Category Archives: Fawning Idolatry

Twins nab a Roy Hobbs type player

Baseball hasn’t seen high quality fiction over the years, not as much as other genres. Say westerns. There’s probably a baseball novel as good as Shane or True Grit. But there’s probably dozens of western novels as good as Shane or True Grit.

Still, baseball fiction has its established tropes. And one of them is the prospect who comes out of nowhere, and then maybe the old scout who pursuits these mythical prospects. And we are mostly talking the pursuit of hard throwing pitchers, the mythical ‘’hardest thrower any one has ever seen’.

So in our trope the old scout has to stop for gas in Nowheresville, USA, and he’s sees the local kid on the field across the street striking everyone out. Having been discovered, the kid is now obviously on a trajectory to the major leagues. Of course there are dramatically placed plot hurdles to overcome, and these are usually moral in nature.

As a practical matter prospecting and scouting stopped being like that a long time ago, probably the 60’s. No one is out in the sticks driving to random baseball games. To be an area scout or a canvasser, you know your various local high school and college conferences, and you read your local papers. You spot the kids who are excelling, and then go see a game to evaluate if they actually have elite physical tools. You spot the other kids you observe with elite physical tools who are maybe not making the papers, take down their name and addresses and where they will play next . You talk to coaches, to figure out who else locally is making some noise as an amateur. You attend youth instructional camps and watch. Or you run pro tryout camps, just as a cattle call to bring in a lot of boys and see if any are interesting.

And you put all this info on recipe cards, and keep collating and collating to refine what you think are the correct insights re who’s got professional ability. In the modern age, you put it on your laptop. And then in April and May each year you put it together against the data from the other scouts in your organization to figure out who your team is going to draft.

Out of this canvassing and sorting, there really are no unknown prospects that appear spontaneously. Certainly not in the era of the elite amateur athlete, who is typically on the god squad’s iron throne at his affluent suburban high school.

Updated later to add:–an-incredible-story-of-a-twins–scouting-find-052923193.html

So, it happens still…. very occasionally. Usually by a kid who for one reason or another failed to become a big fish in his local amateur baseball ecosystem. A lot of times, these are kids who maybe have a substance abuse problem. Toe Nash is the name of one who was somewhat legendary 20 years ago, signed by the Tampa Bay Rays. The Twins have a guy in their system now, Mark Hamburger, who is a bit like this. And thing is, often times the original / latent behavior problem is insurmountable, and these kids don’t pan out as pros. Poulson is explained as a straight arrow and a late bloomer, so ya figure he’s got a good shot to stick.

But generally, undrafted free agents are viewed more as organizational players. Roster fillers for the low minors. The real prospects need players to play with and against eh? It wasn’t long ago when these undrafted players signed for a decent running ’78 Monte Carlo and $1500 so they could drive down to rookie ball in the Appalachian League.  That may have actually been generous, as the expectation is these guys will be released and replaced within a year or two.

Poulson ostensibly got real money because he’s got an actual elitest of the elite physical skill set. I still think he came cheap at $250k. But he hadn’t had any real success as a pitcher in collegiate or high school baseball, and hadn’t come into much contact with the advisor / agent industry.

He’ll make it up if he makes the big leagues, and I bet he will.

You look at this kid Poulson’s stats, and in his amateur league he was striking out just about everyone. I think it was 31 strikeouts in 12 innings. Seems to me even great amateurs who throw in the low nineties don’t achieve that. They might strike out 2 an inning, but still regularly encounter a batter who could at least nub a ground ball into the infield off them. At 100, this kid Poulson was not finding those guys very often.


Pipe Shots

I watched the whole All Star Game, which I haven’t actually done in many years. I have lots of overwrought analysis. Note:

***NL starting pitcher, Cardinal’s Adam Wainright, is being castigated for saying he was of a charitable mind to give Derek Jeter some ‘pipe shots’. IE, hittable fastballs down the middle when Jeter was at bat. This year’s game evolved mostly into a venue to contemplate Jeter’s greatness as his retirement approaches. So ‘pipe shots’ to hit are ostensibly a magnanimous gesture that Jeter could turn into melodrama as he exits the stage.

Magnanimousity(?) of this sort is traceable to at least 1968, when Denny McClain grooved fastballs to Mickey Mantle in late September games. Mantle was way over the hill in his last year, leaving on a low note with bad knees, and was lamented in something of a pitiable way. But he was also gamely seeking to advance his place on the all-time home run list. In this game Mantle hit a home run off McClain, adding to his total, and in the soft focus of lore the McClain anecdote has come to be regarded with universal affection.

So you figure warm fuzzies would translate to this Wainright / Jeter situation, right? No, the reaction was just about opposite, with Wainright being called out as a clod for, I think, appearing to be patronizing of Jeter. Jeter is not pathetic, and at age 40 he can get a mere base hit without anyone’s help. Wainright also would seem to have violated some sort of unwritten rule about what pros say about playing hard all the time.

So Wainright was out of line, definetly, for his original comments. But this was obviously just a breezy train of thought being aired as he stood in front of a couple reporters. In reality, I’m not sure Wainright ‘grooved’ to Jeter with to with any quality of execution. The pitch Jeter hit for a double was a knee high 89 mph fastball tailing in. Sometimes that’s a meatball, sometimes that’s a good sinker. You figure out what to call it after the batter does his thing and you have a result. So really the heat Wainright is taking is a consequence of his breezy interview, and not what actually happened on the field. That will learn ya.

