Results tagged ‘ Great Gazoo ’

Seriously?

Let me preface this by saying that I fondly remember Harry Chappas of the White Sox, 5’5″ cover boy of Sports Illustrated (who was told to claim he was only 5’3″), and the day that the legitimately 5’4″ Freddie Patek slammed three homers and a double at Fenway. Baseball is still the sport where height matters least; Patek was on four division winners and two All-Star teams and was as tough as they come.


So, when I see the Twins put their 5’3″ outfield infield prospect out of the University of Louisville, Chris Cates, into tonight’s exhibition against the Red Sox in Fort Myers, I’m delighted.

But they had to give him the Test Batting Helmet? 

IMG_2072.JPG
FROM FOX SPORTS NORTH AND MLB NETWORK

Okay, so the name of Rick Moranis’s character in “Spaceballs” was what?

IMG_2071.JPG

“Dark Helmet” – that’s right. Or you prefer the Great Gazoo?

IMG_2074.JPG

How much guts does this guy have to show you, Twins? 

You give him uniform number 90, you pose him for a publicity photo alongside 7’1″ Dutch pitcher Loek Van Mil? And then you give him the helmet?

IMG_2073.JPG

To say nothing of the apparent Squish Danger:

IMG_2070.JPG

Oh, man. Mr. Cates should be admitted to Cooperstown just for acquitting himself professionally and not taking this thing off and hitting the equipment manager over the head with it.
FROM A RESEARCHER’S NOTEBOOK:

The late,
great Mets’ broadcaster Bob Murphy reported this anecdote during the 1967
season. On July 25
th at Candlestick Park, the Mets and Giants were
scoreless in the bottom of the third. Jesus Alou and Bobby Etheridge singled,
then Willie Mays lined a sure two-base hit, scoring Alou. But as Etheridge
chugged in to third, Mays
stopped at first. He explained later that he’d done
so deliberately, so that the Mets wouldn’t walk clean-up man Jim Ray Hart to
pitch instead to first baseman Jack Hiatt. Hart promptly hit a three-run homer
off Jack Fisher. The Giants won, 5-4.

The Great Gazoo and Happy Hour

550-wright-gazoo.jpg

OK, so there it is. That’s what the new super-sized batting helmet debuted tonight in Denver by David Wright evokes: Fred Flintstone’s little green prehistoric Shark-Jumping visitor from outer space.

That, or the old cliche about the life-of-the-party guy, who winds up wearing a lampshade.
Wright, who looks pretty young as it is (he’s not yet 27), probably looks five years younger with the oversized, 100-MPH resistant plastic chapeau. Hard to say if this is going to make it more appealing to players or less so, but early on there does seem to be one practical issue. Wright tried to steal second in the third inning tonight and went-in headfirst; the new helmet seemed to exhibit a different center-of-gravity and flew off Wright’s head and scuttled in front of him. It is conceivable that a player sliding in that way might actually collide with his own helmet – and I can’t remember ever seeing that happen with the standard helmet.
Then again, why is a guy just back from a beaning and a concussion sliding headfirst?

Jeff Francoeur has vowed never to wear the new helmet, for aesthetic reasons, and of course he will not be made to, as the revised version will only be mandatory in the minors. It is interesting to note that in the gradual advance of helmet use, only one attempt was ever beaten back. The Pirates tried to entirely replace caps with helmets – at bat, in the field, on the bench – in the ’50s. By 1957 they were back to a mix of plastic and fabric.
All this again begs the question: batters must wear them, now coaches must wear them – why not umpires, and given that line drives to their heads travel a shorter distance at a higher speed even than batters, why not pitchers?
WHITE SOX FIRE SALE FOLLOW-UP:

I am reliably informed that the message Chicago GM Kenny Williams sent to the other 29 general managers Sunday night and Monday morning not only invited them to bid on any of five to ten veterans (two of whom Williams actually moved), but urged them to contact him quickly because, and this is a loose quotation, “I intend to be the first guy at Happy Hour this evening.”

