The Baseball Cluster: Jason Heyward Bringing Hope and Tim Lincecum's Hat

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The Baseball Cluster: Jason Heyward Bringing Hope and Tim Lincecum's Hat
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If you've read my writing over the past two-plus years here at Bleacher Report , you probably know two things about me.

I love baseball and I'm incredibly long-winded.

I can't help either one, brevity is not my strong point and I'm certainly not going to apologize for loving the sport as much as I do.

I’ve been searching for a format that can appease both myself and the people that may want to read my weekly recap on the game of baseball. This is by no means my answer because once again, I’m taking up a lot of space.

But I feel this is more readable, even though it has turned to be really long. I do jump from topic to topic so hopefully your attention will hold.

If not, then I’ll go back to the drawing board. But for now, I present to you the first edition of The Baseball Cluster. I’m also taking suggestions for a better name.

 

THE MEAT OF THE ORDER

Every week there are three things I deem to be really important. It's kind of like the "meat" of my lineup.

1. Jason Heyward is a fantastic story, but...

Don't get me wrong; what Jason Heyward is doing is fantastic on all fronts.

But let's cool our jets on anointing him as the next Hank Aaron or anything like that. That isn't to say anything negative towards him or what he has the potential to do, it is actually in support of him.

This kid is truly special and he can do special things and he has a special meaning to the game. But let's not tell him that right now. I don't know if it will go to his head or not, it may not, but why risk it?

Heyward is going to mean a lot and already does mean a lot to the black community. It has been one of baseball's biggest issues the past few years, a strong presence of African Americans within the game of baseball. It's been something the game has gone to great lengths to improve upon and there is progress being made.

And Jason Heyward is a nice step towards getting the word out that there are more sports than just football and basketball. That's really what it comes down to when you look at it. More kids, period, are just playing other sports.

Heyward's father didn't let him take a single step onto a football field. Not everyone's parents will do that.

The kid is good, really good. He has the potential to do great things in the game and for the game. But I don't know if we should be pushing him into stardom this quickly.

2. Play nice billionaires, play nice.

If there is anything that makes me more nauseated than baseball's current money system it is hearing billionaires complain about baseball's current money system.

Mark Attanasio, Randy Levine, whoever else who has chimed in on this issue with baseball's revenue sharing, the dominance of media markets in free agency, and everything else having to do with money, please be quiet.

If you aren't going to take steps to change it and just bicker through media channels, why even bother with the subject?

Fans of teams in markets that cannot spend as much are no doubt sick of the fact that their team can't spend as much; we don't need to be reminded of it.

In a way I'm glad someone like Attanasio is speaking up, but in a way that isn't going to get you what you and many others want. The fact is the small market teams are in the minority because they have to convince both the large market owners and the entire players association that the change they want is beneficial to everyone.

Sure making this more and more of an issue to the media so that it doesn't go away is one way, but a war of wards with Randy Levine isn't going to solve anything and quite frankly, it's annoying.

3. Did the Rangers rob themselves?

Sure the implosions of closer Frank Francisco probably don't help matters, but you have to wonder if the Rangers made the right move by putting C.J. Wilson into the rotation.

He was one of their strongest relievers and this is two years running now that they've turned one of their bullpen occupants into a starter. Granted Feldman wasn't the reliever Wilson was, so that was a move that looked brilliant.

The Rangers are near the bottom of the league in relief ERA and near the top in relief innings pitched.

Yes Wilson was very good in his first start for the Rangers last week, but you have to wonder if he would be better suited helping that leaking Rangers pen that has turned to Neftali Feliz to close out games.

If anything, I think just removing Wilson from the equation sort of changed the dynamic of things. Yes the person who has struggled the most has been their closer, the guy who is probably least impacted by the change as long as he gets the ball consistently.

But it is hard to find consistent relief options on a year to year basis and Wilson was one of those guys.

 

THAT'S JUST WEIRD MAN

Baseball never has a shortage of weird and wacky statistics or situations. These are those situations. Cue the Law and Order chime.

Remember that mangy old and crusty Dodgers hat that Eric Gagne wore during his consecutive saves streak? Tim Lincecum has him beat. Tiny Tim has worn the same hat for all 92 career starts and he's never washed it.

It has the makings of looking like crap , but I must blow the whistle on this here. Some of the Giants wear a different hat with their home and road uniforms. The previously linked photo is from their opener on Monday and in this photo from Sunday, he clearly has the Giants home cap on, orange brim and all.

In this photo , Pablo Sandoval is sporting the same orange brimmed cap, while Aubrey Huff has the all-blank one in this image . I cannot find any other photo via google image search that has Lincecum with the hat with the orange brim. So is the streak over or what?

I'd appreciate some clarification from some Giants fans that are knowledgeable about this situation. Either way, that black cap has to fall apart sooner or later.

Speaking of falling apart, the grounds crew at Sun Life Stadium had to mimic hockey rink workers during the Marlins game on Saturday. They fixed a padded wall in the outfield in a matter of eight minutes.

I'd like to start a "Ballpark Promotion of the Week" sort of a deal, but I'm not sure we'll get blessed with one every week. But here is one for you. Saturday the Astros hosted the Phillies for "Turn Back the Clock Night," a classic staple of many promotional schedules.

I don't think the Astros could have planned it any better that ageless wonder Jamie Moyer was starting for the Phillies. I don't think a joke needs to be made here, it just works.

That came in a close second to the ridiculous record the Los Angeles Angels decided to break last week. They had the record for "the largest gathering of people wearing fleece blankets" broken by handing out Hideki Matsui themed snuggies to the crowd.

This is the only acceptable reason to use the headline "Angels' Saunders gets fleeced by Twins, 5-3" for a game recap, even though it is incredibly silly.

The representative from Guinness "was pleased" to say their effort beat the previous record set by the Cleveland Cavaliers, but he still has to "review video and photo evidence" to come up with an exact count.

They did video tape the entire ballpark? How do you exactly count that many people wearing snuggies?

On the subject of promotions, sort of, Todd Helton isn't getting a burger named after himself. I'm sure anyone would want a sandwich named in their honor, but the long-time Rockie is getting something cooler.

Helton is getting a left-field concourse restaurant at Coors Field named in his honor, or at least hiss number. "The No. 17 Burger Shack" has received positive endorsements so far and if I were in Colorado, I'd give it a shot. I'm always looking for the best burger.

 

YOUR LUKE HOCHEVAR UPDATE

Every week we look at Luke Hochevar because a first round pick needs pressure, even if he plays for Royals.

Last Week's Line: 1 GS, 7.2 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K

I guess I should explain why I'm picking on Luke Hochevar. Simply put, I like him in a way. Seems like a good kid, working hard, playing for a team that's battling to stay out of last place.

But he's also a first pick and I don't think he's getting enough coverage that a first pick should get, so we're going to follow the trials and tribulations of Kansas City's Luke Hochevar all year.

Hochevar had a good season debut against the Tigers. He was an out away from eight innings of shutout ball and he kept his control in check. So far, the adjustments Hochevar and pitching coach Bob McClure made look like they're working.

 

I'M A STAT MAN

I'm not really a big statistics guy, but I guess it's better than being a scat man, because I don't know what that is.

Opening Day starters that didn't pitch a single inning the previous year is a very rare thing, except in the year 2010. Shaun Marcum, Ben Sheets, and Jake Westbrook all started the opener for their respective teams. In the last 50 years it has only been done five times, most recently by Carl Pavano for the Yankees in 2007.

Also in the realm of starting pitchers not playing last year, how about Cincinnati rookie Mike Leake? On Sunday he became just the 21st player since the draft began 45 years ago to go right to the major leagues without playing a single game in the minor leagues. In this day and age, it is remarkable.

Especially when you consider the multi-million dollar man Stephen Strasburg wasn't able to crack that feat and he plays for pitching starved Washington. Not to mention there was another highly invested in arm in Cincinnati's plans by the name of Aroldis Chapman.

While we are sort of on the subject of number one overall picks, let me bring back our favorite player, Luke Hochevar, for just one second. Miguel Cabrera entered Hochevar's latest start with eight straight hits against him.

Cabrera needed one more to become the first Tiger since 1954 to get nine straight hits in nine straight at-bats against one pitcher. But our boy Hochevar buckled down, no record for you Cabrera!

Let us stay with the Tigers for a second and mention that their catcher Gerald Laird was part of something special...not really. But both he and Lou Marson got their first hits of the season on Sunday in a matter of one inning. I'd like to formally request to Elias that they find another instance of two catchers for opposing teams getting their first hits in back-to-back half-innings.

On the subject of catchers, Brad Ausmus wasn't able to avoid the Disabled List any longer. 17 years has finally caught up to the veteran who had never ever been placed on baseball's injured list.

Let's sort of wrap up spring training and this week's statistics section with this final thought. If you didn't hear the Indians and Reds, who share a complex now in Goodyear, both had the lowest Cactus League attendance. Is there any coincidence in the fact that they are the teams farthest East?

Or does it also have to do with the fact that both just moved to Arizona from the Grapefruit League? Who knows, but it is interesting to think about, if you do that sort of thing.

 

THE UTILITY PLAYER

For all the stuff that defies categorization, this is the utility player of the weekly feature. We play everywhere and anywhere here!