***‘Pipe shots’ doesn’t have much elegance as a euphemism. We didn’t use this term in my day.

***Fair to say I’m something of a Yankee hater, but I always knew Jeter for what he was: exceptional.

Still, they were doing a doing a dugout interview with him during one of the late half innings. They barely cut to the action on the field, and I found this tiresome.

***Joe Mauer, Pat Neshek, and Glen Perkins are Twin Cities fellas of the same age, who have basically been playing in the same leagues since they were early teenagers. Neshek and Perkins played in last night’s game. Would have been nice if Joe Mauer was healthy and playing well, so that he could have been in there. I do think the presence of these three in the big leagues speaks to a certain quality achieved in Minnesota amateur baseball at a certain point in the last 20 years.

***In amateur ball I regularly encountered pitchers who threw say 80 to 85 miles per hour. And this is really pretty fast as an athletic proposition and as a practical reality on the baseball field. This speed can only be achieved by a subset of athletes who are youngish and in pretty decent physical condition. When I was youngish and in pretty decent condition I topped out at 75 mph.

Throwing a baseball 90 miles per is an enormously elite physical capability. You have to have the musculature to do it and then you have to execute the pitching motion in a certain way. The right way is not the way most people think it is, and this is actually kind of a barrier to entry as far as being able to do it.

Neshek can throw 90 and does. At 6 ‘3, he no doubt has the musculature. I’m bewildered to explain how he gets 90 out of that motion. He flips it sidearm kinda abruptly. Inasmuch as you’re supposed to discern energy build up before release, I don’t see any.

Perkins is not quite 6 ft tall and sits at 95. There’s an everyman’s joy to watching short pitchers who throw hard, but we do see this type with some regularity. He’s explainable. He may not superficially look like a great athlete, but he is. And he’s got great mechanics.

Aroldis Chapman of the Reds pitched in last night’s game, and he may be the hardest thrower the game has ever encountered. In electronic pitch timing there’s the slow gun and the fast gun, which is reflective of an engineering difference between the brands vis a vis what Doppler wave the device reads, the one coming back from near the pitchers hand or the one mid pitch. I understand Target Field to use the slow gun. Chapman was at 99, 100, and 102 last night.

***I think you can break down the legendery hard throwers into trebuchets and slingers.

Feller, Koufax, and Ryan were modestly tall. They were trebuchets.

Randy Johnson and Aroldis Chapman are borderline freakishly tall, if not actually freakishly tall. They’re slingers.

No I in team or Germany

I didn’t watch the World Cup and I haven’t watched soccer in years, so I will be totally bloviating out of my fanny here. I lettered in soccer in high school, but the breadth of my athletic knowledge comes from baseball. I know baseball well, and sports is sports as far as it goes. Except for maybe American football, which is an abomination.

Re the team picture…. That’s, ummm, not a very ‘diverse’ roster. Which is kinda odd, I think. I woulda thunk in a European country the size of Germany where there has been some social evolvement away from complete ethnic homogeneity…. there’d be a couple non-teutonics identifiable as the best players in the nation, deserving of a roster spot. Maybe some West African or Caribbean pro players that are native born or have attained citizenship. Maybe some Mediterranean players or Arabs.

I think I’m somewhat far from Al Campanis territory in observing that while central European Caucasian ectomorph fellas are often observed among the elite athletes of the world…. there’s players of different ethnicities we might superficially assume as faster and more dynamic…because they are. And there’s probably players like this eligible for Germany’s roster. So it’s curious to me they don’t have any of those ‘other’ players.

Thing is as a competitive athletic proposition I would think a team would be compelled to mitigate the potential of their opponents team speed with some speed of their own. And I don’t perceive that a roster of all Caucasian Europeans is one that makes that attempt…at all. Really, I don’t, with that being a negative value judgment from me. Not being wry or provocative here. Did I mention I don’t like Germany?

My premise might be wrong totally or in parts. But in the Atlantic article there’s some allusion to a notion the German team counters elite athleticism not with elite athleticism, but with highly advanced strategy and spatial command. And with the success of this, it might be the German team doesn’t need a ‘diversity’ of player types.

If that’s a good premise (… and it might not be), then what’s now curious is the Atlantic being complimentary of a strategy that allows for a non-diverse roster.

Maybe they didn’t perceive the upshot of that. Or maybe their praise of team Germany here is a proxy for the Atlantic’s lefty love of all things command / control and authoritarian, with that love superseding the editorial goal of deconstructing things in diversity terms when possible.

Now I’m being wry and provocative.

But really, it’s curious to me the Atlantic would praise this game style that is at least superficially bland. That’s kinda counterintuitive.

I didn’t know this:  Cantaloupe sized balls

I knew he wasn’t a wimp.  I didn’t know much else in this story; the villa encounter in El Salvador, the Gorbachev communique…

Thing is, that kind of steadiness, calm, and serenity requires cantaloupe sized testicles, figuratively speaking.  He was obviously exceptional that way, along with a couple other great personal attributes.

So the wimp meme was essentially made up out of thin air.

I never voted for him.  ’88 was first time I voted, and it was for Dukakis.  ’92 I voted for BC.