Pics from Fort Myers. It’s really an impressive facility.
Spring Training is long enough that any time an automatic angle offers itself to you, you take it. Today in Port Charlotte for the game between the Rays and Orioles, two such angles intertwined. The talk of both managers’ pregame sessions centered on two topics: last year’s Game 162s, and Luke Scott.
It was the O’s of course who beat the Red Sox to knock Boston out of the postseason last fall, and this was obviously the first meeting between the clubs since then. And Scott, well known as a colorful, outspoken, politically opinionated fellow, moved from the O’s to the Rays over the winter.
So, before a few photos, a few notes from a couple of pretty entertaining manager scrums. For more hard-news baseball, of course, check out Rays.MLB.com and Orioles.MLB.com, where our beat writers are all over that stuff. I filed a column on the Rays offense that should be up at the Tampa Bay team site too.
* The Rays were wearing University of South Florida t-shirts in batting practice, and manager Joe Maddon also had on a USF hat. It was in support of the school’s bid for an NCAA basketball tournament bid.
It was pointed out to Maddon that Vanderbilt alum David Price was wearing a hat from his school to go with the USF hat, and Maddon said that was OK with him:
“At least he wore the t-shirt,” he said with a smile. “That’s all I can say on that.”
* Maddon also said that while he doesn’t necessarily agree with everything that Scott espouses, he’s found Scott to be engaging and interesting, and that’s enough for him.
“I want them to be free to express themselves and what they think, always. I find him interesting. Whether I agree with him or not doesn’t matter. I just find him interesting and other people should find him interesting too. He’s a great teammate. Go ask Baltimore what they think of losing Luke Scott in their clubhouse. He’s been that guy. That kind of stuff I don’t think it should matter, although to some people it will, just because some people think in that manner.”
Asked about Scott’s fondness for hunting and firearms, Maddon said he has no weapons but “a really nasty looking broom,” and said that while he’s not a hunter, he has no problem with those who are.
“I’m really respectful of that. I don’t get it. I don’t understand it. It’s something that I would never do obviously, but that fact is an indication that you’d like to have him on your team, I think. A wild boar shows up in our clubhouse, we’re in good shape.”
* O’s manager Buck Showalter likewise expressed his fondness for Scott, repeatedly emphasizing what a good teammate Scott is — while also noting with a laugh that you never, ever wonder where you stand with Scott, and that one would be advised not to ask Scott any questions to which you don’t want to hear an answer.
* Monday was Baltimore’s first day of Grapefruit League games, and the O’s had a split-squad day-night doubleheader. It’s not ideal, but Showalter expressed his gratitude to the Pirates for accommodating Baltimore’s request to play at night. That at least allowed him and the coaching staff to attend both games.
* And as for the matter of his team playing hard to the end, and upending the Red Sox, he appreciated the compliment but didn’t see his team as doing anything really out of the ordinary.
“I’m really proud of the way Tampa went about their business [as well]. They had to win too. Is there supposed to be another way? It should be the norm.”
I’m headed for Red Sox camp in the morning, and I’m eager to see the new ballpark there. No playlist today, but I wanted to pass along three albums that I’m really enjoying. Picked them all up for this trip, and I’m 3-for-3, which is a rare rate of success. Noel Gallagher, formerly of Oasis, has an album with his band High-Flying Birds. I enjoy it more than anything from Oasis in a very long time. Cloud Nothings’ “Attack On Memory” is hard to describe but really fantastic, loud and evocative and worth finding. And School Of Seven Bells’ “Ghostory” is I guess sort of ethereal electronic pop. Sometimes I hate trying to describe music. All really solid, and any minute now the new Springsteen will be out.
And now for a few photos:
I wasn’t able to snap as many photos today, but here are a few. Yes, that’s three of Erik Komatsu, but I liked the way those pictures came out so I included them. Hope you enjoy.
It was really, really nice to be back at Cardinals camp today, seeing familiar faces, treading familiar ground and of course having lunch at Pyrogrill. The Cards even worked out inside the stadium, so I got to set foot in there one more time. Definitely a treat. Headed to Viera tomorrow, and then over to the western coast of Florida after that.
A few nuggets from today’s camp. If you want more details, head over to Cardinals.com for David Villavicencio’s notebook. David filled in for Jenifer Langosch, who received a well-earned day off.
* As I was walking back from watching some of the prospects take BP, I saw a curious sight on Field 1. There were three people on the entire field: Minor League pitching coaches Dennis Martinez and Blaise Ilsley, and Adron Chambers. Martinez would mimic a pitching motion, Chambers would take a jump from first to second, and then they would confer.
It turns out Chambers was working on his jumps, and specifically on getting down the exact number of strides to get to and from various places on the basepath. He’s also been working with Ozzie Smith and Willie McGee on base-stealing technique.
“It’s good to know how many strides does it take me to get to the base,” Chambers said. “So when I’m stealing, I can understand, OK, it took me three strides to get right there where I wanted to get. So in my head I can feel good. That’s just what I’m trying to do. Trying to get a jump and then understand how long it takes me to get to that spot. And then once I figure it out, try to get there as fast as I can.”
