the MLB

The art of trash talk in the MLB

When many people think of trash talking in sports, the first sports that come to mind are football, hockey and basketball.

Although baseball isn’t as rough or as physical as other sports, trash talk is still very present, with phrases such as “infield in” to “easy out.” Running your mouth, egging on opponents and being an annoyance are just some of the aspects of baseball many fans tend to forget.

Many players use trash talk to motivate themselves to play better by ridiculing the skill and toughness of their opponents. The goal of the art form is to get inside your opponent's head to try to take them out of the game mentally. If an opponent's mind is thinking about the trash talk, then he is not thinking about following his team’s game plan.

Many players are specifically known for their trash-talking abilities.

Atlanta Braves catcher A.J. Pierzynski has a mouth that has gotten him ejected from many games, and baseball great Satchel Paige, who was completely confident in his own abilities, would make his defense sit in the dugout while he retired the side.

Former MLB pitcher Carlos Zambrano, who played for the Chicago Cubs and the Miami Marlins, had quite a mouth as well, getting into plenty of arguments with umpires and players. Zambrano was also known to “hold the mound” for an extended period to get underneath the batter’s skin.

The tension of rivalry games, such as the ones between the Red Sox and Yankees or Cubs and White Sox, always brings some of the most exciting in-game action. It also brings out the best trash talk.

Former Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martínez, who was elected to the Hall of Fame this year, was a master of trash talk, and his biggest rival was former Yankees catcher Jorge Posada. Martínez admitted to making fun of Posada’s ears, calling him “Dumbo” after the famous cartoon elephant whose ears were so large that it enabled him to fly.

But Posada wasn’t shy either when it came to trash talk.

Martínez said there was bad blood between them after the catcher mentioned Martínez’s mother in a negative light. The bad blood eventually led to an all-out brawl in the 2003 playoffs, when Martínez threw then-72-year-old Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer to the ground. 

“Then he let it go a little bit too far with the Zimmer incident,” Martínez said on the 'Daily News Live' show earlier this year. “I did not appreciate that.”

Trash talk, at least for Martínez, sometimes resulted in intentional beanings as well.

After former Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens pegged a Red Sox player, Martínez didn’t hesitate with his retaliation and hit the next two batters he faced.

Throughout most of his career, Miami Marlins right fielder Ichiro Suzuki struggled to talk trash to opponents because he only knew his Japanese. Many players thought Suzuki could only speak English through his interpreter to reporters.

Suzuki, however, learned to speak Spanish through conversations with his teammates, so he could talk smack with some players in the MLB. 

Although he still can’t fluently speak Spanish, he was able to pick up some of the common trash-talking phrases.

“We don't really have curse words in Japanese,” Suzuki told the Wall Street Journal. “So I like the fact that the Western languages allow me to say things that I otherwise can't."

Baseball players get an adrenaline rush from the competition of the game, and competition fuels the fire of trash talk. Ultimately, the common bond between trash talkers in baseball is simple: It’s for the love of the game and winning.

Can we fix the Pro Bowl?

Why don’t I care about the Pro Bowl?

This may be the million-dollar question. The Pro Bowl is the NFL equivalent of the All-Star Game, but it fails compared to the MLB and the NBA ones.

Now, what is the reason for this? It can’t be because baseball and basketball are better than football; now that’s just ludicrous.

Maybe it’s the lack of value in the game. The MLB All Star Game actually matters. The winning division gets home field advantage in the World Series.

This could be a great thing for the NFL to adopt, but then they would have to have the Pro Bowl during the season.

The recent reformatting of the Pro Bowl has only made it worse. Firstly, they moved it to be before the Super Bowl, which excluded some of the best players each year. I mean, that’s obvious, they made it to the Super Bowl after all.

Secondly, it is no longer NFC versus AFC. This has really led to the demise of the Pro Bowl, not that it was ever great, but it was better than this. This year, for example, it was Team Irvin versus Team Carter. Each coach “drafted” players that were selected to the Pro Bowl by voting.

