Baseball Cop

Baseball has warts. Imperfect people create a flawed baseball system. We love the game, but some things need to change. Many of the warts are off the field and behind the scenes. They often impact vulnerable players progressing through the Minor Leagues. Some warts become public with dramatic headlines and scandals, but they often exist out of sight to most fans. Removing the warts is painful, but necessary. People like Eddie Dominguez work to clean up baseball every day.

In the aftermath of the Mitchell Report, Major League Baseball created the Department of Investigations (DOI). Baseball’s own investigators assigned to root out problems surrounding the game. Eddie Dominguez was an original member of the DOI. He previously worked with MLB and the Red Sox while with the Boston Police Department. Dominguez recounts his work with the DOI in Baseball Cop: The Dark Side of America’s National Pastime.

Eddie Dominguez’s work with MLB and the DOI is a gripping story. Multiple scandals played out in public, while others stayed in the shadows. Dominguez translates the DOI’s work, steering away from a police story designed only for those well versed in law enforcement. There is a need to police baseball and the world revolving around the game. When money can be made, people can show their worst side. The most vulnerable within the game need protecting.

Baseball Cop is an engaging book that follows baseball’s recent dark history. Baseball Cop: The Dark Side of America’s National Pastime by Eddie Dominguez hits a solid Triple (7) in our score book.

Spoilers if you continue reading beyond this point. You have been warned.

Baseball Cop
Baseball Cop is worth your time to learn about the ugly side of baseball. (Hachette Books)

Baseball produces many positives, however there are negatives. The DOI is tasked with investigating and stopping those harming people and the game. Human traffickers control the futures of players, particularly those defecting from Cuba. The traffickers harass, intimidate, and extort players after they arrive in the United States and sign professional contracts. Living their baseball dreams can turn a player’s life into a nightmare.

The abuse of players can start the moment their professional career begins. Coaches and advisers skim part or all of a player’s signing bonus. Signing a professional contract changes the lives of many players and their family, especially those from Latin America. Skimming the signing bonus perpetuates the poverty players are trying to escape.   

Beyond the abuse of players, baseball’s concern focuses on what players put in their bodies. The Mitchell Report was an embarrassment, and MLB has sought, at least publicly, to clean itself up. Cracking down on Performance-Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) was top priority for then Commissioner Bud Selig. Baseball instituted harsher penalties for failed drug tests and began investigating the sources of the PEDs. The DOI focused on a Florida health clinic, Biogenesis, run by Tony Bosch. Their investigation connected several players to the clinic and its PEDs. The most prominent player associated with Biogenesis, and Bosch, was Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez eventually received the longest suspension in baseball history for his involvement. 

The investigation into Biogenesis exposed cracks between the DOI and MLB. The investigation included the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Baseball did not want another public embarrassment like the Mitchell Report. MLB wanted the Biogenesis case handled in house. The clash between the DOI and MLB played out alongside the investigation. 

There are limits to baseball’s willingness to clean itself up. Baseball Cop exposes the good and the bad within baseball. Hopefully the good has a winning record.

DJ

Score Book

Scoring a baseball game requires paper, something to write with, following the action on the field, and knowing what to write on the score sheet. We enjoy everything related to baseball, not just watching and playing. We indulge in baseball books, poems, music, and films. In reviewing them we cannot use a normal 1 to 10 ratings system. Even this we must make about baseball. 

Here is our ratings system to understand our opinions about our previous reviews and moving forward.

  1. Golden Sombrero
  2. Strikeout
  3. Walk
  4. Hit By Pitch
  5. Single
  6. Double
  7. Triple
  8. Home Run
  9. Grand Slam
  10. Walk-Off Grand Slam
Scorecard
The is no wrong way to score a baseball game, so long as you can read and understand what happened in the game. (The Winning Run/ BL)

Here are our past reviews and ratings. 

Books

Film

Music

  • My Oh My by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (Single)

Poetry

Moving forward we will use this ratings system in our reviews. We do not always agree, but the scoring is the opinion of the reviewer. Everyone wants to hit a Walk-Off Grand Slam, but not everyone will. Hopefully we find our own versions of Bill Mazeroski off the diamond. 

DJ

Opening Day Where Are You?

Happy Opening Day! Wait…there are no games today?

This is the first time since 1995 with no games on what should be Opening Day. The reasons for no games in 1995 and 2020 are quite different. The Player’s Strike delayed the start of the 1995 season, while a global pandemic is delaying this season. 