I'm still puzzled as to why Joe Torre started Vincente Padilla on opening day. I know in the end it really doesn't matter all that much, but in a way it does. You are setting the tone for the season with this starter and Padilla set a horrific one against the Pirates.

Some think it was his message to the world that the Dodgers didn't spend a lick on the pitching staff, in addition to letting guys like Randy Wolf walk. There is some sense in not wanting to expose Clayton Kershaw to that kind of pressure this early in his career, but hasn't Chad Billingsley been around for awhile?

Padilla got rocked in his second game as well, so he's definitely set a positive tone going forward. That was sarcasm.

Not setting a positive tone was the Mets fans during the introductions of the training staff at New York's home opener. Let me just say that I love Mets fans. Only they could think of doing something that funny and on-point. From what I read the jeers actually got louder, so maybe a few noble fans started it and it eventually picked up.

Perhaps Vincente Padilla sucked or he just was overcome by the team meeting that newcomer veterans of the Pirates held the day before the opener. Ryan Church said that the likes of Bobby Crosby, Akinori Iwamura, and himself, all new to the team but not the game, brought the team together for what sounded like a vent-fest.

You know, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!" type of stuff . The Pirates certainly did change for a good few games, and then Sunday happened. More on that later.

David Ortiz was pretty mad the other day. I was in a way shocked at the language he used. I don't even know if I can find a quote to reproduce because every other word will be edited out. I'm sure you've heard it by now anyway.

Either way, you know players get frustrated, especially after games end. But I think Big Papi went a little overboard on the use of vulgarity.

From vulgarity to, whatever you want to classify Milton Bradley's latest act as. The troubled outfielder is once again gaining attention for something stupid. Bradley gave the good old deuce finger to Texas fans last week.

I don't enjoy saying this, but once again, I told ya so! Who didn't see a Bradley screw up coming? People in Seattle that wanted to believe they could change him? Yeah pretty much just them.

Baseball changed its rule on letting pitchers go to their mouths while on the mound. Before you couldn't do it at all, you had physically stand off of the dirt patch. Now you can stand on the dirt patch, you just can't stand on the rubber.

I personally don't see the point. Maybe it's because I've never tried to throw a fastball off a mound in a baseball-like setting. Someone like me just assumes that as long as you wipe your hand off before, you should be fine, right? What does it matter if they lick their fingers on the rubber, the mound, or inside Manny Ramirez's bathroom inside the Green Monster?

On second thought, may not want to lick your fingers in there.

From the rules to the people that enforce the, I'm sure everyone saw umpire Joe West's comments towards the games both Boston and New York play, especially when they are together.

He called it "pathetic and embarrassing" and scolded both teams for taking so long to play a baseball game. While I agree, he is not the man that should be taking a public stance on this.

For one, West is supposed to be a unbiased party in the game of baseball, so to divulge in any sort of opinion on a matter such of this ruins his credibility. It already has media and fans questioning him and the types of games he calls.

This isn't to say West is wrong, I totally agree with him that the Yankees and Red Sox play games that are way too long, but that is neither here nor there because of who said it.

I should also throw in that the entire American League is responsible for incredibly long games. If it's good baseball, then I could care less how long it takes. But if its just slow because Rafael Betancourt has to take five hours between each pitch and Nomar Garciaparra has to fix his batting gloves, then you got me bored.

And finally Jarrod Saltalamacchia (proud to say I've learned to type it correctly without the aid of Google) is headed to the disabled list and his manager is not pleased. Ron Washington criticized the catcher they call "Salty" for not telling his team sooner and that he needed to mature.

Basically the Rangers were put into a bad situation when Saltalamacchia waited until Wednesday to inform his club that he was hurting, leaving them in a bind to get Matt Treanor on the squad.

Washington wasn't mad about him being hurt, but rather not telling anyone he was hurt. Because he waited until being asked to pinch-hit on Wednesday, he also could have put the team in a bind in another instance.

As Washington pointed out, if he would have reached base and the Rangers would have tied the game, he would have had to catch since he hit for the only other catcher on the roster in Taylor Teagarden. Part of me wonders if Saltalamacchia has what it takes to cut it.

There is a reason so many managers are former catchers; they're always thinking big picture and planning. What was he thinking when he decided to risk the pain going away in two days? What if he got to Thursday and wasn't able to go. He wanted to wait until then?

It just isn't smart thinking on Saltalamacchia's part.

 

"HE'S GARBAGE, STILL GARBAGE, GOING TO DIE AS GARBAGE"

The above is Ozzie Guillen's feelings towards columnist Jay Mariotti. It is the representation for The Cluster’s section on weekly rants.

I've never liked Jack Cust as a player and now I have a reason to not like him not as a player.

