Friday, February 10, 2017


(Aug. 18, 2016 - Source: Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images North America)
Call me old-school, but one of the most enjoyable things about baseball for me are the moments just before the pitcher toes the rubber and I can study each man on the field as they subtly adjust and prepare for all the possibilities the situation and next pitch may bring. 

I cherish those moments because I believe baseball is a thinking man's game more than any other. And in a sport where everyone possesses native talent and the object is for the pitcher to make the batter swing and miss and for the batter to 'hit 'em where they ain't', the winning plays are usually the ones where foresight and preparation carried the day. 

Everybody rants and raves and writes about the great successes and the great failures, but it's the small adjustments and quiet, less noticed decisions preceding them I often find more interesting because they can explain a lot about past results and point to future trends which can have far greater impact. 

(Aug. 28, 2016 - Source: Ed Zurga/Getty Images North America)    
Case in point: Two weeks ago, I wrote a reaction piece about Dellin Betances and Didi Gregorius participating in the World Baseball Classic.  In it, I essentially made the case that the WBC was a dying money-grab conceived by former MLB commish Bud Selig that was neither worthy of its patriotic hype nor worth its risk to player and pinstripes.

(July 11, 2016 - Source: Harry How/Getty Images North America)
I pleaded with them to come up with an excuse -- any excuse at all -- to back out, pointing out that it was not only their personal injury histories they should be concerned about (both have hurt  their UCLs) but also their own recent histories of simply becoming gassed and missing time due to  wear and tear and exhaustion during  Yankees stretch runs.   

(Oct. 9, 2016 - Source: Harry How/Getty Images North America)
I suggested they could have the team come up with a half dozen medical excuses for them to back out if they wanted a face-saving way out like Max Scherzer used. 

However, I added, "the best reason of all not to do it is that you shouldn't. And to explain that, all you need to do is release a one-word statement of your own: 'Fuhgeddaboutit!'"  

(Sept. 20, 2016 - Source: Joseph Garnett Jr./Getty Images North America)    
I specifically omitted any mention of Gary Sanchez from the piece because, although it had been widely reported he was expected to participate, neither he nor the team had formally announced it and, quite frankly, I was trying my darnedest to give him the benefit of the doubt that he wouldn't.

(Sept. 9, 2016 - Source: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images North America)    
I'm so glad I did because, as our fearless BYB leader Robert Casey wrote Wednesday, Sanchez indeed bowed out of the coming (and likely last) WBC. And he didn't sugarcoat the reason with a face-saving BS excuse either. 

"'I actually said yes initially,' Sanchez was quoted saying in the NY Post. 'I was going to be on the team. This last week, I spoke to my family, and the more I thought about it, the more I felt I had to be in spring training for the full spring training to get ready for the season. ...I’ve only been in the big leagues for two months, and I know it went well, but there’s still a lot I have to do preparation-wise to be able to catch for a whole season for the first time.'”

It may not have been as succinct as "Fuhgeddaboutit!" But the meaning was just as clear. The best reason of all not to do it is that you shouldn't.

(Aug. 20, 2016 - Source: Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images North America)
For me, it's not just about expending limited physical energies or risking getting hurt for meaningless exhibitions. And it's not even about preparing to start 130 to 140 games, like Sanchez told the Post, when the most you've ever started in a season was 100.

It's about the cattle call of raw prospects, unemployed and over-the-hill relievers, bubble rotation guys and minor league spot starter candidates he's got to get to know because he's likely going to wind up catching most of them in games before the year is out. 

It's about the three starting pitchers who may be on their way out the door, which may get sticky when the going gets tough and the time comes for him to call for something from them late in a game they'd perhaps rather not risk and save for their next employer.  

It's about showing up from day one in spring training and learning to take control of his staff, his team and his field so when the time comes he can assert himself and command the respect that will be required to take over a game when the job description calls for it. 

Aug. 19, 2016 - Source: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images North America
El Kraken ended last season letting his bat, glove and arm announce to the league he was ready to start earning his place among the sport's leading catchers. 

By withdrawing from his commitment to play in the WBC for his native Dominican Republic, 24-year-old Gary Sanchez quietly announced he's ready to start preparing for the role of the Yankees' next captain. 

Remember, you read it here first.

Like I said, I cherish moments like this. 

 --Barry Millman
BYB Writer
Follow me on Twitter: @nyyankeefanfore

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