May | 2010 | The Golden Sombrero Baseball Blog | MLB, Fantasy, College & High School Baseball News

Articles from May 2010

I’m So Cool Wit’ It In My Baseball Hat

May 31, 2010

I was certainly more raised on baseball than I was on hip hop.  I was whiffing at balls on a tee for my preschool squad and Baltimore choppin’ in the batting cages before Biggie and Pac ever started beefin’.  I knew California Love and was vaguely familiar with some other more popular rap of the day, but didn’t really get into hip hop until my older brother Griff played me Dr. Dre’s seminal Chronic 2001.  It was labeled parental advisory and I’m not sure how he even acquired it but knowing what a vile opinion our parents held of rap music we didn’t dare bump that shit in the house.  The only place we could safely blast such depraved filth was in Griff’s Ford Exploder and I’ll be damned if we weren’t bumpin’ the Doc just about every day on the way to school my 8th grade year, two years after I had actually stopped playing baseball.


Heads Up!

May 26, 2010

Of all the projectiles used in today’s four most popular professional sports, no air-borne apparatus is more deadly more than the baseball.  The worst damage a football or basketball will usually ever do is jam a finger or break a nose (sorry, Stuart Scott).  A hokey puck is comparable to a baseball in density and velocity, but players wear full-face helmets the entire game and goalie is the single position dedicated to sacrificing himself in the line of fire.  Only in baseball is a primary element of the game defending your opponent’s best attempts at using a large club to bludgeon a cork filled piece of leather into oblivion. I’ll leave the exact physics to the Grinnell guys or whatever other link you wanna put up for that), but the simple fact is that the right swing connecting with the right pitch can produce a devastating amount of force, something any player, coach, or fan can attest to.  In fact, the book Death at the Ballpark documents over 850 unique ways people have died either playing or watching America’s pastime.  There are close calls every game, with line drives and foul balls zipping this way and that.  Usually, people get out of the way.  Sometimes, they don’t.

On March 11, 2010, Marin Catholic High School pitcher Gunnar Sandberg was struck in the head by a line drive during a scrimmage.  The 16 year old was placed in a medically-induced coma and had part of his skull removed during one of many surgeries.  But just two months later Gunnar is well on his way to recovery, and with a protective helmet currently covering his recuperating cranium, he has thrown out opening pitches for both the Giants and A’s in the past two weeks.  He is also looking forward to returning to his high school team next season.  That’s tough, kid.


Requirements for a Job in Today’s Front Office

May 25, 2010

A friend of the Sombrero has had quite a month of May (and parts of April).  He accepted a job with a large scouting agency to analyze prospect statistics for a summer, he earned his masters degree from a very high-ranking economics program, and he is currently in a long interview process with a certain desert-located big league team named after a snake.  If I seem like I am being a little cryptic, it is because our friend, who will be referred to as Eat-a for the remainder of this post, has not been given the job quite yet.  Eat-a has been kind enough to include me a little in the process and has enlightened me as to what is expected from realistic applicants for jobs in the big leagues.  I personally found some of it surprising, but the majority of his process has been largely what I would have expected given how coveted these jobs surely are.

Eat-a played ball in college with most of the Sombrero writers and appeared on numerous All-MWC teams as a Pioneer.  He captained the team as a senior, and threw professionally in Australia after his graduation.  Essentially, Eat-a had a very successful career in the game and we all greatly benefitted from being his teammate.


Steppin’ Up To The Plate

May 24, 2010

I was talking to Dee the other day about something that I find to be one of the coolest parts of the game of baseball and its inherently individualistic nature, walk-up intro music.  There is no other team sport in which every player on the field gets so many exclusive moments.  A Hall of Fame NFL lineman could go his entire career without ever hearing his name over the stadium loudspeakers, yet even bottom rung Major Leaguers get three to four chances on average to strut out into the spotlight.  Even high school varsity teams throw on players’ own personal pump-up tunes on their way to the plate.  I didn’t play baseball long enough to get to walk out in front of a cheering stadium to a song of my choosing; the closest I have to compare is whatever I put on my IPod before a big ski run, but I totally understand the motivation of music and think it has a particularly interesting place in the game people come here to read about.

In my research on the topic I came across an article published Sunday in the Sacramento Bee that beat me to it, pretty much summing up everything I wanted to say about the topic along with a lot of big league insight that I would not be able to provide.  It’s really worth checking out, and big ups to back to back Cy Younger Timmy “Dirty Hippy” Lincecum on selecting The Doors’ Break on Through.  You are now firmly cemented as my favorite active player (more on that later). Another interesting bit I came across actually talked to the music people behind the scenes for all 30 MLB teams and got the skinny on all of them.  So I’m going to save myself a lot of time on this one and get straight to what I wanted to do with this piece in the first place.  I know all the guys that write on here have at some point walked out to their own intro music, along with most of the people who are reading here on a regular basis, and I’d love to hear what you guys’ thoughts are on it.  What did you walk out to and why?  If you’ve never had the pleasure of walking up to the plate to cheering fans and your own musical motivation, think for a minute that you’re in the on-deck circle of your favorite stadium and your team needs a big hit.  What’s it gonna be?  I want to hear from you on this one, Golden Sombrero Nation.


Dee: the three walk-up songs i remember using were shook ones, gun ballad by the pharaohs (paz’s verse), and the whoa instrumental from bad boy. i really thought all of those beats were just heavy and brought me to the competitive and focused state of mind i needed to be in. i have heard some of the guys i go to dental school with, who also happened to play in college, say a lot of shit about players who use hip-hop as their walk-up jam like that we are all fake thugs and wankstas. it’s not like a could not have found a great punk rock piece that i would have loved. the problem is that even 3-chord punk songs demand more than the 5 or 6 seconds it takes to walk from the circle to the box. all of those hip-hop tracks i mentioned used samples that were only around 4 seconds and then looped. i really feel like battle rap is the way to go with walk-up songs.