Cust blasted the Athletics organization for cutting him going into the season. It wasn't really one of those rants that blame the organization so much as it praises Jack Cust for being the best player to ever step into the batter’s box.

From The San Francisco Chronicle : "I think it's messed up. They're going to go on 50 at-bats after three years of what I've done here? It's ridiculous. A lot of other guys have had bad springs. This is a joke. The fact is, this team has no power and they've just released a guy who (averaged 28 homers) the last three years. That's amazing."

All I here is "I" and "me," even though he was speaking as if he wasn't talking about himself at one point. How about this Jack?

Grow up a little bit. Are you right? I don't know, maybe you are and they made a bad decision. Seeing as how now one else would claim you on waivers, perhaps they might be on to something. The point is to prove it, not whine about it.

I hate this type of arrogance more than anything. Sure you may have been wronged, but that doesn't mean you pitch a little fit like this. What kind of message does that send? Not a good one in my mind, not a good one.

 

AWAY FROM THE DIAMOND

Everything from Rasmus girl to the latest commercials, this is your weekly update about things that really have nothing to do with baseball on the field.

First off, if you aren't a fan of Rasmus Girl , what are you waiting for? I don't need to check box scores every night to find out if Colby Rasmus hit a home run; Rasmus Girl just updates her Facebook page!

Did you see the latest Evan Longoria commercial ? The guy is becoming a superstar for one thing, but the things they had him doing just to chase down a cap, were crazy. He's so suave with the ladies too.

Anywhere there was a story about why it was filmed in Tampa, even though they are the Tampa Bay Rays, instead of St. Petersburg, the place the Rays currently play their home games.

In the end, I don't think the city of St. Pete really cared. I mean to most of the world, including myself, it didn't even occur to me where the ad was taking place. Heck, USA Today thought it was taking place in San Francisco.

Speaking of the Bay Area, it would appear as if President Barack Obama grew up an Oakland Athletics fan. White Sox fans may be miffed at the revelation but when you consider all the different places the current president has been to, does it really surprise you he comes off as sort of a bandwagoner?

Not to mention, his first love is basketball. Plus if you are running for a position in Chicago, wouldn't you tell the world you are a fan of their sports team? Of course in Chicago, you risk alienating an entire group of Cubs fans.

While Obama traded his A's cap in for a different team's cap, Grant Desme traded his in for priesthood. This is the first time I've heard Desme speak on the issue and I can say that is good to see him making a choice that he feels is the right one.

From The Oakland Tribune : "I know it's hard for some people to understand, and I don't think there's any perfect way to explain it because it's such a personal choice," he said. "All I can say is that when God speaks to you, it gets your attention."

I don't understand it, but it isn't up to me or anyone outside of his circle to understand. I bet if we knew Grant Desme like maybe some people in his family knows Grant Desme, we may. But we don't and I think that should be good enough.

Good luck to Grant in his new future, it sounds like he is really happy with what he's doing.

 

GOOD DEED OF THE WEEK

Because we aren't all fun and games, I highlight one good deed that I've come across in the world of baseball. If you know of one, please send it my way.

Billy Butler of the Royals and his wife have a great cause called "Hit-It-A-Ton" where food is donated based on how many jacks Butler hits.

To find out more about "Hit-It-A-Ton" you can visit this link here .

 

AND THIS WEEK IN THE CENTRAL

Every week we take a look at the latest happening in one of the game’s Central divisions. Why? Because it provides us with the most entertainment, that’s why!

It was going to take a lot for me to not get on the Astros for the atrocious start they’ve had, but if anyone would do it, it would be the Pittsburgh Pirates. You are saved for this week Houston.

The Pirates did something very special on Sunday in their last attempt to put themselves on what will be the weekly AL/NL Central Wall of Shame. They went ahead and gave up 13 runs, in one inning.

To top it all off, pitcher Edwin Jackson put the exclamation point on the 13-run fourth inning with a two run home run.

This is just pitiful. I can only imagine what feat we will witness this week in the Central.

 

FOR THE LOVE OF GLOVE

Each week I pick my top three defensive plays, because Ozzie Smith didn't make the Hall of Fame for swinging the stick.

3. They call him "Death to Flying Things" for a reason . Franklin Gutierrez plucks an Elvis Andrus fly ball right out of the air.

2. Move over Chipper Jones, Willie Harris may be the newest Mr. Met killer. Even a red-hot Rod Barajas couldn't get one past Willie H.

1. Like you couldn't have guessed? Mark Buehrle, you cannot be serious ! Mercy! Lou Marson was robbed of his first hit of the year and it took him until Sunday to cash in.

-

Nino Colla writes "The Baseball Cluster" every week, or so he hopes. If you've got something that you think fits one of the sections, send him a private message. All absurdities are welcome.

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