The Bullpen Two-Step

Created October 2010

Manager Buck Showalter said it before Game 2 of the 2010 World Series:  Bullpens do not belong on the field of play.


A fielder in full pursuit of a fly ball — while looking upward to track it – can find himself in foul territory amid an obstacle course of pitching mounds.

Is there a rule restricting bullpens from the field of play?  No.

But the challenge presented to fielders is significant, and the hazard as obvious
as a mound of dirt.

Although bullpens on the field of play were common in the game’s earlier years, as new
parks were built most stadiums placed the bullpens behind a fence and off the
field of play.

This issue arises again because AT&T Park, home of the National League champion San Francisco Giants, is one of only five current Major League stadiums that have on-field bullpens.

The curious point is that the beautiful Giants’ ballpark was built only 10 years
ago, and baseball has known for many years that on-field bullpens can be an
impediment to play.

The other ballparks with on-field bullpens are Wrigley Field (Cubs, built 1914),
Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum (A’s, 1968), Tropicana Field (Rays, 1998) and
Petco Park (Padres, 2004).

We can understand Wrigley Field being on the list, and maybe Oakland, too.  But those other three ballparks are much newer.

A point can be made that the tarpaulin, utilized to cover the infield, can also be a hazard because in many stadiums they are stored on the field of play.  But unlike tarps, warm-up mounds are much smaller and harder for a fielder to negotiate as he attempts to catch a ball.

It may be that these newer stadiums wanted to re-create the feel of an older
ballpark. Or, more likely, the ballclub wanted to find more seats for paying
customers, and made a choice between income and field integrity.

*  *  *

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Desperate Times are a Choice

Created July 28, 2011

This debt limit issue may send the United States and the World into the downturn of a
century. Picture that. We could be within days of choosing between desperate
times and reasonable answers.

As a crusty sergeant once offered: “This mess better get straightened out yesterday”.

If the parties don’t extend the debt limit to avoid default, life in the United States
could become a struggle for most bill-paying Americans — the same folks tired
of inefficient and self-serving politicians.

This is where it gets crazy:

For the sake of our country, I am acting as mediator between all political parties, Houses
of Congress and those who have the other power in Washington.

As mediator, these are recommendations. The continuation of the American lifestyle is at
stake. Danger close.

The enemy, as it turns out, is us. We have breeched: “desperate times call for desperate

Proposal: The 10-year, $4 trillion debt reduction plan is on the table. Revise it, clean it up; be wise, and finish it on time.

Addition: Capture the fair tax of those who have done well and can afford it. All
revenues would be in addition to cuts.

The goal is an honest balance sheet. No tricks. Congressmen and the President have allowed time to become far too important. The peril of the Unites States is at hand.
Congressmen must step up together or fail loudly.

If a momentous, true agreement is reached, most Americans will be happier, and
relieved – and maybe a little relieved that the lawmakers finally earned their
pay, and won’t let it happen again.

The eleventh-hour debt limit crisis was an avoidable problem. But it wasn’t.

Our Founding Fathers are no longer amused. Congress has proven foolishness has no age limit.


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Time for Baseball to Improve Safety Standards

Too often a traffic light is erected at a dangerous intersection after someone has
been killed.

It seems as if Major League Baseball is ignoring an immediate danger. Flying,
splintered wood from shattered baseball bats have become part of infield play.

Apparently, for more than three years, MLB has been studying the problem of shattering
bats. Yet, in nearly every ball game I’ve seen on TV this season, a bat has
shattered and sprayed around the diamond. I fear the nearness of a very serious

This is a known, generally avoidable danger, and a truly serious accident waiting to

On Sept. 19, 2010, however, it did not wait. At Sun Life Stadium, home of the
Florida Marlins, Tyler Colvin of the Cubs was leading off third base. Cubs
batter Wellington Castillo sent a fly ball to leftfield.

Colvin, watching the ball and moving toward the plate, was hit at chest level by a
splintered piece of bat. It punctured his chest, causing minimal external
bleeding, but ended his season that day. He’s fine these days, playing again
this season.

