Plunk!

HBP – what’s the point?

Entire essays have been written about batters being hit by pitches, followed by retaliation, re-retaliation and so on. I thought it was interesting that one of our pitchers showed zero innings last night – which means he hadn’t gotten anyone out. That’s all the box score will tell you. Then, my wife mentioned Greg Porter’s wife said he was HBP in the game last night. At that point, I got curious.

Here’s what happened:

In the second inning Grand Prairie’s Michael Hollimon was hit by a pitch and both benches got a warning for the rest of the game.  Come the eighth inning that came into play as Arnoldo Ponce was hit by a pitch from Chris Martin the first pitch after Bernal’s home run.  Martin and his manger Pete Incaviglia were both ejected at that point.  The next inning the Diablos responded by plunking Greg Porter who turned and wrestled catcher Adam Deleo to the ground.  Porter, along with Butch Henry and pitcher Christian Staehley were all ejected at that point as a total of five were ejected from the game. (Quoted from the Diablos game summary.)

Three HBP in one game. Possible (well, probable) retaliation on both sides. Five ejections. Other than adding a little drama to an otherwise pretty boring rout, does it really help or hinder the teams?

HBP made some sense to me when pitchers weren’t replaced by designated hitters, so if you plunked one of their guys, you were going to get hit. After the DH entered the picture, HBP should really mean “Hit By Proxy.”

These days, although it’s still gonna hurt, hitting someone with a pitch is really just giving a guy an intentional walk without all the outside pitches. So, you have to wonder why giving up a base would make sense on the defensive side of the ball.

Now, if one of your guys got hit and you’re retaliating, then I understand. I’m not sure I agree, mainly because it has always seemed a bit childish, since you’re putting your defense down a base just to make a point, but sometimes, you do what you have to do.If the manager tells you to make a point (not that they ever would), you make a point.

There are also unintentional HBP – the pitcher just lets one get away or it sails a bit and the batter gets plunked. As we saw in an earlier game this year, there are some batters who will draw a HBP by simply not moving, and if the umpire doesn’t know the rule specifically states that the batter should try to get out of the way, he’ll get a free base. (We had one crew that gave one opposing batter three bases in two nights because he didn’t move. You wonder why we hate the umpires.)

When a batter gets plunked unintentionally and suddenly everyone’s getting hit in retaliation, I just fail to see how this is helpful, either tactically or strategically. I suppose if it incites a brawl, it will build some camaraderie on both sides, but you’re really just putting one of their guys on base, and in some cases, you’re also getting yourself removed from the game. (Note to Greg on last night – good move going after the catcher instead of charging the mound. Very original and probably very surprising to the catcher!)

Maybe someone who has played will comment. I know historically there were pitchers who were just protecting the plate by throwing inside and sometimes, batters who crowded the plate got hit. Establishing the zone made sense – especially if batters were usually frantically ducking out of the way and learned where to stand without getting hit. Now, I’m not sure the pitchers are that calculating.

It seems to me the best revenge for someone getting plunked is still winning the game. In that case, throwing strikes may be the best retaliation for one of your guys getting HBP.

Trade Up, Trade Down

Does the American Association need a trade deadline?

There are trades every day in the American Association – trades, releases, people coming on and off the disabled and inactive lists. While it gives managers a lot of leeway to rebuild their teams, fix roster problems quickly and sometimes exile problem players, I sometimes wonder if it doesn’t also cause more problems on the field and in the clubhouse than it solves.

I’ve been paying more attention to the AirHogs roster this year, mainly because I’m trying to keep a database of player numbers just to keep track of who is on the field. Trying to keep track of the roster changes could almost be a full-time job, and it’s not just here, it’s everywhere.

I started looking at tenure, and there are some players who last less than a week with the team – this should have been a tryout and not a contract.

Part of the issue is that spring camp is so short – I really don’t think you can look at all of the possible players in the amount of time there was to put a team on the field to get started.

The biggest problem I see is that there is no trade deadline. It would be interesting to tell managers that there were no roster changes (except in case of injury) after June 15 or the All-Star break or any random date. This would mean the managers would have to build the best team possible before that date, and afterwards, they would have to work with the players they had on the team.

In this case, the players would be able to work together since they would know each other better. There would be less paranoia about getting released or traded. Everyone could focus on the actual target – which is championships.

Just a thought.

Losing Fans

Losing fans won’t happen. Losing audience might.

When a team is not doing as well as expected, one of the fears is usually that the fans will abandon the team. The management fears this, since gate receipts will be lower. The players fear this because I think a part of the validation that they are doing a good job is there are people willing to pay to see them. If less do so, they are not doing a good job.

The problem with “fans” is that is usually means “audience”. The audience is made of many types of people.

I’m a fan. I like baseball, but I especially like Grand Prairie AirHogs baseball. The team is made of a (almost constantly) changing roster of 22 guys – chosen by the management to put the best team possible on the field and still meet the roster requirements of the league. This means that the players will not always be the same. However, the team I chose to support are the guys that are wearing the uniform on the field that day.

