Drew Fairservice: July 2010 Archives

palm_smash_bat.jpgBat attack roundups are two things: frequently hilarious and Kris' personal baby. He rants and raves all around the WoW offices, demanding the mentally unstable take out their frustrations with baseball implements rather than the pedestrian ice picks and pool cues of yesteryear.

Once in while, a story comes across the Walkoff Wire that — even in the absence of the Bat Attack Godfather — must be told.

Decades of trucker hats, poorly-grown mustaches, and white people's disco has my irony detector in need of calibration. Still, the story of a teenage American soccer player attacked and beaten with a baseball bat in Denmark strikes me as slightly odd. From, for the first time in WoW history, the Copenhagen Post Online:

An American teenager playing in the Dana Cup football tournament in town of Hjørring suffered a broken nose last night when he was attacked with a baseball bat by unknown assailants.

Nordjykse Media reports that the young man was with a group of other football players in the town when the unprovoked attack occurred shortly after midnight.

Aside from the health of the unfortunate victim of this senseless attack, the most pressing question from this story: where the hell in Denmark did someone find a baseball bat?

Denmark doesn't have a domestic baseball league, though they do have a softball baseball forbund. There is no Danish contingent at the ongoing World Junior Baseball Championships, though baseball powerhouses France and the Czech Republic threw down in Thunder Bay.

I'm struggling to think of a comparable stateside analogy. Rinku and Dinesh felled by cricket bats? Dysentery? Grant Balfour hitting the DL after a fan throws a boomarang out of the crowd? Landon Donovan missing time after a vicious purse-swinging incident?

Get well soon, unnamed American teenager. May your Danish assailants face the full force of the law, American-style.

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Epic edgebro Brian Wilson is, once again, putting together an excellent season closing games in the cool, marine-soaked darkness of San Francisco. Sky-high strikeout rates matched only by his sky-high histrionics in honor of passed, ill, or out-of-town family members.

Wilson decided walking the path of true change wasn't enough to satisfy his individualistic urges; offbeat footwear is the only source of true rebellion left. Wilson took the mound on Tuesday night wearing the orange beauties seen at right; mowing down the teal bedecked Fish (around a Dan Uggla home run). While I have long been under the impression that art deco was all the range in South Beach, Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez disagrees:

"We saw that yesterday," Rodriguez said. "We asked (the umps) about his shoes. A little bit too bright, too flashy. We asked if there was any rule about that he said the rule is more intended for the sleeves and there's no rule for the shoes.

There's rules for jewelry and all kinds of things. Shoes like that are a little bit too much. I think there should be a rule. They should be consistent. There's a rule for the uniform and there should be a rule for the shoes.

Turns out Mr. Rodriguez is quite the taskmaster. No pies! No flashy shoes! But wait, pies are okay, but no jumping! Sure, Wilson's shoes are ugly and inadvisable; but that does that mean they give him an unfair advantage? The Marlins have offended us all with the vast sea of orange seats for years, what makes shoes so different?

AP Image gentle borrowed from Daylife



What is left for the pious ballplayer to do, after tearing up his knee during a post-walkoff celebration, than appeal to a higher authority? Aside from taking personal responsibility, I guess nothing.

Everyone's favorite crusader Chris Coghlan jacked up his knee attempting to pie the face of teammate Wes Helms after the Marlins 15th consecutive victory in their final at bat1, earning himself a cool 6-8 week stint on the disabled list.

Way to go Cogz, you've ruined it for the rest of us. We're soon to return to an age of firm handshakes and gentle slaps on the back to commemorate dramatic victories. A return to a bygone era when players were gentlemen and either high on greenies or drunk.

Post-game, the Marlins took the perfectly reactionary and predictable action to BAN shaving cream facials after walkoff victories. Talk about closing the barn door after the horses have already stung the eyes and filled the nostrils.

1 - Figure may not be accurate.

Sad Tiger.jpgLike nearly everything Bud Selig touches, interleague and re-alignment has both proponents and shortcomings. While upping the number of Red Sox-Yankees pitch count orgies to pummel our senses on a national scale (this is a good thing, I assure you), the unbalanced schedule sports a body count stacked up a mile high.

This past weekend, AL Central division contenders the Detroit Tigers and near basement dwellers the Toronto Blue Jays (both of whom have 50 victories this year, btw) battled in an enjoyable series that, sadly, featured the deaths of 3 separate Tigers and injuries to at least a dozen more. As per the whims of Herr Selig, this is the only time the Blue Jays travel down the 401 to play their formerly hated rivals from The D.

It really is a shame that two such regional opponents are reduced to a single home series apiece. They even have their very own "house divided" backstories!

...(due to the relative proximity) Families planned vacations around Tigers-Jays contests.

