Single: The Base: Approach At Your Own Risk by Steve Wulf (ESPN.com)
This piece is one of the reasons that I like to do this column. Who in their right mind would want to read some boring piece on ESPN about the bases? Well, you should, because it’s fantastic.
The debate over head-first slide vs feet-first slide has been raging for years with great points on either side, but what no one has done to this point is try to figure out the X-factor in the process: base construction. By rule (1.06) MLB bases should be “filled with soft material”; instead, they are a shell of hard rubber. Over the years, many scientists have tried to figure out what exactly could be used instead (for that you should look at Wulf’s companion piece linked within this one) and indisputable evidence says that breakaway bases (you see them in Little League, rec Softball, and even some NCAA teams) can reduce injury by 98%.
This is a problem that we have all solely blamed on the players and organizations, but maybe we need to look at MLB’s stubbornness in accepting that there are better options out there. Player safety is all the rage these days…
Quote: “There’s 0 percent that the bases can’t be improved,” says Rays general manager Andrew Friedman.
Double: Here’s How To Fix MLB’s Flawed All-Star Voting Process by Jesse Spector (Sporting News)
The MLB season began on March 30th (technically the week before in Australia…) and All-Star voting began less than four weeks later. Small Sample Size in the highest degree.
While I could go on and on about all of the things wrong with the All-Star Game (well, just one thing: it counts), the voting is one of the craziest and zany things it has going for it. Online voting is a great thing, and it’s nice to see the fans getting involved with different campaigns, but the criteria to be included on the ballot are absolutely preposterous. Jesse Spector goes through many examples of players who haven’t played an inning of baseball this year who are on the ballot as well as players who have played most innings and aren’t. But what I find most fascinating about this piece is the insistence on having paper ballots available at the ballpark isn’t about the fan experience at all. It’s simply another MLB money grab.
Spector suggests having the vote start around Mother’s Day with a series of advertisements from star players with their mothers asking for your vote – cute and smart. Check out the piece, which is Spector’s weekly column, if not for the All-Star piece but his weekly feature “Is Mike Trout Good At Baseball? Yes”.
Quote: “[Alex] Gonzalez was part of the Tigers organization for 27 days. He will be on the All-Star ballot as a Tiger for 69 days.”
Triple: From Cuba with Heat by Jordan Conn (Grantland)
This piece is an oldie, but a goodie. Last July, when Jose Fernandez was first lighting baseball on fire with his passion and fun-loving attitude, Jordan Conn spent some time getting to hear his story of defection and rise – and boy is it a heart-wrenching one.
At the time of this writing, Jose Fernandez has torn his UCL. According to the doctors, he requires Tommy John surgery, but he hasn’t made a decision to go forward with that yet. This, obviously, is a terrible loss not just for the Marlins but for baseball as a whole to lose a player with his unique skill set and perspective on the game. I’m not going to get too far into this story, but it’s a very long and incredibly captivating piece. By the end, you will appreciate Jose Fernandez even more and be rooting like hell for a full recovery for the good of this young man and for baseball.
Quote: “A wave had crashed over the boat’s deck and swept Fernandez’s mother out to sea. He saw her body and before he had time to think, he jumped in.”
Homer: The Best, Most Devestating Pitches of the Year: A GIF Roundup by Shane Ryan (Grantland)
The title of this piece is self-explanatory. Go here to watch some absolute beastly pitches by some of your favorite stars, including Stephen Strasburg, and some people you probably have never heard of, like Yordano Ventura. Shane Ryan goes through the eight main pitches in a pitchers arsenal (4-seam, Splitter, Cutter, Sinker, Curveball, Change, Slider, Knuckler) and showcases the most damaging of them all. If you are a fan of pitching, now is the time to grab a glass of wine, dim the lights, and point your browser to this piece.
Quote: “I feel like crying on behalf of hitters everywhere.”