At the time, manager Mike Quade of the Cubs said: “These bats, I’m amazed it doesn’t happen more.  We have seen guys get hit with pieces, but to actually get stabbed with one, I just don’t ever remember (seeing it).”

A few days after the Colvin incident, a shard of wood clipped and cut the ear of
Rangers’ pitcher Cliff Lee. He remained in the game, perhaps lucky his head was

I’m not suggesting wooden bats be replaced by metal bats. To the contrary, the
convincing sound of a wooden bat squared up with a baseball is as rich as the
Hall of Fame voice of Vin Scully. On the other hand, the ping of an amateur bat
falls far short.

This bat shattering frenzy is fairly new to the game. When ash was the primary wood
used in bats, a bat cracked or broke, but rarely did it shatter. A couple years
ago it was estimated that 60 percent of Major League players use maple bats.

Whether it’s the maple bats or the process used to make the bats, the current standards
are a safety hazard. The safety of players must be paramount.

In 2007, minor league coach Mike Coolbaugh, in the first base coach’s box, was
struck in the head and killed by a line drive. Following that tragedy, all
professional coaches on the field were required to wear batting helmets for

It’s time baseball exercise common sense, and establish stringent bat and bat-making
standards, before it’s too late.


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Supreme Court Sidesteps Common Sense

A funeral is the most solemn moment of a person’s existence. As mindful people, we know never to scream “fire” in a crowded theater without justification. A similar ugliness and horror are front and center when a person displays a sign near an American soldier’s funeral, “THANK GOD for DEAD SOLDIERS.”

That crosses the line. The line is common sense. Such heartless conduct near a funeral brings warts to the human race. A morbid congregation that feeds off deceased soldiers like vultures near prey has been misled. God’s anti-gay work does not include hateful and hurtful demonstrations.

Although the Supreme Court supported this freedom of speech, it had to sidestep common sense to do so. Our Founding Fathers would be nauseous from this distorted interpretation of their First Amendment.

–Gerry Garte, 3 Mar 11


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Surprises of the Year (so far 9/25/10) — Baseball

Surprises of the year in baseball

1 — Cincinnati Reds – put together a team; the whole is better than its parts.

2 – Boston Red Sox – catastrophic injuries, team remained resilient; AL picture may have looked much differently.

3 – St. Louis Cardinals – Expected to be on par with Phillies; sunk off the coast of NL Central.

Honorable mention:  LA Angeles, Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers.


Bautista (Tor), Beltre (Bos), Buchholz (Bos), Hamilton (Tex), Price (TB), Dickey (NYM), Gonzalez (COL), Hudson (Atl), Huff (SF), Jimenez (COL), Votto (Cin).

Managerial shift

(Short shelf life)


The outstanding names leaving are many: Cox, Gaston, Piniella and probably Torre. Possibly, LaRussa too.   

Filling in from the top: Terry Francona (Bos), Ron Gardenhire (Min), Joe Girardi (NYY), Joe Maddon (TB), Charlie Manuel (Phi), Mike Socioscia (LAA).

The senior staff includes: Dusty Baker (CIN), Bruce Bochy (SF), Ozzie Guillen (CHW), Jim Leyland (Det).

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The Assistant Manager

Dear Atlanta Braves:   I do not wish you harm.

Needing to replace their manager, we’ll use the Braves as an example.

Bobby Cox has become an icon, a likely Hall of Famer. His successor should be a man of integrity, energy and wisdom.   

I do not personally know any of the people being considered as the next Atlanta Braves manager. But I’ll share most of the names from a story by CNN correspondent Dan Schlossberg :

Chris Chambliss, Jim Fregosi, Tom Glavine, Chipper Jones, Leo Mazzone, Terry Pendleton and Bobby Valentine. Added, Larry Bowa and Kevin Kennedy.

All gentlemen named above are deeply involved in the game.

