MLB – STAND-OUT STORIES OF EARLY SPRING 2015

Its almost that time again…

Baseball returns.

But, before we can get there, we have Spring Training to enjoy and all the interesting stories that will precede our newest season.

Some of the ones that stood out to me so far:

BARRY BONDS – MARLINS HITTING COACH

On Dec 4, 2015, the Florida Marlins announced that Barry Bonds would become the hitting coach during Don Mattingly’s 1st year as Manager for the club.

The 51-year old has no previous coaching experience, but his record speaks for himself.

Bonds played 22 seasons in MLB, received 7 NL MVP awards, 14 All Star selections, 12 Silver Slugger awards, and holds many hitting records including most career HRs, most HRs in a single season, and most career walks.

As for the scandal surrounding Bonds and his involvement with steroids, I don’t hold any of that against him. As I’ve said in previous posts, I don’t believe in indicting MLB players based on speculation.  Bonds never tested positive for steroids, nor admitted use, and any charges brought against him in court regarding the BALCO investigation were either dropped or overturned.

And, even if Bonds juiced, there is no way it alone gave him the ability to have a lifetime .444 OBP (6th best); .607 Slugging % (5th best); .298 career BA; 2,227 Runs scored (3rd best); 1,996 RBIs (5th best); 2,558 BB (1st); 1,440 Extra Base Hits (2nd best); and 1st Career Power-Speed # (613.9), which means he has the best record of Stolen Bases + Home Runs.

Unlike Pete Rose who used and abused the system since he was a young boy (and admitted it), Bonds shouldn’t be thought of as “disgraced” based for whispers alone.

Fact is, that Bonds just knew how to hit. He read pitchers (and pitches) well and despite the PED rumors, almost all with baseball knowledge will tell you he has a brilliant hitting mind.

He was one of the greatest hitters of all time and deserves a chance to pass on his knowledge to a team chock full of young talented players who had underperformed in 2015.

The question remains for Bonds – will he be any good as a hitting coach?

PABLO SANDOVAL IS STILL FAT

For those who live in the Boston area, you’ve likely been inundated with stories (and photos) of Pablo Sandoval upon his return to Spring Training.

All the hub-bub has been about the Red Sox 3B’s, uh – weight.

Nicknamed “Kung Fu Panda” or “The Panda”, Sandoval showed up in Florida last week looking just as heavy as he was at the end of last season despite being told by the Red Sox organization to lose some pounds. (5’11, 255 lbs.)

The 29 year-old Venezuelan denies he was asked to come back lighter and said he doesn’t even concentrate on it. In an interview on Feb 22, he told ESPN that he doesn’t weigh himself and only wants to improve as a player.

While Sandoval has always had a hefty physique during his entire 8-year career, including last year – his first with the Red Sox, he managed to play extremely well while in San Francisco despite those extra pounds.

He played so well in fact that he was a 2x All Star and won 3 World Series championships with the Giants. He also hit 3 HRs in Game 1 of the 2012 WS and named MVP.

So, why is this such a big story again? Just because the guy is overweight means he can’t play baseball well?

Likely, all the focus on The Panda’s weight problem has been because 2015 was his worst season statistically so far in his career and he looked a little shaky in the field. Obviously, the transition from San Fran to Boston was a little bumpy for him, especially going from the NL to the AL.

But it doesn’t necessarily mean Sandoval’s weight had anything to do with it when he was even heavier when he played for the Giants.

True, athletes are held to a certain standard these days in an era where fitness and performance is such a part of their overall regime.

However, it seems very petty that the media tosses aside a player’s perceived talent and instead, so much emphasis is placed on how big his mid-section is.

The fact that Sandoval has been so productive for so many years despite being outwardly heavy says something about his talent.

Sandoval himself admitted he “lost [his] confidence” in Boston and has only to prove to “the fans” and his “teammates” that he can help win games. He feels that if weight loss comes with the hard work needed, well then so be it.

By the way, has anyone seen pictures of Babe Ruth late in his career?

I also don’t remember many in the media talking so much about how heavy some golfers are, and there are many

NEW MLB RULE CHANGES

On Feb 25, MLB announced that it had come to an agreement with the MLBPA to amend the old slide rule (6.01) on double plays. (MLB Press Release)

Essentially, runners are now required to make a “bona fide attempt” to reach and remain on the base & they are prohibited from initiating contact with the fielder “for purpose of breaking up a double play”.

