Baseball a game of failure

Baseball and Its Marvelous Imperfections


-David Strobach-

Baseball is the most imperfect and perplexing, yet alluring of all sports. Hitting a round ball, whistling by at ninety miles-per-hour, with a round bat defies logic. I can then square this round ball as hard as I possibly can, but still get out? The opposing force of this contact may cause my bat to explode in shards. Actually, I don’t have to hit the ball to get on base, it can hit me. I can fail seventy percent of the time and be regarded as one of the best. There is nothing perfect about baseball, yet it continues to be America’s pastime and my greatest passion. Baseball, the game of failure, entices me because its imperfections have an uncanny resemblance to life and invaluable lessons to be learned.

Baseball is one of the only sports without a clock, but always has an end. There’s no telling how long a game could last, especially if it goes into extra innings. In this fast paced world people want a faster paced game, but they fail to see all of the intricacies within the long game. Jahred Adelman, Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Chicago describes baseball as “a beautiful game that allows people to watch and understand physics at work.” Adelman also explains that the same physics of hitting, catching, and throwing a ball can be found in the motion of roller coasters, rocket ships, and in the acceleration of a car. It is so much more than see the ball, hit the ball, catch the ball. It is mixture of mathematics, physics, and luck accompanied by rituals and dressed in tradition. The game is surrounded by sights, sounds, and aromas that stir the soul. The variables are endless and just as in real life,  we never truly know when we will be thrown a curveball or when the game will come to a close.

Like no other sport, baseball keeps people honest and tallies their mistakes and imperfections. It is intimidating for most people to have to address their demons so to speak, knowing their errors are out there for all to see. However, we all face adversity. People and players that continually fail, often do the same thing repeatedly and expect a different outcome. The most successful people in life make many errors, but it is the ability to adjust that leads to further success. In life and baseball, it’s important to embrace mistakes and failures, learn from them, and improve for that next opportunity, that next at-bat. The beauty of baseball lies in going up to the plate after batting 0-3, making contact or better yet, hitting it out of the park. I never go down just “looking,” instead I observe and make adjustments.

Baseball is truly a game of failure! In fact, the best players fail at least seventy percent of the time. These same players have a .300 batting average putting them into elite company. Anyone who fails seventy percent of the time would be regarded as terrible in the private sector, but instead they are considered a leader simply because their peers are failing slightly more. In a world where everyone wants to be a homerun slugger and a hero, it is often a player that sacrifices their own personal gain that is the true hero. A sacrifice bunt, sacrifice fly, or getting hit by a pitch can be a game changer that garnishes respect.

The physique of the baseball athlete is also an enigma. There is no average body type as baseball invites everyone from the imperfect to the athletic, from short and stubby to tall and thin. According to Eric Ding’s 2010 Harvard study, over 55% of players are overweight. A seemingly out of shape and overweight pitcher in their late 30’s with a beer belly can have an amazing command of the game. Yet a seasoned physically fit athlete, such as Michael Jordan, struggled to find any success. Contrary to reason, baseball doesn’t encourage conditioning as much because fitness doesn’t matter in the traditional sense unless you are stretching a double into a triple. Heart, grit, passion, skill, and other intangibles make up for any shortcomings in physique and this is all part of baseball’s imperfect charm. It is a truly an American sport, played and watched by American bodies. All sizes, on the same field, compete together at next level. It allows the fans to think, “Hey I can do this too.”

Life and baseball can be disappointing and hard at times. Baseball is a game of failure and so is life with many unpredictable variables, but that’s what makes it so exciting! I may miss that fastball down the middle, my golden chance at success. In life, there are times I may have a great opportunity, but miss it. I may even drive a ball hard, but the competition makes a spectacular play. I gave my best effort, yet still failed! This frustration motivates me to come back and hit the ball even harder, strengthening my determination to improve. Author Malcolm Gladwell discusses the “10,000 hour rule” stating that most skills can be mastered by practicing correctly for 10,000 hours. So, I take responsibility and action through practice, pushing myself and trying new things. This beautifully imperfect game has taught me that despite one’s best efforts, things may not go your way. It has also empowered me to know that when life throws me a curve, there will be another at bat, and when that time comes, I will be ready for the long game.

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Baseball, a Game of Failure


-David S.-

Baseball = Failure

In response to a feature article on Bleacher Boy in the newspaper, The Journal Times, I am reposting a topic that was highlighted.

