The margins are thin. Consider the player in the title above. Goldschmidt is one of the more famous prospect industry misses, but if his hit tool had actually slipped a bit, the margin between all-star and below-average would be razor thin. Or consider that the original title for this article was going to be “A Critique of Pure Rhyson.” Like I said, thin margins. You need to hit, continue to hit, never stop hitting. And once you do, there’s no fallback spot for a short-side, defensively limited bench bat in an era of 13-man pitching staffs. A role 4 shortstop can play for a decade. A role 4 RHH first baseman plays for a decade in Korea.

Notes from the Appy Ground

  • Jocko Willink has recently become a popular figure within the business leadership speaking cabal. He’s written books titled Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win and The Dichotomy of Leadership: Balancing the Challenges of Extreme Ownership to Lead and Win. He’s been on the cover of Success magazine, whatever that is. He has a podcast. He’s a peripheral figure on the (sigh) “intellectual dark web,” which is a term I now have to use in my prose. He also has this theory about alarm clocks:

“The moment the alarm goes off is the first test; it sets the tone for the rest of the day. The test is not a complex one: when the alarm goes off, do you get up out of bed, or do you lie there in comfort and fall back to sleep? If you have the discipline to get out of bed, you win — you pass the test. If you are mentally weak for that moment and you let that weakness keep you in bed, you fail.”

  • Obviously a certain kind of middle manager or second vice president will eat this up. The kind that scoffs at flex time or work/life balance, and sends department-wide e-mails about the state of the break room sink.  
  • I lean on the snooze button. Heavily. Jess and I have semi-regular fights about the exact timing of my alarm. Does it need to be that early, really?
  • I do have my own version of this test. It happens at every short-season game, every year. The first pitching change. The median starting pitcher in the Appy League is a 2. That’s just the way it goes down here. I got a few 3s on this trip. It was a good trip. But then the relievers come in. You know how this is gonna go. What do you do? Do you start making mechanical notes? Do you keep the radar gun out? No one will ever see these. No one will ever know if you don’t.

Shawaryn and Shostakovich

When the Fifth Symphony had its premiere, in November of 1937, it sent the audience into convulsions. During the third movement, the proudly sorrowing Largo, many broke into tears. The ovation afterward lasted for forty minutes. Shostakovich, once pegged as a propagandist for the Soviet system, is now exalted as its noblest musical victim. He has been canonized as a moral subversive, a conscientious ironist, a “holy fool.”

  • Alex Ross, “Ruined Choirs,” The New Yorker, March 20, 2000

I’m an INTJ, Enneagram Type 5, off the charts on MMPI Scale 0. I’m always a little on edge in public and fear becoming downright agoraphobic as my maternal grandmother did. The only two locations I truly feel at ease now are (1) the ballpark or (2) a cocktail bar with dim lighting, recessed brick, reclaimed wood, and at least four drink options containing amaro. Conveniently both are a mere eight minutes apart door-to-door if I hit every single light on either side of I-84 and there’s street parking available. As soon as Shawaryn is pulled I am off to my car. I did not expand my cultural horizons. I confirmed my 5/4.

But perhaps foolishly, I will always wonder which would have helped my writing more.

The rye and sherry old fashioned riff was excellent at least. And I know that will help.

There are some sounds that, although you’ve never heard them before in person, you know immediately what they are, and the sound of a car flipping over is one of them. The call to 911 was made before I crested the top of the driveway and my eyes confirmed what my ears had already told me: a mud-red SUV splayed across the road, its glittering silver underbelly exposed. The headlights, staring blankly, lit up the house across the way. The radio was still playing, a pop station, something light and dance-y. We listened for a voice to come from the figure in the car, but there was none.

The street I live on is split from the main road, separated by a steep bank of about ten feet. The main road curves at an angle that starts out gentle, and then hooks sharply around as it crests the hill. There is no guardrail around the curve, no barricade that separates the row of houses beneath other than a copse of blackened trees and a long tangle of blackberry bramble the city recently mowed down. They will have to Do Something; this is the third time something like this has happened, and the second in the past three years. A guardrail will be erected, the bank repopulated with trees and cushiony growth. As I type I can hear the neighbor who suffered the worst damage sweeping up bits of broken trees, fragments from the staved-in family minivan.

Too often, safety measures are enacted in hindsight: a player has his jaw broken by a pitch and switches to the C-flap helmet; a top prospect wrecks his knee against an unpadded metal box; a player happens out on the field while the automated tarp machine is rolling up. Some dangers you don’t see coming. Others you do, but without a clear example, they get pushed to the bottom of the priority list. Some, like the flap helmet, are treated as optional, in the same way wearing a seatbelt was optional until the late 60s. MLB was mostly reacting to the incident of a toddler struck in the face with a line drive at Yankee Stadium when it challenged all clubs to install more protective netting, a move that was met with scorn and derision by some at the time, or at least a sense of annoyance at this limiting of one’s personal freedoms. It’s now a year later. Extended protective netting is standard at MLB parks and many minor-league ones. No one seems to feel their experience has been compromised.

Soon, it will be difficult to remember parks without protective netting. It will fall into the same category as cars without seatbelts or lawn darts or leaded paint. “Can you believe we used to live like that?” “Can you believe we thought that was safe?” Ideally it wouldn’t take one disaster event to get to that point, but sometimes that’s what it takes to get our attention.

[Red Sox clubhouse, 10:05 am on October 20. Enter Brock Holt and Chris Sale.]

BROCK HOLT: Hey, man, it’s good to see you’re feeling better.

CHRIS SALE, intensely tossing a baseball between his hands while staring at Brock: Yeah, yeah, great to be back. Real excited.

BROCK HOLT: So, have you thought about what you’re gonna say to reporters about your, uh, “stomach illness”?

CHRIS SALE: I was just gonna say I had the shits.

BROCK HOLT: That’s good, that’s good. You’ve always been a direct kinda guy.

[Red Sox clubhouse, 10:38 am. Enter JD Martinez and Chris Sale, who is still tossing the baseball between his hands.]

CHRIS SALE: Hey, can I ask you something?


CHRIS SALE: Am I too “direct” a person?

JD MARTINEZ: Where’s this coming from, bro?

CHRIS SALE: Well, earlier I told Brock I was just gonna tell the reporters I had the shits and he called me a “direct kinda guy.” I don’t think it was a compliment.

JD MARTINEZ: Listen, I’m gonna tell you straight up that I love your directness, but you could also learn to have some more fun with things.

CHRIS SALE: Fun…fun…yeah…I gotta have more fun.

[Red Sox clubhouse, 11:46 am. Enter Dustin Pedroia and Chris Sale, who is frantically scribbling in a spiral notebook]

CHRIS SALE, mumbling: shot with…an arrow…or a bullet…or a…uh…a missile!

DUSTIN PEDROIA: What the [expletive] are you doing?

CHRIS SALE: JD told me I shouldn’t tell reporters why I was at the hospital, so I’m trying to think of a ‘fun’ reason.

DUSTIN PEDROIA: Gimme your [expletive] notebook. You need a smart person’s help with this. Let’s see here….burned by an iron…drank poison?! [expletive] Dude, what the [expletive] are these?! They’re all [expletive], you crazy [expletive].

CHRIS SALE: Well if you’re so smart, what would you suggest?

DUSTIN PEDROIA: My girlfriend in high school once had to go to the hospital because she was allergic to the metal in her belly button ring. Half her stomach swelled up. It was [expletive] nasty.

[Alex Cora’s office, 2:54 pm.]

CHRIS SALE: So that’s what I’m gonna say whenever they ask. Do you need me to run through it again?

ALEX CORA, rubbing his temple: Listen, man, I don’t care what you say to them as long as you pitch well on Tuesday. Got it?

[Media Room, 3:23pm]

Thank you for reading

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