Notes from Peoria, Day Two
Man, am I glad I spent a few hours over at the minor league fields this morning, because today’s game was lackluster to say the least, minus one very odd experience which I’ll get to in a little bit. On to today’s notes.
1. The team will address the Putz situation in the next 24 hours, most likely, but rumblings around camp aren’t good. It’s hold your breath time. Update: Hickey and Baker both say the preliminary diagnosis is good news – woo!
2. I got to see 17-year-old Carlos Triunfel take some hacks in the cage this morning and was extremely impressed. You can only tell so much from a guy taking swings in batting practice, but when a kid has a major league swing, it tends to jump out at you. This kid just has a different swing than the guys in his group (which included solid prospect Alex Liddi, by the way) and the ball absolutely leaps off his bat. Very effortless swing – little excess body motion and power coming from his batspeed and hips. He’s thicker in the lower half than most kids his age, so I expect we’ll hear a lot of suggestions that he won’t stick at shortstop simply because of his frame. I didn’t see him take the field, so I don’t have anything to say about his defense, but he’s obviously someone to keep an eye on. Sounds like he’s going to break spring training with Wisconsin, and if he’s as good as he looked in the cage today, he’ll be fine there.
3. Speaking of Alex Liddi, he was interesting to watch – he has a totally different swing than most of the M’s, as he drops his hands, dips his shoulder, and has a pretty noticable uppercut as he attemps to drive every pitch he swings at. It works, too, as he generated significant power and hit a lot of rockets to the deepest parts of the outfield. The swing was somewhat reminiscent of guys like Ryan Klesko. If he makes the majors, you’ll hear a lot of comments about how he doesn’t get cheated at the plate. I’d like to see him against real pitching and see if he makes adjustments to handle the low-and-in pitch.
4. The Royals sent their F team to Peoria for todays games. Ross Gload hit third. At least I got to see Billy Butler swing the bat, but man, that was a bad squad they put on the field. The game itself was pretty unventful, at least until the 5th inning. I was watching the game with a friend from Seattle who I get to see about every other year or so, and we were catching up on things – how’s his family doing, stuff with his job, normal friendly conversation. There was no drinking going on, nothing that could even potentially be construed as offensive conversation, and yet, the lady in front of us turns around and says (paraphrasing): “I’m sorry, but you guys have been talking the entire game. We’re trying to enjoy the game, and we can hear everything you say, and its pretty irritating. There’s some great seats in other sections – why don’t you guys go sit over there.”
I was so stunned, I didn’t know what to say. She wasn’t complaining that we were being loud or vulger or drunk – she just was annoyed by the fact that we were talking to each other. My friend offered up an apology for distrubing her, and rather than cause a scene, we moved to another location. We didn’t say anything rude as we left, and yet, as we walked down the stairs, she applauded us leaving in the same manner you see people applaud when someone is arrested and taken from the stadium. This is the first time in my life I’ve ever had any kind of negative encounter with the fans sitting around me, and to have someone get so annoyed because I was conversing with a friend I haven’t seen in a couple of years is still just stunning to me.
5. Overheard in our new seats a few innings later after Willie singles to give him yet another spring training base hit.
“Man, Willie runs hard. I don’t think I could do it if I was him – be that dedicated to the game, be such a good player, a good person, and never get a chance. He always hustles, always does his best. You can just tell he’s special, but they always find someone to play ahead of him. He’s just like Ibanez, where we used him as a utility guy and never gave him a job, and then he went elsewhere and became a star. But he just works so hard. Buhner was like that too. I’d love to have a team full of guys like Buhner and Bloomquist.”
We joke around here about comments like this to the point that you almost forget that most of the Mariner fans out there actually think this way. We’re in the vast minority when it comes to Willie – people really think he’s a terrific player who has just never been given a fair shake. I don’t even know what to say anymore. We’re never going to convince people that Willie’s not a major league starter. The things that they love about players aren’t things that make players good, and for the casual fan, that’s never going to change. As long as Willie keeps running hard, he’s always going to be held up as a great player in Seattle. It’s a fight we just can’t win.