Now let’s be frank, this is just unnecessary. They are trying to model a pickup game of football. Why are you ruining something that could honestly be so great?

Think about it. A game where Aaron Rodgers is throwing to Odell Beckham Jr. Does that sound awesome or does that sound awesome?

On paper, it should be. In reality, it is similar to watching paint dry.

So, why can’t we have the Pro Bowl midseason like the NBA and MLB do?

Maybe the reason the NFL is opposed to this is because of the physicality of the sport.

However, the NFL plays the fewest games per season compared to these sports. Yes, I understand football is literally running into someone and getting hit. But playing 82 basketball games a season probably isn’t too easy either.

Regardless of the levels of physicality, you play any sport at a professional level that often, your body will feel it.

I’m not asking for the NFL to play 50 games. I’m asking for one more game halfway through the season, I’m asking for 17 games. Give these guys an All Star break.

There won’t be any defense until the fourth quarter. It will just be exciting and electrifying plays for the fans. That’s all they really want.

Does anyone watch the NBA All-Star Game for a good matchup? No. We watch it to see a dream team that will never exist elsewhere. We watch it to see Chris Paul lob the ball to James Harden. We watch it to see LeBron throw the ball to the perimeter for Carmelo to shoot a three.

Why can’t we have this in football?

I want to live in a world where I can see Adrian Peterson and LeSean McCoy in the backfield together for one game a year.

Am I really asking for that much? No, no I am not.

So please, give me an NFL All-Star Game that everyone will watch.

Millions tune in to watch the NBA All Star Weekend. Millions tune in to watch the MLB All Star Game. Let’s add the NFL to that list.

There won’t be a dunk contest, but there could be a 40-yard dash contest, a one-handed catch contest, and a throwing contest.

Basically, it could be a casual combine. I mean, why not?

Do it for the fans. Bring the Pro Bowl back to life. Honestly, the NFL could use all the good press it can get right now.

Baseball's Mark Payton will return for senior season

Senior Mark Payton announced that he will return to Texas for his senior season. He announced Friday afternoon that he would be turning down a contact with the Cleveland Indians who selected him in the 16th round of the MLB draft last month. Before starting at Texas, Payton was drafted in 2010 by the Minnesota Twins in the 31st round.

"I love playing at Texas and I was fortunate enough to get an opportunity to go professional, but we weighed both options and decided it was best for me to come back to school, finish up my degree and take another run at the College World Series," Payton said. 

Payton has started 167 games through three years at Texas and currently has a career batting average of .319 with 35 doubles, 14 triples and 83 RBIs. With his 14 triples, Payton is tied for sixth in the Texas record books. 

Last season, Pyton led the Big 12 in batting average with an average of .393, which ranks fourth in the last 40 years. He was a unanimous first-team All-Big 12 selection.

"We are thrilled to have Mark Payton coming back for his senior year," head coach Augie Garrido said. "His experience and leadership will play a key role in getting us back to winning championships at The University of Texas." 

 

The argument for banning baseball collisions: MLB should follow NFL’s model on player safety

After Buster Posey broke his fibula and tore three ligaments in his ankle in 2011, I expected Major League Baseball to take measures toward protecting their players and prevent what happened to Posey from happening to anyone else. However, as seen with the recurring bone-crushing collisions at home plate every year, the MLB has not acted.

This controversial topic gained steam this week after two current MLB managers and former catchers, Mike Matheny and Bruce Bochy, both stated their beliefs that MLB should ban the baserunner’s option to slam into the catcher at full speed when attempting to score a run. According to Matheny, Bochy and ESPN senior baseball writer Buster Olney, change to the rule is “not a matter of if, but when.”

Last year during Posey’s NL MVP campaign, Bochy told him to avoid blocking the plate at all costs because the Giants could not afford to lose the best hitter in their lineup. Posey got extremely lucky that his collision with Scott Cousins in 2011 did not have a more severe impact on his career. The Mets handled the situation similarly with their promising catcher, Travis d’Arnaud. Coaches decided to forbid him from standing his ground at home plate. He has already injured his knee once, and as a catcher, another injury would not bode well for the longevity of his career.

