Monthly Archives: October 2009

THOUGHTS ON WATCHING A WORLD SERIES GAME AT THE NEW YANKEE STADIUM AND WHY DID TIM MCCARVER TRY TO MAKE CHARLIE MANUEL LOOK LIKE A FOOL?

                                                                                       Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

This writer was fortunate to be in the building for an exciting Game 2 of the 2009 World Series, a 3-1 Yankee win. We’ll skip the $15 program, $9 beer complaints (although we will point out the new absurdity – the $10 hot chocolate (seriously, it might have been in some kind of souvenir Yankee cup)) and discuss the game itself.

A-ROD HAS TO BLOCK THE BALL

Top 2, 2 out Raul Ibanez on second. Intro to baseball – infielders are “on their bellies” (thanks to Dan Gray of Pro Swing for that saying) to not let a grounder get through – i.e., keep the ball in the infield so the runner on second can’t score. Lefty Matt Stairs hits it hard, a one-hopper to A-Rod’s left. He takes a step, makes a weak stab at the ball and watches it go into the outfield. 1-0 Phillies.

The official scorer generously gives Stairs a hit but whether it’s a hit or an error is irrelevant – A-Rod has to catch the ball or, at least, knock it down. Dive if necessary. A very poor play.

MOLINA PICKS OFF WERTH

Top 4, Jayson Werth on first, one out, Ibanez up. Crowd getting nervous (will A.J. implode? — it looks like maybe). But Jose Molina EASILY picks off Werth (and remember, Ibanez is a lefty hitter, making it much more difficult). A stunning play. Could Jorge Posada do that? Very unlikely. Joe Girardi (and A.J.) right again.

Burnett gets out of the inning easily. A momentum-changing play by a weak-hitting catcher.

THE GREATNESS OF HIDEKI MATSUI

Yeah, the Yankees should let this guy walk at the end of the season. Good grief. Bottom 6. After Pedro (stunning with his off-speed stuff and a fastball only in the high 80s) makes both Teixeira and A-Rod look sick with off-speed stuff, Hideki Matsui looks at two fastballs (0-2) and a change (1-2). Then Pedro throws him a nasty curve (73 mph) and Matsui just fouls it off to stay alive. Of course, in the old days, Pedro then throws his 97 mph heater and (probably) Matsui (and virtually everyone else in baseball when Pedro was PEDRO) waves at it.

But that was then, this is now. Pedro comes back with ANOTHER 73 mph curve that is down but over the plate. Matsui hits it out (on the second of two back-to-back curves, a stunning piece of hitting), gives the Yankees the lead and, if the Yankees win the World Series, this will be the biggest hit of the Series – if anyone remembers it.

You can’t be more clutch than this guy. Bring him back next year (see Kallas Remarks, 9/29/09).

THE UMPIRE STRIKES – AGAIN (AND AGAIN)

Bottom 7, first and second, nobody out. Derek Jeter tries to bunt the runners over and fails not once, not twice, but three times (readers know I’m still a huge fan of the bunt – but Mickey Mantle, Phil Rizzuto and Rod Carew – three of the greatest bunters ever – have left and gone away). Jeter HAS to swing with two strikes. He’s just not that good at bunting, a lost art.

Now with one out, Damon hits a ball to first. It seemed pretty clear, even from up the leftfield foul line, that Ryan Howard didn’t catch the ball (plus, he threw to second). First base ump Brian Gorman immediately calls Damon out (there was no possible way he could have seen the play – he’s BEHIND Howard) and there’s a double play. Joe Girardi shouldn’t have argued with Gorman. He should have gone to the home plate ump, who HAD to see that the ball was trapped.

But that’s OK because top 8, first and second, 1 out, Chase Utley hits a ground ball to Cano’s left and the Yankees turn a nifty 4-6-3 double play to get out of the inning – except Utley beat the throw. Again, even from the leftfield foul line Utley looked safe.

Well, you know what they say – the ump giveth and the ump taketh away.

