been associated with a program that has won at the state level and is always competitive because they do all the fundamentals. They are getting a steady steam of players from the community programs that are well versed in fundamentals. This program is not producing draft picks (none in the past 10 years) but they play hard, they play right and they win year after year regardless of the talent level. In good years they go to states in down years the win the district.

This just shows me it can be done at any level and what the Nationals promised is not being done. Acta has let me down to date, but I think the real problem is Jimbo.

I find myself watching more and more none Nats games on TV. The game is being played correctly at the MLB level in many cases but not all by any means. Nats are at the very bottom of the baseball I have seen this year.

JayB said...

Final though....Jimbo does not understand that issues you raise. He is clearly the problem in my eyes. Any GM that would sell a player like J. Carroll for $400k in return does not understand baseball.

Jim H said...

SBF, JayB...

Just curious...when you were learning the game, playing the game growing up, did you use wood or aluminum bats?

Like SBF, I'm 48. When I was playing the game, it was with the wooden bat. I do believe the aluminum bat instills fear to pitching in side and a reluctance to do anything but swing away. This has a profound impact on development of pitchers and hitters.

Just curious.

Kirk Gray said...

Great post here - my fiancee has been a faithful student of the game over our six years together - she even points it out when three or four straight hitters have walked or gone to three ball counts, only to have Milledge, Guzman, or any of the other AAAA players out there hit a popup or a weak grounder on the first pitch. Same goes for the numerous air-mailings of cutoff men, and other simple plays like the second basemen not sneaking over to the bag when the shortstop is taking the cutoff throw - all stuff we learn through little league and into high school and beyond. It's embarrassing that these guys are getting paid thousands per game and look so lost.

JayB said...

Used some wood early one but by Babe Ruth League in California I was using my Easton 33 inch 31 Oz.....you SBF?

Screech's Best Friend said...

jimh--growing up, I used wood bats through my sophomore year in High School. Then switched to Aluminum just like about everyone else. Used both in College. Wood professionally. Nothing like wood. The Crack over Ping any time.

Always hit a 34", aluminum 31 OZ, Wood 32 OZ

Remember vividly, my brother Michael, a top pitcher, complaining about how the aluminum bat allowed dink hits off the handle from a batter where normally he would have sawed off the hitter's bat. The first time I realized Aluminum was changing the game. Of course he also didn't complain about CRUSHING the baseball over the fence just about every single At-Bat. Metal killed the ball even on poor swings, and changed pitching tactics.

Aluminum Bat completely changed the game and thirty some odd years later, it still affects young hitters adjusting to the real game played professionally.

Thank to The Cape Cod League, young talent can still learn by using wood bats only.

Andrew said...

I noticed one large difference between Ryan Zimmerman circa 2006 under Frank Robinson and 2007 under Manny Acta---in 2006 Ryan batted a healthy .287 with 11 bunt singles compared to .266 in 2007 with 1 bunt single. Before anyone says bunting affects your overall slugging, it will if you aren't getting extra base hits, but in Ryan's case he had a higher slugging % in 2006 at .471 compared to .458 last year. RBI's were much higher in 2006 too.

So on March 28, 2008 after the Nats 1st practice, I was in a Q&A with Jim Bowden. I threw out the question I have been waiting to ask since the end of the 2007 season----will Manny allow Ryan to bunt more this season, and JimBo's response was kind of that isn't Manny's plan. I then threw back Zim's incredible bunting stats and JimBo kind of shrugged his shoulders and was on to the next question.

Zim isn't the bunting problem obviously brought up here in teaching sound fundamentals as he is one of the best I have ever seen at bunting for the single! The bigger issue is Manny's new school attitude vs. being prepared with the basic fundamentals.

Outside of Tim Redding and Odalis Perez I haven't seen too many good bunters in 2008 (Milledge has made a few). Pitchers have to know how to bunt in the National League. Lannan and Bergmann have hurt their own causes due to their inability to bunt. Willie Harris and FLop have been horrific in bunting situations to the point they rarely are given the bunt sign any more. It was embarrassing during inter-league to see the Seattle Mariners pitchers could bunt.

