For the week ending January 19th, 2018
Curtis Granderson: Blue Jay
Proving that their phones do actually work, the Jays made a move this week and announced (first by Ken Rosenthal) that they signed Curtis Granderson to a one year deal for $5 million. This is a solid deal for a solid baseball player and one acknowledged to be a heck of a nice guy.
Of course, this made some Jays fans lose their minds on Twitter. This move is not a glittery move, but he's the exact type of player the Jays would look to in their quest to "raise the floor." They want options. They might also be looking to Granderson to mentor the younger outfielders like Anthony Alford and Teoscar Hernández.
Some dingers and some sage advice.
To be fair to idiot fans, this move even made people who are paid for their opinions on baseball express idiocy on Twitter.
For that "not on their playoff roster" point, Granderson made the NLDS roster. The NLDS, as far as I know, is still the playoffs. This is what Dave Roberts said late last season as the discussion of playoff rosters was happening:
“The success that [Granderson] has doesn’t factor into how he treats his teammates or how he prepares each day. That’s what has led to his career. He’s very streaky, but his attitude has never wavered,” Roberts said. “For me, those are guys that you bet on. This game is so unpredictable, but a guy who prepares and his sole focus is to win baseball games, those are the guys you want to go into a series with.”
Just keep adding. Raise the Damn Floor.
'I just want to be healthy so bad:' Devon Travis
On the topic of affable baseball players that are easy to root for, Devon Travis talked to John Lott of The Athletic. This is third offseason rehabbing various body parts and Travis tells Lott that health is his number one goal:
“I just want to be healthy so bad, and play the game that I love, and help my team win ball games,” he says. “I want to leave the past in the past.”
Travis is working with physiotherapist and in continuous talks with Nikki Huffman, the Jays' head trainer and physiotherapist. She reviews his progress from the previous week and designs work outs for him.
I've said this before, and Lott mentions it in this, Travis is the key to a lot of this. The best month last season was May. May was a month where they looked like a team that could make a run. Well, maybe not a run, but watching them didn't make you wonder what awful thing you'd done to deserve this punishment. And May was also the month Travis had regular playing time.
Plus, look at how happy this kid is when he's healthy:
Al "Alliteration" Alburquerque: Sliders Ahoy
More depth type moves. Not all depth moves have names this fun to say. Not all depth moves throw this many sliders, either.
What's a slider? A slider has a downward breaking movement, with a little tail on it, so it travels laterally in the zone. It's harder than a curveball but not as hard as any kind of fastball (four seam, two seam or cutter). A curveball usually snaps down vertically and a slider travels downward and more horizontally.
Apparently, a slider goes towards the plate, the red seams should rotate in a way that creates a red dot. On a good slider, the red dot appears in place that isn't visible to the hitter.
Some pitchers have a slider that is a bit more like a curveball, which baseball has portmanteaued into a "slurve."
Marcus Stroman uses a hell of a lot of sliders to get dudes out. However, his poorly located sliders are the pitches that get punished most often.
This is his grip:
Another major difference between slider and curve is the curve is released off the middle finger and the slider off the index.
A slider is also a small hot sandwich, like a burger or pulled pork. No one has ever called a small sandwich a curveball.
Intro to Stro's House
Takeaway? "Hoodies, hoodies, hoodies. hoodies...."
I always loved the video for this.
Free from pain, free from scars
Free to sing, free from bars
Free my dawgs, you're free to go
Block is hot, the streets is cold
Free to love, to each his own
Free from bills, free from pills
You roll it loud, the speakers blow
Life get hard, you ease your soul
It cleanse ya mind, learn to fly
Then reach the stars, you take the time
To look behind and say, "Look where I came
Look how far I done came"
They say that dreams come true
And when they do, that there's a beautiful thing
Now do you wanna, do you wanna be happy?
Stroman Minus Jumpman
Morgan Campbell, go to for all views of the intersection between business and sports, reported this week that Jumpman (a Nike offshoot) and Stroman parted ways. Though there is no confirmation of what exactly happened and why, the gist is that Jumpman wanted Stroman to stop pushing HDMH so much.
Though Nike is arguing that they have a contract with Westbrook, I think it's more that Jumpman thinks that they can't tell Westbrook what he can and can't do and assumed they could with Stroman. It's a clout thing.