A rivalry that extended across two borders often divided households in Windsor, where mom and dad might root for the Tigers, and the kids for the Blue Jays.

Personally speaking, I love watching my team (the Jays) playing a historical rival wearing their classic unis in their awesome ballpark.

The border battle isn't the only collateral damage from the battle for Joe Buck's heart. The Phillies and Pirates face off but once a year, an intrastate battle whose ticket boon is surely missed all around Pirates HQ. And what of the poor Milwaukee Brewers, forsaking their former AL East foes to toil in relative obscurity, strangers in their own land on occasion.

What other regional cat fights were torn asunder and left for dead in the great reckoning of 1994? Why can't Bud Selig arrange the divisions to keep the age-old Braves/Giants divisional blood feud alive?

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Deeply mired in a prolonged offensive slide, the slumping Phillies relieved long-serving hitting instructor Milt Thompson of his duties. With the first-place Braves disappearing further and further into the distance, the Phillies hope to rejuvenate their struggling offense by bringing back former hitting coach Gregg Gross.

Much has been made of the Phillies offense during a trying 2010 season. Trade rumors swirl around the team, though the most discussed target is offensive cog Jayson Werth. While Werth's production is down of late, his 2010 lines look nearly identical to the numbers he put up in 2009. Very rich, very large man and baseball philosophy lightning rod Ryan Howard is putting up his usual huge numbers, better in some categories. Yet the Phillies aren't scoring, especially here in July. What gives?

Oh right, their best player hasn't played since June 28th. No matter how many RBI Ryan Howard racks up, he simply isn't as valuable or productive as Chase Utley.

Even if you throw out the differences defensively (which you shouldn't), Chase Utley is the most important player in the Phils lineup. Ryan Howard is really good at driving in runs, at driving the million or so baserunners set out before him safely home. But Chase drives the ship. His steadfast refusal to make outs does nothing but put his team in a position to win.

The Phillies, after so many years of health and good fortune, are going through a tough time. The desperation of this move and perceived desperation on the trade market show a GM unsure of how to proceed, despite the benevolent oversight of one Stand Pat Gillick. The Phillies don't have to time to wait for Chutley's adamantium to heal, despite that realistically being the only thing they actually need.

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The AL Central gets a hard time; both here at Walkoff Walk and around the greater Internet weblogiverse. While not short on parity-driven entertainment value, a first half Central trend continues right on into the post-Break dog days: this is the division nobody wants.

Looking at the standings from day to day, one can only assume the 2010 AL CENTRAL CHAMPS banner is made from hogweed and Lilith Fair tickets. The Twins rode a hot start, holding the pole position right into July. A sudden swoon and the resurgent Tigers shot to the lead. The white hot White Sox jumped on Ozzie's crazy train and went into the All Star break with the division lead in hand.

Since play resumed after the Bud bowl in Anaheim, each of the front runners had their turn to wilt in the heat. The ChiSox remain in first place, though they're bound and determined to give it away. Losing three of four to the previously ice-cold Twins; Sunday's heartbreaking loss was most shocking of all. The vaunted Chicago bullpen coughed up the lead with a four-run ninth, the winning run crossing after a bizarre throwing error by found money uberstud Alex Rios.

The Tigers, meanwhile, went out of their own to let opportunity pass them by after suffering a four game sweep at the hands of the Indians and major league débutante Jeanmar Gomez. The Indians! A team whose number one tradable asset is Stadium Mustard. The Indians; a team so bad they're behind the Royals in the standings. The Tribe is quite content to play the spoiler, sporting a .500 record within the division while getting mowed down in every other instance, interleague included.

The handsome bi-product of three teams duking it out to see who'll be last to lose the division title is the fine theatre created. Another single-game playoff to determine the lucky winner of being schmaltzed to death in Bronx or cowbelled to hell in Tampa is certainly a possibility. The battle to get there won't be pretty, and the real loser will be those of us who feigned interest all along.

metspig.jpgMets manager Jerry Manuel gets a hard time all over the blogosphere, not just in this specifically anti-Mets corner. Jerry does bizarre things, Jerry makes bizzare decisions. The return of superstar Carlos Beltran to the Mets mix means things are now more than messy, as it means Manuel has many mistakes to make.

Somehow, improbably, Manuel sent out a decent lineup last night to start the Mets second half. He hit statnerd poster boy Angel Pagan leadoff, slotted David Wright in third and cleaned up with the returning Beltran. Lefty Ike Davis and right-handed Jason Bay round out the meat of the Mets order.

Unfortunately for Mets fans everywhere, the Mets ran into two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum, fresh off a whole wack of rest. Timmy threw a whole pile of strikes, missed more than his share of bats, only walked one and basically shut the Mets down en route to a six-hit shutout.

