Author Archive

Searching for Mr. March

In the future, everyone will be world-famous for a couple days in March.
(Photo: slgckgc)

Two people walked into a bar. They settled every debate in the universe. Then they discussed baseball.

“Who is Mr. October?”

Reggie Jackson. What my elders taught me anyhow. Read it was sarcastic at first, then Reggie grew into the role.”

“Mr. November?”

“Ain’t Jeets that’s for sure? Can’t take a crown because you were first in line when a calendar flips.”

A swig.

“Randy Johnson won Games Six and Seven of the World flippin’ Series. That boy never needed to grow, of course. Just found the right circumstance. We should all be so lucky and talented.”

“Sounds good to me.”

Peace in our time.

“What about Mr. March?”

Oh no.

“All the databases have ‘Mar/Apr’ in their splits. There have been 70 regular-season games played in March. What are we saying here? Beginnings don’t matter? Without a beginning there is no end. An ouroboros. With no March there is no October. There is no November. There’s no Christmas. I like Christmas.”

“Chanukkah is also…”

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Breaking Weird

There are three types of baseball. One is regular ol’ baseball. The second is extra-inning baseball, which is sometimes referred to as “#freebaseball”. And then finally, there’s Weird Baseball, stylized by the youths as “#weirdbaseball”.

Extra-inning baseball is like regular baseball, except — even more often than usual — batters are trying too hard to hit home runs. This leads occasionally to Weird Baseball. Scientists change their mind about what constitutes Weird Baseball once a month, during breaks when determining who is a millennial and who is not. Weird Baseball, at the moment, is technically denoted as baseball occurring in the 16th inning and onward.

I’m not the first to say it, but I’m the only to say in this blog post, that baseball is unlike other sports in that each team is tasked with playing basically every day. The result is a metronome-like effect, a dependable presence that lends order to life. But just like in life, chaos sometimes emerges from the order that baseball has created. Sometimes the chaos is a joyful sort; other times, it brings grief. In either case, it’s difficult to ignore. The chaos of #weirdbaseball is difficult to ignore.

Major League Baseball is trying to eliminate the chaos.

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2018 Positional Power Rankings: Left Field

The phrase “out of left field” is typically used to describe the emergence of something strange and unexpected into our lives. Apparently, the expression came from Chicago. There was a mental hospital near left field of the West Side Grounds where the Cubbies used to play up until the early 20th century. Sometimes Cubs fans at the ballpark could hear the patients of the hospital scream. That’s some wild, wild stuff.

It’s also probably baloney.

What follows is the opposite of baloney. What follows is the post containing the left-field portion of our positional power rankings. Which is fortunate, because we’re out of baloney. Have a scrumptious graph instead:

It’s finally here. The promise: fulfilled. You asked for it and you got it.

The Marlins Takeover.

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Mr. Alderson’s Opus

Sandy Alderson is a shrewd fellow. He went to, and graduated from, Dartmouth College before attending, and graduating from, Harvard Law School. He invented “Moneyball,” only for his former Oakland A’s deputy Billy Beane to reap all of the glory, envy, and disdain. His tenure as New York Mets general manager has not changed the perception that he is a smarty. When everybody and their deceased relatives knew he was looking to unload Addison Reed last summer, Alderson added another reliever (AJ Ramos) via trade, improving the market for Reed and picking up a division rival’s closer under team control for 2018 in the process.

Seeing Justin Turner and Daniel Murphy in Dodger and National jerseys, respectively, is a reminder he isn’t perfect. Seeing Noah Syndergaard tossing 101 mph fastballs with seemingly no effort is a reminder, however, that Sandy didn’t lose his own fastball in his twilight years. Throw in the caveat that he’s working with a weirdly limited — and allegedly nebulous — budget for a team based in New York and that ownership sometimes rejects trades he makes, and you got yourself an appreciation stew.

So, in that context, let’s now also remember that Sandy Alderson has said he thinks that Tim Tebow will make the major leagues.

I think he will play in the Major Leagues. That’s my guess. That’s my hope. And to some extent now after a year and a half, a modest expectation.