Mark Wilcox: At Grynul, I walked out to a beat mixed by Griff and Hodges a few summers ago when we were drinking beer and watching Chris dominate his guitar. Apart from it being a pretty dark and intimidating beat, I liked it for the memory it conjured. Having a cold one with friends will forever be a favorite pastime; I could relax and think about how cool it was that I was there when that little piece of intellectual property was created. Plus I knew no one else in the world walked out to that shit. Confidence and comfort were the reasons I chose my walk out music.

Wee Willie Who?

May 23, 2010

As nothing more than a casual baseball fan that doesn’t play fantasy, I have always been more fascinated with all-time records and idiosyncrasies than the statistical minutiae most of you pore over regularly.  I would rather find Babe Ruth’s highest combined total of home runs hit and hot dogs consumed in a single game than hear about Pujols’ OPS for the month of May.  I make my way through Wikipedia, page after page, delving deeper into the obscurities of our national pastime with every click of my mouse.  Knowing more about mind-altering substances than I probably do about baseball, I find the fact that Dock Ellis threw a no-hitter on acid to be arguably the most impressive feat in baseball, if not all sports, history.  I learn and subsequently forget useless baseball trivia habitually, but last summer I came across something I felt compelled to remember and share with as many people as possible.  This was something so remarkable that when given the chance, I felt that I had no choice but to inform an entire nation of gilded-Mexican-hat-wearers.

While investigating the mysterious figures that stand atop Major League Baseball’s all-time career batting average list (Dan Brouthers of the Boston Beaneaters is in the top 10, really?!), I discovered a man who I believe to be the most influential baseball player you’ve probably never heard of, Wee Willie Keeler.  Now, if you are in fact already privy to the accomplishments and influence of Mr. Wee Willie, please stop reading this and notify me immediately, I want to personally congratulate you for your studiousness and depth of knowledge regarding baseball history.  Since I assume most of you are still reading, allow me to elaborate.  Standing a shrimpy 5’4” and weighing in at just a paltry 140 pounds, William Henry Keeler made his professional debut playing right field for the New York Giants in 1892.  Wee Willie reportedly used only a 30” bat, and with that diminutive stick the pocket-size player hit safely 2,932 times over his career for a lifetime batting average of .341.  Wee Willie won the NL Batting Title in 1897 with a career best .424, tops in single-season history for a leftie and 8th best all-time, and then won it once again in 98.  He also had eight straight seasons with 200+ hits, a mark tied by Pete Rose and broken only last year by Mr. Consistent, Ichiro Suzuki, who had his ninth straight 200+ hit season in 2009.  Keep in mind, however, that Wee Willie never broke 600 AB’s during his streak.  And, his 44 game single-season hit streak is second only to Joe DiMaggio, with 56.  While all this is impressive, there are an astounding number of hitters who compiled incredible statistics during the dead-ball era in all categories except home runs, of course.  No, it isn’t statistics that you need to know about Wee Willie Keeler; it’s the way he played the game that crafted his indelible legacy.

Physically outmatched due to his slight stature, Wee Willie developed a number of techniques to become the game’s greatest place-hitter.  He once described his strategy to a reporter in five simple words, “Hit ‘em where they ain’t,” advice I still remember hearing from my little league coach shortly before being benched for either hitting ‘em where they were or more likely not hitting ‘em at all.  His fifth year in the league Wee Willie was traded to the Baltimore Orioles, where under manager Ned Hanlon, he and his teammates epitomized what is known today as inside baseball, more commonly referred to as small-ball.  Yes, much of the strategy during this time focused on manufacturing runs through speed and smart base running, but Keeler and his Orioles took it to another level.  The term “Baltimore Chop,” used to describe a ball hit hard off the dirt in front of home plate and high into the air, is directly attributable to this team.  While this now typically happens only by accident, the Baltimore Chop was such a focal point of Keeler and the Orioles’ strategy that the groundskeeper mixed hard clay into the packed dirt in front of home plate to provide them higher bounces.  Using this extra hang time, Wee Willie actually once legged out a double on a Baltimore Chop.

Wee Willie was also a remarkable bunter.  Honus Wagner once said about him, “Keeler could bunt any time he chose,” and he was right.  In his 1898 NL Batting Title campaign, only 10 of Wee Willie’s 216 hits went for extra bases.  There are no records for how many of those 206 singles resulted from bunts, but I believe it is safe to say Mr. Keeler was more than adept at getting on base without using power.  And it was this propensity for bunts that caused the league officials to reexamine the rulebook.  Wee Willie could foul off bunted balls almost indefinitely and was solely responsible for the rule change that now results in a batter being called out if he fouls off a bunt with two strikes.  This might not seem like a big deal, but in the 5th inning of the Mariners game against the Padres on Thursday, the M’s shortstop Josh Wilson did exactly that with two runners on base and I bet he would’ve been cursing Wee Willie on his walk back to the dugout had he known the legend’s adroit bat control was responsible for his being called out.

In today’s age of hitter friendly parks and moon shot bombs, it is easy to forget about the little guys that paved the way for the game we know today.  Even Hall of Famer George Brett asked, “Is he the guy they named the cookie after? Wee Willie Keebler?” after being told by a reporter he tied Keeler for 20th place on the all-time hits list.  But what Wee Willie lacked in size, he made up for with highly-skilled batsmenship and baserunning.  As Ted Williams once said, “he was small in size but he was huge with the bat.”  This combined with his impact on both the strategies and rules of baseball still to this day should make you want to go out and inform someone less knowledgeable than yourself about the wondrous career of the one and only Wee Willie Keeler.