Tag:Rolling Stones
Posted on: February 17, 2011 6:50 pm

McLouth comeback essential to Braves

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- There is no surefire, guaranteed path to success for the Atlanta Braves this season. But one sure way to make things easier is center fielder Nate McLouth bouncing back from a miserable 2010 and again becoming the player he once was.

McLouth last summer suffered a concussion, played in only 85 games and batted a career-worst .190 with a .298 on-base percentage. Both were career lows.

"I'm thankful for a clean start," McLouth says. "I'm ready to get this season kicked off and move on. Last season was tough, but the minute I stepped out of the clubhouse, I left it behind.

"I actually backed off of hitting a little this winter because you get so many swings down here. I backed off what I've done in the past."

The hope, he said, is less is more. No more paralysis by analysis. Even in baseball, sometimes there is such a thing as overpreparing.

"I'm definitely guilty of that," says McLouth, whom the Braves project as their center fielder and No. 2 hitter (behind Martin Prado). "When I don't feel right, I tend to overdo it. Last year, I wasn't feeling right and I almost paralyzed myself I was working so much."

McLouth, whom the Braves acquired from Pittsburgh in June, 2009, for pitcher Charlie Morton and two minor leaguers, suffered the concussion last June 9 (he was hitting .176 with a .295 on-base percentage at the time) and didn't return until July 21.

"The main thing I noticed was, I wasn't ever close to full strength after that in terms of endurance and body strength. For a month or two after, I couldn't lift of work out. I felt slow.

"It was nice to be able to work out this offseason."

There's no guarantee that McLouth will be able to return to his 2008 form, when he hit .276 with a .356 OBP and led the NL with 46 doubles, but if he can get close, the Braves will take it.

"I think we're all optimistic that Nate's too good a player, and has been over the course of time, to think what we saw last year is what should be expected," Atlanta general manager Frank Wren says. "He's another guy where we've seen him over the course of the winter, and his demeanor and his presence ... everything's changed from a year ago."

Sunblock Day? There already have been more nice days in the first week in Florida than all of last spring combined. Sunny and mid-70s. Pass the sunblock.

Likes: Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr. on Hall of Famer Stan Musial and what he means to St. Louis: "To think of what he has meant to the Cardinals, not only during his playing days, but subsequent to when he played. And every time he comes on the field and makes an appearance, the place reveres him and lets him know that." ... The Sweet Potato-Encrusted Yellowtail and the Pumpkin Coconut Whatever at the delicious Leftovers Café in Jupiter, Fla. The fish was excellent, and with a name like that, you had to order the dessert. Think pumpkin pie without the crust. ... The ribs and bread pudding at Lee Roy Selmon's Barbecue in Tampa. Mmm, mmm, mmm. ... Really liked True Grit. The girl, Hailee Steinfeld, was incredible, especially given all of the difficult dialog she had to deliver. ... Dog show in Lakeland, Fla. Over 4,000 dogs here. Not going, just like hearing it. My dog, Slugger, would be so proud.

Dislikes: Oh, Miguel Cabrera. ...

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"May the good Lord shine a light on you
"Make every song you sing your favorite tune
"May the good Lord shine a light on you
"Warm like the evening sun"

-- Rolling Stones, Shine a Light

Posted on: February 16, 2011 4:57 pm

Stuff my editors whacked from the column

JUPITER, Fla. -- Outtakes from the Cardinals camp and Albert Pujols watch Wednesday:

-- Reaction from the Pujols side Wednesday came in the form of a statement from agent Dan Lozano:

"After engaging in discussions with the St. Louis Cardinals Organization, we have suspended further negotiations until after the conclusion of the 2011 season, due to today's self-imposed deadline.  At the beginning of this process, Albert decided a timetable needed to be established in which we would negotiate.  We exchanged proposals with the Cardinals during that time.  While both parties were hopeful that an agreement could be reached, a difference of opinion in determining Albert's value simply could not be resolved.  Albert's production over the last 10 years is nothing short of historic.  He is not only the best player in baseball, and on his way to having a Hall of Fame career, but an iconic figure in sports.  The expiration of today's deadline does not eliminate the possibility of Albert returning to the Cardinals in 2012, but simply delays negotiations until the conclusion of the Cardinals' season.

