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May 6, 2003

Under The Knife

The Fast and the Furious

by Will Carroll

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Once again, I spent my day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Due to rain and wind, we weren't able to go out on the track, but we did discover that I will be the one in the car tomorrow morning. We'll go out at around 200 mph and I'm as scared as I am excited. I've seen major league fastballs before, and standing in the pits watching Tora Takagi fly by me at 229 mph was every bit as awe-inspiring. The car rushes down the long straight, sucking up air, whooshes by with 800 horsepower screaming, and then vanishes into a tunnel they call a turn. They're going to strap me into one of those tomorrow. I'm not sure if I wouldn't rather face Roger Clemens when he's cross-eyed and angry.

  • Still, my mind wanders during my 12-hour days at the racetrack. I wonder what there is that I can learn there that would apply to baseball. The emergency care and sports medicine is certainly applicable. The technology is amazing, and their attention to instant telemetry and the ability to make both short-term and long-term adjustments is amazing. The teamwork of pitstops, engine changes, and suspension work probably would work on any team.

  • The one thing I know would help baseball is if nine out of 10 media relations directors came to Speedway and watched how these people do their job. We call, and when possible, drivers are made available. They know what to say and how to say it. They know how to take care of both fans and sponsors, to balance accessibility and workload. We sit in a media room equipped with 10 television sets--per row--and there are more than 50 rows. Updates happen instantly, the track runs its own television and radio feeds, and when there are lulls, the media staff will help the media find stories, keeping fans interested and keeping the media focused. If baseball would do just half of this, the change would be amazing.

  • Tomorrow's ride is going to be as close as I'm ever going to get to standing in against Roger Clemens. Imagine a team willing to let the press take a couple swings at the Rocket--or any star player--and imagine the stories they might write. Even better, the IRL found a way to give the ride a UTK twist...I'll be driving with Davey Hamilton at the wheel. Just read this and you'll understand why it will be an honor to have him take me 10 miles...in two and a half minutes.

  • Albert Pujols had nearly a 1500 OPS, leading his team to an undefeated week and himself to Player of the Week honors. All this while playing a position where he couldn't complete his duties and hitting with a sore elbow. First, imagine what he can do healthy. Second, give credit to TLR for putting him out there, but remember it just as easily could have gone horribly wrong.

  • The L.A. Times is reporting that Darin Erstad is having significant problems with his hamstring. The story states that Erstad is looking at up to five weeks. While my best Angels source was unavailable, most feel that Erstad is more likely to be back in two weeks than five or six. "Darin's better at playing with pain than anyone I know. We know he can do that, but we're not quite sure how effective he'll be. Maybe playing with pain is what holds him back every couple years," said one insider.

  • Good news for Darren Dreifort. For once, his MRI came back with no damage shown. Dreifort will continue with treatment and hopes to work back into the Dodger rotation quickly. (Yeah, yeah, yeah...it was a pretty funny error I made yesterday--Andy Ashby, not Alan. I blame the SRL for this mistake--right Mat?)

  • Barry Larkin is close to a return. All that's left to decide is his role. If you counted the Reds out after a slow start, you're likely to regret that move. I haven't backed off my prediction of a Reds division win yet. As the team gets healthy and continues trying everything possible to identify some pitching, this team will become more dangerous. I'm not sure what Larkin has to contribute, but we should find out in the next few weeks.

  • Antonio Alfonseca is back and throwing for the Cubs. He pitched an inning, striking out two, looking good and moving well. It was a bit odd to see him out on the mound in the seventh, but Dusty Baker's "committee" is about results, not role. I like this Dusty guy.

  • The Marlins are discussing calling up pitching prospect Dontrelle Willis. After some research--once again with assistance from Kevin Goldstein--Willis' pitch counts were found to be pretty reasonable. Reasonable, but sending your top pitching prospect to be managed by Jeff Torborg is...well, it just doesn't seem like a good idea these days. That said, the he said/she said between Torborg and Marlins management isn't going to end well for anyone.

Back tomorrow, much faster and hopefully not in the wall.

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