Player safety should take precedence over everything when it comes to the sports and entertainment business. Some might argue that collisions add to the excitement of the game and is a financial incentive because it attracts more fans, but I don’t buy that argument for a second. Catchers who support the proposition to ban collisions at home might ask their opponents, “Have you ever been blind-sided by a 220-pound athlete running at full speed?” Most football players sure have, and these collisions at home plate are horrifically similar to the jarring hits banned in football. I believe baseball should and will follow the NFL’s example but the time table of implementation is anyone’s guess.

I can’t help but wonder if Posey had not returned from his injury by winning the NL MVP or had he not returned to baseball at all, whether or not the MLB would have chosen to take action at that point. Perhaps in this case, the phrase, “...until someone gets hurt” could be translated to “…until someone’s career ends.”

Yesterday, Olney tweeted a very interesting side of the argument. The tweet read, “An evaluator I talked to loosely pegged the dollar value of one attempt at blocking home at $125,000, vs. '12 value of Posey to SFG -- $36m.” (via @Buster_ESPN)

The use of PEDs wreaking more havoc across baseball landscape, further tarnishing integrity of the game

Once again, the use of performance-enhancing drugs has been dominating the MLB headlines lately. Records from now-closed, Miami-based clinic, Biogenesis, have recently been released, linking multiple baseball stars’ names to buying PEDs from the clinic.

The two biggest names mentioned so far are superstars Alex Rodriguez, of the New York Yankees, and Ryan Braun, of the Milwaukee Brewers. This is neither player’s first encounter with PED accusations. 

In 2009, Rodriguez admitted to taking PEDs from 2001 to 2003 while with the Texas Rangers but added that he had not used them since. Alex Rodriguez has already tainted his reputation and severely decreased his chances of being elected into the Hall of Fame because of his steroid use. As seen in this year’s BBWAA Hall of Fame vote, any suspicion of steroid use can severely stain a career. This year, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa didn’t even come close to receiving the required percentage of votes for induction to Cooperstown because of PED links and scandals. Like A-Rod, all had legendary numbers and should have been shoe ins, but with how rampant PED use is in the game today, one of the few options left for baseball authorities to try and eradicate the problem is to treat suspicion as guilt.

These allegations could not come at a worse time in Rodriguez’s career, as he is coming off a hip impingement, which required surgery in early January. Doctors say he should be back by the All-Star break, but the chances he’ll return as even half the player he was in his prime seems unlikely. The Yankees have already signed Kevin Youkilis to play third base for the Yanks this season. In other words, A-Rod’s career in pinstripes, or career, in general, could be over.

The second superstar linked to Biogenesis is Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun. Coming off a National League MVP in 2011, Braun was slated to be suspended for the first 50 games of last season but was  reinstated before the season began, as a result of winning an appeal for his positive test for elevated levels of testosterone. Braun is no doubt one of the most consistent, all-around players in baseball, so this is unfortunate for the game and for the all-star, especially if he is clean. Braun insists that his name is listed under a ‘moneys owed’ category in Biogenesis documents because his attorneys used Anthony Bosch, the clinic operator, as a consultant, and that any tie to Biogenesis is merely “over a dispute over compensation for Bosch’s work.” Like last year, Braun claims innocence and “will fully cooperate with any inquiry into this matter."

Other names involved in the Biogenesis mess are former Toronto Blue Jays’ outfielder Melky Cabrera (also his second PED scandal); Detroit Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta; Baltimore Orioles third baseman Danny Valencia and New York Yankees catcher, Francisco Cervelli, among others.

In 2009, after Alex Rodriguez admitted to “juicing,” President Obama gave his opinion about the dark shadow PEDs are casting over the game in his first primetime press conference. He stated, “If you’re a fan of Major League Baseball, I think it tarnishes an era, to some degree.” That was 2009. Now, in 2013, the words “think” and “to some degree” can be deleted from the latter part of the president’s quote. As one can see, PEDs have tarnished the game and extensive use continues to rear its ugly head.