So while runners can still make contact with the fielder, it must be a consequence of the bona fide slide. That means they may not change their pathway to the base in the middle of a slide to break up the double play.

Also, runners must now make contact with the ground before reaching the base. That is part of the criteria of making a “bona fide slide”. They are not allowed to start their slide any longer in midair and make contact with the fielder before making contact with the ground.

If the umpire deems the play a violation, the runner (and the batter) will be called for interference and are both out.

In addition, so-called “neighborhood plays” will now be reviewable. Essentially, it’s when a fielder at 2B doesn’t touch the bag when turning the double-play as the runner is almost there & deemed inevitable. Umpires have always still called these plays out. But, now, fielders must stay on the bag.

So, what has initial response around the league been? Understandably it’s been positive in that it makes double plays safer all around.

However, there seems to be a sense that the rule will have a rough start. Namely, runners will be confused as to what to do in the heat of the moment.

Others have expressed feelings of frustration for all of the changes being made for baserunners and fear that some of the “hard” is being taken out of “hard ball”. (Last season’s home plate collision rule).

Of course, I like any Rule that makes sports safer. But, I also feel frustrated that MLB must resort to making changes to players’ safety when it shouldn’t be necessary.

Like Yankees 1B Mark Texeira said recently, “There’s a difference between playing the game hard and playing the game dirty”.

He was referring to Chase Utley’s dirty slide during last year’s NLDS when he purposely ran into Mets’ second baseman Ruben Tejada in order to break up the double play. Instead he broke Tejada’s leg:

Was Utley allowed to do that at the time? Yes.

Should Utley have done it the dirty way he did? No way.

Is everyone else now held to a ridiculous criteria in sliding down to 2B because of Utley’s viciousness? Yep.

BIG PAPI WANTS A STANDING O FROM YANKEES FANS

After 20 years in the big leagues as a full-time productive DH for the Red Sox, David Ortiz or “Big Papi” (as he is affectionately known around baseball) announced over the winter that 2016 would be his last year.

He spoke to the New York Post last week about it and said the following: “You know what I want most of all? I would love it if the fans at Yankee Stadium gave me a standing ovation”.

Well… As a lifelong Yankees fan I’ll say this: I do appreciate Ortiz for what he has accomplished.  He should be honored this year with a farewell tour for the special career he has had in MLB.

As a DH, he is the all-time leader in history for home runs (447), RBIs (1,442) and hits (2,023). He has been a 9x All Star, 3x WS Champion and holder of the Red Sox single-season record for HRs in 2006 (54).

BUT, he’s asking for a tall order from Yankees fans. He wants us to cheer for him just because he asks for it?

Of course, he went right to the New York media for his request too, so we know he was being serious.

As he has repeatedly done over the course of his career during the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, he wants to have it his way.

Personally, this sticks in my craw.

I don’t want to be petty about it, but the fact that he requests we stand there and cheer him on for torturing us for twenty long years is really irritating.

Still, if I was in the stands at Yankee Stadium Sept 27-29 when he makes his final regular-season trip to NY, I’d probably abide by his request.

I’m just not sure all of my fellow NY fans would.

My prediction is that Ortiz will get some of us off our feet, but there will be plenty of boos from us too, especially for how he led Boston back from the brink of 0-3 during the 2004 ALCS vs the Yankees and then went on to win the World Series.

Yeah, I’m still bitter about that…

THE ORIOLES BAN POSTGAME PIES IN THE FACE

Say it ain’t so!

Don’t do it, Orioles management!

Just because you think it may be unsafe for players to hit another with a pie in the face during a post-game celebration doesn’t really mean it is!

It isn’t!

Don’t ban this fun!

The entertainment value alone is worth it!

The players, fans and media love a little levity in baseball and we all looked forward to outfielder Adam Jones smacking a pie into his fellow player’s face when he won the game.

You’re also going to take away a very important aspect of players celebrating each other’s victories: The Chemistry.

It’s so important to let players have these connections. It brings them closer together.  And, celebrating the fruit of hard work is essential.

At least come up with an alternative celebration, no?

Hey, how about letting the guys throw marshmallows at one another, or flower petals?! Are cotton balls safe? Sponges? Feathers?  Would toilet papering each other with soft Cottonelle be acceptable?

On second thought, maybe we should just let this one go…

 



Source : Baseball-Reference

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