Friday, March 13, 2009

Spring Training Trip: Day Five (3/13)

Unfortunately, the second consecutive Friday the 13th marked an overnight (roughly 12 a.m. until 10 p.m.) of tumultuosity between being awake, being pseudo-asleep, and being involved in an extremely deep sleep. I slept in the same room as my father, who somehow obtained ridiculous nasal-related problems which forced him to snore incessantly most of the overnight. I *loathe* the idea of snoring, as I never sleep. Anyway, push came to shove, and I did not sleep soundly until roughly 8:30 in the morning. I finally woke up around 10:30, and scrambled to get everything ready in order to take an appropriate amount of pictures at Minor League practice fields before they departed, which ultimately was approximately 11:45.

Anyway, I ended up snapping six or seven dozen photographs throughout the day - at the practice fields and game alike - so it was work well done. Sometimes, I feel that when conversating with my father about the particular Minor League players of choice, I'm yaking at thin air - or a wall which either stares at me blankly or ignores me entirely. My uncle and father are dedicated Royals fans, to be sure, but I doubt my father could tell you first hand who pitcher Tim Melville is. Neither could tell you who David Lough is. Certainly, neither one of them would devote their fanhood to snapping pictures of practices, or for that matter - even calling into radio programs more than once a week. However, both of them share a profound interest in the game, and probably know more about historical aspects of the game - especially, analytically, as they obviously attended games from as early as the 1960s - than I do.
As a side note, sometimes I feel that the verbage that gets circulated routinely throughout the blogosphere sounds awkward in real life. In other words, I often stumble when saying 'VORP' when describing a particular player. At first, I stumbled when using the "trio" (as I call it) of a particular player. When I'm reading blogs aloud, reading the batting average, followed by the on-base percentage, followed by the slugging percentage, sounds awkward to me. Does the 6 belong in the previous percentage or the next percentage? Where do the numbers end and begin? And trying to ignore the 'RBI' chatter....I'm sorry, but it is very well possible for a 90-RBI guy to have a subpar year, as Guillen did last year. Anyway, I digress.
Fortunately, despite my late arrival, I captured a couple dozen pictures of Minor Leaguers in action. I found that mostly batting practice - with sets of fielders standing at their respective positions - was taking place. The players walked by me at an amazingly close level. Anyway, I've been sent on a particular assignment for Saturday's morning practice field excursion, so at least I'll have one purpose (I crave these, by the way).
I caught the catchers - notably, Salvador Perez, Sean McCauley, Josh Vittek, and Jose Bonilla - hitting in the cages. I wouldn't say any particular catcher dazzled, but the sample size is (as always) extremely limited. I was impressed with Perez' ability to hit in the gaps and Bonilla snapped a few long gap hits, as well.
In one of the photos at the bottom, you'll see the several hundred minor leaguers filing off to the Surprise Stadium clubhouse. To see the players' mass exodus - so soon - took me by surprise, no pun intended.
Here are several notes from the Major League game. By the way, we attended the Surprise, AZ 4-1 victory today. Not the 5-1 beatdown over in Phoenix, where the Milwaukee Brew Crew call home.
- My father noted that the dominant aspect of every game we have seen thus far, including the game that I witnessed on Tuesday, has been fantastic pitching, notably the starting pitching. Meche, HoRam, Davies, Hochevar, Tejeda each surrendered three earned runs or less in multiple innings. (I feel that HoRam's earned run in the first inning of Thursday's game should have been unearned - Teahen completely botched that play).
- Another aspect of the game was that even I'll admit that Ross Gload looks thoroughly fantastic at the plate, in this limited playing time. I believe Gload is a near-lock to make the final roster cut. Tony Pena will likely end up in AAA, with Buck, Bloomquist, and Teahen making those final three bench roster slots. Again, that's just my opinion and gut feeling. For the record, Bill James projects a .294/.340/.423/.763 line for Gload this year, which isn't entirely awful for a backup.
- Luis Hernandez looks slick around the bag at shortstop. I forsee a Tony Pena, Jr. lookalike playing at Omaha virtually the entire season (sans, possibly, September). His career .245/.289/.316/.605 line in the Minor Leagues looks positively TPJ-like. I hope the organization doesn't make the mistake of running him out there for a -1.2 WAR for two consecutive seasons.
- Covelli Crisp continues to work the count well. He covers quite a spell of ground in center field, as does DeJesus in left (although he lost a ball in the air today). I predict very good things defensively for the left side of the diamond in '09 (i.e. Gordon, Aviles, Crisp, and DeJesus).
- John Buck hit a towering 2-run opposite field shot. Essentially a no-doubter.
- Billy Butler looked fooled on breaking pitches. He has looked fooled on these in games prior.
- Robinson Tejeda's stuff looked thoroughly dominant. Unfortunately, he worked himself in a few strong hitters' counts - and issued a few walks - but he struck out seven. The heat - and slider - was clearly functioning today.
- I captured several photographs of the Royals management team, including "interim" manager Mullet.

My uncle noted yesterday that at certain times, a player's contributions on the field transcended numbers or statistical data. He emphasized that at certain times, a player's willingness to work or hustle hard, or have positive personality attributes that can rub off on teammates well, the team could be considered better. He said that Gload and Bloomquist's reputation as "winners" in the clubhouse helped - and could help - their respective teams perform better on the field. He said their situations mirrored those of average people, who can use personality and hard work to achieve what they want and rub off positively on everyone around them, making everyone around them better. In baseball terms, I won't delve into my opinions - but it's food for thought. He basically insinuated that the Royals are modeling themselves under this philosophy - that "clubhouse" men can help. What does the TRT audience think about said scenario? Should we now ignore the statbook? (TRT says "NO!") (TRT also says, "but paying those guys millions and overplaying them over more deserving cost-controlled youngsters is an anti-progressive move for a low-budget organization nowhere close to contention!") The rest of the majority of the blogosphere agrees, while Hapless Royals probably wants to shoot me right now.

Unfortunately, we had to leave at approximately 3:10 p.m. - or the beginning of the Seventh Inning Stretch - to go hot air ballooning. I say 'unfortunately', although this activity also would have been fun. Because of a looming storm and some high wind gusts, the adventure was cancelled. We essentially drove one hour and then drove in a van for thirty extra minutes, and waited another twenty minutes, to get let down, but que sara, sara. And, yes, I probably mispelled that grossly.

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