Expect nothing good to come of this. Angel Pagan came to the plate in a key spot in the fifth inning only to pop out and snuff out a mini-rally. Carlos Beltran was caught stealing, which nearly never happens. Beltran quickly and clearly shed light into his flawed thought process after singling in his first game back:

"I guess when you drink too many coffees and too much sugar before the game, it makes you do crazy things,"

While Jerry avoided saying anything crazy in the papers, you know the old gears are turning and he's ready to pop in lineup sparkplug/crappy baseball player Jeff Francoeur at a moment's notice. Already pledging to rotate Pagan, Beltran, and Frenchie through right and center fields, it won't take much for Manuel to go completely nuts and play Jeffy for six straight nights, admiring his gumption after striking out on three pitches once again.

The return of permapuff Jose Reyes should give Mets fans a reprieve from the Alex Cora - Number Two Hitter Experience, though Jerry's known to throw slap hitters among the trees without any rhyme or reason. My fondness for Beltran aside, the Walkoff Walk Stylebook decrees we must find joy in Mets failings. So here's to the continued struggles of Jose's brittle bones. Get in there and play us some jazz, Jerry!

buster.jpgThe travails of Florida State Seminole and Giants Catcher of the Future Buster Posey held the attention of prospect types for some time. His treatment at the hands of Brian Sabean — a man some people believe wouldn't even have a job had the Seattle Mariners drafted the skinny local kid as God intended — frustrated both Giants fans and fans of good baseball. Rather than promote the mashing youngster, the Giants opted to re-sign Bengie Molina and hand the back-up job to renowned country crooner Eli Whiteside. Eyes rolled and shouts of "Free Buster!" rang out across the interwebs.

Fast forward to today and, to Sabean's credit, Molina was shipped out for bullpen depth to the COTF basecamp in Texas. While Sabean and Giants manager Bruce Bochy haven't completely caved on their steadfast belief that young Buster needs to learn how to better handle a pitching staff, the Buster Posey: Starting Catcher era is well under way by the bay.

Sure, Posey still makes starts at first base; a bizarre concession to his otherworldly bat that still lets Bochy and Sabean keep their "old school/dumb guy" cred. Buster Posey 's response to his new-found freedom? Complete domination.

The All Star break finds Posey knocking the crap out of the ball to the tune of a .959 OPS, 1.578 in July! Posey just finished an incredible streak of road games, hitting 6 home runs in his past 11 games, driving in 15 over that stretch. Chief among Posey's impressive attributes is his ability to go the other way with power. Of Posey's 7 dingers, 4 went out to the wrong side of center field.

Posey is now, like his COTF brother Carlos Santana (whose numbers are nearly as good if not better), comfortably slotted into the middle of the Giants lineup. Of course this homer-happy barrage; his 54.5% home run per fly ball rate in July is, to borrow a scouting term, a smidge high. But Buster Posey continues to prove he is ready to hit at the major league level. His ability to call a good game wasn't likely to improve much in the hyperbole soaked Pacific Coast League; so on the job training will have to do.

supercake.jpgNot just because his gleaming white visage makes him impervious to criticism; every team needs a guy like Brett Gardner because Brett Gardner is really good. His contributions are innumerable and, in my view, his skill set isn't that rare. The question remains: why aren't the outfields of the world lousy with patient fly-catchers like Brett Gardner?

Brett Gardner is, unlike nearly every New York Yankee in existence, somehow underrated. Many Yankee fans took a dim view of Gardner's lack of power, deeming the corner outfield spots as key offensive spots where homers are mashed and fly balls are casually picked off the warning track to keep the batter from stretching his lazy fly into a triple. Slap hitters like Brett Gardner are best squeezed into the dreaded fourth outfielder role, spelling their more dong-happy brethren when they need a break from all the tater trotting.

As it turns out, Brett Gardner is a damn fine baseball player. His admirable walk rates & rampant base thievery pair with his outfield excellence to create quite the valuable dude. Not because of scrap or grit as his dirty uniform might suggest, because of his ability to do three things really well.

As I asked above: why shouldn't every team have a guy like this? What team wouldn't benefit from having a guy who does what he does well? Is it a matter of coaching, discouraging speedy guys from taking good at bats by insisting they slap at the ball and bunt at their first convenience. Is the promise of a dozen home runs worth more than oodles of runs prevented and bags swiped?

Not all teams are like the Yankees, as you well know. Fielding the first infielder to clout 600 career home runs along with a second baseman with 16 home runs and 4+ WAR at the all star break is a luxury few can afford. But the case of the steady gloveman taking a backseat to the streaky out-maker is a very common one, even occurring in Queens right now! More teams stand to benefit from not only playing but developing this type of talent. Rather than shoe-horning players into pre-determined roles; let a valuable player flex whatever muscles he's got to squeeze.

AP image courtesy of Daylife