Fans unimpressed by watered-down All-Star game.

American League's Alexi Ogando of the Texas Rangers pitches at the MLB All-Star baseball game Tuesday, July 12, 2011, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
American League's Alexi Ogando of the Texas Rangers pitches at the MLB All-Star baseball game Tuesday, July 12, 2011, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

The National League beat the American League 5-1 in the 2011 MLB All-Star game, and that is about as much as some are willing to remember.

“What a waste of two hours and some odd minutes of my life,” said broadcast journalism senior Derek Lewis.

Like many sports fanatics, Lewis decided to watch the All-Star game on Tuesday, but was disappointed by the lack pomp and circumstance. Some of these fans said that this year’s watered-down cast of All-Stars and boring broadcast was not appealing.

“It had three big plays,” Lewis said. “The rest was all fairly boring, undominating pitching that was just good enough to get outs for the National League and some poor defensive efforts that made the game into Keystone Cops at certain points. Plus, several big American League pitchers were out. Several big name players overall were out. Not a good showing from baseball.”

In the American League two players chosen to by the fans — Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez — and four pitchers selected by the players (including three more Yankees), skipped for medical reasons. Jeter, who recently recorded his 3,000th career hit, cited mental and physical exhaustion as the reason for his absence. Rodriguez is currently in on the DL.

In the National League, only one voted starter — Jose Reyes — didn’t suit up Tuesday in Phoenix, but Shane Victorino, who won the final vote over Washington Nationals first baseman Michael Morse, was also out injured.

Though this year’s numbers have not been released, the MLB All-Star game’s ratings have declined consistently over the past decade, with last year’s mid-summer classic boasting the worst ratings ever. Fans who watched but didn’t enjoy this year’s game said the MLB isn’t doing enough to keep the very people that drive the game interested — the fans.

“It was like any other baseball game, which is sad because it’s the All-star game,” said baseball fan Sarang Patel. “A lot of it may be Fox's fault. There was no "fun" appeal. The highlight was Justin Timberlake with his beer near a pool with girls. The NBA All-Star game has all these in-game microphones, celebrity interviews, jokesters, etc. The MLB and Fox couldn't even utilize Brian Wilson correctly.”

Other fans echoed Patel’s sentiment that the MLB has gotten lazy in keeping fans interested, and say other sports offer more exciting draws in the summer sports lull.

“They [MLB] really aren't trying to fight Soccer for this summer market while the NBA and NFL take vacations,” Lewis said.

Brian Wilson is the San Francisco Giants reliever known for his post-game celebrations and hilarious antics.

It may not be fair to compare the two sports’ All-star games, but in terms of ratings, the NBA knows what it’s doing. It puts the game on a weekend and spends an entire week building the event up with funny promotions; Usher crooning about it, and with players who actually want to play in the game. The 2011 NBA All-Star game boasted its highest ratings since 2003, bringing in over 12 million viewers.

Some regular sports fans didn’t even realize the All-Star game was even scheduled for Tuesday night.

“I didn’t even know it happened,” said business senior Saagar Grover, adding that he didn’t mind missing it.

Obviously these dissenting voices don’t represent the voice of every sport and baseball fan. The fact of the matter is that baseball is slowly losing younger viewers to the glitz and glamour of the NBA and NFL. Both those leagues are able to draw viewers to games in which a fan may not even have a vested interested beyond the desire to be entertained. One would have thought that with the other leagues wrapped up in lockouts, baseball would do everything it could to retain and even gain viewers who have nothing else to follow right now. If I were Bud Selig, I would have put in a call into Usher, or maybe Ke$ha.

Not every baseball fan had a bad time. History junior Eli Perez said he preferred the low-key nature of the game, as well as getting the opportunity to see some fresh talent.

