The longtime Cape Cod League coach has a relationship with future stars that's different than any they'll have with their many other coaches. Here, he remembers young Matt Harvey, young Evan Longoria, young Rich Hill, and more.
If you recognize the name John Schiffner, chances are you're either part of the college baseball scene or a big fan of the 2001 romantic comedy, Summer Catch. The long-time coach of Chatham in the Cape Cod League, Schiffner is played by Brian Dennehy in the film, and he considers it one of the highlights of his baseball career — though he wouldn't have minded the role going to Tom Selleck or Kevin Costner, he admitted.
This year's J.G. Taylor Spink Award honoree talks about Earl Weaver's pre-game post-game quotes, how young writers can get his attention, his many clubhouse confrontations and more.
Few voices in baseball coverage are as recognizable—and yes, as polarizing—as that of Dan Shaughnessy. Since starting as a beat reporter for the Baltimore Evening Sun in 1977 through his quarter-century as a columnist with the Boston Globe, Shaughnessy has become one of the most distinctive and distinguished sportswriters in America.
'I always chuckle when I hear someone say, 'We're on a five-year plan.' Look out. Somebody's just trying to cover their ass. We're on today.'
Buck Showalter was 28 years old when he got his first managerial gig in professional baseball, with the short-season Oneonta Yankees of the New York-Penn League in 1985. It took him just seven years to take over at the major-league level in New York, and he's now managed parts of 18 big-league seasons.
On the most interesting success story in baseball.
Rich Hill's latest major-league opportunity relied upon a batting practice flyball striking Steven Wright in the head along the warning track at Marlins Park last August. Two days later, the Red Sox signed Hill off the roster of the Atlantic League's Long Island Ducks, and a day after that, he made his first (non-rehab) start in affiliated ball in six years.
'What's innovative is not to chase the shiniest thing and worship it.'
Recently, the prospect team here at Baseball Prospectus ranked the Dodgers the top farm system in baseball on the strength of the league's finest combination of high-end talent at the top and depth throughout. In my 2016 team preview a few weeks back, I talked at some length about the front office and scouting department overhauls—and the funding structure behind them—that paved the way for this transformation. Current Director of Player Development Gabe Kapler was part of the wave of front office hires by the organization in 2014, and I sat down to talk with him about how he views his role and how the organization is going to go about turning its giant minor-league collection of tools into big-league talent that will help the club win games.
The Astros pitching coach talks about tutoring in Europe, translating Ground Control printouts to the dugout, and why he believes objective is better than subjective.
The story of how Brent Strom came to be the pitching coach for the Houston Astros begins with a cartoonist for the New Yorker named Mike Witte. Witte had played high school ball with some of the St. Louis Cardinals owners, and as an adult studied the pitching motion until he was qualified to serve as a consultant to major-league teams on pitching deliveries. During Jeff Luhnow’s first year as farm director in St. Louis, Witte told Luhnow that of all the pitching coaches he had observed, Brent Strom had the best feel for the principles Witte was discovering in his research.
An interview about extensions with the man who pioneered them.
Last month, I wrote about what looked like a coming contract crisis for the Atlanta Braves’ young core, wondering when the Braves would approach their young players about long-term deals and speculating that Atlanta’s hiring of senior advisor John Hart—who pioneered the concept of contract extensions for young players while serving as the Indians’ general manager in the 1990s—might portend an extension spree. None of this was news to Braves president John Schuerholz and GM Frank Wren, who had already been laying the groundwork for contract talks with their young stars. Since then, we’ve seen Atlanta swiftly defuse any fears that they would be priced out of their own players, buying out Jason Heyward’s remaining arbitration years and signing Freddie Freeman, Julio Teheran, Craig Kimbrel, and Andrelton Simmons to extensions of various lengths. (Links to Transaction Analysis: Freeman; Teheran and Kimbrel; Simmons.)
Baseball lifer and longtime scout Donald Pries enters the Orioles Hall of Fame.
Early in his career as a scout, he once threw batting practice to a high school phenom named Boog Powell. Later on he signed future All-Star outfielder Joe Rudi to his first contract during five years of scouting for penny-pinching Athletics owner Charlie Finley. He recommended highly that the Orioles draft a Los Angeles “high school catcher who couldn’t catch” who turned into Hall of Famer Eddie Murray. He played an indirect part in movie history by releasing Ron Shelton from the Orioles system, freeing the minor league second baseman to turn his energies into film-making that ultimately resulted in the classic Bull Durham. His work as a founding father of the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau and the first director of MLB’s Scout School has drawn universal praise. His youngest son Jeffrey was a no. 1 draft pick of the Yankees out of UCLA in 1984 (though a torn rotator cuff prematurely ended his career).
A video walkthrough of framing technique with two talented receivers.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a feature on framing for Grantland. I also spoke to Pirates catcher Russell Martin and Reds catcher Ryan Hanigan for a pair of Q&A companion pieces in which I showed the two catchers GIFs of borderline pitches that they'd caught over the past few years, and they explained their strategy for getting extra strikes. Martin's is here, and Hanigan's is here. The conversations ran so long that much of the text was left on the editing room floor. Rather than let it remain unread, I've collected the best previously unpublished excerpts below, omitting any material that appeared at Grantland.
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Catching instructors and coordinators comment on the importance of receiving skills.
While working on a feature on catcher framing for Grantland, I spoke to many catching instructors and coordinators about what makes a good receiver, what receiving skills are worth, and to what extent they can be improved. Many of their most interesting insights didn't make it into that story, so I've collected them here.
An expert on biomechanics and a team source talk about their approaches to evaluating and managing pitcher workloads.
For today's article on impervious and not-so-impervious pitchers, I got my David Laurila on, speaking to Glenn Fleisig of the American Sports Medicine Institute—whose name is almost always followed by the phrase, "the world's foremost authority on biomechanics"—and to a scouting executive from a major-league club (affectionately and frequently referred to in the article as "the executive"). Both had a lot to say, and not everything they said fit into the article. One of the things I failed to fit in was their extended perspectives on pitcher workloads and the efficacy of innings limits, so I'm rectifying that by posting both takes here. Dr. Fleisig comes first, followed by the team official.