Call the baseball cops: Jake Fox violates year’s first unwritten rule
Last season may have been the Year of the Unwritten Rule in baseball, but 2011 is getting off to an awfully early start.
And Jake Fox(notes) is accused of being this year's first big violater, not only by the opposing team, but by his own manager as well.
According to Jeff Zrebiec of the Sun papers, the Baltimore Orioles catcher ruffled the feathers of the Detroit Tigers and O's manager Buck Showalter during the eighth inning of Monday's spring training game in Sarasota. His big offense? Swinging at a 3-0 pitch with no outs and runners on second and third.
That doesn't sound that egregious — especially since there were runners in scoring position and the at-bat ended in a bases-loading walk anyway — so what was the beef?
Apparently, the O's were winning 13-3 at the time and there was a minor league pitcher on the mound, so Fox's bat should have been on his shoulder. Or so some would have you believe.
From The Sun:
Swinging 3-0 in a 10-run game with no outs in the eighth inning with a minor league pitcher on the mound is a decent way to make sure you get a fastball in the ribs in your next at-bat. The average fan may not think it was a big deal but Orioles manager Buck Showalter and Tigers manager Jim Leyland certainly did.
Showalter angrily yanked off his hat, and was seen yelling in the home dugout to anyone in particular. His hat off the whole time, he kept shaking his head and muttering throughout the rest of Fox's at-bat, which resulted in a walk. Leyland, meanwhile, yelled at Fox from the top step of the dugout.
When Fox was removed for a pinch runner, Showalter made sure that he was one of the first people to meet him in the dugout and he gave him an earful. The Orioles manager was still fuming about it after the game as it apparently wasn't the first time this spring where Fox ignored a clear take situation.
First off, the objections of Leyland and Showalter, of course, are completely ridiculous because we're talking about spring training. For the past month, we've watched games where starters threw 10 changeups in a row, closers worked the fourth or fifth innings, and everyday players got one or two at-bats before showering, dressing and leaving for their condos by the time the seventh inning rolled around. If there's one rule about spring training baseball, it's that the normal rules of baseball don't apply.
Going further, though, Fox is a special case who should have been swinging away as long as he hadn't received a sign saying otherwise. Though he hit a whopping 10 homers this spring for the major league lead, his deficiencies on defense kept him in limbo on a team that's already full of guys who can go deep. It wasn't until Tuesday that he found out that he'd officially made the team as its lone backup catcher. Until that news, he should have been using every opportunity — something that spring training is designed for — to show what he can do (namely, launch baseballs at a sometimes prodigious rate).
By the way, if Leyland and Showalter continue to insist that the score of a spring training game should dictate anything that happens on the field, there's this: The final score of Monday's game was 14-9, so that 10-run lead at the time of Fox's "transgression" wasn't as much of a lock as it looked. (Nor did any of the players in the game give up either.)
(Photo by Tom Hagerty. July 3, 1976. Tigers v. Orioles.)
Detroit rejects redevelopment plan for Tiger Stadium site
The Tiger Stadium site will remain empty for the foreseeable future, as the Detroit Economic Development Corporation rejected a $65.3 million redevelopment proposal for the site that could have brought innovation to the 9.4-acre site while maintaining the ballpark's playing field as a community resource.
The proposal would have brought two local nonprofits, a charter school, retail shops and housing to the Tiger Stadium site; the former playing field would be maintained as a community resource. It was pitched as a plan for a "living building" for the area.
Why the rejection? Because, said Detroit Economic Development Corporation officials, the plan was speculative and didn't have every last dollar lined up. The proposal called for two local nonprofits to relocate their headquarters to "living buildings": building that exceed LEED building standards and generate more power than they consume. The plan also called for a charter school from Cornerstone Charter Schools, a established and respected charter-school operator in Detroit. Also in the mix: McCormack Baron Salazar, an established St. Louis developer, would build 68 housing units as well as first-floor retail space. The former playing field would be maintained as a community green space and potentially hose youth baseball games and tourneys. We're talking four entities -- three nonprofits and a commercial developer -- with an established record of success. And while no Detroit development is ever a sure thing, there was no indication the group was looking for city aid for the project.
Now, it's not as though developers are lining up for a crack at the site: though Detroit Economic Development Corporation officials claim there are other developers interested in the site, no one has actually stepped forward with one, and when the future of Tiger Stadium was being debated, the likes of George Jackson were arguing that big-box retailers were lining up to develop the site. But those developers never appeared, and Tiger Stadium was torn down so the residents of Corktown could enjoy yet another Detoit empty lot. (H/T: Rod Nelson)
The Tigers are going to take the Central Division with 89 wins, but that will only get them a tie with the Twins. That's right, it's 2009 all over again.
I was the guy who voted for the Twinkies in the poll. But I've thought long and hard.
-Every team will have some good luck and some bad. The Bengals didn't have much luck at all last year.
-Cabrera will be an even more ominous threat with Martinez in the lineup.
-Pitching should hold up with Verlander, Porcello, Penny, Perry and Scherzer.
-Maybe more important, I think Valverde and Zumaya will be back blowing smoke.
-I'm worried about this kid Jackson. But I guess everybody is.
It's gonna be a fun summer. Chuck, you gotta get back to the ball park and root our boys on.
While the polls to the right are sometimes fun, I'd like to pick your brain in a little more depth. How do you think our boys will do in the summer of 2011?
Seems like I'm always the negative naysayer, so I'll reserve my opinion. (Of course I'll hastily point out last year I was deadly accurate with the prediction of a .500 season.)
So I'll sit on my hands for several days, and let you guys voice your opnions first.
By Jason Beck / MLB.com | 03/07/11 3:15 PM EST
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Jake Wood turns 74 years old in June, but he doesn't look it. He plays second base in his local softball league. He moves around better than some folks 10 years younger.
The way he feels, it doesn't feel that long since he was making history here.
It doesn't really hit him until he's sitting in the clubhouse at Joker Marchant Stadium on a Sunday morning, looking around at the clubhouse and its amenities, and sitting next to a 19-year-old outfield prospect named Avisail Garcia.
Jake Wood and his wife, Marsha, acknowledge the fans at the Tigers' ceremony for him last June. (Duane Burleson/AP)
"You look back, and it's just hard for me to realize it's been 50 years," Wood said, shaking his head. "Fifty years! Man, these guys aren't even that old! So when you talk about me, these guys weren't even born. When you mention me, their grandfathers might know me. Fifty years!"
The Tigers remember him. Fifty years after he became the first African-American player to come up through the farm system and make it to Detroit, and produced one of the best seasons by a Tigers rookie, he'll throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the stadium Wednesday before Detroit takes on the Phillies. It's part of the Tigers' celebration of their 75th Spring Training in Lakeland.
The team had already broken the color barrier with Dominican-born Ozzie Virgil in 1958 and Larry Doby a year later, but both had been traded to Detroit. They had Maury Wills for a brief time in the offseason after the '58 season, but had to send him back to the Dodgers. For a team that had been viewed as slow to adjust, and needing young talent of all sorts, Wood was a young talent.
In Wood, the Tigers had a talented, speedy second baseman flashing a combination of extra-base power and speed for a few years, but they didn't have the opportunity. Frank Bolling had three straight seasons of double-digit power, a nice package at second, but he fell off a bit in 1960. That same year, the 23-year-old Wood batted .305 at Denver with 24 doubles, 18 triples, 12 home runs and 34 stolen bases in 149 games.
"If they didn't trade Bolling, the opportunity would've never presented itself," Wood said.
So they had an opening at second base, and Wood had his first chance to go to Spring Training with the Major League team. He was in the same locker room at old Henley Field as the great Al Kaline and Rocky Colavito and the young, developing Norm Cash, guys he looked up to. But he still had to perform. His season stats were strong, but he usually took a while to come into form.
"You have to always be physically and mentally prepared to get in there, because you never know what happens," he said. "For me, Spring Training, I had a good spring, a great Spring Training, which I normally didn't have. So where would I be if I didn't? Would I have never got that opportunity? First of all, you have to have the ability -- not only physically, but the mental aspect of this game. And then take advantage of the opportunity."
Lastly, he said, he needed the support system. And the Bolling trade brought him someone who could help with that. Bill Bruton, a veteran leadoff man and speedster for the Brewers, came to Detroit in the deal.