“It was exciting to see the next crop of super stars like Starlin Castro and Rickie Weeks come up and playing in the game, but it was really disappointing to not see Derek Jeter out there," Perez said. “Overall it was a fun game to just sit back and relax to. Not every game is going to have hundreds of runs scored. Sometimes they are just a grind which can be equally as enjoyable to watch.”

He may be right. That type of game does appeal to some people, and I certainly tuned in for 90 percent of it. But it wasn’t exciting enough to keep me from flipping back and forth between Fuse’s 100 Sexiest Videos of All-time, and ESPN U’s rerun of last year’s Texas vs. Nebraska football game.

The Houston Astros’ Jose Altuve gets his first major league hit in the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals on Wednesday in Houston. It was Altuve’s first game with the Astros after being brought up from the Corpus Christi minor league team.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

It wasn’t too long ago that star players such as Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt were the backbone of the Houston Astros, but the pair, part of the 2005 World Series team, have since left for other teams, and once again the Astros are searching for their identity.

With the MLB trade deadline looming, more players could be on their way out of Houston as owner Jim Crane prepares to rebuild his new team. There are murmurs that even Hunter Pence could be in for a change of scenery by the July 31 deadline.

On Tuesday, Jeff Keppinger became the first Astro to be shipped off — sent to San Francisco for minor league pitchers Henry Sosa and Jason Stoffel. Along with the acquisition of these two promising pitchers, the Astros also purchased the contract of second baseman Jose Altuve from Double-A Corpus Christi. Keppinger had been used often at second base, as well as multiple other spots in the infield, but his departure clears the way for Altuve, one of the Astros’ top prospects.

The 21-year-old has a combined .389 average between Single-A and Double-A clubs this year, and was Houston’s representative in this year’s Futures Game during the All-Star break. At 5-foot-7, Altuve conjures images of other diminutive infielders such as Dustin Pedroia and David Eckstein, both of which have enjoyed prolonged success at the major league level. With his high batting average, Altuve should bring a sense of consistency to the lineup — something that has gone by the wayside this year for the Astros. In his major league debut Wednesday, Altuve went 1-for-5 and cleanly fielded all four balls that were hit his way.

Sosa and Stoffel will most likely spend the majority of the season at the Double or Triple-A level, as the team’s pitching staff is a full house right now. Sosa, 25, is a right-handed starter who split the season between Double-A Richmond and Triple-A Fresno. He had a 5-2 record and 2.68 ERA in eight games at Richmond, and combined to post an 8-3 record with a 5.51 ERA between the two teams. Stoffel, 22, is a right-handed reliever who owned a 3.98 ERA with 13 saves in 32 games at Richmond.

Both pitchers provide viable options for use in the starting rotation and the bullpen at some point down the road. They are the first steps in the long process of replenishing a weak farm system. Expect more moves to occur in the coming week as Crane has made it clear that the rebuilding in Houston has started. 

Cincinnati Reds’ Drew Stubbs (6) is tagged out while trying to steal second base in the first inning of a baseball game Friday in Milwaukee.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

As the first half of the 2011 MLB season comes to a close, it’s time to look at how the former Longhorns in the MLB have done.

Huston Street, CP, Colorado Rockies — Only Atlanta’s Craig Kimbrel has more saves than Street, who has converted 26 of 28 save opportunities this year. Street has cashed in on his last 12 chances to pick up a save, not blowing a save since May 20. He’s enjoying the best season of his career and is likely to break his career high record of 37 saves he set in 2006 with Oakland. Street’s career has been an up-and-down one, and although he’s not an All-Star this year, he has established himself as one of the game’s premier closers.

Drew Stubbs, CF, Cincinnati Reds — In his third season with the Reds, Stubbs has displayed his ability to be a five-tool player, in addition to becoming one of the league’s best center fielders. However, he has shown a propensity toward striking out. On average this season, Stubbs has struck out once every three at-bats and leads the majors with 122 strikeouts. It’s what he does with those other two at-bats that keeps him in the lineup, as he’s banged out 11 home runs and stolen 23 bases while hitting .252.

