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Clubhouse Confidential 

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September 21, 2011 9:00 am

Clubhouse Confidential: An MVP By Any Other Name

16

Marc Carig

If voters took the MVP voting instructions literally, Jose Bautista would likely be bringing home some hardware this season.

TORONTO—The following—courtesy of a living, breathing, American League voter who hopes to be compensated with an alcoholic beverage to be named later—is a copy of the instructions given to those within the Baseball Writers' Association of America who have been tapped to elect this season's Most Valuable Player.

I present them here because of Jose Bautista.

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September 8, 2011 10:35 am

Clubhouse Confidential: The Strikeouts That Stirred the Drink

7

Marc Carig

Reggie Jackson rues his strikeout-prone play, but were his whiffs really a problem?

“I was reminded that when we lose and I strike out, a billion people in China don't care.” -- Reggie Jackson

NEW YORK—There was a time when he viewed strikeouts as the cost of doing business, part of the price he had to pay for being who he was, an unapologetic slugger. After all, the drinks don't stir themselves. So if a few strikeouts found their way onto the back of his baseball card, it wasn't going to bother Reggie Jackson.

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August 11, 2011 10:06 am

Clubhouse Confidential: The King of Pop

6

Marc Carig

Jered Weaver's ability to induce pop-ups is one of his greatest strengths, but opinions differ as to how he does it.

NEW YORK—Jered Weaver insists that he doesn't have an answer. For starters, he isn't even trying, at least not consciously. Pop-ups, he said earlier this week, just happen.

He gets more of them than any other starting pitcher in the game, and throughout his career, he's consistently been among the game's leading purveyors of this underappreciated batted-ball type. But at no point has the Angels ace thrown a pitch specifically to induce a pop-up.

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August 3, 2011 9:00 am

Clubhouse Confidential: Be Like CC

4

Marc Carig

A number of pitchers traded at the deadline hope to follow in CC Sabathia's 2008 footsteps by turning around their seasons with their new teams.

CHICAGO—The Cleveland Indians team flight had just touched down after completing its journey from Minnesota when word began to spread around the cabin.

CC Sabathia, the Indians' star pitcher and free-agent-to-be, had just been traded to the Milwaukee Brewers. With the plane still on the tarmac, Sabathia began saying his goodbyes to his teammates and his manager, still stunned at a reality that would eventually set in. He had gone from an also-ran with the Indians to a playoff contender with the Brewers, a change of scenery that he later called “refreshing.”

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July 27, 2011 9:00 am

Clubhouse Confidential: Dome Alone

8

Marc Carig

The ground rules keep changing, but the Rays still haven't found the rule that would make timeworn Tropicana Field a proper place to play baseball.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.—The contrarian in me wants to love Tropicana Field, or what one player last week derisively called “The Pinball Machine.” I am a sucker for endangered species, and the Trop is the last of its kind, a baseball stadium with a fixed dome, a throwback to the bad old days of ashtray-shaped ballparks.

While most celebrated the stadium-building craze that began in the 1990s, I've viewed the era as one of missed opportunities. For every jewel like Camden Yards, there's a Great American Ballpark, a nice enough place that's guilty of the same unremarkable blandness as its circular predecessor, Riverfront Stadium.

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Buck Martinez confesses to being an inveterate sign stealer during his playing days and opines on the practice's prominence in today's game.

TORONTO—Looking back on it now, more than three decades later, Buck Martinez can't remember a better group of sign stealers than his teammates with the Milwaukee Brewers. The former big-league catcher and manager, who practiced the black arts of sign stealing with the Brew Crew teams of the late 70s, said without hesitation last week: “We were the best at it.”

Even from the on-deck circle, with Martinez down on one knee waiting to hit, he found a way to make an opposing catcher pay the price for setting up too early. On those Brewers teams, when the man on deck called the man at the plate by his first name, the opposing catcher was set up for a pitch inside. If he was called by his last name, the catcher was set up for a pitch outside.

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Another Home Run Derby requires another reminder--from the players, this time--that participation doesn't result in second-half slumps.

CLEVELAND— Sometimes, it happens just to break up the monotony of the day. At other times, it happens because natural competitiveness bubbles to the surface. Around any given batting cage, on any given day, a big-league team's pre-game batting practice can suddenly morph into an impromptu Home Run Derby.

Few Yankees are better in this setting than second baseman Robinson Cano, whose knack for squaring up the ball on the barrel of a bat translates into mammoth homers. Fans will get a chance to see it for themselves when Cano, who doesn't fit the mold of a typical slugger, takes part in the Home Run Derby.

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June 29, 2011 9:00 am

Clubhouse Confidential: Melvin Making Moves

0

Marc Carig

Doug Melvin's willingness to make bold moves to acquire aces continues to serve the Brew Crew well.

NEW YORK—Milwaukee Brewers general manager Doug Melvin cut his teeth as an executive years ago with the Baltimore Orioles, where he served as an assistant under former GM Roland Hemond. Melvin still considers the longtime executive a mentor who has taught him valuable lessons, including the one that has allowed him to pull off his most daring trades.

“Roland always taught me to always be ready and available to do anything and to adjust,” Melvin said. “You have to have a game plan. But the game plan's not as important. Your ‘A’ game plan isn't as important as the ability to adjust from your game plan if you have to, to go to Plan B or Plan C.”

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As AL pitchers step up to the plate for interleague play, which pitchers of the past and present should they attempt to emulate?

CINCINNATI—These were the days when interleague play was reserved only for spring training and the World Series and nothing in between. These were the days when not every game was on television, and regional sports networks had yet to take root.

But if you grew up a baseball fan in the Bay Area back in the 1980s, it was easy to feel spoiled. It was one of the few places where you could easily watch both the American League and National League, thanks to the proximity of the A's and Giants.

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Just when he was out, losing pulled him back in again.

NEW YORK—Manny Acta is a believer. When it comes to the value of advanced metrics—or the insights that can be gained through the use of sabermetric principles—the manager of the Indians needs no convincing. Take, for instance, his stance on bunting: “Outs are precious. There's 27 of them. You've got to take care of them.”
 

Or on stealing bases: “You can't be running just because 40,000 people will think you're being aggressive and you're getting thrown out left and right.”
 



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Ray Fosse, the victim of history's most famous home-plate collision, weighs in on Buster Posey.

OAKLAND—The photograph used to hang in his office. Taken during a game at Fenway Park, the image showed a flowing swing he once called his own, the same swing he spent the rest of his career trying to replicate. He never came close.

Ray Fosse holds the pose now as he stands in an equipment room in the Oakland Coliseum—his head down to watch the ball jump off his bat, his left arm fully extended through the zone, his mind drifting back to the way it all clicked so easily throughout the first half of the 1970 season.

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May 31, 2011 9:00 am

Clubhouse Confidential: Coneheads, Meet Statheads

7

Marc Carig

Haunted by poor run support, former pitcher and current broadcaster David Cone embraces sabermetrics and lives to tell about it.

SEATTLE—In Kansas City, David Cone constantly found himself locked in close games, trying to carry a team that rarely scored enough to support him. In Chicago, Jack McDowell enjoyed the spoils of a potent lineup, almost always working with a safety net stitched with run support.

The year was 1993, when Cone and McDowell pitched to roughly the same earned run average and logged about the same amount of innings, only for their paths to diverge when it came to other statistics. Cone's offense gave him just 2.9 runs per start while McDowell's teammates averaged 5.1, a difference reflected in their records. For his troubles, Cone ended up with a pedestrian 11-14 record while McDowell went 22-10 on the way to the Cy Young Award.

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