TIM MCCARVER, WITTINGLY OR UNWITTINGLY, WRONGLY TRIES TO MAKE CHARLIE MANUEL LOOK LIKE A FOOL

This is kind of second-level stuff, but when Tim McCarver speaks, people listen. Same situation as above, top 8, first and second, one out, Utley up. McCarver says absolutely that Manuel should send the runners. They don’t go, the double play that wasn’t is called and, as they go to commercial, Tim McCarver, greatest analyst ever, throws Charlie Manuel under the bus. McCarver says that he can’t understand why the runners didn’t go on the play. When they come back from commercial McCarver, as is his wont the last ten years or so (still an excellent, not great, analyst, don’t get me wrong), pats himself on the back by saying “we talked about it,” and repeats that if the runners had gone, there would have been no double play with Ryan Howard coming up.

Great reasoning, right? WRONG

How about these factors: In Manuel’s mind, he has two chances, right there, to WIN the game. If Utley hits one out or if Howard hits one out. If he sends the runners, there could be a strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out. Many managers simply don’t like to send the runners when one is going to third. A much easier throw for the catcher and, in this instance, even easier because Utley’s a lefty hitter.

Paint this scenario. Utley strikes out, Rollins gets thrown out at third and Ryan Howard is in the on-deck circle, putting his bat down. What’s the reaction? Hopefully, you get the point.

But it gets better. When thinking about what McCarver said, I thought that maybe he was right because a good hitter like Utley probably almost always puts the ball in play. But (thanks baseball-reference.com) how many strikeouts did Chase Utley have in 2009 in the regular season? I thought about 50 or so.

Well, Chase Utley, in 2009, STRUCK OUT 110 TIMES. Seriously. In 2008, the number was 104.

So that’s why the runners didn’t go. And that’s why Charlie Manuel didn’t send them.

Just because you say something before a pitch and you “think” you’re “right” after the pitch, you need to dig a little deeper before you make statement after statement after statement. Say anything about Charlie Manuel but know this: he knows the game. And while his decision to try and give the home run king a chance to win the game turned out to be wrong, it was the right decision at the time.

THE CROWD, PART I

I’ve been disappointed in the new Stadium for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that my children’s children will never see where Ruth, Gehrig, Dimaggio and Mantle played (“those guys? Yeah, they played across the street”). But, bandbox aside, the crowd noise really isn’t what it was across the street. Maybe it’s the acoustics, but the place just isn’t raucous like it once was. In fact, the crowd at World Series Game 2 was quieter than the crowd during Twins-Yankees Game 2, a 4-3 Yankee win in 11.

That’s not a good sign.

THE CROWD, PART II

Even though he’s an all-time great (in this writer’s opinion, the best pitcher since Koufax), I’m no Pedro Martinez fan and it was disappointing the way Jamie Moyer, the Phillies leader in wins this year, was shunted to the side for Pedro. If you’re a Yankee fan, you’re probably not a Martinez fan either. But this guy, despite his weird press conferences and loss of velocity, pitched a great game in defeat. Losing as he left the mound in the seventh inning, he was roundly booed.

And that’s just wrong. Sitting in section 230, Rich Jacobson, Johnnie Kallas and this writer stood and applauded Pedro. A stunning effort while losing deserved a round of applause, even from Yankee fans, especially those who are supposed to “know the game.” I looked around and nobody else was applauding. It’s hard to chant “Who’s Your Daddy” when the guy just made the Yankees look like fools.

That just wasn’t right. We’ll see what happens

© Copyright 2009 by Steve Kallas. All rights reserved.

PLAINTIFF PREVAILS IN ALUMINUM BAT CASE; AWARDED $850,000 FROM LOUISVILLE SLUGGER

                                                                                   Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

In a Helena, Montana courtroom on Wednesday afternoon, a 12-member state court jury awarded the family of Brandon Patch, the 18-year-old pitcher who was killed by a ball hit off an aluminum bat on July 25, 2003, the sum of $856,000 from defendant Hillerich & Bradsby (more commonly known as Louisville Slugger).  The jury deliberated for a little more than a day and, arguably, has sent a message that may be heard across the country in the continuing battle of metal v. wood bats to be used by the youth of America.

 When reached after the verdict, the Patch family’s attorney, Joe White, Jr., exclusively told Kallas Remarks, “we are happy with the jury’s verdict.  This case was never about the money for the Patch family and we told the jury that.  The jury found that Louisville Slugger failed to warn people about the dangers of the bat made by Louisville Slugger.”

 WHY WASN’T IT ABOUT THE MONEY?