"Albert's decision to suspend negotiations until after the season is made out of respect to his teammates, coaching staff and the Cardinals Organization.  He wants to prevent this issue from becoming a distraction throughout the year.  Albert cares a great deal about his teammates, manager Tony La Russa, and his coaching staff and respects their ability to prepare each and every day.  Albert has also decided that he will not discuss his contract status for the duration of the season, including Spring Training.  He asks the media to please respect this request.  Albert would also like to reassure the Cardinals Nation that he is determined to bring a World Championship back to the city of St. Louis.  He feels as strongly as ever that this team has the potential to win the World Series.  That alone is why he will not permit his contractual situation to become a distraction or take away from his ability to reach that goal."

-- One reason the Cardinals remain reasonably confident -- publically, at least -- that they can still retain Pujols is because of the tenor of the negotiations. "I don't think any bridges were burned in the process," general manager John Mozeliak said. "Looking toward next year, I don't think we put ourselves in a bad position."

-- Sometimes, enough isn't enough. As Cardinals Chairman of the Board Bill DeWitt Jr. reminded Wednesday, back when Pujols signed his current seven-year, $100 million deal with the Cards in February, 2004, it was considered a very, very big deal.

Now, as for any regrets during the current talks, which broke down and did not result in a new deal by Pujols' self-imposed noon deadline?

"I regret that that contract wasn't longer," DeWitt cracked. "I remember this specifically. Some of my contemporaries at MLB at the time said, 'That's a long contract.' I remember saying, 'It won't be long enough.' And here we are."

-- DeWitt on whether there is a parallel with the Yankees/Derek Jeter negotiations this past winter (Pujols is 31, Jeter 36): "I think one difference is where they are in their careers when they're hitting free agency. With Albert and the city, it does parallel. Ownership and the front office here are looking at the positive, we're not looking at the negative side through the media. I think there's a stark difference there."

-- Great line from ace Chris Carpenter as the ace pitcher was leaving after practice around 11:30 a.m. while walking by a group of reporters toward his car: "He's STILL not here?!" Speaking, of course, of Pujols.

Sunblock Day? While it may have felt colder to the Cardinals, it was a beautiful, 75-degree day here in Jupiter with plenty of sun.

Likes: Cameron Maybin ripping Panda Express ... and then reversing course when he found that one of the Padres' minority owners owns Panda Express. Very comical. ... Dave O'Brien, the excellent Braves beat writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, took a motorcycle ride with new manager Fredi Gonzalez. Then they pulled off the road, did an interview and the very well-done result is here. ... It was released last summer, but the Rolling Stones' Exile on Main St. re-issue is well worth it. ... A new Drive-By Truckers disc, Go-Go Boots. Haven't picked it up yet. Will soon. ... Mick Jagger was pretty impressive at the Grammy Awards on Sunday. ... Blue Valentine. Hard movie to watch, but Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling are terrific. ... The blackened grouper at the Abbey Road Bar and Grill in Jupiter. Still.

Dislikes: Went back to the rental car counter the other day to get a map, then walked back to what I thought was my Nissan Altima, opened the driver's side door ... and startled a man who was sitting behind the wheel preparing to leave. He wasn't trying to steal my car, though. Yep, it was me -- I walked up to the wrong vehicle.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Broken bottles broken plates
"Broken switches broken gates
"Broken dishes broken parts
"Streets are filled with broken hearts
"Broken words never meant to be spoken
"Everything is broken"

-- Bob Dylan, Everything is Broken

Posted on: May 20, 2010 2:49 pm

Kaz, we hardly knew ye ... but for one loooong AB

Scuffling badly and sinking quickly, the Astros on Tuesday bid farewell to infielder Kaz Matsui, releasing him into the great beyond.

Matusi's Astros legacy?

Well, he said hello in the spring of 2008 by missing several days after being unforgettably diagnosed with, and it pains me to type this, an anal fissure.

He essentially said goodbye last Saturday in San Francisco with a memorable 15-pitch battle with Giants closer Brian Wilson.

