By Hal McCoy
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave while catching up on ‘Longmire’ episodes during the All-Star break. It seems there are more murders in Wyoming’s Absaroka County than on a Saturday night in Chicago. . .and Longmire solves ‘em all.
—If you watched St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Giovanny Gallegos pitch against the Cincinnati Reds over the weekend, you had time to meander to your mailbox, open every letter (mostly bills) and toss them into the trash between Gallegos’ pitches.
With the bases empty, he averages 26.6 seconds between pitches. With runners on base, it’s 32.1 seconds. And with Atlanta’s Kenley Jansen it is 26 seconds and 31.1 seconds.
It’s like from the movie Sandlot, “You’re killing me, Smalls.”
It is guys like that who are egging MLB into imposing a pitch shot clock next season — 14 seconds with nobody on base, 19 seconds with runners on base. The penalty? A ball is called if a pitcher dithers and dallies.
Shot clocks are used in the minors and lengths of games have shrunk by 30 minutes.
And the shifts will disappear next year, too. MLB will require two infielders on each side of second base and all four infielders must have their feet on the infield dirt.
Why? The shift was employed on 59,063 at bats last season and it is on pace to be used 71,000 times this season. Since 2006, the average MLB batting average has dwindled from .269 to .242.
Another rule expected to surface for 2023 is a limit on pickoff throws. A pitcher may throw to first base twice on a runner. If he throws a third time and doesn’t pick him off, a balk is called and all runners advance a base. No more Chris Welsh throwing over to first base 17 times, only to have Lou Brock steal second anyway.
And finally, base sizes will be increased from 15 square inches to 18 square inches for safety’s sake (fewer first basemen having their ankles spiked) and to encourage more stolen bases (shorter distance and bigger target).
One quick question: Why does baseball keep legislating a game that was more than acceptable to fans for 150 years?
—A pitcher named Ray Caldwell was standing on the mound in Cleveland’s old League Park in September of 1919, one out away from a victory for the Indians over the Philadelphia Athletics.
He was struck by a bolt of lightning and lay lifeless on the mound as teammates gathered. After a few minutes he got up. Did he leave the game? Nope. He faced the last batter and ended the game on a ground ball to shortstop.
And 18 days later he pitched a no-hitter against the New York Yankees. They said his stuff that day was electric.
—The Cincinnati Reds, with their $74 million payroll and 16 players on the injured list, took two of three from the New York Yankees and their $198 million payroll. And without stubborn resiliency, the Reds could have lost all three to the team once called The Evil Empire by Boston Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino.
The all-heart Reds in that series reminded me of something: There are no dollar signs tattooed on a player’s heart.
And then came the St. Louis series (two horrendous losses) and it was back to reality.
—When Luis Castillo held the New York Yankees to one run and two hits over seven innings last week, he left an indelible impression on Matt Carpenter.
Carpenter, resurrecting his career with the Yankees, faced Castillo 32 times when Carpenter played for the St. Louis Cardinals.
After the Yankee game, Carpenter told The Athletic, “He looks the best I’ve ever seen him. I hope he’s in pinstripes soon.”
Of course, it is the filthy-rich Yankees and the filthier-rich Dodgers who are at the front of the line to acquire Castillo in a trade.
And the Houston Astros are trying to elbow their way through the Yankees and Dodgers.
—Say what you want about Pete Rose, love him, despise him or have no opinion (that’s impossible). The Hit King, though, has a big heart and is intensely loyal to his friends.
Case in point: One of his biggest fans is a great supporter of mine, Ralph Reuber of Las Vegas. And this is what he related to me:
“I called him (Rose) three weeks ago and asked for a special favor. I needed a dozen baseballs signed as a gift for my daughter’s wedding in Sacramento. Within a week they were autographed and sent to Sacramento. I love this guy.”
—QUOTE: From Pete Rose, the only hall of famer who is not in the Hall of Fame: “When somebody wants to interview me, I’ve always got something to say.” (Rose is the only player I ever interviewed who filled my notebook after I asked one question.)
—In these days of MLB pitchers routinely throwing 102 miles an hour four-seamers, I recently read something astounding and wonder if it happened.
Famed softball pitcher Eddie Feigner, he of the King & His Court fame, once had his softball deliveries clocked at 104 miles an hour.
The story also said he appeared in a celebrity/charity game with a team called the Hollywood Stars and he struck out, in order, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Brooks Robinson, Maury Wills, Harmen Killebrew and Roberto Clemente — all Hall of Famers.
I would dispute that if not for a real life experience. I once faced Feigner with a ‘Media All-Star’ team in Akron’s Firestone Stadium. Guess what I did? Yes, in three pitches. . .not one of which I really saw.
—From a loyal reader who requests anonymity: “Like all teams, the Reds have utility players. They also have futility players and they occupy the bullpen.”
The moniker is merited. The Reds bullpen earned run average is 5.42. Next worse is Pittsburgh’s 4.78. Cincinnati’s bullpen has only 17 saves and only Washington is worse with 15. But the Reds have blown 13 saves to only nine by the Nationals.
The Cincinnati bullpen is tied for next-to-last in holds with Washington, 33 each. The Reds bullpen has given up 55 home runs, second most behind 57 owned by the Chicago Cubs.
—This one is staggering. At the All-Star break, the 30 teams had used 625 relief pitchers — that’s 625 different guys taking the mound. That’s nearly 22 per team. The Reds are right on pace — 23 different relief pitchers. . .so far.
—QUOTE: From former MLB manager Alvin Dark: “A fellow has to have faith in God above and Rollie Fingers in the bullpen.” (There is no Rollie Fingers in the Reds’ bullpen and very little faith from the fans.)