Helmets And Closers

It’s 30 years now since the last major leaguer stepped to the plate without a batting helmet, and 38 since the helmet became mandatory. The mandatory earflap celebrated its 25th anniversary last year. But batters have used helmets (or plastic cap liners) since the ’40s, and their invention and use pre-dates even the death of Ray Chapman from a pitch in 1920, to Roger Bresnahan, Hall of Fame catcher of the Giants, in 1907.
Defensively, catchers turned to helmets, then cages. The mid-50s Pittsburgh Pirates wore them exclusively, in the field and at bat, pitchers included. While that idea was abandoned, largely based on the argument that fielders had gloves with which to protect their heads, John Olerud used one to protect his skull – at high-risk for damage after an aneurysm – while playing first base. After the awful death of Mike Coolbaugh, struck by a line drive while coaching first in a minor league game in 2007, helmets for coaches became mandatory last year, and by this one, they had begun to look perfectly normal (no matter what Larry Bowa says).
So, here is a question that popped into my head during a recent game: why don’t the umpires wear helmets? Surely the ones at first and third are at nearly as much risk for being hit by a line drive against which they are gloveless, and helpless, as a coach. The argument, of course, is that umps are trained pros, and it’s not like we’ve seen a frequent problem with them getting leveled. Just as we hadn’t seen one with coaches before Coolbaugh.
For that matter, why don’t we bite the bullet on the next most vulnerable in the equation? The catcher’s body is almost 100 percent covered, the plate ump is well-wrapped, and the batter can arm himself in everything short of cyborg components. Why don’t we mandate helmets for the individuals who are the fourth-closest to the violence of the meeting of bat and ball – the pitcher? We haven’t seen enough pitchers knocked down by return fire?
The obvious point against, of course, is that most of those pitcher injuries are to the face. Then again, no pitcher has had the opportunity to use “ducking out of the way” as a reaction to a line drive.
And if there is a cosmetic argument (and, face it, the new articulated helmets look laughable), certainly we have not reached the all-time climax of helmet design. They can doubtless be made more ventilated, be lined with sweat-absorbing material, fixed into a more cap-like shape, and generally be redesigned so as to make their wearer look less like the Great Gazoo.
Besides which, why does a batter with a helmet look right, and a pitcher or an umpire with one look less so?
Because we’re used to it.
NO HELMETS MAY SAVE THEM:

Watching the Nationals first sign, then promote, ex-Royals closer MikeMacDougal, and considering the maelstrom that their bullpen has been, I wondered when Manny Acta would put him into a save position. Friday night, he retired two Mets, including a creaky Gary Sheffield on strikes, on six pitches. Then Joel Hanrahan looked even better in the 9th, yet Acta mysteriously brought his shaky closer back for the 10th, and Hanrahan got lit up like the Capitol Dome.
This is not to portray Hanrahan as Mariano Rivera. But if the man has the tools to do the job and has just done it splendidly — if the question is confidence — get him out of there. Treat him like a real closer (pitch one inning, limit to save opportunities) and maybe he’ll become one. Hanrahan’s previous outing was with the Nationals trailing and the argument that he needed some work was valid, except that that was the day of the San Francisco/Washington day/night doubleheader and this was only the first game. What if Hanrahan had been needed in the second game?
In short, was Acta looking for a new reason to break-up with Hanrahan? Were he and his new pitching coach Steve McCatty setting up Hanrahan to fail? You pull your closer after he looks bad in two non-closing situations?
MacDougal became McCatty’s project in Syracuse and if he succeeds he could mean McCatty has the job long-term. There’s nothing wrong with that, especially if McCatty has helped MacDougal reclaim his career. This is the MacDougal who spent nearly all of last year in the minors, and who was released by the pitching-challenged White Sox a month ago. And you have now destroyed Hanrahan, twice, in nine weeks.
To whom do you go if MacDougal fails? Joe Beimel? Kip Wells? Julian Tavarez? They’re all in that Nats Closer Alumni Association. Ron Villone? He’s been superb in the Washington bullpen, in a role he has performed for twelve seasons now – during which he has racked up is career total of seven saves.
In other closer flux news: Our fellow MLBlogger and Phils’ correspondent Todd Zolecki insistsCharlie Manuel is eternally committedto Brad Lidge. But his colleague Joe Frisaro has asignificantly less-ringing endorsementof Matt Lindstrom by Fredi Gonzalez. In that construction, Fredi, who seems to prefer a little chaos in his bullpen, may get exactly that.
True followers of the Phillies, of course, know that as startling as the statistic is — from perfection over a season to six blown saves in two months — Brad Lidge was hardly perfect last year. The true difference isn’t the number of crises he has created, but the number he has created. As Baseball Prospectus pointed out, his BABIP (Batting Average, Balls In Play) went from .300 during his “bad” year in Houston in 2007, to .302 during his “perfect” one in Philly last year. It’s the homer total that swung wildly: from nine in ’07 to two in ’08, to an astonishing seven this year (for comparison purposes, that’s how many homers Livan Hernandez has given up this year). And the BABIP is now .356?
Tab Bamford has a fascinating idea for the Cubs- but it is one entirely dependent on the idea that Chicago cancelled Rich Harden’s rehab start today only because the feng shui in the stadium was all wrong. The idea that an injury-prone starter with extraordinary stuff might be a better closer than a journeyman with loose-control or a set-up man with pressure issues is, as the blogger notes, not exactly unprecedented in Chicago. Lord knows Lou Piniella has been willing to make this move (Kerry Wood) and its opposite (Ryan Dempster) before.
All of which raises the question: if you’re the Tampa Bay Rays and you have the Red Sox and Yankees to fend off, and you don’t have time to screw around, and you have a healthy supply of starters, and your bullpen has suddenly gone so south that you hesitate to name a permanent closer, why aren’t you using David Price in that role?
BY THE WAY:

If you’re wondering about the last batter to hit without a helmet, it was Bob Montgomery, Carlton Fisk’s long-time understudy with the Red Sox. He, Norm Cash, and maybe a few others, were grandfathered when the helmet rule finally passed. They wore plastic liners inside their caps. Terrific oddity there considering Montgomery was a catcher.
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,951 other followers