It was the longest at-bat in the majors since last July 16, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, when Luis Rodriguez, then of San Diego, battled Colorado's Matt Daley for 16 pitches.

It also was a duel that Wilson, who eventually got Matsui to fly to left with two out and the bases loaded to nail down the save in a 2-1 Giants win, will not soon forget. Even as Matsui fades away and searches for his next job.

"It was definitely the longest at-bat I've gone through at any level," Wilson said. "I've probably gone eight or nine pitches a few times, but to have someone foul off eight pitches in a row. ..."

The at-bat also was a textbook illustration of how, while starting pitchers need three or four pitches to work through lineups, relievers -- closers especially -- usually work with just one or two pitches. Wilson threw 14 fastballs to Matsui, mixing in just one other pitch: A slider at 2 and 2 for the eighth pitch of the at-bat.

I talked with Wilson the other day about the at-bat and we ran through it:

"I went to 0 and 2 right away with fastballs up and away," Wilson said. "Then I threw another fastball up for a ball, and then another up for a ball."

Three of those fastballs were clocked at 98 m.p.h., the fourth was 97.

Wilson's strategy was simple: Blow the ball by the light-hitting (.141) Matsui.

However ... Wilson pumped three more 98 m.p.h. fastballs, and Matsui fought off all three with foul balls.

After the first foul on the 2 and 2 count. ...

"When he fouled that off, I kind of laughed," Wilson said. "I was like, 'OK, let's put it in play.'"

Little did he know.

Seven fastballs into the at-bat, the count still 2 and 2, Wilson changed gears: His eighth pitch was a slider.

"I was going to try and sneak back door and try and catch him off guard," Wilson said. "I'm pretty sure I did. But he still got a piece of it."

Next pitch, back to the fastball, a 98 m.p.h. heater that missed for ball three.

That was it for any semblance of creativity: The next seven pitches were all fastballs between 96 and 98.

The thinking there?

When the slider missed for ball three, Wilson felt he was too close to the edge of the cliff to chance throwing another slider.

"I'm not going to walk in the tying run with a slider," he said. "No."

So with the runners going, Matsui fouled off four more fastballs.

Finally, he flied to left. Ballgame.

"It was fun," said Wilson, whose enjoyment of the moment undoubtedly was directly related to his success.

Funny thing was, very next day, the two staged an encore. Matsui came back to the plate as a pinch-hitter with two on in the ninth, two out and Wilson trying to preserve the Giants' 4-3 lead.

This time, he fanned Matsui on seven pitches.

"Of course he'd come to the plate against the next day," Wilson said, chuckling. "That's how it works, isn't it?"

Matsui was hitting .141 with just one extra-base hit in 78 plate appearances when the Astros released him. Chances are, Wilson will remember him far longer than Houston fans.

Likes: This look at Bryce Harper, the probable No. 1 pick in the draft this summer, from Dave Sheinin of the Washington Post. ... The Pepsi commercial, geared around the "Refresh" campaign, featuring "conversations" between major leaguers, such as Yankees ace CC Sabathia and pitching coach Dave Eiland meeting at the mound during a game. Sabathia suggests putting an organic garden in the bullpen, while Eiland counters with a suggestion of arranging a group hug for all New Yorkers. ... Throwback Pepsi and Throwback Mountain Dew. Real sugar, like the old days, instead of corn syrup. A far cleaner drink with no filmy aftertaste. I dig each of them and wish they would be permanently available in the grocery stores instead of just temporarily. ... The Rolling Stones re-issue of Exile on Main St. Haven't picked it up yet, but with special packaging and 10 bonus songs, it's gotta be cool. Will pick it up soon. ... Long bicycle rides.

Dislikes: Still not thrilled with interleague play, and here it comes again this weekend. ... Can't believe I haven't been to In-N-Out burgers since I've been home from spring training. That's so weak. ...

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Stacy, do you remember when I mowed your lawn?
"Your mom came out with just a towel on
"I could tell she liked me from the way she stared
"And the way she said, 'You missed a spot over there'"

-- Fountains of Wayne, Stacy's Mom


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