 Well, the history of the Patch case is a long one.  But when the Patch family had to bury their son in 2003, their main goal was to have aluminum bats banned from youth baseball in Montana.  The Patch family thought that they would be able to get a law passed in the Montana legislature doing just that.  But after some bat company representatives went out to Montana (according to the Patch family), all that was passed was a “resolution,” that is, it was suggested that kids not use aluminum bats in Montana. 

 Needless to say, once the proposed law became a resolution, virtually every team in Montana continued to use aluminum (Patch’s team, the Miles City Mavericks, used wood).  But it was the frustration of the Patch family being unable to get a law passed that led them to filing the lawsuit, virtually towards the end of the statute of limitations period.

 Clearly the Patch family was and is hoping that what happened to their son will never happen to anybody else’s son.  If you’ve seen Debbie Patch (Brandon’s mother) on HBO or other places, you would view her as a salt-of-the-earth person who really doesn’t want your family or mine to go through what she went through on that fateful day and for years to come.

 WILL THIS VERDICT HELP THE CAUSE?

 It says here that this is a step in the right direction.  These metal bats aren’t the metal bats from the 1970s, which were heavier and not nearly as technologically advanced as the bats of today.  The advances over time are, frankly, scary.  All you have to do is pitch batting practice to these kids or watch a team that plays with both wood and metal to see the difference.  It’s startling.

 But the ball is rolling.  There’s no metal allowed in New York City high school baseball.  There’s no metal allowed in North Dakota.  Little Leagues in certain towns (Ridgefield, Ct, for example) are going to all wood, at least until the Williamsport Tournament.

 That’s a start.

But, hopefully, this verdict will send a message across the country that bat manufacturers have to be more careful about what they are manufacturing.  If you or your child is involved in youth baseball, maybe it’s time to do something, to approach your Little League board, to get the word out:  these bats are dangerous.

Remember, the life you save, the massive injury you prevent, may be that of your own child.

We’ll see what happens.

© Copyright 2009 by Steve Kallas. All rights reserved.

Steve on Rick Wolff’s The Sports Edge 10/25/09

Death by aluminum bat: the Brandon Patch case against Louisville Slugger

TRIAL STARTS IN DEATH OF PITCHER BRANDON PATCH AGAINST LOUISVILLE SLUGGER

                                                                                    Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

On July 25, 2003, 18-year-old Brandon Patch was pitching for his American Legion team in Montana, the Miles City Mavericks.  Patch threw a pitch and, according to witnesses, never had a chance to get out of the way of a line drive hit at him off an aluminum bat.  Patch was hit in the head, suffered devastating head injuries, was taken to the hospital – and died just a few hours later.

TRIAL UNDERWAY

This past week, in state court in Helena, Montana, the case against the maker of that bat, Hillerich & Bradsby (better known as Louisville Slugger), proceeded before a jury of twelve men and women.  Attorneys for the plaintiffs, the family of Brandon Patch, essentially took two trial days to present their case and rested their case this past Wednesday.

The essence of the case, according to the plaintiffs, is that Brandon Patch simply had no time to react, had no time to get out of the way or do anything to protect himself from a ball that was catapulted off an aluminum bat.  According to an AP article written by Brock Vergakis, Patch’s teammate that terrible day, first baseman Kevin Roberts, testified that “[i]t was just so quick.  Everything happened so fast.” 

The Patch family attorney, Joe White, exclusively told Kallas Remarks this past Friday, two days after resting his case, that “we feel real pleased with how the evidence is going in.  We feel pretty good about the way the case is going and we hope that the defendant’s bat is found to be defective in design.”

AND THAT’S THE CRUX OF THE CASE

One of the main issues in the case is whether anyone could have known that this bat could be so dangerous.  Joe White is quoted in the AP article as saying “[t]here is absolutely no warning anywhere … that this bat can create a situation where a pitcher is defenseless.”

DEFENDANT’S MOTION TO DISMISS

At the end of the Patch family’s case, defendant’s attorney, Rob Sterup, made a motion to dismiss the entire case.  According to the AP article, Sterup argued before Judge Kathy Seely this past Wednesday that “[t]his bat did what was expected of it.  There is no showing it did anything different.”

Judge Seely denied the motion to dismiss and the defendant is putting on its case.

