12:00 AM Eastern
Before we get to the post, your daily reminder to PLEASE go vote Tom Cheek for the Ford C. Frick Award! You have to be a member of facebook, unfortunately, but there’s a link on the front page of this very website, and here’s another one – www.facebook.com/baseballhall. Click on the “poll” tab and place your vote for Tom. His lead is slipping, please keep the pressure on!
Also, please join the facebook group “Send Tom Cheek to Cooperstown” for a daily reminder from me right to your facebook wall. The response has been overwhelming to this point, but we need to keep pushing hard so that the Frick voters understand just how much Tom meant, and continues to mean, to all of us, and just how much he deserves this long-overdue honour.
There are only TWO voting days left, please make the most of them!
Now then……..if Kyle Drabek had had a little help from his friend behind the plate in John Buck, his final start of the season might have turned out quite differently. Drabek throws hard, and features a nasty curveball in the dirt that gets swings and misses, but those swings and misses are tremendously inconsequential if the catcher isn’t going to get down and dirty and block the ball.
By “get down and dirty” I mean anticipate a breaking ball in the dirt, drop down to both knees and smother the ball as it bounces off the ground so that it remains right there in front of you as the catcher. Think back to Pat Borders, the best I have ever seen at consistently getting down and blocking balls in the dirt. He had to deal with incredibly nasty stuff from guys like Juan Guzman and David Cone, and he was fully committed to getting down and taking balls off the chest protector to prevent runner advancement.
Fast forward to 2010, where we have seen Jose Molina stab at balls in the dirt with his backhand or bounce up as balls hit the dirt and try to corral them, and where tonight we saw John Buck either come up or fail to get down on a Drabek pitch in the dirt three times over the first three innings, costing the Blue Jays two runs.
In the first, Buck didn’t block a great slider in the dirt on which Nick Swisher swung and missed for strike three, and Derek Jeter scampered down to second base. Jeter then moved to third on a single and scored on a sacrifice fly by Alex Rodriguez.
In the second, Buck again failed to get down on a slider – this time Curtis Granderson swung and missed for strike three. Buck did manage to keep the ball close enough to him to root it out of the dirt and throw to first, but his wild throw allowed Granderson to go to second. Granderson didn’t score, though, as Buck got a big piece of strike three in the dirt to the next hitter, Brett Gardner, and threw Gardner out at first.
In the third – forgiveable. Drabek threw a 96 mile-an-hour fastball in the dirt. A catcher can’t anticipate that, and is pretty much dead meat if that ball doesn’t make it to the plate. Buck didn’t display good form in getting down on that ball, but that was because he was way late – because it was a 96 mile-an-hour fastball in the dirt. Nothing you can really do about that except get lucky, and Buck didn’t. Jeter, who had led off the inning with a walk, went to second on that wild pitch. Swisher then bunted him to third and he scored on a Mark Teixeira sac fly.
In the fifth, after a leadoff triple by Gardner, Drabek got Jeter to hit a ground ball to third and Edwin Encarnacion came home with the throw. It was a good throw and the ball was there in time, but Buck left Gardner a big enough piece of the plate that he was able to slide in before the tag. If that’s Gregg Zaun, Gardner doesn’t score. Any good block of the plate gets you an out there.
So instead of a 1-1 tie through six innings and Drabek coming out of the game with a fantastic start against the defending World Series Champions back on which to look over the winter, he comes out of the game having allowed three earned runs in six innings and winds up 0-3 in three major-league starts.
It has been a season-long problem, catchers being unwilling to block balls in the dirt on a regular basis, and it must be addressed for next season, especially if Drabek is going to make the team. He, Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow are not easy to catch.
I say unwilling rather than unable, by the way, because I have been listening to Alan Ashby all season. The man caught 17 years in the major leagues, and caught exceedingly difficult pitchers like Mike Scott and J.R. Richard, and insists that it takes no talent at all to block a breaking ball in the dirt, just commitment. Either you’re committed to getting down and blocking that ball or you’re not.
Travis Snider continued to show well as the season grinds to the end. He had two of the Blue Jays’ three hits tonight, a laser-beam home run to right and a line single over a leaping Teixeira, both off Cy Young candidate CC Sabathia. Snider is on a 10-game hitting streak over which he’s produced to the tune of .350/.381/.625 with three of his 12 homers this season, on his way to a very strong finish.
J.P. Arencibia got another start today, and you have to feel just terrible for him. Here’s a rookie trying to get his feet wet in the big leagues, and he’s made just four starts in the month of September, only one of which was behind the plate. In those four games, he has gone 0-for-12 with six strikeouts. The pitchers he has started against? Felix Hernandez, David Price, Jon Lester and tonight, CC Sabathia. I mean, seriously.
Here’s tonight’s edition of The JaysTalk, for your listening pleasure:
And here’s the transcript from tonight’s “Miked Up LIVE!”: