Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
Sneaky Fast
2008-03-06 05:37
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to

Tyler Kepner has a piece on Ian Kennedy today in the Times:

Kennedy's average fastball is probably 89 miles an hour, and what was exceptional in high school — when he teamed with Young on a United States junior national team — is nothing special now.

But Kennedy, who studies the control artist Greg Maddux closely, has extra life on the pitch to make it seem harder.

"You're going to see 87s and 88s on the radar gun, but the way the hitters react, it's not like 87 or 88," [Kennedy's AA catcher, P.J.] Pilittere said. "He's got a nice, easy delivery with that late, hard finish on the ball where he really drives through it. Phil Hughes is the same way. He'll be throwing 91, and you'll catch it and say, 'Man, is he throwing 98 today?' That's something you can't really teach."

This brought to mind an article that Jack Curry did on Greg Maddux back in 2003:

"Why am I so good?" Maddux said, repeating a question. "I think it's probably because I understand myself as a pitcher, somewhat. I have an idea of what I can and can't do on the mound. That's probably the only reason I've lasted for the last five or six years."

...While Maddux's fastball rarely exceeds 89 miles per hour, it is a pitch he hones extensively and a pitch that enables him to be so masterly. Maddux's fastball has tremendous movement and he can usually hit a one-inch box from 60 feet 6 inches. Since he controls it like a yo-yo, it enhances the rest of his repertory. Maddux counsels teammates to spend more time controlling their fastballs and less on curveballs or sliders.

"It's unbelievable the amount of time he puts on perfecting the command of his fastball," Mazzone said. "It's his No. 1 priority. In his mind, if you can command your fastball and change speeds, there isn't a heck of a lot more you have to do."

..."I think what separates him is he's so much better at recognizing what the last pitch dictated and gathering information from that than most guys are," Glavine said. "Most guys say: `I threw a fastball in. Now I'm going to throw this.' Why? They don't know. It might not have anything at all to do with the last pitch. I think that's what he's good at. Seeing the hitter's reaction and using that information on the next pitch."

Horse of a Different Color

Curry, writing in the Times, and Gordon Edes, writing in the Boston Globe, both have stories on Terry Francona and his relationship with Joe Torre and the Yankees today. Edes notes:

For fans inflamed by provincial loyalties, it may be hard to fathom the personal bonds forged in an environment seemingly more suited for enmity than affection. But this winter, the general managers, Theo Epstein and Brian Cashman, made public appearances together, Cashman at Epstein's charity event in Boston, Epstein at a speaking engagement at a New Jersey university, one that Cashman jokingly likened to an Obama-Clinton debate. The friendship is genuine.

"We've known each other and been friendly for a long time," Epstein said yesterday.

The rivalry is real, but it's mostly for (and about) the fans. Which is not to say that players on each side don't want to beat each other, but, with perhaps a few exceptions here and there, I don't believe the players dislike each other in the same way they did in the Fisk-Munson days.

2008-03-06 07:26:44
1.   Knuckles
Sneaky fast is one of my favorite baseball terms. Kind of like a wide receiver who has "deceptive speed."

The Yanks and Sox players want to beat each other.
The Yankee Fans and Red Sox fans want to beat each other...up.

2008-03-06 07:29:24
2.   mehmattski
Nine percent of visitors think the Yanks have a chance at winning the AL Central:

2008-03-06 07:34:32
3.   wsporter
2 I saw that, we're so good we could win 2 divisions. Ah, the promise of spring time.
2008-03-06 09:02:50
4.   Shaun P
2 So many different directions that could be taken in . . .

1 The night before Game 3 of the '99 ALCS (Clemens vs Pedro), I was in the Quincy Market area with some friends; all of us were from NY. Quite a few bars had signs out front: "NY Licenses Not Welcome Here". We laughed, and tried to get into one place. That place at least was quite serious; the bouncer wouldn't let us in. "We don't want no stupid Yankee fans in our bah," he told us. (None of us were wearing any sports apparel.)

I always held it against that place; now I wonder if they weren't just being careful.

2008-03-06 09:08:53
5.   unpopster
4 I was at that game. I parked my car across from the Green Monster in a lot. After the game, I tried to drive out of the lot and onto Landsdowne Street. It was a zoo out there -- a Mardi Gras like scene because they had just spanked the hated "rajah" -- and my car, which had NY plates, proceeded to get pelted by everything imaginable. At one point, dickheads started jumping on my bumpers and kicking the side of the car...all to a huge chorus of "New York Plates, New York Plates".

no joke...and no exaggeration.

2008-03-06 09:40:56
6.   Chyll Will
5 Which one does this sound like, Lewis Carrol on ecstasy or Hunter S. Thompson drinking pink lemonade? Curiouser and curiouser... >;)
2008-03-06 09:41:09
7.   wsporter
A college buddy of mine from Natic MA (Boston Red was his nickname so that'll give you some idea) came back from the Bucky Dent game in '78 with stories of Yankees Fans getting their cars and asses kicked by the Boston faithful. It's like Satchel said:
", , , there aint nothing new under the sun".
2008-03-06 09:41:24
8.   williamnyy23
4 I was working on an assignment in Boston in the winter of 1999 and happened to attend a Bruins game on the day the Yankees got Roger Clemens (could have been the day after). I went up to get a beer at intermission and the vendor asked to see my license. He said "New York", returned it to me and continued, "I am not selling you a beer". I thought he was kidding, but after an odd moment or two, he continued, " You have Clemens, you don't need a beer".
2008-03-06 09:42:16
9.   wsporter
6 Escher on acid?
2008-03-06 09:47:34
10.   Chyll Will
9 Harsh, yet relative.
2008-03-06 12:25:56
11.   horace-clarke-era
Speaking of fastball speed, Heyman over on ...

Potential need: Starting pitcher.
Mike Mussina said his recent spring pasting is no cause for alarm. But scouts aren't so sure. They saw a fastball in name only, down from the high 80s to the mid or even low 80s and a continuing belief that he's nearing the end.

The Yankees would be better off keeping Joba Chamberlain in the pen, which would keep their fantastic late-game combo intact. But to do that, they'll need not only youngsters Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy to come through, but also Mussina to remain viable. Or they'll need to look into the free-agent market, which is a lot better then one might suspect at this point. They could sign Kyle Lohse, who's still available. Or if they don't mind waiting, they could try for Freddy Garcia, a past ace who's hoping to be back from shoulder trouble by midsummer.


Joba WILL get to the rotation, but not for a bit, we have to assume. I continue my cry ... one more starter.

2008-03-06 12:33:41
12.   JL25and3
Will Carroll's posted his Team Health Report for the Yankees over at BP. I won't give all the rankings, but I thought his overall comments were interesting. I hope it's not too long a post.

The Yankees have a tendency to bring in players that are past their prime, which would make many think that I'd give Gene Monahan and his staff something of a pass for this team's lower-third finish in Three-Year Rank category. However, while Monahan is almost an institution in New York, he's not above some blame here. The team has been behind the curve in some ways, but perhaps most telling, it's the area of maintenance where their results are the most questionable. The age question is a bit of a misdirect—older players don't necessarily skew injury stats. A younger player with known injury problems or, worse, one who racks up significant DL time—like Phil Hughes last season—is just as bad, if not worse.

Instead, it's the question of players like Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui and their rapid descents. Healthy players that have never been injured, as these two were, often don't know the basic "how to" of rehab. Then it's especially up to the medical staff to maintain the players, keeping them in a state where they can be productive. Not that there's a difference between "productive" and "healthy." Some players can't play at less than 100 percent, either by choice or by talent. Players with lower levels of physical talent (or athleticism) often can't lose a step, a notch on their fastball, or any bat speed. The odd thing about the Yankees' trouble with maintenance is that they're dealing with a superior level of athleticism than any other team. Even the pitchers on this team are athletes. Yes, I know that Jason Giambi might not be the type of gazelle-like athlete you might associate with the word, but there's no question that even now he has amazing physical gifts.

So what's the problem? I think it could be tradition. The Yankees operate in an older, smaller environment for their medical staff—something that the new park will correct—and tend to resist change. While the move last year to bring in new ideas with a new conditioning coach did not work, their quickly pulling the plug revealed the extent of the internal resistance. Most of the problem seems to reside in the organization's upper levels; while solid injury statistics don't exist for the minor leagues, at least anecdotally it appears that there's been an increase in injuries at the upper levels. The team has actually had solid success with its Tampa rehab programs, which indicates they may already have all they need in place, but just need to better deploy their resources.

If nothing else, the Yankees could use the same financial advantages they have everywhere else to help solve this issue. More trainers? Sure. Better equipment? Sure. Better facilities? Already in the works, but sure. The one thing we've yet to see is an organizational focus on the issue, and that can only come from the top.

2008-03-06 13:04:58
13.   Raf
That Maddux story reminds me a lot about what I heard about Ken Holtzman from others who saw him pitch; that he was precise with his fastball, and didn't mess too much with breaking pitches.

It's pretty obvious, but I wonder why more people don't work on spotting the fastball. Not nibbling, but actually controlling the pitch.

2008-03-06 13:12:36
14.   ms october
12 Thanks jl - interesting article.

I never thought there would be such disparity in teams' medical staffs - but there are, and I guess it is not so surprising. Will's point on Matsui and Damon was especially interesting.
(This disparity in medical staffs has been a big topic in the NBA since after Shaq got traded to the Suns there was a lot of talk on the Suns staff ability to keep Steve Nash and Grant Hill healthy - and how good they were at what they do.)