It is definitely a tricky thing, trying to balance brands when you are as visible as Stroman.
Maybe the key is to make a book about fashion and style. And have the cover designed by Raymond Pettibon.
Team as Brand
Eric Koreen of The Athletic wrote about the Raptor's first Pride Night and Drake announcing his contributions to refurbish local basketball courts and to Canada Basketball.
There has never been a better time to be a Raptors fan. On the court, the team is quite good, and advancing toward a more fun brand of basketball. They have a star who has gradually become known as one of the best offensive players in the league. Off the court, they have star power in the stands. They have a team president who makes it a point to show how much he cares about being a citizen of the world. They will be on the right side of history in terms of the causes they support.
The Raptors, from a branding perspective, are really the cream of the city. Between "We the North" and Drake's flashy but ambiguous role and a likeable, meme-ready team, there is a lot of stuff going the Raptors' way.
But the foundation of the brand is really that the team is good. You can have all the hashtags, jersey redesigns, famous rappers and fan fests, but if doesn't have core of solid, quality sport in the middle, it's all a more than a little empty.
MLBPA and the Pace of Play
Dr. Mike Sonne is a vocal opponent of this idea, mostly because rushing the pitcher puts too much stress on their bodies. Injury is a concern, but the resulting fatigue lowers their velocity and command. Pitch clocks make pitchers worse at pitching. He lays it all out in an article he wrote a year ago called "Why Pitch Clocks are the Devil". There are graphs and everything.
The announcement brought the comedian out in the good doctor.
What's "ro-sham-bo" ? I'm glad you asked:
Manfred seems determined to push this through in a misguided attempt shorten game times. You know who doesn't care about the length of baseball game? Baseball fans. I know plenty that would sit for days, as long as there was beer and food. And WiFi.
If they are so worried getting new fans, maybe they should allow these guys to show some personality now and again.
The labour situation in general is a little complicated, and Marc Normandin reports that the players are getting frustrated with the leadership of MLBPA head Tony Clark. The MLBPA is the most powerful union in sports, and it be in their best interest to do what's necessary to sustain it.
Normandin also wrote an excellent primer on MLB collusion, which is the hottest topic in baseball writer right now. Which is understandable, because what else is everyone going to write about? Free agent signings?
Ice Cold Hot Stove
In that article I linked about, Rosenthal also points to the various other labour issues, notably that with less than a month until the start of spring training, there are 166 free agents, not including the guys who were non-tendered by their clubs. A major MLBPA concern would be that players will be forced to take deals they aren't happy with, which would make no one happy.
Grant Brisbee, one of my favourite baseball writers around, puts forth a theory:
Teams are devoted to the idea that young players are both better and cheaper than older players. Probably because factual things like stats point to this and teams like paying less money.
Pay the babies more and earlier.
It is a very simple solution. It would probably make players less tight about long term deals later on because they make their bank earlier in their career. Why not pay them when they are better?
Brisbee is right assuming this would rip baseball right up.
BTW, read what Brisbee wrote about The Seventh Inning back in 2015. That's why I love him. As well as quality content like this:
Effa Manley: She Loved Baseball
I was reminded this week about Effa Manley who, in 2006, became the first woman ever elected into the HOF. Manley owned the Newark Eagles, a Negro League team that won the Negro League World Series in 1946.
She ran day-to-day business operations of the team, arranged playing schedules, planned the team's travel, managed and met the payroll, bought the equipment, negotiated contracts, and handled publicity and promotions.
Manley was also vocal supporter of the Civil Rights Movement, including labour issues in the black community. She ran Civil Rights themed promotions, including an "Anti-Lynching Day" at Ruppert Stadium in 1939. The event encouraged people to write to Washington in hopes of establishing anti-lynching laws.
"Assorted sportsmen and hustlers of every conceivable stripe, all blending into some weird kind of human mosaic." She goes on to describe hits, strikeouts, Newark taking a 3-2 lead. "Perched in my customary seat in the cramped press box, atop the grandstand, it seems as if I am dying a thousand deaths. The realization has swept over me that a years-long dream is about to come true."
Sportsmen and hustlers.
There needs to be a movie about her. There needs to be ten movies about her.