I am always reminded that baseball is a huge game of failure.  Great hitters hit a .300 average.  Look at it this way, it means you FAIL 70% of the time.  That’s a huge percentage.  You are guaranteed to fail.  If while at bat, you advance a runner and he gets into scoring position, but you get out, do you fail?  Absolutely not.  Your batting average will be lower, which may look bad on the surface.  However, you are part of a team whose goal is to score runs.  Let’s say the winning run is on third and you crush the ball to the outfield and the fielder makes an amazing play.   You don’t fail because your goal is to hit the ball solidly and you succeeded.  You tip your cap to the defender and try again.  This unfortunately is a scenario that’s happened to me many times.  Another scenario would be if there is a full count and bases are loaded in the last inning.  You strike out.  Yes, this is failing, but it’s part of the game.  It happens to everyone.   No matter how hard you try, the game of baseball will always win.  So you will always face adversity, but it is how you respond to it that makes the difference between good players and great ball players!

Negative Thinking = Contagion

On my traveling baseball team, many of the kids get very upset after committing an error or not batting well.  ( Parents, it doesn’t help if you’re screaming or putting pressure on your kid.)  If this ever happens to me, I just try my best to be positive and to keep my head up as well as encourage teammates.  Otherwise, this can cause you to play horribly because you are not in a good mental mood.  If one person starts having a bad attitude, it spreads like a disease.  Everyone starts getting upset and frustrated and the team starts to fade. The other team smells this frustration and  takes advantage of it and then uses it against you.  They will crush you to pieces.  I’ve seen this happen to my team numerous times.  Kids crying, helmets thrown, missed grounders, bad throws -it’s ugly.  I’ve heard that scouts hope to see errors when looking at players.  They want to see how a player handles mistakes mentally and how/if they can recover.  My advice:  Let it go!  Don’t  mix offense and defense.  Leave the error on the field.  Leave the strikeout in the batter’s box.   Each player needs to find what works for them – so learn to forgive yourself and move forward!!!  And “PLAY BALL!!”

Jeter’s 10 Life Lessons


-David Strobach-

In The Life You Imagine: Life Lessons for Achieveing Your Dreams, Derek Jeter lays out his top 10 life lessons.  These are wonderful guidelines that can apply to everyone. Here is my take on each of Jeter’s life lessons.

Image result for derek Jeter top 10 life lessons

1. Set Your Goals High

Always set your goals high.  If you don’t dream big and set goals to accomplish your dream, then you will be disappointed. The quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry,“A goal without a plan is just a wish,” applies perfect.  Derek does not want you to wish for things.  He wants you to make that wish a goal and work for it.

My goal is to be a journalist covering baseball one day.  I hope my plan of creating a name for myself through this platform can help me accomplish my goal.

2. Deal With Growing Pains

The road to success will never be easy.  There are always bumps on the road.  Derek Jeter had numerous slumps throughout his career, but he dealt with them and got back on his feet. Mistakes carry value.  It’s where we learn, build upon ourselves, and get better.

People are always going to doubt you.  Sometimes they are threatened by your potential. Harness that doubt and negativity into positive energy.  When someone doubts me, it only fuels my fire to become a better player,  writer and person.

It’s all about the attitude we posses when confronting our growing pains that ultimately helps us deal with and overcome them.

3. Find Role Models

Role models can be crucial to one’s success.  They are someone you can always go to for advice and help.  Some people may not have any role models they know personally in their lives, so they may look up to their favorite star as a role model.  This is why I feel it is of utmost importance for “stars” to lead by example.  We are all watching and many follow in their steps.

Some huge role models of mine are my parents, coaches, friends, and siblings.  They are my number one fans and will always be there for me through thick and thin.  Another role model of mine, a friend I made though my platform, is Tom Pipines of Fox News.  He has taken me under his wing and I’m grateful for his mentorship.  Pip is always there for me.

4. The World is Not Always Fair

The worst of things can occur to the best of us.  Only focus on what you can control and strive to be the best in it.

5. Don’t Be Afraid to Fail

Who better to tell us this than a superstar in the game of failure? If all we did was succeed, do we truly know what success is?  Our worst of times, bring out our best.  Failure is a constructive obstacle that makes success more fulfilling.  Failure is our opportunity to learn, improve and challenge ourselves.