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There’s Always a Catch

This should not be a riddle. There are too many riddles in this universe, this country, this state, this zip code. We accept there will always be some unanswerable questions; it’s part of the bargain for living in a boundless, knotty orb. But this is baseball. The day of the apex of human knowledge – or the robot uprising – is one day closer, and a fair number of us spend a large amount of our time thinking about the game. So what’s the right way to catch a fly ball?

Two hands? That’s what I was told. I’m sure you were also told this. You could probably still hear an elder screaming “two hands” so loudly it traversed time and space and occasionally still echoes in your head. Using both of your hands was the “proper” way to handle anything. Only a neanderthal would pass the carrots at the dinner table with one hand, et al.

Juan Lagares uses two hands when he makes a routine catch.

But not when he’s chasing down a fly ball trying to run away from him.

Nobody uses two hands when they have to chase a ball in the gap or when they have to dive. There’s no time, even for a guy like Lagares. Yet it’s just as important to secure a baseball and lock it in a vise no matter how little time you have to react. So I ask again, and this is important since ground balls are quickly growing extinct: how am I catching this fly ball?

“I was always taught to use two hands.” That’s what Mets right fielder Ryan Church said in May 2009. “I mean, if you have to reach for it well that’s one thing, but if you’re there waiting for it, then yeah, sure, two hands.”

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The Idle Thoughts of the First Pitcher to Ride a Bullpen Cart in 2018

Mickey Haefner, man.


That left-handed knuckleballer. Hit Ted Williams with a pitch in a tune-up game before Teddy’s only World Series. Williams said his arm “swelled up like a boiled egg,” whatever that means, then went just 5-for-25. All singles. Red Sox lost in seven. Thanks to ol’ Mickey.


It wasn’t his idea to have the Red Sox scrimmage against the American League All-Stars while the National League had their best-of-three playoff to decide their World Series representative. Still. How did Ted Williams not have him killed? How did Mickey Haefner survive long enough to make history?



Paul Lukas admitted the bullpen historical record is imprecise. He also wrote that a 1950 newspaper report mentioning a “little red auto” was the first known instance of a report on bullpen vehicles. Then you found it: Chicago Tribune, July 6, 1950. You trust Lukas. You trust the Tribune. Cleveland 5, White Sox 2. Cleveland didn’t need a reliever that day. White Sox brought in Haefner first. Might as well figure it was Mickey freakin’ Haefner.


That game was in Cleveland. The Cultural Encyclopedia of Baseball, 2d ed. sounds trustworthy and regal. Said Cleveland GM Hank Greenberg came up with the whole bullpen cart idea.


Mickey damn Haefner.

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The Perfectly Nice Hatters

On February 15, 2018, top prospect Ronald Acuña Jr. wore his hat in a way different than baseball players wear hats. Mass hysteria immediately followed. The teenagers looted. Bill Haley’s obstreperous pleas for 24-hour rebellion blasted. The unmistakable Mary Jane wafted through the air. Supporters of decorum openly wept. There was fire and dancing in the shadows of crumbling architecture.

Actually, no. None of that happened. Rather, Acuña Jr. let his locks show during spring-training camp. Nobody seemed to care at the time.

Yet, as Mark Bowman of noted earlier this week, Atlanta was concerned. Wrote Bowman: “the Braves want Acuña to wear his hat straight and maintain a professional appearance while in uniform.

It was a shame, since it overshadowed former Brave wunderkind and Acuña spring-training mentor Andruw Jones seemingly inventing a fun new term.

From Jones:

The main thing he needs to remember is keep your head straight and respect [your surroundings]. Be humble, but a humble-cocky.

The cap story was controversial. Some noted the racial hypocrisy. Some theorized it was a ploy by Atlanta to later claim the very talented but very young Acuña should hang his hat in a home in Triple-A Gwinnett for the beginning of the 2018 season, in order to acquire an extra year of team control. Manager Brian Snitker said this afternoon talk of Acuña’s hat was “blown out of proportion.” Well, yeah. Acuña readjusting himself following a catch during Friday afternoon’s game against the Yankees should not have been as dramatic as it was.