THE CRUX OF THE NATIONAL DEBATE

To some degree, in this writer’s opinion, defendant’s counsel really crystallized the national debate on aluminum bats.  There have been some loud voices for many years (such as WFAN’s Rick Wolff on his youth sports show, The Sports Edge) who believe (as does this writer) that the aluminum bats of today, in and of themselves, are too dangerous and can maim, severely injure and even kill young baseball players.

It’s started a national debate and the Patch case will gain national attention in the coming week.  This will bring the issue of aluminum bats to the forefront and, depending on the jury’s verdict, could very well start to sound the death knell for allowing our children to use these bats and be put at risk for serious injury. 

The campaign is already underway with such people as legislator Jim Oddo of Staten Island, who sponsored a bill banning the use of aluminum bats in New York City high school games.  After much debate, the bill passed and the reaction, two seasons later, has become much ado about nothing – the games go on, the kids learn to hit with wood and baseball is a better – and safer – game today in New York City high schools.

BRETT V. LOUISVILLE SLUGGER

There’s already been a case where Louisville Slugger was held liable by a jury for damages to a kid who was hit in the head and suffered severe injury from a ball hit off an aluminum bat.  In that 2002 case, which received very little attention, a federal jury awarded young Jeremy Brett $150,000 in damages for his injuries.  Louisville Slugger did not appeal and paid the judgment.

BACK TO THE PATCH CASE

The crux of the Patch case might very well be the reaction time.  Witnesses who were at the game have testified that there was no time for Brandon Patch to react, that he had no chance to get out of the way, that he was defenseless.  According to attorney Joe White, as reported in the Independent Record by Angela Brandt, the average time to respond to a batted ball is 400 milliseconds.  Yet Brandon Patch had less time than that brief time, about 376 milliseconds.

Could this short time span be the difference between life and death?  Well, it very well could be, but a jury will have to decide, in the next week or so, whether this bat was defective and didn’t give Brandon Patch enough time to react to the batted ball.

THE DEFENSE CASE

The defense is presently putting on its case and will continue until the middle of this coming week.  The defense is apparently going to call some experts who will attempt to show that this bat is like many bats, including wood bats.  Defense attorney Sterup, in his opening statement, told the jury that “If some other bat was used, the ball would have been hit just as hard, if not harder.”  Sterup was also quoted as saying, in the article by Angela Brandt, that “Baseball is a safe sport – always has been.  Aluminum bats have not changed that.”

Well, anyone who has pitched batting practice to youth players who hit with wood and aluminum can immediately tell that there’s a difference between hitting with metal and hitting with wood.  Years ago, this writer went down to a wood bat league in central New Jersey and, between games of a doubleheader, I asked two umpires I had never seen before and have never seen since, what the big deal was, that it seemed to me, from what I had heard, that aluminum and wood bats were the same when it came to hitting a baseball.

They both laughed at me and told me to stick around and watch these 16 and 17-year-old kids hit the ball with wood.  They said there would be no moonshots or rockets off the bat.  They said it would clearly be like “old-time baseball” and that it would be safer.  I did stick around and they were right – I saw one in-the-gap double and no rockets that made you cringe and worry about the safety of the pitcher.  It was indeed an eye-opener – long before the New York City law and the comas of Billy Kalant in Illinois and others.

WHAT HAPPENS NOW?

The Patch case is expected to go to the jury in the middle of this coming week.  Unlike the Kentucky football coach case which could be watched on the internet (see Kallas Remarks, 9/14/09 and 9/18/09), it’s impossible to get a feel for what the in-trial evidence is like and what the judge and/or jury’s reaction to it is.

But it says here that, no matter what the verdict (although if the case gets to the jury, in this writer’s opinion, you have to think the Patch family has a good chance to prevail), the national debate will continue.  The Patch family needs eight of the twelve jurors to vote for them to prevail.  If Louisville Slugger loses the case, it will go a long way to start reversing the trend of aluminum bats in this country that was started in New York City a few years ago – a return to wood bats for children who play baseball.

We’ll see what happens.

© Copyright 2009 by Steve Kallas. All rights reserved.

