A writer who never saw Jack Morris pitch watches him in action for the first time and comes away even less convinced that the traditionalist case for his candidacy should earn him a call to Cooperstown.
A series of questionable moves, bloopers, and blown calls to the bullpen were pertinent in the outcome of Game Five.
Given not only his history but the clinic in bullpen management that Tony La Russa put on in the NLCS, it’s difficult to believe that he could wind up botching a situation as badly as he did in the eighth inning of Monday's Game Five of the World Series. But thanks to a miscommunication between the Cardinals' dugout and their bullpen, a manager who has spent his career chasing the platoon advantage ad nauseam was left with lefty Marc Rzepczynski facing righty Mike Napoli with the bases loaded and one out. Meanwhile, the pitcher he wanted to face the Rangers' best hitter at the game’s pivotal moment wasn't even warmed up. Napoli, whose three-run homer had broken the game open the night before, pounded a double off the right-center field wall, breaking a 2-2 tie and helping the Rangers take a 3-2 lead in the Series.
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When the former first overall pick makes his debut tonight, here are a few things to watch for.
The debut of Stephen Strasburg is one that baseball fans have been waiting to see. Assuming you're reading this, you'll be watching as well (MLB Network, check your local listings.) So now that we've heard all the hype and seen glimpses of him in scouting video and in the minors, what should we be watching for when he actually takes the mound? Get your popcorn, scorecard, and MLB.tv ready, because here's your viewers guide:
1. Fastball Everyone comes to see the fastball. It's why he's famous, and with good reason. Strasburg's fastball has been credibly recorded as high as 102 and lives in the mid-90's. The fastball comes with all five elements: velocity, control, command, movement, and touch. Velocity is the easy one, so let's define the other three. Control is the ability to hit a spot or, more specifically, to throw strikes. Command is more loosely defined, but most agree it's the ability to move pitches around within a controlled area. Leo Mazzone preached command to his Braves pitchers, putting balls in specific spots in and out of the strike zone in order to make hitters swing at their pitch, so that even if contact was made, it was weak. Greg Maddux famously threw pitches in order to set up players for later at-bats, while Tom Glavine would work as much on the umpire as he did the hitter, drawing the strike zone further and further out.
The Indians reliever talks about the pressure of pitching late in games and other aspects of working out of the bullpen.
Chris Perez knows all about pressure and expectations. Once looked upon as St. Louis’ closer of the future, the 24-year-old right-hander now holds that distinction in Cleveland, where he is caddying for the it’s-only-a-matter-of-time-before-he’s-gone Kerry Wood.
There's Snakes on the field, but a few too many coming home, too.
If seeing former Cubs skipper Jim Riggleman's Washington ballclub leave town was a case of a not-so-fond farewell to an old friend after losing a series, next up is Arizona. With so many players left from the two teams that squared off in the Diamondbacks' sweep of the 2007 NL Division Series, for the Cubs, renewing this rivalry with a rhumba of rattlers provides equal measures of revenge and a run back toward .500.
Marte is a former top prospect trying to hang on; Brantley has a much brighter future.
Andy Marte is a forgotten man at 26. Just a few years ago, Marte was a darling of the prospect hounds, including Baseball Prospectus. He was compared favorably to players like Adrian Beltre (at his best) and Miguel Cabrera. He posted mouth-watering power numbers at precocious ages in his respective leagues. He even displayed improving strike-zone command, with gradually rising walk rates and gradually decreasing strikeout totals. There was nothing not to like.
In 2005, BP declared Marte the top prospect in the game, after ranking him third in 2004. The praise wasn't the lone voice in the prospect-rating wilderness. Baseball America rated him as the Braves' top prospect in 2004 and as Boston's great minor-league hope in 2006. (The rankings were put together before Marte was flipped to Cleveland.) He was BA's ninth-ranked overall prospect in 2005. Even after Marte was traded twice in a 45-day span in late 2005 and early 2006, he seemed like as sure of a bet to become a big-league fixture as a young player possibly can be.
The Yankees' second sacker seems to keep coming and going from great to less so, but is he finally about to settle in as an offensive star?
This is not the first time there has been a Robinson Cano Player Profile at Baseball Prospectus. Given the team we are talking about, consider this the Empire Strikes Back edition of Player Profile; we'll continue the story started a few years back, and take a look at Cano during his peak when the tale was at its most interesting point. I won't be discussing the time he had to cut open his Tauntaun on the ice planet Hoth in order to warm up his bat, though, because some things are better left to the imagination.
The Orioles Hall of Famer discusses his contemporaries, solo home runs, commanding the strike zone, and... solo home runs,
A lot of great pitchers have worn an Orioles uniform over the years, but none have been better than Jim Palmer. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1990, Palmer won 268 games over 19 seasons, winning 20 games or more eight times and twice leading the American League in ERA. Signed by Baltimore as an amateur free agent in 1963, Palmer made his big-league debut in 1965 and went on to play his entire career with the Orioles, pitching 3,948 innings and earning three World Series rings. In Game Two of the 1966 Fall Classic, Palmer became the youngest pitcher to throw a World Series shutout when he defeated Sandy Koufax and the Dodgers 2-0 at the age of 20. The winningest pitcher in team history, Palmer is currently an analyst for Orioles TV.