Acuña hasn’t worn his hat any differently than his teammates in either of his televised spring-training starts, and photos from last year’s Futures Game show he probably never wore it at any disapproving angle during any game in his nascent career.

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A Wrinkle in Fixing Time

Time is undefeated. To fight it is to lose, and a waste of it. To kill some is a waste of your own. The knighted bloke best known for proclaiming time was on his side? He’s 74 now. Time — as one lord of it has said — is a wibbly wobbly timey wimey enterprise.

Apparently, Major League Baseball likes a challenge. Among their new pace-of-play solutions is to limit “mound visits” to six per team every nine innings, with one bonus visitation for each extra inning.

Everybody knows that visiting a pitcher to take the ball away from his failed, sweaty hands does not count as a mound visit, but the new limitation still leads to many questions — and varying, vague answers. The punishment for a forbidden seventh “mound visit,” for example. Commissioner Rob Manfred said there would be an automatic pitching change. MLB chief baseball officer Joe Torre then said that would only happen if a pitching coach or manager had the seventh chat. Or the catcher gets ejected. Or everybody gets to stay, because the seventh visit is allowed if the pitcher and catcher clearly get “crossed up.”

What counts as a “mound visit”? This is the official explanation on MLB’s website:

Any manager, coach or player visit to the mound counts as a mound visit under this rule, though visits to the mound to clean cleats in rainy weather, to check on a potential injury or after the announcement of an offensive substitution are excepted. Normal communication between a player and pitcher that doesn’t require either to vacate his position on the field doesn’t count as a visit.

Torre has been touring spring training camps to better explain to each team what the actual rules are. So far, managers have said they have a better understanding following Torre’s visit without elaborating as to how, exactly. The umpires aren’t entirely clear on the rules yet, either. Umpire Jeff Kellogg told the Twins there was a “mound visit” the other day when pitcher Phil Hughes walked over to his catcher Mitch Garver after taking a foul ball to the helmet. “When a guy takes a ball off the mask, [I’m] just checking to see if he’s all right and give him a second,” Hughes told the Star-Tribune. “We’re not talking about strategy or anything. [Kellogg] said as he understands it now, [it counts anyway], but he wouldn’t be surprised if some memos go out to clarify things.”

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The Making of a Sabermetric Murderer

Roger Cormier is a new contributor to FanGraphs. This is his delightful and strange first piece.

One could be excused for assuming that Eric Hosmer was made, not born. Made to confound the so-called “advanced” defensive metrics. Built to suppress that uprising known as the “fly-ball revolution.” Manufactured to lead a club written off by the projections — to lead them to a world championship. Engineered, in short, to thwart those who have attempted to harness the wild, loose ends of the game.

This long, chilly Hot Stove season appeared to be designed just for him, a comeuppance for his agitation. He, the One Demanding the Eight-Year Contract, would wait. And wait. And wait.

And then, like all mortals do, he would settle. And it would be glorious. The universe would finally bend towards justice. We would forever look at a picture of Hosmer in a puka shell necklace and laugh until we died, happy.

But we were naive. Instead, he did sign an eight-year deal. And not only that, but the pact would allow him to leave after five years if he wanted. That’s right: he even has Free Will.

How did we get here? How did we let such a polarizing creature into our lives?

As it turns out, Eric Hosmer is neither myth nor machine, but an actual human being — the progeny of two carbon-based lifeforms, even. He wasn’t constructed to singlehandedly defy sabermetric orthodoxy. Rather, he was born in South Miami. He is a person with feelings. He was once a boy.

I wanted to learn more about him, so I turned to primary sources, digging through newspaper and internet archives to build a portrait of the man. It’s a story I found interesting — and which also just so happens to be the truth.


The story begins not with Hosmer himself, but with a seven-year-old named Ileana. Ileana’s family won a lottery for a temporary work visa. They got to fly out of Cuba and into the United States. Cuban officials threatened to cancel the visa the night of their flight because two of her dolls were missing. The neighbor to whom Ileana lent the dolls presented them to the officials just in time, and that was the last time she was ever in Cuba. (Another version of events, the one told by Eric himself, is similar, except Ileana was nine, and the two dolls was one teddy bear. It doesn’t matter.)

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