GAME 5 YANKEES-ANGELS – A TALE OF THREE PITCHES

                                                                                      Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

 

This article was started during the first inning of Yankees-Angels, Game 5, eventually won by the Angels.  A stunning call, discussed below, could have been the key to the whole game.  Can one ball/strike call early in a game change the entire game?  Absolutely.  But since it became a game about, mainly, three pitches (and back and forth leads), we’ll save (arguably) the most fascinating pitch (because of when it was thrown – only three batters into the game – and the total lack of coverage about it) for last and take the three in reverse chronological order.

PITCH 1: THE 1-2 PITCH TO VLAD GUERRERO IN THE BOTTOM OF THE SEVENTH INNING

You’ve heard a lot about this pitch:  Bottom 7, 6-5 Yankees, 2 outs, first and third and Vlad Guerrero up.  The count is 1-2 after Phil Hughes throws two sliders that Guerrero takes (ball one, strike one) and then Guerrero looks bad on a great curve ball by Hughes.  Catcher Jorge Posada clearly wants the fastball (maybe he originally called for another curve?) that’s coming up and out of the strike zone.  But Hughes throws it, essentially, down the middle and Guerrero gets a huge single up the middle to tie up the game.

So what happened?  Well, virtually all of these “experts” have little or no clue as to how difficult it is to throw a pitch exactly where you want to, especially in such a big spot, with a young pitcher like Hughes who has been ineffective this post season.  Frankly, the more interesting thing about the call is the left to right location Posada was looking for.  You want the fastball high (and it’s a fastball out of the zone to set up the curve that’s coming – you’d rather not throw back-to-back curveballs) but, just in case your young pitcher isn’t great on location, you want it up and in or up and away, not up and down the middle (because of exactly what happened when Hughes misses his spot).

In the perfect world, you want that pitch up and in (to set up the curve down and away).  Your second choice would be up and away (you can’t really throw anything in the dirt because the tying run is on third).  So, as with Brian Fuentes 0-2 pitch to A-Rod for the game-tying home run earlier in the series or even Mark Wohler’s slider to Jim Leyritz in the 1996 World Series (that was wrong pitch and bad location), in a big spot, these things happen and pitchers, especially not top pitchers, simply miss their spots.  The problem here is that calling for the high fastball down the middle was a mistake.  Up and away, fine, up and in, fine (and up and in is only fine – not great – because you don’t want a nervous Hughes to hit Guerrero).

And while experts like Tim McCarver said that you could have thrown another curve to Guerrero, experts like Jim Kaat have often said that if you’re going to throw breaking ball after breaking ball after breaking ball, you’d better make sure the next one is better than the one before.  Again, a very difficult thing for a young pitcher like Hughes to execute in a big spot.

So it wasn’t just about Phil Hughes missing his spot.  It was about him missing his spot and throwing a fastball down the middle.  He should have been protected by his manager and/or his catcher to give him some leeway to make a mistake.

PITCH 2: THE 3-2 PITCH TO JORGE POSADA IN THE TOP OF THE SEVENTH

You’ve heard a lot about this pitch as well:  Top 7, 4-0 Angels, 1 out, runner on second, John Lackey throws a perfect 3-2 pitch on the inside corner to Jorge Posada, similar (but more inside) to the one he had struck Posada out on earlier in the game.  Posada takes it for ball four.  Lackey stupidly goes ballistic, even though he was right.  His dumb reaction (maybe as much as anything?) would lead Mike Scioscia (thankfully, if you’re a Yankee fan) to take Lackey out of the game after he walks the next batter (Jeter) on four pitches and gets Damon on a short fly to left.  Then the roof caved in on the Angels as the Yankees scored six runs. 

Do the Yankees score six runs without that call?  Well, we’ll never know, but it’s very unlikely.  It might have very well been another ho-hum inning for Lackey (two out, four-run lead) if the proper call was made.  But, that’s baseball (I guess).

PITCH 3: THE 3-2 PITCH TO MARK TEIXEIRA IN THE TOP OF THE FIRST

You’ve heard absolutely nothing about this pitch (it got no coverage because of the two other pitches discussed above) but, in its own way, it could have been the biggest pitch of the game. Had the game stayed 4-0 Angels (after the Angels scored four in the bottom of the first) or something close to it for the rest of the game, this pitch, without question, would have been the biggest pitch of the game.