It is a sad day without baseball. However, there are more pressing issues at the moment. People are getting sick, some are dying, and our healthcare system could be overrun if we continued with business as usual. Baseball is far down the list of critical activities at the moment. No baseball on Opening Day is a strange feeling, but I completely understand why there are no games. 

Josh Harrison showing everyone how to stop the spread of the Covid-19. (MLB)

Eventually Covid-19 will fade and the world will move on. We are not there yet. Listen to medical experts. Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands. Practice social distancing. This is a team effort. Pretend you are the winning run, but are caught in a run down. If they tag you we all lose. It is a great time to impersonate Josh Harrison.

DJ

Let’s Go To The Tape

Umpires never want to draw attention to themselves. If players and fans are talking about an umpire it is rarely a good thing. Any umpire worth their weight wants to get the call right, even if it means changing their call. The intent of replay in baseball is getting the call right. No one wants a mistake by an umpire to alter the outcome of a game.

After many close calls players will signal the dugout to challenge the call. The manager has seconds to decide whether to challenge the call. In 2019, there were 2,429 games played and 1,171 challenges, roughly once every two games. 558 calls were overturned, 47.7%. Managers were successful  525 times in 1,053 challenges, 49.9%. Umpires overturned their own calls 33 times out of 118, 28%. Major League umpires make the right call more often than players and fans realize. The players on the diamond are not the only elites at the ballpark. 

Replay today is quicker and teams better understand what they can challenge than in the beginning. Each team averaged 35 challenges in 2019, successfully overturned 17.5 calls. The Padres under Andy Green were the most aggressive, challenging 54 times. San Diego successfully overturned 25 calls, 46%. Conversely, the Yankees and Aaron Boone made the fewest challenges, 22, yet were successful 15 times, 68%. Brandon Hyde and the Orioles challenged just 30 times. Like the Yankees, Baltimore was selective with their challenges. Unlike New York, the Orioles overturned only 11 calls, 36%, the fewest in baseball. The American League loved going to replay in 2019. The Rangers had the most calls overturned. Texas and manager Chris Woodward were successful on 29 of 46 challenges, 63%. Rocco Baldelli and the Twins hated replay. Minnesota had the lowest success rate, 30%, winning just 12 of 39 challenges. Ned Yost and his Royals used their challenges well. Kansas City was successful with 82% of their challenges, 23 of 28. While teams can benefit from challenges, they can also create frustration when replay is unsuccessful. 

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Talking to the replay umpire in New York to get the call right. A brief delay to ensure the players decide the outcome of a game and not the umpires. (Steven Ryan/ News Day)

Replay allows the umpire in New York to overturn, up hold, or let stand the call in question. Clear and convincing evidence is necessary to overturn any call. Unfortunately without infinite camera angles some calls stand due to a lack of clear and convincing evidence. Replay is not perfect, but it aids in getting more calls right than ever before. 

When a player asks the dugout to challenge and the team waives him in, umpires unofficially confirm another call. It is only calls that were clearly missed or are extremely close that are reviewed. Managers have only one challenge guaranteed per game. If they are successful with their first challenge, they receive one more. Managers are careful to use their challenges only when they believe a call will be overturned. Umpires usually get the call right and no challenge occurs. They see the play once, at full speed. Their training helps, but they are also elite at their craft. 

Replay puts more eyes on umpires. Suddenly every fan is an expert after watching the play multiple times at slow speed. Everyone has their opinion. However, fans should understand the arbiters of the game make the right call almost every time, thus allowing the players to decide the outcome of each game. 

DJ

Bouncing Back

Spending a summer on the diamond takes a toll on an umpire, mentally and physically. Improving as an umpire requires studying the rule book and working on your mechanics so you are in position to make the call. Umpires must prepare and maintain their mental and physical fitness for their entire season. This becomes a grind, but if you love umpiring it creates more good days than bad.

Each November I take a break to recover from the long season. My legs are tired and need time to heal from the squatting, running, twisting, turning, stopping, and starting I subject them to from mid-March through Halloween. Once December rolls around I begin working out again. Sit ups, pushups, squats, stretching, and hiking. I ease back into shape, allowing my body to fully heal while strengthening any problematic area from the previous season.