In 2007, Nook Logan would spend extra time bunting as he wasn't good at it and he seemed to improve.

I think jayb summed it up well as far as 2008 has gone...I was promised a much different experience from Stan and Manny. I feel betrayed by Acta and I am angry. He promised, he would teach the game and play the players who would learn. That has not happened and in fact is getting worse. The team and Acta seems to be ignoring the promises they made about what type of baseball the Nats would represent...

This is my biggest beef with Manny in the fundamentals. I will re-post my top issues.

#1) DON'T WALK OPPOSING PITCHERS. THAT'S THE BIG ADVANTAGE OF NL BASEBALL THAT YOU GET TO PITCH TO OPPOSING PITCHERS

#2) TEACH THESE HITTERS LIKE FLop, WILLIE HARRIS and KORY CASTO and PITCHERS LIKE BERGMANN, LANNAN, etc. HOW TO LAY DOWN A GOOD BUNT AS IT IS GETTING REAL OLD WATCHING MISSED OPPORTUNITIES.

#3) SMART BASE RUNNING. FOR EXAMPLE, IN A NON-FORCE SITUATION WITH LESS THAN 2 OUTS AND THE BALL HIT TO THE SHORTSTOP----THINK ABOUT STAYING AT 2ND BASE. MILLEDGE HAS BEEN THROWN OUT TWICE DOING THAT AND THEY ARE INNING KILLERS. ALSO RUNNING PAST THE BASE AND TAGGED OUT IS A "NO-NO" and GETTING THROWN OUT STEALING 3RD BASE (ESPECIALLY WITH 2 OUTS).

#4) HOW MANY MORE TIMES (WHEN WE ARE BEHIND IN A GAME) ARE YOU GOING TO BAT A RELIEF PITCHER IN A NON-BUNTING SITUATION. I KNOW YOUR ANSWER IS YOU NEEDED ANOTHER INNING OUT OF YOUR PITCHER, BUT THAT IS WHY WE HAVE MORE THAN 1 RELIEF PITCHER

#5) WHEN A PREVIOUS BATTER IS WALKED ON 4 PITCHES, PLEASE GIVE THE NEXT BATTER THE "TAKE" SIGN UNTIL HE SEES A STRIKE.

#6) USE PINCH RUNNERS (non-position players like pitchers if late in game) TO RUN FOR DMITRI YOUNG. FROM JUNE 21ST TO JULY 4TH, DMITRI WAS STRANDED ON BASE 3 TIMES DURING THE 6TH INNING OF ALL 3 GAMES WHERE HE LED OFF THE INNING WITH A SINGLE OR A DOUBLE PLUS HE IS A HUGE DEFENSIVE LIABILITY LATE IN GAMES.

#7) OUTFIELDERS SHOULD NOT ON PURPOSE THROW OVER OR AROUND A CUT-OFF MAN.

SenatorNat said...

We are a small band of brothers and sisters, apparently, who care, and study, and seek to know. Probably around 10,000 hard core fans - many of whom, like myself, would have given an arm to play MLB.

Bow-Bow, the company man manager who has read books on why most of what is being said in these posts today is not seeing the statistical big picture: essentially, Manny buys into Earl Weaver's concept that one three-run HR eclipses all these fine points. Easy to say with a line-up which can produce 250 HR's. Ridiculous to stay the course with a team on track to set a new low in the modern era for power numbers across the board.

Chicks dig the long-ball. So do all fans. But recall that Soriano hit 46 dingers, but was thrilling since he stole 44 bases, too. Dukes taking the extra base, EVERY TIME, has endeared him to us. Guys who hustle, back-up, hit the cut-off guy, block the plate, get the pitcher out (for God's sake) are noted over time by REAL FANS.


Which begs the question - are the Lerners REAL FANS? Where are they during these dismal days? In an undisclosed bunker with Wyoming Richard? Hiding with that missing iconic baseball - or in it?