Top 1, no score, first two Yankees single, first and second, nobody out, 3-2 to Mark Teixeira, A-Rod up next.  John Lackey throws a back door breaking ball to Teixeira.  It leaves his hand outside the strike zone, it breaks outside the strike zone, it goes past the plate outside and the catcher catches it outside the strike zone.  Nonetheless, it’s called strike three.  Teixeira, a guy who doesn’t argue or rarely show any emotion on bad calls, is shocked and says something.  Just a terrible call.

Why did it get no coverage?  Well, as often happens, when an ump makes a bad call (as on the Lackey pitch to Posada), EVERYONE can see the obvious when the Yankees score six runs.  But, when an ump makes a bad call and nothing happens, very few realize what happened.

Do you think it’s a different game if it’s bases loaded, nobody out and A-Rod, Matsui and Cano are coming up?  So do I.  And if the Yankees score one or two or five runs, do you think Burnett has a different mindset coming out in the bottom of the first?  So do I.  But, once again, we’ll never know what would have happened.

The above examples are just more reasons why baseball is the most nuanced, most fascinating game.  But the 3-2 pitch to Teixeira in the first inning, completely forgotten by virtually everybody because of what happened later, is the kind of thing that slips through the cracks and isn’t even mentioned in the coverage of a major league playoff game in the year 2009.

© Copyright 2009 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

FOR BETTER OR WORSE, UMPIRES MAKE THE BEST CASE FOR REPLAY AS THE THREE STOOGES MEET ABBOTT AND COSTELLO

                                                                                         Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

It’s hard to believe that the umpiring has been so bad this postseason.  In the past, people have said (probably correctly) that lots of bad calls were made decades ago but that there just weren’t 10 camera angles and/or replay and/or slow motion to single them out.  This postseason, however, it’s an epidemic – from Joe Mauer’s double that wasn’t to the two excellent plays that Kevin Youkilis made at first (both Angel runners incorrectly called safe at first) to Nick Swisher not leaving too early to the old two-men-on-third-base trick (except neither one was on third).

WHAT’S BASEBALL TO DO?

Well, baseball opened the door in the last few years when it allowed replay only to judge whether a home run was a home run.  After Mauer doubled against the Yankees just ten feet or so from where the umpire incorrectly ruled it a foul ball, the cries started for replay on whether a ball down the line was fair or foul.  With the epidemic of terrible calls on the bases, it’s not a stretch to at least consider whether egregious (remember, however, that this was how the NFL replay rule started – at least in theory) safe/out calls could be reviewed.

Until now, the cries have been muffled, as mistakes are part of the game even for umpires, blah, blah, blah.  But with so many blatant errors so quickly on such a big stage, baseball can’t stick its head in the sand anymore.  SOMETHING has to be done.

YANKEES-ANGELS GAME 4, PART I

You’ve probably seen the play by now.  Top of the fourth, Nick Swisher gets picked off second by Scott Kazmir.  Erick Aybar tags Swisher maybe 8-12 inches from second.  He’s obviously out but ump Dale Scott, right on the play with a perfect view, inexplicably calls him safe.  Maybe shortstop Erick Aybar, who lost the battle on that “in the neighborhood” double-play call earlier in the series, was told not to argue anything.  But he was clearly out and nobody really needed a video replay to know it.

Now with bases loaded, one out, in the same inning (Swisher on third), Johnny Damon lifts a fly to not-too-deep center.  Torii Hunter comes in, makes a horrible throw home (no chance for a play at the plate) and, while Swisher scores easily, Hunter points to third base, obviously saying that Swisher left early (he didn’t).  Umpire Tim McClelland immediately calls Swisher out on the appeal but the replay not only clearly shows Swisher tagged properly, it also shows that McClelland didn’t look at the runner.

Was this the one of the greatest make-up calls ever?  Well, after the game, McClelland said: “In my heart, I thought he left too soon.”  Long-considered an excellent ump (McClelland, very early in his career, called George Brett out in the famous “Pine Tar’ game), you pretty much have to take him at his word EXCEPT he never looked at the base runner.  Now, presumably, with his peripheral vision he might have seen Swisher but, even if he did, his call was wrong.  Some people were almost hoping that he would say it was clear that Swisher was out at second and he was just doling out justice.  But no umpire would ever say that even if he did it.

