Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Seven Games in Three Days (kind of)

As some of you may have ascertained, The Common Man was in Arizona over a four-day weekend to take in the tail end of Spring Training. What follows are a few of the notes and remembrances from the trip:

Mike Sweeney and son after dropping
off the Royals' lineup.
 On Friday night, The Common Man hit up Royals camp in Surprise for their game with the Giants. The stadium the team shares with the Rangers is nice and spacious, clean and friendly. The Baseball Project was playing in front, imploring TCM not to be “another foul-ball fatality,” which was reassuring. Inside, the Royals honored Mike Sweeney on the day he retired by allowing him and his son to deliver the starting lineup to the plate, and to hang in the dugout. Sadly, something like 60% of the fans were there to watch the Giants, and he didn’t get nearly the ovation he deserved. Maybe he’ll get a proper day in KC this year.

Madison Bumgarner looked sharp and had even the few good Royals hitters, like Billy Butler, out in front. Brandon Belt played and worked out a walk in the at bat, TCM got to see, and Vin Mazzaro struggled. TCM also met up with Nick Scott of Royals Authority, who had a terrific rundown of the Royals prospects he saw last week on his site. Nick clued TCM in to the minor league games going on between the Royals and Rangers prospects at the minor league fields, and so TCM skipped out in the 2nd inning to go check it out (who wants to actually watch this year’s Royals, after all).

Wil Myers

Because KC and Texas share a facility, they were playing four games simultaneously in a very small space. Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Wil Myers, Sal Perez, Christian Colon, Brett Eibner, Johnny Giavotella, and Derrick Robinson were all playing for the Royals. Jurrickson Profar and Jacob Skole were playing for the Rangers. Myers, who has a reputation as a very advanced hitter, showed his trademark plate discipline when I saw him, working out two walks. One of them came after six or seven pitches off a nasty side-arming righty, which would have made picking up the ball difficult for the righty-swinging Myers. Nick swears by Perez, but TCM didn’t see much to get excited about, as Sal pounded a couple balls into the dirt for weak choppers and worked a four-pitch walk against some poor lefty kid who threw 13 straight balls and a wild pickoff that allowed the runner on first to advance to third.

Moustakas showed some nice opposite field power, driving a pitch on the outer half to the opposite field, where it short-hopped the wall. He also provided a momentary scare, when he was hit mid-stride by a foul ball from another field while running the bases. Colon immediately followed with a screaming liner to left that also carried past the left-fielder for a double. The ball jumped off his bat there. Hosmer just looks different from other players. He’s huge, but athletic-looking. According to Nick, sometimes he likes to go to the opposite field a little too much, and TCM did see evidence of that in the form of a weak pop-up on an inside-out swing. But TCM also saw a huge 420 foot foul-ball that landed 20 feet or so foul, and a deep fly ball to right that seemed to hang in the air forever.

Jurrickson Profar
For the Rangers, Profar stood out. He laced a couple line drives and made some very nice plays in the field, including one where he adjusted to a ball that glanced off the pitcher, and made a strong throw. Not to get into “code,” but Profar is incredibly smooth and makes the game look easy. He’s also not real big (his 5’11” listing is probably a little generous). But he’s all over the place and makes things happen on the field and at the plate, and is very fun to watch play ball. And he’s only going to be 18 this year. TCM likes him a lot, even though he’s currently blocked by Elvis Andrus at the big-league level.

Other highlights included meeting Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus and the marathon podcast with Kevin Goldstein, getting to see Steve Buechele (who, frankly, looks exactly the same as he did in 1987) and Casey Candaele, and scouting all the talent that was hanging around off the field, in the form of players’ girlfriends. After all four games finished, TCM left satisfied. Many thanks to Nick for the introduction to the minor league complex and the conversation, and to Jason for taking a couple minutes out of his schedule to talk shop.

On Saturday, TCM scored tickets to the Giants-Reds game at Scottsdale Stadium for him, his parents, and The Boy. The plan was to get there early and to enjoy the game from the berm in right or left field. TCM neglected to remember that getting his family to a baseball game on time is more difficult than herding hairless cats on meth, and so they arrived in the second inning to an absolute zoo, and were forced to watch the game from the very back of the berm.