2008-03-06 13:43:40
15.   Shaun P
5 7 8 I actually think its gotten worse over time, but that might be because of this story.

Next-to-last home game of 1999, at Fenway, Sox vs the Boids; Sox lost. I wear a Yankees hat; my friend wears his Piazza Mets jersey; no one else with us has on any sports apparel.

Guess who got more crap? That's right, my buddy in his Piazza jersey. I even turned my hat backwards to see if it would attract attention; it did not.

2008-03-06 14:39:00
16.   Bagel Boy
11 Yeah, Moose ain't throwing anything that's sneaky fast. Dude's lucky to hit 84 mph these days. I really hope he retires otherwise it's going to be painful to watch. And he deserves to leave on decent terms rather than getting DFA'd in May.

I'd rather see them sign Garcia for the second half and start the season with Joba in the rotation. Seems they can better control his innings as a number 5 any ways. Then if Garcia is ready, they can shift him to the bullpen down the stretch.

2008-03-06 15:40:34
17.   The Mick 536
Need some help here. When did the enmity go into high gear? It didn't exist in the 50s. Don't remember it in early 60s. Late 60s and beginning of the 70s are my earliest recollections of fighting. Anyone remember when the first Boston S--Ks came out?

Listening to game on ESPN. Sut said that Girardi didn't mention Moose in some interview he gave. Supposedly, Joe said the only two pitchers who had a spot on the team were Wong and Andy.

Had mixed feelings today watching the Sox and LAD. Dodgers came from behind to win. I rooted against both teams. How about that, sports fans?

2008-03-06 16:29:29
18.   Bruce Markusen
Mick, the first real on-field skirmish I recall between the Yanks and Red Sox occurred in the late sixties. The principals, I believe, were Joe Foy and Thad Tillotson. I know that there was a rivalry before then, but that's the first brawl I can remember.

Things really got heated in the mid-seventies. The Yankees had some real hard asses who didn't like the Red Sox, particularly Munson, Nettles, and Piniella. On the Red Sox side, you had Fisk, Butch Hobson, and Bill Lee, among others. The rivalry peaked in the late seventies, then went into a long lull, before percolating again in the late 1990s.

2008-03-06 17:46:35
19.   underdog
17 Well as a Dodger fan I think you should've clearly rooted for them today ;-) It's the Sox! Even if it is a completely meaningless game.

Curt Schilling's latest blog entry made me wish he was pitching today, too. Especially in that 9th inning.

2008-03-06 18:24:04
20.   wsporter
17 I think things were always simmering. The rivalry goes back to the 40's and perhaps beyond with Babe Ruth. I wish I'd asked my Grandfather about it - he started attending in the 20's. I recall it getting nasty in the late 60's especially '68 when it seemed like they were constantly kicking our brains out. In the early 70's, division play ('69) was entrenched so the world was a little smaller and things seemed to escalate a bit especially after the O's came back to earth (after they let Robinson go) and we were legitimately competing for the East with the Sawx. When they won in '75 then we won in '76 (the east) I think that really set things off again. Then the big fight happened where the Space Man was body slammed by Puff and the fans just seemed to own it from there. I do remember hearing some pretty rough language as a little kid outside the Stadium that pissed my grandfather off thoroughly. In the day you just couldn't get away with screaming obscenities inside at other fans, as I recall it anyway. I think even "Boston Sucks" might have gotten someone tossed. I know I wouldn't have done it or my ass would have been kicked, that was for sure.
2008-03-07 04:44:51
21.   The Mick 536
17 Had mixed feelings because of Joe and Donnie and even Bowa. Parents rooted for Brooklyn. Father grew up there. When we went to Ebbets, I always rooted against them. Then the Bums won in 1955. Serious depression. Then they left. I moved to Brooklyn in 1981. Lived in Slope and Lefferts Gardens, up the street from the O'Malley house. Old timers hated the Dodgers.

20 18 Yeh. I, too, think it happened when the Yanks were tanking. Moss and Tillotsen. Will look that up. Spaceman and Puff. Will look that up too. Lots of fuzzy memories. That's why I need Banterers.

Used to go to every series in NY. Know that the early 70's games, especially the ones at Shea saw many fights in the stands. Used to hear the screaming back and forth. Everyone sat toghether, wearing our colors.

Just ordered tickets for end of season in Boston.

2008-03-07 07:37:21
22.   horace-clarke-era
My sense of it is that it has elements that go a long way back, but the 70s became the modern incarnation. Munson vs Fisk was a real thing, our '70s Bombers were a dysfunctional, aggressive group who played well off adrenalin (it seemed) and the BoSox triggered a lot of it.

From their point of view, think Bucky Dent. Big time. A scar in the soul of the Red Sox Nation.

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