Hunter gets an award for playing McClelland and getting the call.  But anyone who’s played a lot of outfield at virtually any level knows this:  when you catch a fly ball, it’s IMPOSSIBLE to see if the runner left early.  What IS possible is to look up and have a feel that the runner left early because he’s so far down the line.  But there’s no way Hunter saw Swisher leave early.

YANKEES-ANGELS GAME 4, PART II

Another play that’s been replayed a thousand times already – top five, second and third, one out, Swisher hits it back to the mound.  Posada leaves on contact (often the play with one out) and has no chance to score.  Pitcher Darren Oliver throws to catcher Mike Napoli who runs Posada back to third.  Robinson Cano has already run close to third from second but inexplicably stops about two feet from third (while motioning to Posada to go home with the catcher holding the ball).

Defying logic and baseball intelligence, Posada runs to third, touches the base AND THEN TAKES A STEP OFF THE BASE TOWARDS LEFT FIELD (you can’t make this stuff up).  Cano still stands a step away from third.  Intelligent catcher Mike Napoli holds the ball up, tags Cano while he’s off the base and tags Posada while he’s off the base.  But ump McClelland calls only Posada out.  Manager Mike Scioscia comes out to argue (nobody from the Angels argued the Swisher pick-off) but, apparently, McClelland says to him what he said to the media after the game: “I thought Cano was on the base when he was tagged.”

It was, frankly, a combination of a Three Stooges routine with bits of Abbott and Costello (“Who’s on first?  I don’t know.  Third Base”).  Why didn’t McClelland ask (or Scioscia request) help from the home-plate (or other) umpire?  Very bizarre (one of them had to see the obvious).   

And while you won’t be able to look this up at Baseball-reference.com, it may very well be that it’s the first time in baseball history that two runners were on third and NEITHER ONE OF THEM WAS TOUCHING THE BASE (again, you can’t make this stuff up).  For 70 years you’ve seen clips, newsreels, tape, everything imaginable (blooper reels) where two guys are standing on third at the same time.  But they’re standing ON third.  But this could be the first highlight in baseball history where NEITHER runner is standing on third base.  Unbelievable.

If anything, once Cano sees that Posada is going to make it back (and that’s a split-second call), he should have run back to second, forcing the catcher to at least make a throw.  But, amazingly, after the ump did not call Cano out, he walked off the base anyway (presumably going back to the dugout because he knew he was out) and was tagged by Napoli.  But, believe it or not, McClelland had called time, thus negating the (second) out tag.

Replay, here we come.

OTHER THOUGHTS ON GAME 4

  1. Brett Gardner was thrown out stealing again, this time not on a pitchout.  Since everyone expects him to go (and he’s very fast), he’s going to have to take a different approach at second:  he’s either going to have to hook slide (unlikely in today’s game) or he’s going to have to run to second about 18 inches out towards the outfield grass.  If he does the latter, he won’t get tagged on the body.  The shortstop will be tagging air and Gardner will just have his left hand reaching for the base while his body will be closer to the outfield than it is now.    
  2. When the Angels did pick Swisher off at second (incorrectly called safe), they used the “timing” pickoff play (as opposed to the “daylight” play attempted by Joe Nathan on Gardner, see Kallas Remarks, 10/12 /09).  On the timing play, the pitcher comes to a stop and then, on a pre-arranged count – usually two or three – the pitcher wheels and throws as the shortstop sprints to second.  It worked to perfection so well against Swisher (despite the bad call), someone should put that play in a pick-off video.  It is rarely used today and very difficult to execute properly.
  3. Bottom of the sixth, Angels have first and second, no out as Juan Rivera grounds into a double play.  With Torii Hunter moving to third (two out now), Jorge Posada starts to walk towards the dugout thinking the inning is over.  An intelligent A-Rod runs to cover home as Hunter thinks about going home.  The funny thing here is that, while everybody correctly criticizes Posada for not knowing how many outs there were, a careful review of the play shows that C C Sabathia, brilliant again on the mound, didn’t know either. 
  4. Last, but far from least, never compare Lou Gehrig’s 1928, 1932 eight-game WORLD SERIES consecutive game RBI streak with A-Rod’s or Ryan Howard’s eight game “post-season” streak.  As with home runs (no modern player is close to Mantle’s 18 or Ruth’s 15 World Series homers), wake me up when one of these guys does it in eight consecutive World Series games.   