With the Braves’ opportunity to choose a new manager, comes another. It’s called:  Assistant Manager.  Someone hand-picked by the manager — with the team’s blessing – who is second in charge and the expected successor to the manager.  

The assistant manager would continue to be a bench coach or coach of one of the skills. Date of this changeover would be determined by the parties involved. The length of time may be three years or 20 years. Whatever is best for the team and the gentlemen involved.

We may have seen something like this in the Torre-Mattingly transaction.  For Mattingly, he had been in Los Angeles with Torre, working with the players. So if Joe Torre recommends Don Mattingly, Donnie Baseball is probably a good choice.  

As the Atlanta Braves consider their next skipper, here’s a fan’s view of the Assistant Manager concept:


Choose one from each column:

Manager                                                     Assistant  Manager

Jim Fregosi                                                  Terry Pendleton

Leo Mazzone                                              Chris Chambliss

Bobby Valentine                                       Tom Glavine

Kevin Kennedy                                         Chipper Jones (P/AM)

Larry Bowa                                                            Dale Murphy

I don’t know the status of the above-named individuals, but for this exercise let’s consider them available.

A combination of any of the above may be a winning pair.

The columns above lean heavily on Major League experience for the managerial position. The assistant manager might the sergeant, providing experience and long-range potential.

Additionally, at the least, it would inform fans of who was vice president of dugout operations.

Continuity and success are a great combination.

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Hit By Batter and a Present Danger

Shattering bats are causing injuries and havoc on the baseball diamond.  

Some bats being produced today are splintering and separating long-ways. From time to time, the flying wood has become a threat to players on the infield.

The most difficult of these injuries came on Sept. 19th at Sun Life Stadium in South Florida. Cubs Tyler Colvin was running third to home, watching the flight of a ball hit by Cubs Welington Castillo. As Colvin watched, a large piece of splintered wood hit him in the upper chest. The wood bounced off, but it had punctured his chest. Colvin was recovering the last two weeks of the season.

A few days after Colvin was hurt, ace pitcher Cliff Lee of Texas was struck behind his ear by a piece of shattered bat from Oakland’s Jack Cust. Light bleeding, but Lee was able to continue.

How close do we need to get to a critical injury or fatality?How close   hOW close

Major League Baseball is well aware of the situation, and seems to be moving in a positive direction. Timeliness is the concern.

With safety as a priority, new standards for bats should be in place well before next season.

In the event that something isn’t done to correct splintering bats before next season, I have concocted a Plan B:

— — — —

It’s called:  Hit By Batter (HBB).

When a batter loses grip of his bat or the bat breaks and then hits a defensive player, on that defensive player’s next at bat (or his position in the batting order), he will be awarded first base. This is Hit By Batter (HBB). This award of first base, like Hit By Pitch (HBP), will not be an official at bat. However, it will be different in one regard, the batter will have an option:

  • Being awarded first base with no at bat, or
  • Accepting an official at bat

If he accepts the HBB, he reports to the home plate umpire and is directed to first.  Players on base would advance one base if forced, as if the batter had been walked. If a batter wishes to accept a plate appearance and risk an out (and this would depend on game situation), he will inform the umpire and immediately step in the batter’s box.

With the implementation of HBB, a team would be less likely to support the use of a bat made of material more likely to shatter/break.

If a lost/broken bat incident is somehow determined to be intentional by Major League Baseball, a suspension would be strongly considered.

On the other hand, if the defensive player makes no move to avoid a tumbling bat, the defensive player’s next at bat (or his place in the batting order) could be ruled an out in advance by the umpiring crew.

Only baseball could consider such an unlikely event as reason to establish a new rule.

But a new rule, Plan A, is needed.   

— — — —

A thorough, updated investigation by Major League Baseball to determine the exact types of bats causing the most problem has been warranted for several years.  We’re discussing player safety.

In two-year-old data, it was noted that maple bats were used by more than half of the players in MLB.

As baseball has added rules requiring batting helmets, an updated safety standard on the wood in bats is overdue.                              ###

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