Tag: Chris Volstad

The Nyjer Morgan Marlins Brawl: Time To Outlaw Barreling Over the Catcher

When Nyjer Morgan was hit in the hip by a fourth inning Chris Volstad fastball in last night’s game, it was payback for Morgan running over Florida catcher Brett Hayes a night earlier. Late in the game a full-fledged brawl erupted when Morgan was thrown at again.

Hayes suffered a separated shoulder in that home plate collision, a play which need not have happened. The throw from Hanley Ramirez was high and if Morgan slid, he most likely would have been safe. It was the second home plate collision Morgan caused this past week.

But the problem is that runners rounding third and coming home usually decides to knock over the catcher when he is about 20-30 feet from home plate. There is no chance for them to end up sliding.

If they did then try and slide, they might get injured. You see many times when a player slides too late at any base they end up catching a spike in the ground and wrenching or even breaking their ankle.

This is not the first time this season that a runner hurt a catcher on a collision at home plate. Mark Teixeira plowed over Angels catcher Bobby Wilson, injuring Wilson’s head and severely hurting his ankle. What if Teixeira got hurt? Would that run really be worth Tex on the DL for two months?

And how can we not forget about Ray Fosse, whose All-Star career was derailed after Pete Rose barreled him over in the 1970 All-Star Game?

And this type of play does not just end in injury on the spot. It also affects how catchers play the game during the rest of their careers.

Fosse was a power hitting backstop in 1970, smashing 16 home runs by that All-Star break. He finished with only 18 that season, and never hit more than 12 in a season the rest of his career.

Drafted as a second baseman, Yankee catcher Jorge Posada was converted to catcher during his Yankee minor league career. During a minor league game, Posada was run over in a game and seriously injured.

He is now not that good on plays at the plate. He shies away from contact, and many times the ball. The prior collision has affected his play as a catcher throughout his career.

Another Yankee catcher, Francisco Cervelli, broke his wrist in a 2008 home plate collision with Tampa’s Elliot Johnson during a spring training game! That eventually led to a bench clearing brawl when the Yankees Shelley Duncan went in high with his spikes at Rays second baseman Akinori Iwamura.

In that game, Jonny Gomes of the Rays played the Gabby Sanchez role from last night when he came in from right field and tackled Duncan.

From my days of playing, I have been on both ends of the spectrum. I have been run over (still held on to the ball), and have run a guy over (and he held on to the ball). Most of the time, the catcher does hold on to the ball anyway, so why even do it?

The runner risks injury just as much as the catcher. In both occasions when I played, I was sore after each collision. The runner can also be injured on this type of play.

In 2008, David Murphy of the Texas Rangers barreled into Yankees catcher Ivan Rodriguez and Murphy missed the rest of that season with a badly hurt knee.

Running over the catcher is such a bad play on all accounts. The runner is still out on most occasions, someone always get hurt, and the effects can stay with a catcher throughout his career.

I am old-school on everything in baseball. I abhor instant replay, sabermetrics, pitch counts, innings limits, and postseason games only played at night.

So many teams restrict their young pitchers usage so they can “save his arm and prolong his career.” Why then does baseball allow these violent collisions at home plate, when most of the time, someone is injured?  

There is such a severe shortage in quality all around catchers, that MLB and the individual teams simply can’t afford to have a catcher seriously injured.

Base runners should now be required to slide into home plate just as they are required to slide into the other bases. Why should home plate be different?

Runners would be able to dive head first into home plate but to intentionally run over the catcher should be outlawed. After all these collision you might start seeing teams tell their runners to slide into home plate. It just makes sense.

This rule will not avoid all injuries to catchers and young Cleveland Indians backstop Carlos Santana is an example of that, although I still believe that Ryan Kalish would have been safe had he slid to AVOID contact. In the example above on Murphy, he slid feet first into Rodriguez and still was hurt badly.

This rule would not lessen all, but MOST major injuries to catchers, and many injuries to the runners.

And the runners might actually score more runs.

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Florida Marlins Can Blame Themselves for the Nyjer Morgan Mess

Well, I suppose you have to do something to liven things up when the two teams playing are a combined 32 games out of first place in their own division, with only a month left to the season. This goes double when the game is already a blowout in the sixth inning.

The Marlins and Nationals apparently decided to liven things up, ironically, by trying to kill each other.

Well, it was a little more complicated than that.

In the top of the 6th inning of a 15-5 drubbing, Nationals center fielder Nyjer Morgan evidently took umbrage at the fact that the Marlins were throwing at him, and charged the mound. What Morgan (generously listed at “six feet” tall and 175 lbs) thought he was going to do to Chris Volstad (6’8″, 230 lbs) is beyond my comprehension.