© Copyright 2009 by Steve Kallas. All rights reserved.

IN ONE FORM OR ANOTHER, THE WILDCAT IS HERE TO STAY

                                                                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

It’s been a topic of discussion since the Miami Dolphins unveiled the “Wildcat” last season and surprised (and easily defeated) the New England Patriots:  is the Wildcat just a gimmick?; is it a fad that will go away quickly?; or, is it a new (but, some would say, very old single wing-like) offense that will change the way offenses play and cause defenses to adjust.

Well, it seemed like an open question, especially later last year when, in their second meeting, the Patriots, obviously (now) well-prepared, shut down the Dolphins and the Wildcat.  The element of surprise, so crucial in their first meeting, disappeared in their second meeting.

JETS-DOLPHINS SHOWS YOU THE FUTURE OF THE WILDCAT

If you were one of many who thought that the Wildcat (or whatever name you want to give it) was just a fad, all you have to do is watch a tape of last week’s Jets-Dolphins game.  Coming in with the best defense in football (at least through the first four games of this season), Rex Ryan had turned the Jets into immediate contenders for the playoffs and beyond.

But when running back Ronnie Brown took the snap and ran left and threw a 21-yard completion on the second offensive play of the game out of the Wildcat (another new wrinkle), you could immediately tell that something had changed in the approach and implementation of the Wildcat.  The Dolphins proceeded to march down the field like it was a high school team they were playing against.  The Dolphins also seemed to effortlessly turn the corner on the Jets defense out of the Wildcat.  You could feel, during this game, that something vastly different was happening to the Dolphins offense – and maybe to the NFL.

TOO MELODRAMATIC?

I don’t think so.  The Dolphins, even with strong-armed (but young and inexperienced) Chad Henne at the helm, haven’t really struck anyone as an offensive juggernaut last year or this year.  But with the stunning talents of Ronnie Brown and a revitalized Ricky Williams, the Wildcat is an offense that fits the Dolphins to a tee.  And, remember, the Dolphins dominated a defense viewed to be one of the best in the NFL (the Jets essentially shut down the vaunted Saints offense the week before).

Rex Ryan couldn’t believe what he saw and certainly acted like a rookie coach during and after the game.  It will be fascinating to see what the Jets do when they play the Dolphins a second time this season in a few weeks.  Unlike the Patriots of a year ago, the Jets had to know that the Dolphins were going to run something out of the Wildcat.  Yet they were helpless trying to stop it.

DOLPHINS AHEAD OF THE PACK WITH THE WILDCAT

While many teams are running some variation of the Wildcat, the Dolphins are ahead of the pack in terms of its execution.  Indeed, the Dolphins are already a team that seems to be drafting with the Wildcat in mind.  They drafted Pat White, the QB from West Virginia, and even had him take a few snaps out of the Wildcat late in the Jets game to further confuse the Jets. 

Once other teams start to regularly draft for the Wildcat (and that may or may not happen), defenses will have to react accordingly.  Watching the Jets try and stop the Dolphins, it seems, at a minimum, defenses will have to get even more athletic to stop guys like Brown, Williams and Pat White.

WHERE DOES ALL OF THIS LEAVE THE QUARTERBACK IN THE WILDCAT?

An interesting question.  We saw Chad Pennington split wide last year as the Dolphins ran their offense.  It seems that would be quite dangerous as, at some point, the other team’s defense is going to go out of its way to hammer the quarterback.  The QB, a protected species in the pocket or when he slides, will become a marked man as a wide receiver over time if the Wildcat is shredding a defense.  Frankly, the future of the Wildcat, it says here, won’t have a QB as wide receiver (unless he’s a great pass catcher).  The QB will either be on the bench or, you’ll have QBs like Pat White or (dare I say it, even though he doesn’t want to hear it) Michael Vick.       

THE FUTURE IS NOW FOR THE WILDCAT

All in all, there was a transformation in NFL offense last week in Miami.  After shocking the vaunted Patriots last year, the Dolphins revised the Wildcat this year to improve it and make it very problematic for defenses (even good ones) to defend.  The eternal chess match between offense and defense took an offensive turn last week.  We’ll see where it’s headed.

But the Wildcat, in one form or another, is here to stay.

© Copyright 2009 by Steve Kallas. All rights reserved.