Sam LeCure, SP/RP, Cincinnati Reds — Stubbs’ teammate in Cincinnati, LeCure has been an outstanding option out of the Reds’ bullpen. He’s made the most of his 19 appearances and 43 innings, posting a 2.72 ERA and a team-leading 0.98 WHIP while even turning in a quality start (six innings pitched, one earned run) April 12 against San Diego.

J.P. Howell, RP, Tampa Bay Rays — Howell had great years in 2008 and 2009, providing solid efforts out of the Tampa Bay bullpen as the Rays advanced to their first World Series in ’08. However, shoulder surgery sidelined Howell for the entire 2010 season, and he has been shaky in his 2011 return, currently possessing a 8.56 ERA.

James Russell, SP/RP, Chicago Cubs — Russell’s 4.60 ERA may not be impressive, but he has shown steady improvement this season. Each month, Russell’s ERA has dropped — from 8.31 in April to 4.58 in May, to 1.64 in June to a spotless 0.00 so far in July. While a couple of Cubs starters were injured, Russell made five spot starts but picked up just one win.

Taylor Teagarden, C, Texas Rangers — Teagarden has only 26 at-bats this season, but has recorded hits in seven of them, good for a .269 batting average. He’s on pace to get only 46 at-bats this season, which would be a career low. Teagarden has spent most of this year in AAA Round Rock, where he’s batting .309 with nine home runs.

Brandon Belt, 1B, San Francisco Giants — A fifth-round pick, Belt became the first member of the Giants’ 2009 draft class to be called up to the big leagues. Belt was San Francisco’s starting first baseman for most of the first month of the season, hitting .211, but hasn’t had a major league plate appearance since May 31. Still, he has shown enough promise to stay on the Giants’ radar and will likely see playing time at the big league level sometime soon. 

Printed on 7/11/2011 as: Stubbs, Street among former Horns making mark on MLB teams

Junior pitcher Taylor Jungmann was selected No. 12 overall by the Milwaukee Brewers in Monday's MLB First-Year Player Draft. Jungmann, who would have one year left of college eligibility if he chose to stay in school, has until Aug. 15 to work out an agreement with the Brewers.

Photo Credit: Ryan Edwards | Daily Texan Staff

Hello, Wisconsin.

The Milwaukee Brewers made Texas pitcher Taylor Jungmann their first pick of the MLB First-Year Player Draft, selecting the right-handed junior with the No. 12 overall spot.

“Being drafted in the first round is a testament to what Taylor Jungmann is,” said Texas’ pitching coach Skip Johnson in a press release. “It says everything about his work ethic and the hard work he puts into pitching and how much he cares about baseball. We couldn’t be happier for him.”

Jungmann is the highest-selected Longhorn in the draft since center fielder Drew Stubbs went No. 8 overall to Cincinnati in 2006.

For his junior season, Jungmann is 13-1 with a 1.40 ERA — largely inflated after he gave up seven runs to Kent State on Saturday — and 119 strikeouts. The Brewers, apparently trying to bolster a pitching rotation that already includes Zack Greinke and Yovani Gallardo, spent the No. 15 pick on an arm as well, going with lefty Jed Bradley from Georgia Tech.

If Jungmann chooses to sign with the Brewers — all indications are that he will — he’ll have until August to work out the negotiations. If he declines, he would have one year of eligibility remaining at Texas.

The Longhorns also had two high school signees drafted in the first round. Dylan Bundy, a pitcher from Oklahoma, was taken No. 4 overall by the Baltimore Orioles, and Blake Swihart, a switch-hitting catcher from New Mexico, was chosen at No. 26 by the Boston Red Sox.

Texas fans shouldn’t hold their breath on these two guys. It’s all but a lock that Bundy will go, though he is reportedly asking for an absurd signing price — near $30 million — and Swihart might be unable to turn down the allure of playing for the Sox and whatever money Boston might throw at him.

Rounds 2-30 of the draft continue today, so expect Longhorns Brandon Loy, Sam Stafford, Cole Green, Tant Shepherd and Cohl Walla to be off the board by the end of the night.