Since the first half of 2005, the Nats have player three full seasons, playing 75 games under .500, undoubtedly worst in the majors: averging 25 games under per season. The team is approaching a crisis point with negative ripple effects occurring which could take years to reverse.

In a bidding war for big hitting and/or free agents (e.g. Orlando Hudson; Pat Burrell), I do not foresee Nats winning a comparable bid situation due to appearance that the team seems so far behind the winning curve. All the free agents of note play in beautiful new parks and they are all going to be sought by teams with new or in the Big Apple - Brand new stadia: so, that is not an attraction. Nats will have to make offers substantially above other suitors to carry the day.

The Plan is nothing to a free agent, really either, as they want to know what the team 2009 is going be able to do, I would think.

Finally, Manny is not knocking folks out the way Eddie Jordan did in the NBA this year by getting the Wiz to play decently with all star players hurt. He looks too content to play the string out. Not an attraction for the free agent, either. (And Lenny Harris should read today's account on how The Crow straightened up Huff's stance in order to correct his waving at outside curveballs, etc.)

Trust in the cyclical nature of sports. All Good.

An Briosca Mor said...

Which begs the question - are the Lerners REAL FANS? Where are they during these dismal days? In an undisclosed bunker with Wyoming Richard? Hiding with that missing iconic baseball - or in it?

On a competing blog I saw a report, complete with picture, of Mark Lerner in full Nats BP uniform shagging flies in centerfield at Nationals Park before a recent game. How's that for hiding, senatornat?

No sign of your iconic giant baseball, though. Perhaps it's time for you to move on from that Quixotic quest. Would have been tacky anyway, don'tcha know...

SenatorNat said...

ABM - Fast Eddie C. actually ordered Mark out there, as they are considering adding him to the 40 man roster for economic efficiencies. (Rotten parents to give train set to kid at Holiday Season if he can't play with it thereafter, don't you know, too...)

Iconic ball would have resembled Leasure World emblem, in all likelihood, I concur. It's absence is emblematic. I would be fine with giant statute over the message ring of Hondo - unique for sure, and more like a can of Green Giant Corn. (Which can make some great Charlie-Dave conversation for sure.)

Quixotic: Bow-Bow tilts at the windmills of "putting the band back together" i.e., reassembling those slugging Reds of a decade and less ago, who together
won - ????

Trust in Adam as first man - free agent 2009. All Good.

Anonymous said...

The Yankees are in need of a big hitting 1st baseman and Pat Burrell can definitely play 1st base so we won't get him, but we do have a shot at Orlando Hudson as the Yankees and Red Sox are set on 2nd basemen and hopefully the Mets and LA teams won't go after him so I see him as the only splash we can make in free agency. Don't you wish we could get Francisco Rodriguez aka KRod in the bullpen as he is a Free Agent.

I am just dreaming here.....

I am a fan of the Nats and will take our ups and downs----I just think with the money I have personally spent I can criticize the product.

Stan promised me a great fan experience.

Opening Night was amazing and some of the other 7 walk-off winners have been great too, but now I say "what have you done for me lately?".

I would take the losing pathetic pitching of 2006 with over 90 losses where I saw a glimmer of hope under Frank Robinson. I saw Frank turn Alfonso Soriano from 2nd baseman to LF and we all watched Ryan Zimmerman playing like a seasoned veteran and hit walk-offs and make great defensive plays and we saw the cast of characters they brought up hustle, hustle, hustle.

Manny showed us a 2007 with a glimpse into the future, and all I want along with our losses this year is to look like we are trying to win and play the game like it should be played.

Manny & Stan, please give us what you promised us. You didn't promise us 81 wins, you promised us the team would work hard, etc. (does anyone have the transcript dubbed the "promise").

Sure, we have a lot of key components of the team injured, but you can still play hard.

An Briosca Mor said...

we saw the cast of characters they brought up hustle, hustle, hustle

You seem to have a bit of a selective memory. Do the names Damian Jackson, Jose Vidro, Jose Guillen, Royce Clayton and catchers Wiki Gonzalez, Matt LeCroy and Robert Fick mean anything to you?

SenatorNat said...