6. Have a Strong Supporting Cast

I have never been forced to like or do anything by my role models.  I have been able to discover my identity on my own with the unconditional support of people around me.  You can’t reach your dream by yourself.  It takes a village to raise a star.

Another way to look at a strong supporting cast is competition.  Look at others in your prospective field as friends, but also as competitors to challenge you.  Most importantly, STAY AWAY FROM THE HATERS!

7. Be Serious, but Have Fun

If you want to be successful in whatever it is you want to do, it has to be taken seriously. Work harder than anyone you’re competing with.  Understand the task at hand and do everything you can to accomplish it.

If you have a true love and passion for what you desire, the fun should come along with it. Nothing is more fun for me than baseball practice everyday and writing countless number of articles to share.  Everyone has heard that if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life and it has to be true.  However, as soon as the fun is lost, everything goes down with it.  Work becomes a chore and motivation is lost.  You start to “go through the motions.”  Maintaining that fun, love, and passion is crucial to a happy successful life.

8. Be a Leader, Follow the Leader

Showing the traits of leadership will help you rise in the eyes of others as well as the ranks of your job/task.  This certainly includes, but does not have to mean a vocal leader.  Actions speak louder than words.  Coaches will always notice heart, hustle, and attitude and they will eventually be rewarded.  Derek Jeter was one of the best “lead by example” types out there.  Not once did I ever see him not hustle and his heart was always undeniably in the game.

Another part of this lesson from Jeter, is to follow the leader.  This can be taken two ways. One way is to follow in the footsteps of a role model.  Another is, until you are at the very top, there is always someone above you to look up to.  It is always very important to respect a superior.  It will pay off in the end.

9. Think Before You Act

Every action has a consequence, good or bad.  Ask yourself, is this good for me?  Is this going to help me accomplish my goal in life?  If the answer is no, it’s probably something to avoid.  We must all control our impulses and focus on the bigger picture.

10. Life is a Daily Challenge

Every day we are met with challenges.  There will always be good and bad days.  Life is not easy, but we if we attack it with the right mindset and work ethic, we might just be up to the challenge.

 

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Header image from Jordan Derek Jeter tribute ad

Jose Reyes Gets A Second Chance With The Mets


Kathy Willens/AP Photo

 

-David Strobach-

The New York Mets have signed free agent shortstop, Jose Reyes, to a minor league deal after clearing waivers with the Rockies to reunite the two parties.  Jose Reyes was a star for the  Mets from 2003-2011 and left for a $106 million contract spanning 6 years with the Marlins.  He was then traded to the Blue Jays, then the Rockies acquired him in the Troy Tulowitzki deal.    Reyes was suspended without pay (lost $6.25 million) through May 31 for his domestic violence incident last October where he grabbed his wife by the throat and pushed her into a glass door while in Hawaii.  He was arrested, but after his wife was uncooperative with the prosecution, the charges were later dropped.   Even though he was never formally charged, he still violated the MLB domestic abuse policy which led to his suspension. The Mets GM Sandy Alderson feels Jose has learned from his mistake, served his punishment, and deserves a second chance saying:

 

“I did meet with Jose personally. We talked for about an hour. Obviously, this domestic abuse issue was the focal point of that conversation. I came away feeling that he had taken responsibility for this mistake on his part, that he was remorseful. He obviously has paid a penalty for this, both financially and in terms of his career. He, I believe, is committed to ongoing counseling and support of organizations working against domestic abuse. And obviously, in addition to this personal meeting, we had a lot of internal conversations. [Chief operating officer] Jeff Wilpon was directly involved in this every step of the way. We were aware of the possible controversy this would generate. We’re also fully aware of the responsibility we sort of have to be leaders in this area of fighting domestic abuse.”  Sandy also said, “At the same time, Jose was a member of the Mets organization for 12 years. He was signed at 16 years of age. He was a solid citizen during all of that time. And so, if you think of it in those terms, us as a place where Jose grew up, almost as a surrogate family, we felt that he deserved a second chance, and that second chance was most appropriate with us.”

Also saying:

“We fully understand there will be differences of opinion about this. Some people will feel strongly and differently. I think we accept that. We respect that. All I can say is both Jose and the organization will be held to a standard going forward that recognizes the seriousness of domestic abuse and a commitment to stand against it.”