For his part, Volstad seemed singularly unimpressed as Morgan charged at him, throwing his glove down in arrogance and dodging Morgan’s only real punch, that jumping left hook he learned from watching too many action movies.

It didn’t work.

And, I would guess that among the things going through Morgan’s mind as he ran out to the mound, he probably didn’t imagine being flattened by a man named “Gaby.”

Instead, Marlins first baseman Gaby Sanchez, not much taller but about 50 pounds heavier than Morgan, clotheslined him and brought him to the ground, whereupon everyone else joined in the scrum. It took 10 or 15 minutes for the figurative dust to settle, and when it did, both Volstad and Morgan had been ejected, of course.

Additionally, Florida manager Edwin Rodriguez (presumably for complicity in, if not actually ordering the plunking) and relief pitcher Jose Veras, whose only crime as far as I can tell was that he happened to be standing next to one of the umpires when they were looking for another scapegoat, were also ejected.

During the course of the brawl, various players, coaches, and even (I think) the Nationals bullpen catcher had gotten into the mix. Nationals third base coach Pat Listach was clobbering Volstad at the bottom of the melee, and others can clearly be seen throwing hard punches on the video replay, but nobody else was ousted.

In most of the highlight reels, Morgan ends up looking like the bad guy, and with good reason.  Namely, that he makes himself look like a bad guy. I mean, not like a Hitler-type of bad guy, more the professional wrestler type of bad guy.

A guy who shoots off his mouth and tries to back his words up with action and even when he’s more or less defeated, feels the need to save face by, well, yelling more. A guy who seemingly walks around all the time as though he’s still hitting the .351 he smacked for the Nats last year, rather than the .257 mark he’s posted this year.

The truth, however, is rarely that simple.

The problem did not start in the top of the sixth on Wednesday night. It didn’t even start Wednesday, but rather Tuesday night, in a scoreless tie in the top of the 10th inning. Running full speed, Morgan bowled over Marlins’ catcher Brett Hayes, trying to score from second base on a fielder’s choice grounder to shortstop Hanley Ramirez. The result was a separated shoulder for Hayes and probably the end of his season.

Morgan went back to touch the plate, just in case, but Hayes had held onto the ball, and he was out. Reportedly, Morgan didn’t say anything to Hayes either then or after the game, and evidently the Marlins didn’t appreciate that. I guess they think that an opposing player ought to apologize for trying to win the game any way he can, even though it was essentially a clean play that just ended badly for their guy.

What they should have taken exception to, if anything, was the slow reaction and lazy throw to home plate, which clocked only 69 miles per hour.

Ramirez has a major league shortstop’s arm, and is certainly capable of throwing a baseball at 90 mph, perhaps more. But this lobbed throw forced Hayes to catch it as Morgan came barreling towards him, giving him no time to set himself for the collision. A 90 mph throw would have given him an extra 0.2 seconds to set himself, which is longer than it sounds like, and might have helped him to stave off injury.

For that matter, if Ramirez had been paying closer attention to Morgan, he might have seen him running full steam sooner and therefore given Hayes enough time to avoid the collision all together. If the Marlins are looking to blame someone for Hayes’ injury, they need look no further than their own All-Star shortstop.

Morgan, for his part, was just playing heads-up baseball—risking injury to himself as well, it should be noted—trying to win a scoreless, extra-inning game for his team. His effort to hit the catcher hard enough to dislodge the ball is no more or less than thousands of players have done in thousands of baseball games over the last century and a half of professional baseball.

That the Marlins didn’t appreciate the outcome—and they did eventually win the game, after all—is their problem.

But they didn’t see it that way. With the score 14-3 Marlins, with one out in the top of the fourth inning the next night, Morgan came to bat, and the Fish saw their opportunity. Volstad hit him with a 92 mph fastball and then stared Morgan down, waiting for a reaction. Nyjer didn’t give him the satisfaction though, turning away from the pitcher, briefly rubbing his highly-padded elbow and scampering down to first base.

But the Marlins made a bad gamble, doing for Morgan the one thing he’s largely been unable to do for himself this year: they put him on base. While Morgan is not a terribly effective base stealer, on a pace to lead the NL in times caught for the second time in his career, he also had 30 successful steals so far this year, so he’s nothing if not fast.

Plus, he’s got a chip on his shoulder and a reason to show them up now, so he stole second base, and then stole third three pitches later. That gave him all the opportunity he needed to score a run when the Marlins’ second baseman Donnie Murphy stumbled and sustained an injury catching a pop-up. They really showed him, huh?

So the Marlins, feeling that the “lesson” had not yet sunk into Morgan’s head, decided to try to sink a baseball into it instead. But Volstad missed this time, throwing behind him and eliciting the Crouching Tiger/Hidden Dragon response you’ve probably already seen a dozen times on SportsCenter.