This off-season was different. Instead of relaxing and recovering in November, my body revolted. I spent five days in the hospital with pneumonia. I was admitted with a 103 degree fever and a resting heart rate in the 140’s (mid-50’s is my normal). I was in bad shape. Simply watching TV was exhausting. However, thanks to modern medicine, I recovered. It was two weeks after returning home before I could climb the stairs without needing a break. I was forcibly glued to the couch, so I watched all of Ken Burns’ Baseball. Making the best of a bad situation.

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I may have felt terrible, but you can still smile through the tough times. (The Winning Run/ DJ)

My recovery was slow, but steady. As my physical strength returned my voice failed. All of the coughing from the pneumonia brought stomach acid into my throat, causing blisters on the muscles surrounding my vocal cords. I could barely speak or eat. Through it all my wonderful wife navigated life as a single mom with two kids, a 6 month old and a 33 year old. 

Nothing prepares you for the inability to hold your daughter. The fear of dropping her because you are so weak is both terrifying and infuriating. Lots of sleep, healthy eating, slowly increasing my physical activity, the appropriate medication, and two cameras stuck down my throat my body and voice recovered.

The beginning of 2020 saw me feeling normal again. I could go through my normal daily routine. As the calendar turned to February, it was past time to begin preparing for the upcoming season. I was more than a few months behind in my offseason routine. The pneumonia took a severe toll on my physical strength and endurance. Low repetitions of push ups, sit-ups, squats, and short walks were difficult. I was 10 steps behind square one. Slowly my strength has returned. I will rely heavily on my mental preparations this season. I am not an umpiring veteran, but entering my fifth season I know how to prepare myself for the grind.

Umpiring is a privilege and this off season has shown how easily it can slip away. The experience I have will help me navigate the season. Baseball is an amazing game, but it is not life and death. I am excited to get back on the diamond. This season I have a new appreciation for the time and energy it takes to umpire at my best. Time will tell when Covid-19 allows my season to begin, but I will be ready.

DJ

Baseball Marks The Time

8 years ago we began writing The Winning Run because of our love of baseball. Since then we have chronicled events in and around the game, the statistics the game produces, games we have watched, stadiums we have visited, books we have read, and films we have watched. Baseball has relatively stayed the same since 2012. It remains as exciting as ever. 

We each love the game differently, yet the thrill of baseball draws us back each season for the same reason. Baseball has wrapped itself into our lives. A text about an injury or trade, discussions about why the Mets are their own worst enemy, trips to minor league parks, spur of the moment trips to our local MLB teams. Baseball is never far away.

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Jesse, John, and Derek at the last Rangers game at Globe Life Park. (The Winning Run/ DJ)

Our local teams have changed in 8 years. Derek, Bernie, and Kevin were living near New York City with the Yankees and Mets, while Jesse and John lived in Atlanta with the Braves. Derek and Jesse love the Braves. Bernie and Kevin love their Yankees. John loves both teams. As we have moved, our rooting interest expanded as our local teams are now the Braves, Reds, Nationals, Angels, and Dodgers. Local teams are great, but we never turn down an opportunity to visit a new stadium.

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Derek, Kevin, and Bernie enjoying a Rockies game at Coors Field. (The Winning Run/ BL)

It is difficult to explain to someone what baseball means to you, if they too are not wrapped up in the game. Perhaps Terence Mann (James Earl Jones) put it best in ­Field of Dreams,

“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time.”

Time and baseball roll on. Our lives change, yet, like baseball, they stay the same. Happy 8th Birthday to The Winning Run. Here’s to many more.

DJ

Duel in the Sun

Doug Eddings settled in behind home plate to call balls and strikes. Entering the game on April 22, 2018, Eddings had worked more than 2,400 games in the Majors, including more than 600 behind the plate. He had seen plenty through his mask. The Giants were visiting the Angels in an early season Interleague game. This game felt no different than any other game. As often happens in baseball, nothing suggested history was just moments away.

Jaime Barria took the mound for the Angels. 11 days earlier in Texas, Barria had given up one hit, a Ryan Rua Home Run, over five innings in his Major League debut to collect the win against the Rangers. Barria looked to build on his successful debut at home. The first San Francisco batter, Second Baseman Joe Panik, singled to Right on the seventh pitch of the game. Not an ideal start, but a lead off single does not signal impending doom.

Brandon Belt strolled to the plate. The Giants’ First Baseman entered the contest hitting .259 on the young season. Belt dug in against Barria. History awaited. 