Reyes expressed regret for his actions and is looking forward to future saying below:

“As I have expressed in the past, I deeply regret the incident that occurred and remain remorseful and apologetic to my family. I have completed the counseling required by MLB, have been in ongoing therapy, and will continue with counseling going forward. I appreciate the Mets organization for believing in me and providing the opportunity to come back home to New York.”

Tim Farrell/The Star-Ledger

The Mets are hoping this second chance for their former star helps a line up desperately looking for a boost as well as add depth.  He will spend around a week in the minors to recalibrate his skills before joining the MLB roster.  The Rockies are responsible for the $39 million he’s owed and the Mets only have to pay him the league minimum of $507,50.  This is a great low-risk, high-reward opportunity for New York.  His role will not be as shortstop with the Mets as Asdrubal Cabrera blocks him there.  He will be playing 3rd and even work in the outfield.  Reyes should be slotted into the leadoff spot to boost the Mets order.  He will also bring a much needed speed to a team barren of it.  It is unfair for anyone to expect his 2011 batting title days coming back as Alderson said on his expectations:

“Do we expect him to win the National League battle title this year the way he did in 2011? No. Has he lost a step – maybe? Is he the premier shortstop that he once was? It doesn’t really matter — he’s not going to play shortstop. So we’ve taken all of those things into account. We think he can help us. You know, from a motivational standpoint, I don’t think we would be able to find a player who is more determined, more highly motivated to perform than Jose is today.”

I personally used to be a fan of Reyes, but lost all respect for him after his altercation with his wife.  With the statements from Alderson, it seems that the Mets have and are continuing to handle the situation well.  It is great to see the MLB as a whole handling domestic violence seriously.   I hope Reyes has truly learned from his mistake.  Based on the statements, both parties feel that he has.  It is good to see that his counselling will continue while in New York.  Even though I will never look at him the same like many others and rightfully so, I wish the best for him and his family and hope he grows from this experience.  You can spend your life working hard, building up your reputation, and respect, doing great things – but it only takes one regrettable act to have it all come crashing down.  Any man that hurts his wife is not a man at all. However, I do believe in second chances.

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Put Pitchers in the Derby!


-David Strobach-

Recently in the media there have been tons of buzz about a pitcher possibly being in the Home Run Derby. Specifically, a lot of talk about Madison Bumgarner . Noah Syndergaard, aka “Thor,” has expressed interest in this event as well as Jake Arrieta.  Also, Adam Wainwright wants a part in the derby.  Should the MLB have a pitcher’s Home Run Derby or let them hit with the big boppers?  The answer to either question is YES, absolutely.

Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

This is something baseball needs.  It’s a breath of fresh air to the All-Star break and would be wildly entertaining. The new derby rules the MLB put into place were a fantastic addition last year, but this would make the event even better.  Having either a pitcher derby or throwing some in with everyone else would make the event must-see T.V.  The MLB has even discussed the possibility having a pitchers derby.  It would probably make more sense to only add a pitcher or two to the mix of all other players.

It is totally understandable for teams and managers to be worried about the health of the pitchers if they partook in this.  It’s the ony arguemnt on why pitchers shouldn’t be included.  It’s safe to to say all of Chicago would be furious if Arrieta went out there swinging out of his shoes, causing a severe oblique strain.  No team wants their ace going down for a fun little show.  It’s risk that has to be taken for every player that participates.

Out of all players, I truly believe MadBum could give everyone a run for their money in the derby.  Some players are mesmerized by his batting practice sessions.   He’s simply a BEAST or “ox-strong, farm-bred,” as Dodgers pitcher Brett Anderson described him.  After all, he has homered twice off one of the greatest pitchers of our time, Clayton Kershaw.  Watch, in awe as MadBum drops two bombs off the star lefty.  If these two swings don’t influence you to put him in the derby, I don’t know what will.

 

 

Imagine MadBum sailing balls into the sand of Petco Park, Thor using his hammer to crush balls out and Arrieta hitting bombs off of Western Metal Supply Company in left field.  Talk about a the best All-Star event ever.  Baseball, it’s time for pitchers to be involved in the Home Run Derby!

 

What would you think of this?  Should they be included or have their own derby?

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Who is the True “Hit King,” Rose or Ichiro?