* Chris Carpenter was, as usual, not all that chatty about his live BP session. Carpenter can be a fascinating, thoughtful guy when you get him sitting down, but in Spring Training he often doesn’t have a lot to say. He made one rather interesting point this afternoon, though.
Though Carpenter doesn’t often throw a four-seam fastball in games, he’s throwing only four-seamers at this point. The idea is that he first trains himself to locate the four-seamer in certain “lanes,” as he put it. You throw it to those points, locate it, and then you start cutting and sinking the ball. For him, throwing a cutter or sinker to a spot at this point is not necessarily valuable because you end up aiming at the wrong place. Throw the straight one, to a spot, and then start worrying about making it move.
* A much shorter version of this quote appears in the story I just filed to MLB.com on Yadier Molina’s contract, but here’s the whole thing. I asked Mike Matheny about whether catching gets more draining/grinding/difficult as you get into your 30s, and he said it doesn’t have to be.
“I think I had my best season at 35, so it depends on how you go about your business. It depends on being blessed with health and staying on top of it. I’ve got to tell you, he’s worked harder this year than I’ve ever seen him work. There’s just something about some people. No matter how much they’re acknowledged, how many things they acquire as far as trophies on the mantel, their motivation is bigger than that. Every once in a while you come across that. I think those guys are special, and Yadi to me has been one of those guys. I think we’re going to continue to see great things from him for a long time. It’s just a matter of his body cooperating.”
* One newsy tidbit: Matheny confirmed that Shelby Miller will start Wednesday, and Adam Wainwright’s first game will be on Friday in Fort Myers.
And, finally, the playlist. Today’s is a day late, but it’s a tribute to one of my all-time favorite bands. Yesterday was the 19th anniversary of Living Colour’s amazing, challenging third album, “Stain.” So the playlist is five favorites from that album:
-M. (photos to come)
Here are some photos from today at Marlins camp…
Greetings from my old stomping grounds, Jupiter, Fla. I checked out Marlins camp today and I’ll be over on the Cardinals side tomorrow. A little later today, I’ll be posting some photos I took, but in the meantime, some tidbits…
* Hanley Ramirez had a rough live BP session facing Alex Sanabia. One of the first pitches he saw was up and in, caught him on the shoulder and knocked him down. He was fine, and stayed in. A little later, he broke a bat on a ball he hit into left field.
* Jose Reyes appears, from today’s sampling, to be THE guy among Marlins fans. He has a gallery like a star golfer. When he goes from one field to another, the crowd follows. And, I might say, understandably so. There aren’t many players who are actually fun to watch practice, but Reyes is one of them.
* Mark Buehrle was among the guys who threw live BP, as were Heath Bell and hard-throwing lefty Mike Dunn.
* And, of course, I got to sit in on the Ozzie Guillen Show. It is, in fact, that entertaining. Much of it simply can’t be put up here, not even paraphrased or with …’s. Ozzie works blue. A few nuggets from his session…
* Talking about games starting very soon: “[That’s when] the good things start. This is boring. That’s the fun. It’s fun to see people compete.”
* On Ramirez playing third base, and the fact that Ramirez is finding that the ball gets on you a lot quicker at third base than at shortstop: “Good. You don’t have a chance to think. Just grab it and throw it.”
* On retiring managers: “I wish I could do like Tony [La Russa]. Win a championship and go home. That’s awesome.”
* On tomorrow’s fan event in Miami: “We lead the league in fan fests.”
Welcome to the second non-StL-centric edition of Lucky Seven. Let’s get rolling, shall we?
1. Pardon me a little synergy here. In this article, I examined some of the various candidates for the title of best player in baseball. In your mind, who’s the best right now?
2. Heck, while we’re at it, who’s the best pitcher in the game?
3. Which team will employ A.J. Burnett when Spring Training games start?
4. A lot of you named the Phillies last week as the NL’s best team. Which NL East team will give them the most trouble this year?
5. Granting that the MLB All-Star game is the best (c’mon, you know this is true), which is second-best? NBA, NHL, or Pro Bowl?
6. Last really great meal you had at a restaurant?
7. Best novel you’ve read recently?
Note: This is the first in what hopefully will be a recurring series of anecdotes from my life as a baseball fan and a person working within the game.
As I may or may not have mentioned in this space before, I grew up a Red Sox fan, and to a lesser extent a Braves fan (big league sports didn’t really exist in Florida then, except for the Dolphins and Bucs, so everybody just really picked teams to follow; one of my best friends was a Blue Jays fan). Team fandom pretty much goes out the door once you have a beat, so those alliances are long gone for me in 2012, but from childhood till about age 28 I lived and died with the fortunes of the Red Sox. Two years after I stopped following them, they won the World Series, but that’s neither here nor there.
Anyway. Though I grew up in Florida and lived there for the vast majority of my pre-adult years, we spent one year living in Norman, Okla. — my ninth-grade year, from summer of 1988 to summer of 1989. I had seen the Red Sox play in person once or twice before, but obviously from Florida there weren’t a lot of chances to do so, other than Spring Training.