Here is the pitch-by-pitch breakdown of the longest at bat in Major League history: 

New ball. Martin Maldonado throws the ball to Barria.

1). (0-1)- Foul, 92 MPH, Fastball, thigh high, outer half

New ball. Eddings throws the ball to Barria.

2). (1-1)- Ball, 92 MPH, Fastball, up and in, Maldonado fakes to First

3). (1-2)- Swinging Strike, 80 MPH, Slider, down and in

4). (1-2)- Foul, 91 MPH, Fastball, belly button high, outside corner

New ball. Eddings to Barria.

5). (1-2)- Foul, 81 MPH, Slider, middle, bottom of zone

New ball, Maldonado to Barria

6). (2-2)- Ball, 83 MPH, Changeup, down and away

7). (2-2)- Foul, 81 MPH, Slider, middle middle

New ball, ?

8). (2-2)- Foul, 92 MPH, Fastball, belly button, inside corner

New ball, Eddings to Barria

9). (3-2)- Ball, 92 MPH, Fastball, high, outside corner

10). (3-2)- Throw to First, Safe, Foul, 92 MPH, Fastball, middle middle

New ball, Eddings to Barria

11). (3-2)- Throw to First, Safe, Foul, 82 MPH, Slider, belt high, inside corner

New ball, Eddings to Barria

12). (3-2)- Foul, 83 MPH, Changeup, down and away

New ball, Eddings to Barria

13). (3-2)- Panik running, Foul, 83 MPH, Changeup, thigh high, outer third of the plate

New ball, Maldonado to Barria

14). (3-2)- Foul, 92 MPH, Fastball, thigh high, outer third of the plate

New ball, Maldonado to Barria

15). (3-2)- Foul, 82 MPH, Curveball, belt high, inside

New ball, Eddings to Barria

16). (3-2)- Throw to First, Safe, Foul, 82 MPH, Changeup, middle, bottom of zone

New ball, Eddings to Barria

17). (3-2)- Foul, 92 MPH, Fastball, belt high, outside third of the plate

New ball, Eddings to Barria

18). (3-2)- Foul, 93 MPH, Fastball, Thigh high, inside

New ball, ?

19). (3-2)- Throw to First, Safe, Foul, 82 MPH, Slider, Thigh high, inner third

New ball, Eddings to Barria

20). (3-2)- Foul, 92 MPH, Fastball, belt high, outside corner

New ball, Eddings to Barria

21). (3-2)- Line out to RF Kole Calhoun running straight in, 92 MPH, Fastball, belt high, inside corner

Barria and Belt battled for 13 minutes and 21 pitches before Belt flew out to Kole Calhoun. Angels Pitching Coach Charles Nagy paid Barria a visit to give him a breather after winning the fight. Two batters in, Barria was at 28 pitches. Jaime Barria and Brandon Belt’s battle surpassed Bartolo Colon and Ricky Guiterrez’s previous record of a 20 pitch at bat. Welcome to the record book. Barria got a breather while Belt was applauded in the dugout.

17 different baseballs were used during the at bat. The Ball Boy resupplied Eddings with new baseballs at least twice. Eddings threw 11 of the new baseballs to Barria, while Maldonado threw four back. There are two new baseballs unaccounted for as the video does not show the ball returning to Barria. Belt fouled off 12 of 21 pitches. Barria’s 21 pitches were 11 fastballs, 5 sliders, 4 changeups, and 1 curveball. Panik scurried back to First on 4 pickoff attempts.

Barria won the battle, but Belt and the Giants won the game 4-2. Barria lasted just 2 Innings, allowed 5 Hits, 2 Runs, 2 Earned Runs, 1 Walk, and 1 Strikeout against 12 Batters Faced. He threw 77 Pitches, 57 Strikes. San Francisco Batters made contact on 41 of Barria’s pitches, 16 by Belt. After the longest at bat of all time, Belt went 3 for 5 with a Home Run, 2 Runs Scored, and 1 RBI against 40 pitches, 33 for Strikes. 

Something unusual can happen everyday at the ballpark. Jaime Barria and Brandon Belt did not expect to face off in a 21 pitch marathon at bat. Both were trying to help their team win, and neither was willing to surrender. Baseball is a strange game and from time to time it gives glimpses of the absurd possibilities within the game.

DJ