-David Strobach-

Ichiro Suzuki lined a double off San Diego Padres pitcher  Fernando Rodney for his 4,257th hit of his baseball career from Japan and Major League Baseball which combined passed Pete Rose for all-time hits.  In Japan Ichiro had 1,278 hits and 2,979 MLB hits.  Many people are crowning Ichiro the “Hit King” which is spurring much debate, is Ichiro the true “Hit King,” or is it Charlie Hustle?

 

Ichiro right away was his respectable humble self saying, “For me, it’s not about the record, it’s about my teammates and the fans.”  He has always been a such a humble and great man.  He did not claim himself as “Hit King” or boast about it in any way.

Ichiro’s iconic at-bat routine will forever be remembered- Nick Wass/Associated Press

Pete Rose made his opinion known to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale saying,

“It sounds like in Japan they’re trying to make me the Hit Queen. I’m not trying to take anything away from Ichiro, he’s had a Hall of Fame career, but the next thing you know, they’ll be counting his high school hits. I don’t think you’re going to find anybody with credibility say that Japanese baseball is equivalent to Major League Baseball. There are too many guys that fail here, and then become household names there, like Tuffy Rhodes. How can he not do anything here, and hit (a record-tying) 55 home runs (in 2001) over there? It has something to do with the caliber of personnel.”

As much as this pains me to say it, I agree with Pete Rose.  All of Ichiro’s hits in Japan shouldn’t be in consideration when talking about MLB records.  It is incredible that Ichiro has hit that much in his career and even more incredible that he is approaching 3,000 MLB hits after coming into the Majors as 27 year-old.  Pete Rose, however, should still be considered MLB’s “Hit King” because he hit all 4,256 of them in the MLB.  He really does have a strong point that I agree with concerning the type of play here and in Japan.  The talent is simply better here and they are completely different leagues.  There’s reason tons of Japan players dreams are to play in the MLB.   Only MLB stats should be in consideration when talking about MLB records.

 

Don’t get me wrong, Ichiro deserves to be a first ballot Hall of Famer and should be considered to be one of the greatest hitters the world has ever seen.  Not only has he been one of the greatest, but Ichiro is an international icon.  Many around the world will recognize the name Ichiro.   He plays with all his heart and has made great contributions to the MLB.  I am not trying to take anything away from his stellar career, but unfortunately, the one and only Charlie Hustle deserves the title, “Hit King,” not Ichiro.

Let’s all enjoy the major milestones of future Hall of Famer:

 

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The Revelation of Jonathan Villar


-David Strobach-

Brewers shortstop, Jonathan Villar, has been nothing short of a revelation.   He was supposed to be just a gap shortstop until top prospect, SS Orlando Arcia, made his way up.  He was acquired this past off-season from the Astros in exchange for minor league RHP Cy Sneed.  Jonathan Villar has been a stud for the Brew Crew this year. Why is no one talking about him?  Let’s see just how good Villar has been.

Source: Mike McGinnis/Getty Images North America

Villar, only 25 years old, is slashing .296/.387/.426 with an OPS of .813, 5 home runs, and a league leading 23 stolen bases.  Jonathan has exceptional on-base skills with his .387 OBP.  As soon as he gets on first, it’s almost a sure bet he’ll be swiping second.  Villar has been hitting around .300 all year and it is far enough into the season to say he is no fluke.  He’s challenging pitchers with every aspect of his game.  His most underrated tool is his defense.  Defensively, Villar makes the plays and is always smooth at short.

FanGraphs states in their post on Villar: “Villar is on pace to hit 13 home runs, steal 60 bases, and bat .292. That’s 2014 Jose Altuve, but more power and less batting average.” That’s a pretty darn good way to look at how well he has been performing.  Mentioning Jose Altuve‘s name in the same sentence as Villar’s shows what kind of player he has been.  If you would like a more advanced breakdown on his success, I encourage you to read FanGraphs work.

From a fantasy perspective, ESPN fantasy baseball has him ranked as the seventh player in all!  Pretty amazing for a huy that was only supposed to be “gap player.”

Benny Sieu/USA TODAY Sports

What makes Villar even more valuable is that not only is he playing All-Star caliber baseball, he’s young (25) and controllable (Brewers control through 2020).  David Stearns, Brewers GM, has said time and time again how his main goal is to find young controllable talent and he has found quite a hidden gem in Jonathan.  Villar should be a valuable core in the Brewers rebuild by moving positions (probably 3rd) when Arcia comes to take his spot. Let’s all applaud David Stearns for this fantastic find.

 

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