The least douchey Giants
fans TCM could find.
This, sadly, brought TCM into contact with more Giants fans. Look, most Giants fans are probably decent people. But Phoenix-based Giants fans are the worst. Douchey. Decked out in gear to prove their authenticity. Drunk, swearing, and hitting on anything that moves. It felt like happy hour on a singles cruise ship, or that the cast of The Jersey Shore had been cloned a thousand times over and moved to the desert.

We were pretty far back, so TCM didn’t get a lot of details on the game or performances. Timmy Lincecum looked ok, but got tagged a bit, giving up homers to Juan Francisco and Fred Lewis. Ardolis Chapman had problems with his location and was very hittable. He saw five batters, allowed four hits and hit Mark DeRosa, and was yanked before could record an out. From where he was sitting, TCM couldn’t see his velocity. Strangely, Buster Posey had three sacrifice flies.

Because of the realities of attending a baseball game with a four year old, which you parents will understand, TCM and company left the game a little early, when his patience wore out. On the way out, The Boy almost got trampled by two idiot Giants fans who were wrestling on a grassy hill that runs down from the backside of the berm, before TCM pulled him out of the way. TCM cannot stress this enough, do not go to Giants Spring Training games at Scottsdale Stadium (which is a beautiful park, otherwise) on the weekend. Especially if you don’t have reserved seats.


KLaw Mug
On Sunday, TCM caught up with resident ESPN draft, prospect, and front office guru Keith Law at the A’s-Rockies game at the brand new Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. It’s a beautiful park constructed by the local Pima and Maricopa Indian tribes. The views are majestic of the local mountain ranges, the concourses are absolutely huge, and there is plenty of seating. It looks like a legitimate AA or AAA park, and has an abundance of food choices. There are also 12 practice fields situated around the main stadium that TCM didn’t get to check out, but that are easily accessible for fans. It’s a must visit for baseball fans, again on a weekday if you can swing it.

TCM paid for an outfield lawn seat, and simply stood on the concourse behind home plate for the whole game, talking with Keith, who was not there to scout and was therefore incredibly generous with his time. Ubaldo Jimenez looked strong, and went six scoreless innings against an A’s lineup that featured starters Ryan Sweeney, Daric Barton, David DeJesus, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Mark Ellis, and Cliff Pennington. Former uber-prospect Franklin Morales also pitched, but looked horrible. On Keith’s gun, he sat between 88 and 91 with his fastball, and gave up three hits and a walk in an inning of garbage-time work, including a hard single up the middle by lefty-swinging infielder Josh Horton. At this point, it’s clear he’s not ever coming back.

To be honest, TCM didn’t pay much attention to the game itself, as the time flew by. Between a gorgeous ballpark and engaging conversation, TCM almost didn’t notice it was the 9th inning until Keith decided to leave to beat the traffic. The only downside was yet another douchey Giants fan in a Lincecum jersey who tried to shove his way in front of us in the later innings, and got ugly when politely asked to move to one side or another, where there was plenty of space. Seriously, Giants fans, get ahold of yourselves.

One nugget from the conversation for Twins fans out there, KLaw calls Revere a “70 glove” in center field (which is elite on the 20-80 scouting scale), who will hit and walk enough to make himself a valuable starter, if the Twins decide to move Span to corner. TCM owes Keith a lot of thanks for his patience, enthusiasm, and insight. Between that meeting and MC Hammer’s surprise cameo here last week, TCM’s got delusions of grandeur and a totally unearned sense of accomplishment.


The next day, TCM had to leave Arizona, got cranky in the airport, coped with The Boy's unfortunate tendency to spray all over himself when he tries to poop in an airport bathroom, and tried to stare late passengers to death.  Eventually, he made it back to the Midwest, and is now officially ready for Opening Day.  Get excited!

1 comment:

William Tasker - Caribou, ME said...

Thanks for taking us along for the journey. Really enjoyed the post a lot. Envious that you got to meet Keith Law. He comes across in print as an elitist, so it's nice to know he's a nice guy in person.