I say invite them all back along with Frank, telling them it's for an Old Timer's Game at the new park; and then have them all play, along with Frank at the helm: guarantee more fun. Matt LeCroy has to catch of course, so Frank can have a good cry - sometimes a good cry is all one really needs. Tell Guillen we are playing the Angels, so we can have a huge brawl. Have Kearns batting swing imitation contests for $$$$. Throw dirt on Flop's uniform to see if it sticks. Have the Birmingham ortho debate the Cincinnati ortho between innings. Have a rematch whereby the Bird beats Teddy, so his record can be restored. Have a Ben's Half Smoke eating contest along the foul lines during innings. Have a "shoot Ayala in the other arm with a shot-gun" Second Amendment Rights Night. Start Mark Lerner in center, but fix the drain pipe there, first, so he doesn't get injured. Start the Rushmore Four, since they have an enormous strike zone and cannot swing, in a Celebrate Willie Mo Pena Night. Pinch-run the Geico Geeko. (Tell SenatorNat to get a job!)

Break-up the Nationals! All Good.

Andrew said...

ABM had to bring up Matt LeCroy. lol

Personally I liked Robert Fick and Jose Vidro and a Jose Guillen when he was healthy.

Frank didn't have much to work with I think is the point. He had to take Soriano and coax him into LF. Zimmerman was only 1 month into the Majors at the beginning of 2006 and John Patterson "The Ace" was hurt most of the year.

I don't know who has the tougher job---Manny '08 or Frank '06.

I will say let's see after the final record this season.

Here is a link to Manny Acta Q&A when he was first hired back in Nov 2006

http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20070330&content_id=1871833&vkey=news_was&fext=.jsp&c_id=was

Andrew said...

Just in case the link doesn't work. Here is part of the Q&A:

MLB.com: How can you turn things around on the field?

Acta: I think a lot of people outside the organization don't realize that we are not as far off as they think. We are just going to change the attitude and make these guys believe that despite not having the highest payroll and a lot of superstars, you can still win ballgames if you do things right. We are going to make the adjustments on the field and hopefully change the attitude.



MLB.com: You have always had a positive attitude. In fact, the moment you were hired, you said, "Don't tell me that the Nationals are going to finish in last place." Why are you upbeat?

Acta: It's because of what I've accomplished in this game, coming from where I come from. I never dreamed of doing what I've done so far. If you told me when I was 12 years old that I would be a Major League manager, I probably wouldn't buy it. Through hard work, perseverance and discipline, you can do whatever you want in America. I think baseball has proven over the years that anything can happen if you work hard and do things right on the field.

Tom said...

The Aluminum bat took the need to bunt out of the game. Why give up an out when if you swing away you can have a big inning? And the other team can have a big inning at any time, because they are using aluminum too. With the aluminum bat you have to score in bunches not one run at a time. By the way it's not aluminum anymore. It's high tech titanium alloys. The ball goes faster and farther off these bats.

Growing up all the MLB players were 3 or 4 hitters on their teams. They were never asked to bunt. What's the old saying You never walked you way off the island" Well you never bunted you way of the island either.

Finally, the DH in amateur baseball killed the bunt. I can count on one hand the number of at bats my pitcher son had in HS College and the minors before he hit in the Majors for the first time, because he was always on good teams that used the DH. So how do expect him or most other pitchers like him to be able to bunt a 90+ mph fastball or a ML curveball.

cherylw said...

SBF - This is my first comment and I've been reading your blog for about 2 years... I'm the wife of a huge fan, so I've become one too, but am still learning...

I enjoy your posts a lot and thank you for bringing in your personal life. 12,000 meters per week! That's very inspiring!

I hope your hospital situation has improved... not sure if you've updated us on that, and it's none of our business, but have been thinking of you during this time...

thanks again!

Screech's Best Friend said...

cherylw: Thank you for your kind comments. Yes, our relative is out of the hospital, just not out of the woods yet. But, her health is far better than 10 short days ago.

We are very relieved--to say the least.

We appreciate your thoughts. And thanks for reading. Always nice to know there is another baseball fan out there.