Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
2003-03-12 16:45
by Alex Belth


"This era of pitchers don't know the art of pitching inside. They just think they can take a baseball and you wind up just throwing it at somebody's head or whatever, that's pitching inside." -- Frank Robinson.

In a spectacular act of cowardice, Dodger pitching hopeful Guillermo Mota, plunked Mets catcher Mike Piazza for the second consecutive year in a spring training contest, and then ran to safety like a little bitch when Piazza charged the mound.

``It was a set-up as far as I was concerned,'' Howe said. ``It was certainly intentional from my viewpoint.

``The guy ran like a scared rabbit when the man came out after him,'' Howe added. ``If he wants to hit somebody, stand there and fight. He can back-pedal faster than I can run forward.''

Unlike Vladi G, Piazza is not your proto-typical, thin-skinned modern slugger. I saw the game involving Mota last year, and thought the kid was a punk trying to act tough when he threw at Piazza on a 3-0 count in a meaningless game. Those feelings were reinforced when I saw the replay of last night's incident.

Have you ever seen someone who deliberately wanted to hit a batter, run scared the way Mota did?

Piteful. I don't blame Piazza for being heated. This ranks up there with the best chickenshit beanings in recent memory.

While I'm on the subject, here is an article from on the Vlad Guerrero-Brad Penny altercation earlier this week.

Robinson said that when he was a player, instead of going after the pitcher, he walked to first base and took his anger out on the shortstop or second baseman on the basepaths, or by getting a base hit during his next time at-bat. There was a reason behind Robinson's actions.

"I retaliated, but I didn't charge the mound," he said. "Why would I charge the mound? Then the pitcher has won, [and] I'm gone. I did my teammates a disservice, I did the organization a disservice and I did myself a disservice because I'm not in the ballgame. I just took it out on the second baseman or the shortstop. Many of them asked me, 'What are you doing?' I said, 'Don't ask me. Ask your pitcher.' I was going to get you if it was a ground ball."


There was a nice, little article on Edgardo Alfonzo in the Sac Bee a couple of days ago that is worth checking out. Can you equate clutch hitting with playing in New York? Fonzie thinks so:

"The key is his plate coverage," new Giants batting coach Joe Lefebvre said. "He can hit any pitch with a short, compact swing -- and that makes him dangerous. Playing in New York definitely toughens you up. He can handle anything."

Alfonzo agreed.

"The New York pressure never got to me. The fans and media back there can be tough when you're going bad and great when you're doing good. But it really was no different than playing winter ball.

"When you play in Venezuela, it's very intense from the first pitch to the last, so it makes you very aggressive. And when you play in New York, you have to learn to handle things. There are a lot of distractions and a lot of competition, including the Yankees..."I just try to select a pitch to hit. I've always been able to focus. It's always been part of my game to make contact. I've always hit line drives and used all fields."


It's no secret that Bernie Williams, a four-time gold glove center fielder, has a rag arm, that is only getting worse with age. To his credit, Williams knows it is a flaw in his game:

"That's always been a constant battle for me," the center fielder said. "There are things in this game that come easily to me and some things that don't. That's one of the things that never has come easily to me, and I think everybody knows it."

..."If you perceive the guy to not have a strong throwing arm, you would be more encouraged to do that, sure," Williams said. "It's something I would do myself."

Having identified the problem, Williams works every day on charging the ball so he can be in better position to make a throw.

"Does Bernie have the strongest arm in the league? No," Yankees first-base and outfield coach Lee Mazzilli said. "But there are things we do to compensate for that, like playing shallow and getting rid of the ball. Bernie's real good about working on that."

..."Everyone knows what you have, so it's no secret," Mazzilli said. "That's why we work on it all the time."

Mazzilli said Williams loves working on the details, things like getting in position to throw off the correct foot, setting up to catch fly balls in a good throwing position, and charging ground balls to cut down the time it takes to get the ball back to the infield. Still, other teams see an opportunity -- something to exploit.

"There's no doubt, in everybody's report, you take the extra base on a ball hit out there," an American League scout said at yesterday's Yankees-Indians game. "And you've definitely seen a decline. I wouldn't be surprised to see more teams (tagging up from first) as time goes on."

..."It keeps you humble," Williams said. "I know I will not be a complete player until I master that."

It is unlikely that Bernie will improve his throwing significantly at this stage in his career, but he can work at making quick, accurate throws to the cut off man (ala Mickey Rivers). Still, it's refreshing to see that Williams' work ethic is as strong as ever.

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