Obviously warnings were given to both benches after the fracas, so when Gaby Sanchez got plunked an inning later both pitcher Doug Slaten and manager Jim Riggleman were ejected. Everyone else was allowed to finish their regularly scheduled program, in the form of a 16-10 trouncing that was frankly an embarrassment for both franchises.

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New York Mets Send Stopper Mike Pelfrey To Mound, Looking To Avoid Sweep

SAN JUAN, PR—So far this season, Mike Pelfrey has won six of his 10 games following a Mets loss. That’s the definition of a stopper. In his last start, he did the same, winning on Friday night after the Mets lost to the Tigers the night before.

He has also been there for prolonged losing streaks, like after the Mets got off to a 2-6 start. Or the memorable Monday night in Atlanta, when the Mets had just been swept in a four-game series in Miami. Prior to that game, they had their entire front office (including the Wilpons) in town, with Jerry Manuel firmly on the hot seat.

Now, although it’s not that type of a crisis just yet, it’s still a game the Mets must win to stay in this race. They have lost two games in a row to a Marlins team that was reeling, having just been swept at home by the Padres over the weekend, and a team that has had a lot of controversy lately.

Up until last night, they didn’t know who their long-term manager would be, until it was announced last night that Edwin Rodriguez would keep the job for the rest of this season.

The Mets meanwhile, were the hottest team in the National League, having gone on a tear since May 22 to pull within a half-game of first-place Atlanta.

After somewhat proving that their road woes were over on their last trip, when they went 7-2 and swept the lowly Orioles and Indians, they have regressed, starting this one 0-2.

They are now 0-6 this season against the Marlins away from Citi Field. Ironically, the last time the Mets got swept by the Marlins on the road, Mike Pelfrey was the guy to get them back on track in Atlanta. Now, he’ll hope to get them back on track against the Marlins, as they try to gain ground on Atlanta.

Pelfrey will be going for his 11th win of the season, and his last couple of starts haven’t been perfect. His last one came against the Twins on Friday night, and his line shows that he pitched decently, going six innings, allowing two runs and six hits, but he did allow a leadoff home run to Denard Span on the second pitch of the game. His two combined starts prior to that, against the Orioles and Yankees, Pelfrey gave up eight runs in 13 innings of work.

In this series thus far, the Marlins have found the power stroke, bashing five home runs in two games, all of major importance. Pelfrey doesn’t allow the long ball, only giving up six home runs this season—one every 16.2 innings pitched. Still, it may be hard, given the Puerto Rican humidity and a power-laden lineup, for Pelfrey to control the home run.

If it will be a slugfest, the Mets will have to produce on their end against a guy they haven’t faced this season, Chris Volstad. As a first-round pick by the Marlins in 2005, Volstad hasn’t lived up to expectations so far.

The 23-year-old pitched great when he was called up in 2008, going 6-4 with a 2.88 ERA in 14 starts. But he struggled in his first full season in 2009. Last season, Volstad went 9-13 with an ERA of 5.21 in 29 starts, and he walked 59 batters in 159 innings, one every 2.7 innings.

This season, it hasn’t come easily for Volstad, either. He hasn’t had a lot of terrible starts, but only a few have been quality starts. He did throw a quality start his last time out against the light-hitting Padres, giving up three runs in six innings, and he struck out six without allowing a walk. Unfortunately for him, the Marlins were shut out, 3-0, as he fell to 4-7 on the season.

Angel Pagan did finally return to last night’s lineup, but he got pinch-hit for when a right-hander came into the game. He still can’t bat from the left side of the plate, and with the right-hander Volstad starting tonight, Pagan will not start. Manager Jerry Manuel did say after last night’s game that Pagan should be able to bat left-handed starting Thursday night in Washington.

Carlos Beltran participated in another rehab game yesterday morning as the DH, and he got one hit in five at-bats.

It’s the final game in San Juan, Puerto Rico for the Mets and Marlins, and the Mets will hope to fly to the Nation’s Capital with a win.

Mike Pelfrey vs. Florida (career)
*1-6, 5.63 ERA, 56 IP, 68 H, 25 BB, 35 SO

Chris Volstad vs. New York (career)
1-2, 2.70 ERA, 23.1 IP, 21 H, 10 BB, 14 SO

*Most losses against any team in career, highest ERA against any team (minimum five starts)

2010 season series (New York vs. Florida)

April 5: New York 7, Florida 1
April 7: Florida 7, New York 6 (10)
April 8: Florida 3, New York 1

May 13: Florida 2, New York 1
May 14: Florida 7, New York 2
May 15: Florida 7, New York 5
May 16: Florida 10, New York 8

June 4: New York 4, Florida 3
June 5: New York 6, Florida 1
June 6: New York 7, Florida 6

June 28: Florida 10, New York 3
June 29: Florida 7, New York 6

Marlins lead series 8-4

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