From Oklahoma, though, it was another matter. Arlington was about a three-hour drive away, and so I began lobbying my parents to make the trip down when the Sox came to town. Bless them, they said yes, and we began making plans to drive down for a Sunday afternoon game at old Arlington Stadium.
And then I started paying attention to the pitching rotations. And counting five days and five days out. And it became clear that we were in for a treat. It was this game. Follow the link, check that pitching matchup, and come back for the rest.
That’s pretty cool. It was the first time the two Texas legends had pitched against each other, and in Texas, no less.
I don’t remember a whole lot of very specific details about the game itself, aside from Palmeiro’s homer, the outcome and the thrill of being there for a historic occasion. I do remember being very close to the Rangers’ bullpen, which was along the third-base line, and seeing (and hearing) Nolan Ryan warm up. That’s still one of my most vivid memories, ever, at a ballpark. Even at 42 (holy cow, FORTY TWO YEARS OLD, and he was still four years from being finished), Ryan could absolutely bring it, and being up close to see him fire laser-beam fastballs and evil breaking stuff was really cool.
But that’s not the reason I thought of this game today. Oil Can Boyd has been in today’s news, and not in a good way. Once again, news about the Can is sad, which is unfortunate for a whole lot of reasons, not the least of which is that he was a really good and entertaining pitcher, and it’s a shame we didn’t get to see him pitch for longer.
After the game, my parents once again humored me by coming with me to wait outside the Red Sox clubhouse so I could try to get autographs as the players went to the bus. Clemens signed but barely stopped. Dwight Evans, my favorite player at the time (and one of my all-time favorite players still to this day), signed. For the most part it was tough going, though.
Then a woman approached us… enthusiastically. I was, being a 14-year-old fan, decked out in Red Sox gear. And she came up to us and acted like we were dear, long-lost old friends. She practically yelled how happy she was to see any other Red Sox fans at the park, that people gave her a hard time in the stands, and just generally chatted us up for a while.
She was very friendly, very animated, and had an accent that made it clear she wasn’t from Boston. I think she actually may have hugged me, but if she didn’t, rest assured she may as well have. She asked us where we were from, what we were doing there, all that. She saw my baseball cards that I was waiting to get signed.
Then the conversation started to wrap up, and she started heading toward the clubhouse. And she asked me for my Oil Can Boyd card. She was his sister, she told us. She took the card, took it in, and Can signed it and personalized it. She brought it back out with a smile and put it in my hands.
I’ve been an Oil Can fan ever since, and I’m still pulling for him in whatever he does next.
I’m beginning to get some feel for what the new assignment is going to look like. First big project will run a week from today, and there will be stories between now and then as well. Additionally, though, I think that being off the beat will free me up to do some different stuff from the blog.
And to resurrect some stuff that used to be on the blog, like Lucky Seven. For anyone who’s forgotten, or hasn’t seen this before, it’s pretty simple. Just answer the questions. This is your feature, not mine. One rule and one rule only: if one of the questions doesn’t interest you or appeal to you, just don’t answer. “The DH is stupid” or “I hate basketball” or “who cares about that?” doesn’t advance anything. Besides, obviously I care about it or I wouldn’t have asked.
One other thing: this blog, and this feature, obviously won’t be nearly so Cardinals-centered anymore. That starts now.
So anyway, on with the questions.
1. I count 11 teams with realistic playoff hopes in the National League. What’s the BEST team in the senior circuit as Spring Training approaches?
2. The Tigers are pretty much a consensus favorite in the AL Central. Which of the other four teams is the biggest threat to them?
3. What team improved itself the most over the winter?
4. What team will employ Roy Oswalt on Opening Day, if any?
5. Aside from Spring Training/Opening Day, what’s the next sporting event you’re really looking forward to? Masters? NCAA Tourney? NFL Draft?
6. What’s the funniest show on TV (pretty sure y’all know my vote on this one)?
7. You saw my list. What was YOUR favorite album last year?
The time has come, and for once I have very little idea of what to say or write. As of today, I’m no longer the Cardinals beat writer for MLB.com. I’ve handed the reins to Jenifer Langosch, who has covered the Pirates for us for the past five years, and I begin my new journey writing more national and analytical pieces for MLB.com.
Here’s Jenifer’s hello to all of you, and I hope you’ll take a minute and go read it. I would wish her luck, but she doesn’t need it. She’s going to do great work and I’m eager to read it.
I don’t really have a lot to add that I haven’t already said. This blog isn’t going away, and neither is my twitter feed. The focus will obviously be a bit different, though I’m sure some folks would argue there’s never been much of a focus to OYNAG or my twitter feed anyway. We’re not moving to New York for another couple of months. For the coming weeks, I’m going to be feeling out what exactly it is that the new job is going to look like.
But I just wanted to pass along, one more time, my thanks to everyone for making a truly amazing chapter in my life what it was.