Kevin Kennedy knows baseball inside and out, as a fan, player, manager, and analyst. In this intelligent and lively book, the FOX Sports commentator and host offers an original look at big-league baseball today, exploring a wide range of issues, including:
- How major league teams and individual players try to best the competition, from doctoring infields to using performance-enhancing drugs
- The little-known world of the South American winter leagues
- The politics behind managerial hirings and firings
- A manager’s eye-view of the game, from pre-game preparation to the final out
- The elements that create the Perfect Hitter, Perfect Pitcher, and Perfect Player, and more
Lively and down-to-earth, this insightful, honest book offers a deeper appreciation of the game for every fan.
|Product dimensions:||5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.65(d)|
About the Author
A freelance writer for more than thirty years, Bill Gutman's books include When the Cheering Stops and The Giants Win the Pennant! The Giants Win the Pennant! with Bobby Thompson.
Read an Excerpt
Twice Around the BasesThe Thinking Fan's Inside Look at Baseball
By Kevin Kennedy
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Kevin Kennedy
All right reserved.
Getting the Edge, Any Way They Can
Suppose the team has played twenty days in a row. The players are tired and the pitching staff is thin. A couple of guys have tender hamstrings. What the home team could really use is a rainout, giving everyone a day off. According to the rules of Major League Baseball the manager of the home team has the right to call a game right up to start time if he feels the field is not in playing condition. If it rains early in the day all they have to do is leave the field uncovered and even if the rain stops, it might be too wet to play. They've got their rainout and another way to give the team an edge.
It's no secret that getting the edge has always been a way of life in baseball. If a player or a team can find even the smallest advantage, a little something that might help them win, they'll usually use it. Ty Cobb's reputation for sharpening his spikes and coming into a base high and hard probably led to more than one infielder backing off just enough to let him slide in safely. Whether Cobb spiked the infielder or not didn't matter. The perception that he would use his spikes as a weapon gave him a decided edge on the basepaths.
Being a fan first and then a player, I learned very quickly that things in baseball were not always what they seemed to be. I remember being shocked in the early 1960s when I saw my favorite player, Maury Wills, smoking a cigarette in the runway of the dugout between innings. It wasn't until years later that I learned he smoked be-cause it relaxed him, allowing him to play better. Right or wrong, players always have a reason for most everything they do.
I learned firsthand about getting the edge a few months before the Orioles made me an eighth-round draft pick in 1976. I was a catcher out of San Diego State and coming off two great collegiate years, so I figured I'd be picked pretty high in the amateur draft. I knew the Orioles were interested because the local bird-dog scout who had first spotted me always told me when Ray Poitevint, Baltimore's Western Regional scouting supervisor, would be at the game. "Give me a couple of good throws today, Kevin," he'd say. "Poitevint's gonna be here."
Then one day he came up and asked me to fill out a scout card. It contained basic information -- birth date, height, weight, and whether I was a right-handed or left-handed hitter and thrower. After I filled out the card, the scout looked at it and shook his head. "Uh-uh," he said. "Gonna change this five to a nine."
I didn't know what he was talking about. I was born on May 26, 1954, and had written "5/26" on the scout card. By making the 5 a 9, he was changing my birthday, making me four months younger. At first I couldn't understand why it was important, but he was quick to tell me.
"Think about it, Kevin," he said. "The draft is on June 4. It looks a lot better if you're a twenty-one-year-old senior than a twenty-twoyear- old senior. It might even mean being drafted higher."
Talk about a small edge. At the time it was an almost meaningless move to me. Yet I would learn over the years that it did mean something-- valid or not -- because there was such an emphasis on getting not only the most talented, but also the youngest, kids possible into the organization. So I went in and negotiated as a twenty-one-year-old. In fact, my very first baseball card had my birth date listed as September 26, before it was finally corrected.
Age is just one of many ways players, teams, managers, scouts -- everyone involved in baseball -- try to get that little extra edge that will help them succeed and win, even though the rationale behind these decisions doesn't always make sense. Let's face it, a great player who comes up to the majors at twenty-five will produce more in a shorter time than a mediocre player who makes his big-league debut at nineteen or twenty. While it doesn't take a genius to understand that, most teams still look for youth. That's why so many Latin American players coming in have changed their ages over the years. It's much easier to change or create a new birth certificate in a third world country, where records are not kept so closely. However, 9/11 has changed all that.
Some Latin players who don't get their big-league shot until a bit later in life feel they have a better chance to get a real look and sign a long-term contract if they appear to be three, four, maybe even five years younger than they actually are. Pitcher Ramon Ortiz was born in 1973, but when he was first signed by the Angels, the club thought he was two years younger. When Orlando Hernandez, "El Duque," defected from Cuba and joined the Yankees several years ago, everyone knew he was older than he claimed to be. The Yankees always listed his birth date as October 11, 1969, while the Baseball Reference Web site has it as October 11, 1965. Most feel this second date is closer to being the correct one. Either way, the Yankees had done their homework. They knew how he could throw, and he has proved to be a great big-game pitcher.
Advantages are gained in other ways, too. A few years ago both the Dodgers and Yankees offered more money to Miguel Cabrera, who was from Venezuela, but he signed with the Florida Marlins instead ...
Excerpted from Twice Around the Bases by Kevin Kennedy Copyright © 2006 by Kevin Kennedy. Excerpted by permission.
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