That’s a key point – the team consists of the guys that are on the field that day. It’s going to change. I won’t storm out because my favorite player got traded (it does hurt) and I won’t storm out because one of our sworn enemies from another team is now an AirHog. It’s a small league, it’s going to happen.

(Does this mean I am going to abandon all players who are traded or retire or simply wander off? Of course not. I hope to stay in touch and Facebook is a great way to do that. )

In the best of all possible worlds, the manager would choose well and wisely before the beginning of the season, and you would have the same team all year. If you look at the transaction logs on the league website, you will realize this never happens, not just here, but anywhere.

So, my hope is that the Booster Club (especially) will always support the team, no matter who is on the team and no matter what their record is.

I’m a fan. I expect the team to put forth their best effort. (I think they are.) I don’t (really) expect them to win championships every year. I don’t expect them to win every game. I do expect that they will give their best for the entire game, and win or lose, they’ll do it all over again the next day. That’s baseball.

There are “fans” who are only interested in a team while it is winning. These are not true fans, and it’s probably best when they wander off. They are not missed.

There are “fans” who for some inexplicable reason think that a ball park during a baseball game is a good place to discuss business or dating habits or fine dining or any number of subjects not related to ERA and RBI. I hate these people.

There are “fans” who really just want to be seen with the players. These people are a distraction to the team, which is unfortunate. I’m pretty sure these people don’t necessarily cheer for the AirHogs, it’s just that’s the closest team or the organization that will let them get close to the team.

I admit – I like talking to the players. I like talking to the staff. I’ve learned a lot about baseball in the past couple of years. However, I am not under any delusion that I can play like a twenty-year old, drink like a twenty-year old, or live on the amount of sleep they seem to get. Hell, I can barely pull a tarp. So, I will leave the baseball to the AirHogs and not interrupt them while they’re at work.

I think the Booster Club has actual fans – we’re dedicated to the team, we’d like to assist the players and we’d like to cheer them to victory. If they don’t win, we’ll cheer them to defeat. We understand that old favorites will leave and new players will arrive. We’ll try to treat them all the same. We’re not leaving until the season is over, and the next day, we’re starting the countdown to Opening Day.

We’re fans – it’s what we do.

How To Cheer

Here are some quick notes on how to cheer on your Grand Prairie AirHogs, for anyone new to the game of baseball. First of all, welcome! Secondly, QTP is a family environment, so you can’t cuss as much as you will often feel the urge – did you ever notice how loud the music gets when Pete goes to “chat” with the umpires? So, all the standard things you would say to your boss, spouse, children or pets are out. Let’s try to be positive out there!

AirHogs Batting

  • On any ball – “Wait for your pitch!” or “Good eye!”
  • On any foul – “Keep workin'”, “Straighten it out a bit!”, “Make him pitch!!”
  • On any called strike – “WHAT?!?” (see Umpires section)
  • On any (obvious) strike – “If that would have connected, it would be in downtown Dallas!”

Opponents Batting

  • On any ball – “WHAT?!?” (see Umpires section)
  • On any foul – “Nice try”, “Pitch too fast for you?”
  • On any called strike – “Good call”, “What are you waiting for?”
  • On any (obvious) strike – “What was that ‘whooshing’ sound?”, “Thanks for the breeze!”, “So close!”

Umpires
Any umpire is called “Blue” because

  1. that’s the color of his uniform
  2. nobody remembers their names from the pre-game announcements
  3. he just “blue” the call or you wouldn’t be yelling!

Because of baseball’s policy on inclusiveness and government ADA regulations, most umpires are legally blind. However, like dogs, they don’t know they’re blind, they just use their other senses to make up for it. Unfortunately, you can’t really smell whether a pitch was a ball or a strike, so they need help from the crowd to use their sense of hearing to know how they are doing.

After any call against the AirHogs

  • C’mon, Blue!
  • Hey, Blue! Need a rulebook?
  • Hey, Blue! Get a clue!
  • How did you find the park with those eyes?
  • How much are opposing team paying you?

After any call for the AirHogs

  • Got one right, Blue!
  • just stunned silence

Opponents
Finally, on the other team – in many parts of society, heckling is seen as rude, but it is also an effective method of intimidation – the AirHogs have said they get heckled elsewhere, so feel free to let the other team know they are not playing at home. Just be clever instead of abusive – if their third baseman’s mother rides a bicycle, he probably already knows it and is ashamed. However, reminding him that your daughter in Little League has a higher batting average would be effective. A crucial point – he doesn’t know you don’t actually have a daughter in Little League!

My favorite heckle of all time was telling one of their pitchers (after he had given up a couple of hits) that he was a good T-ball pitcher.

WARNING Don’t tell their larger players they are fat. Some of those chubby guys are surprisingly nimble, and they have bats.

Enjoy the game! Go AirHogs!