June 2011

Theories on Chemistry – Mark DeRosa

I was thinking the other day about last season and how each guy’s success fed the next guy’s. The inverse happens, too. No doubt about it.

Just like good hitting is contagious, so is bad hitting. I don’t know why it’s like that. Maybe if your big guys aren’t hitting, the guys below them have a tendency to think, “Well, if they’re not doing it, I’m not expected to do it.’’ Or maybe it’s the reverse: When the big guys aren’t hitting, the guys below them start pressing and try too hard.

Right now everyone’s scrapping. And you can spin out theories and explanations all day. Here’s another one I’m thinking about. If you’re a hitter, all you hear on radio and TV, and all you read in the papers, is how you’re letting down the pitchers, how awful you are with runners in scoring position. Our pitchers are so good that all they need are two or three runs, and the hitters keep failing to deliver. So you are constantly beaten over the head with this, and you start focusing on getting runs for the pitchers, for the guy in the stands reading stories about how bad you are with RISP. You’re thinking about getting a hit simply to restore a measure of respect for the beleaguered lineup. As a result, you stop just going out there and being a pro and getting good at-bats to win a ball game. You stop focusing on the narrow, straight-forward task of getting a hit off this particular pitcher at this particular moment.

It’s really pretty amazing that, given that our lineup is a shell of the one we broke camp with, that we’re hanging onto first place, or staying within striking distance. Buster goes down. Freddy goes down. You’re losing big pieces of the puzzle. You’re not just losing great hitters; you’re losing great teammates — guys who care about winning, who are not afraid to speak their mind.

And you’re asking other guys to take their places. It’s not easy to do. Guys are used to having certain roles with this team and– boom — everything changes. Whitey’s never been asked to catch every day. Nate’s not accustomed to playing every day. Brandon Crawford. Manny Burriss. A lot of guys are being asked to play not above their abilities but above what they were prepared for.

If we can find a way to grind through this, we’re going to be better team and a closer team. We have to figure out how to keep ourselves above water until we can get some guys back. As we found out last year, it’s doesn’t matter how you get into the playoffs. It doesn’t have to be pretty. We made it last year on the final day of the season. All that matters is getting in.

As for me, I’m graduating from the fungo bat and batting tee to real bats and real pitches. I’m trying different models of bats to figure out what might work best with my wrist. If I have learned anything during my long road of rehab, it’s patience. Not that I have a choice. It’s either learn patience or go home. And I’m not ready yet to go home. I wish someone could assure me there will be a light at the end of the tunnel, but we’re pretty  much in uncharted waters. No one has an answer. And the only other guy in the majors with the same injury, Jay Gibbons, is no longer in the majors. He was designated for assignment by the Dodgers two weeks ago.

 

Thanks for reading.

- Mark

Next time: taking fielding practice with Brandon Crawford.

 

 

 

Hurt — But Appreciating the Bigs: Brandon Belt

I have a cast on my wrist now to make sure the fractured bone doesn’t move. We’ll do a CT scan next week and hopefully go back to a splint for another week. Then I hope they give me the OK to get back on the field.

One thing all the veterans tell me is to be patient with an injury. The worst thing you can do is start playing again before you’re healed. Then you end up doing more damage and you have an injury that won’t go away.

In the meantime, it is so great to be back in the majors. Big difference between the majors and Triple A – which you really notice when you’ve been back and forth like I have.

In Triple A, we get up at 3 or 4 in the morning to catch a commercial flight for a road trip. It’s usually on a small plane, so when you’re as tall as I am, there’s no sleeping. And you have to be careful to keep your luggage under 50 pounds. Sometimes you go right to the park. Or you might have a few hours of down time at the hotel. But it seems you’re always tired when you’re on the road.

In Triple A, you get $25 a day for meal money. We eat a lot of burritos at Chipotle’s. In the majors, you get more than $100 (I can’t remember exactly how much), so you can eat wherever you want.

But here’s what I like most about the big leagues: the water pressure in the showers. The water pressure is outstanding. You get clean in half the time.

