“Baseball, to me, is still the national pastime because it is a summer game. I feel that almost all Americans are summer people, that summer is what they think of when they think of their childhood. I think it stirs up an incredible emotion within people.” ~Steve Busby, in Washington Post, 8 July 1974
Every day for about 180 days a year I tune into baseball. The older I get, the less I worry about who is playing, I find that I just like the game for what it is. Busby’s quote sticks with me because it’s true. I grew up around the game, watched almost all of them on television, went to Sunday home games with my grandfather, lived and died with the Orioles. I played when I was young, not too good, but I tried hard to get the fundamentals right. I was a slappy hitter who valued getting on-base anyway possible and then stealing as many bases after that as possible. At any given moment, during a ballgame, all of these memories and feelings come rushing back all at once and it’s almost overwhelming. It’s just a game, sure, and as it’s been eloquently said, the Grand Canyon is just a hole in the ground.
Childhood, at least in our minds, as we reflect, involved pure feelings and innocence. As we aged, we found being an adult wasn’t always cake and ice cream. Adulthood involves making sacrifices, difficult decisions, and the consequences of those decisions. It’s a lot more complicated… but the game isn’t, the game is largely what it was 125 years ago. Sure, there are different eras, but they evolved as the competition evolved. Pitchers get ahead of hitters, hitters catch up, then pitchers catch up. It seesaws back and forth and somehow this is wonderful. Baseball gives back what we put into it. To me, baseball is the great escape. It lasts six months, gives us a place to forget our troubles and yell like hell for our team. In the United States, there are 29 such places where this can be achieved. In our darkest days, the game can save you, and often does, at least until the last pitch of the ninth inning. In our best days, the game simply refreshes us and gives us something special, the chance to reflect on what was, when it was. And for this, I am grateful.
Mark Reynolds and Contact
As you know, before Mark Reynolds did it three years in a row, no one in MLB history struck out 200 times in one season. Strikeouts don’t bother Mark the way they bother other hitters. Only Mark Reynolds and pitchers like strikeouts, I suppose. The only way I can rationalize this is to think that Ks don’t bother Mark because when he actually does make contact, great things happen. Here’s proof: Name three players who appeared 550 times in any season while batting below the Mendoza Line. Give up? Tom Tresh (1968), Carlos Pena (2010), and Mark Reynolds (2010). Reynolds’ home run tallies account for roughly one-third of his total hits. In his career away from Chase Field, he’s posted a slash line of .235/.323/.461. Last year his road line looked like this: .181/.302/.341.
In 2011, over his first 103 ABs, Reynolds has posted a slash line of .176/.252/.352. His strikeout rate is down to 30.8% against a career rate of 38.4%. But so is his walk rate, sitting at 7.8% against a career rate of 11.2%. If you are looking for hope, he’s posted a career .317 batting average on balls in play but only .210 this season. His contact rate sits at 61.1%, which is up from 58% in 2010… but 61% is still pathetic. Adjusting to a new league can be difficult, but when you consider Reynolds’ performance away from Chase Field, his current numbers are far from surprising and offer little hope for the rest of 2011.
The MacPhail track record for acquiring productive third basemen in Baltimore isn’t encouraging, especially in the AL East.
The jury is still out on Josh Bell, so perhaps there is a glimmer of hope yet. In Norfolk, Josh Bell has posted a slash line of .256/.274/.476. His contact rate is 65%. He’s struck out 27 times against 2 walks over 20 games. 4 of his 21 hits have left the park. Last year, in Baltimore, Josh struck out 53 times while walking twice. These are not encouraging numbers for a guy trying to break into the big leagues.
Clearly, third base remains an area where the Orioles will need to land a productive bat in order to compete in the division. Patience at the plate seems challenging for the Oriole offense. Watching Vlad needs to be discouraged as few hitters can get away with being a free-swinger in the vein of Vlad or Miggy.
- John on Your Orioles Update: Second Base
- Ben on Your Orioles Update: Second Base
- Osin11 on Your Orioles Update: The Case Against Andy MacPhail, the Baltimore version
- John on Your Orioles Update: The Case Against Andy MacPhail, the Baltimore version
- Ben on Your Orioles Update: The Case Against Andy MacPhail, the Baltimore version