"[Bruton] used to be my roommate," Wood said. "That was a big asset for me, because if he wasn't there, how would you survive? And him being in the Major Leagues for such a long time, he knew the league, what to expect, what to do, what not to do. Everybody needs that."
Before Wood could survive in the big leagues, though, he had to survive camp. And at that time, Spring Training was different for African-American players, who had to stay in private homes instead of hotels. Wood had experienced it the previous four seasons in Lakeland during Spring Training, but being in big league camp didn't change a thing. Having Bruton around let him know what to expect, not just in Florida, but in Major League cities.
Wood still remembers those final days of Spring Training, waiting for the final roster cuts. He had learned what to watch out for, and he was on the lookout.
"You get nervous because after the first month, they have about 30 guys," Wood said. "Those borderline guys, you're nervous that you're going to make it or don't make it. We were on the road, so that cutoff day, everybody was a little leery. But when you go back after a workout, if they've got a bag in front of your locker, you're gone. No bag, you're going to the big leagues."
No bag was in front of Wood's locker. The rest was history. Wood played all 162 games that season, batting .258 with 17 doubles, 14 triples, 11 home runs, 69 RBIs and 30 stolen bases in 39 attempts. And a young high school slugger named Willie Horton would skip school in Detroit to go watch him play. Wood's success convinced Horton's father that his son should sign with the hometown Tigers.
"For some strange reason, even in the Minors, I always started slow or whatever," Wood said. "There, just everything went right for me. I wish it would've continued about 15 more years. But you thank God for the time. It's just precious."
Wood was a veteran player a few years later and helped Horton break into the big leagues and endure. They remained friends for years after they finished playing. Horton, now a special assistant with the club, invited Wood back to camp last year for the first time since his final big league season in 1967.
Wood looks around, and he can't believe it's been so long.
"Now I look, and these guys are in their early 20s," he said. "They're big, but they're still young. But they need that support, because of the emotional aspect of the game. You're up, you're down. Just to keep it on an even keel when you're going good or going bad, especially when you're going bad, you need support from your teammates, from your family, from the organization."
The year after Wood's career ended, Horton helped the Tigers to the World Series in 1968. Wood hopes he can get his shot, even if he's a spectator.
"I just hope that they can go all the way this year," he said. "I would love to see that, because I'd love to go to a World Series game in Detroit. I've never been in that kind of atmosphere. I would just like to experience that, from a fan's point of view. Because that's something special, what those guys are trying to do. They're starting right now, the accumulation of 162 games. Just to see the exhilaration when they win, that does me good."
I was stoked. The Tigers were tape delayed last night on MLB Network against the Phils. Stock the fridge with beer and get some peanuts.
First disappointment: the Tigers had brought the B team on a split squad day. I wouldn't get to see how chubby Miggy looked, or see the stars. Ah well, I told myself, this will be like last summer's trip to Toledo: see the stars of tommorrow.
But what really ground me was the Phillies broadcasters who acted like they were playing some high school team. Half the time they didn't even mention who the Tiger batter was, or who the new pitcher was. Grrr. Is MLB TV like this in the regular season?
Good news is, I did get to see Oliver pitch three nice innings, and Boesch smack the cover off the ball and make a stunning play in left, cutting off a runner trying to stretch a single into a double.
When Tiger minor-leauger Nick Castellanos (seen here at the 2009 East Coast Pro Showcase for top high-school players) was a kid in Miami his favorite player was Miguel Cabrera. Now they play for the same team. Today's Free Press has the story http://www.freep.com/article/20110301/SPORTS02/110301060/1050/sports02/Tigers-Nick-Castellanos-eager-finally-play-hero-Miguel-Cabrera
Tigers took Castellanos last summer with their top draft pick.
Fields of dreams: Among the minor leaguers who joined the Tigers for the Toronto split-squad game was 20-year-old Daniel Fields, the son of former Tigers outfielder and hitting coach Bruce Fields. In his first major league game, Daniel Fields -- who attended U-D Jesuit High -- singled in his only at-bat. He'd have something to tell his father, who's in Arizona in spring training with the Indians as their minor-league hitting coordinator.
"He told me (Monday night) to relax and play how I normally play, and I'll do fine," Daniel Fields said. "He was right."It felt great to play in this game. It was a lot of fun."