Haylee flew into St. Louis to meet me during that road trip. I’ve always wanted to go to St. Louis because it’s such a great baseball town. And I wanted my wife to go with me. The ballpark there is awesome. The whole atmosphere. And that team. They have so many great players that I grew up watching. Pujols. Berkman. Holliday. Then you add the guys we have on our team, and you’ve got a lot of stars on one field.

Back here in San Francisco, after the day game on Sunday, Haylee and I drove to San Jose to see my host mom, Stacy Hanel. I lived with her from April to July last year when I played Single A. She made us dinner then we watched the movie “The Town’’ (with Ben Affleck) and spent the night. She really is like a second mom. We formed such a bond that she came to our wedding in Texas late last year, and we always keep in touch. I was the first player she ever hosted. (I kid her that every player after me is at a disadvantage because I set the bar so high . . .)

 

Thanks for reading. Feel free to write me with questions!

-Brandon

 

 

Advice from a Dodger – Mark DeRosa

Sorry I haven’t posted in awhile.  I flew home to Georgia after seeing my surgeon in Cleveland. I spent six days with my family and got to take my daughter to the last day of second grade. I had time to relax a little and think about everything that’s happened in the last year and a half.

As you might have read, I’m not having surgery. My torn tendon will simply remain torn. (It basically rolled up into my arm like a snapped rubber band.) Because the tendon is gone, it can no longer cause me pain. So that was the good news. The bad news is that my days of being an every-day player are in serious jeopardy.

The last couple of days, I’ve picked the brain of Dodgers outfielder Jay Gibbons, the only guy in the big leagues who has played with the same injury. He said I’ll have to figure out for myself how to maximize the strength and stability in the wrist.

“I had to change bat models a bunch of times,’’ he said. “I had to make adjustments with my swing. You’re definitely not going to be what you remember being.’’

I’ll rehab for the next few weeks then I’ll see where I am. I want to be sure that when I come in as a pinch-hitter, I can get to a heater, that I can go to my backhand and not have my glove do something funny.

I rejoined the team in St. Louis in time to see Aubrey hit his three home runs. It’s always cool when you get a chance to see something like that.

I know he was feeling the weight of the world on his shoulders after scuffling for the first two months. I’m sure those home runs had to feel unbelievable for him. And we need him.

It’s been fun to have an infusion of new guys from the minors. They always bring a lot of energy into the clubhouse. They’re so excited to be here, and they’re so eager to pick your brain and talk to you.

In the dugout the other day, Darren Ford was talking about stealing bases and asked what I’m thinking when I get to first after a hit. I had to laugh. Stealing has never been a part of my game, so basically I’m thinking, “Nice hit. Take your lead and hope the next guy drives the ball into the gap.’’

He’s the complete opposite. He’s reading leg kicks and slide steps and studying the catcher and calculating times. The thing that’s impressive about him is that everyone in the entire park knows he’s going. And he still steals the base. There aren’t too many people in the world who can get around the bases like that. He runs with an attitude on him. He’s coming around third with a purpose. Once he figures out what works for him offensively, he is going to be unbelievable. I told him just to keep doing what he’s doing and it will all come together.

I’ve loved watching Brandon Crawford. You could tell in spring training that he was smooth. When I was back in Georgia, I watched every inning of every Giants games, and I jumped off the couch when he hit that grand slam.

That’s one of the nice things about Crawford and the other young guys being in big-league camp. When they’re called up, we know what kind of kids they are. We know what they’re about. It’s an easier transition than just shooting up here and no one’s ever met you.

But it’s weird to walk into the clubhouse and not see Buster. I texted him and told him I’m thinking about him and to call if he needed to vent. He just needs to take his time and heal completely. I’ve learned that lesson the hard way. We know as a team we can’t replace him. He’s a special talent. But we’re all competitors, so you move on. You have to. There is no other option. When Buster comes back next year, it will be a breath of fresh air. But until then, we have to find ways to win. And we are.

 

I like reading your comments and questions, so keep them coming.

-Mark

 

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