Three Up….

Stephanie Metzger, Jessica Quiroli, and myself are putting together a semi-regular chat where we talk about what’s going on in baseball. It was formerly known as the MiLB Life Chat and we have rechristened it “Three Up…”. We got together today to talk about things like minor league pay and the recent Men’s Health article “How To Talk To Women About Sports”. Enjoy.

MINOR LEAGUE PAY

Quiroli: Let me just start with a big story in the minors. The lawsuit that minor leaguers filed for unfair pay. There’s so many opinions on this, but I think, ultimately, this is going to be so hard to resolve. I do think they should have better wages. But I also think there’s a kind of internship quality to the minors. Thoughts?

Wright: I see both sides point of view. The teams see it as a way for the players to adjust to the baseball lifestyle and for that adjustment period, they shouldn’t be paid like the pros. But I side more with the minor leaguers. I’ve had both a paid and unpaid baseball internship and in both instances, it was hard for me to survive. Had to be extremely careful with money to the point where I didn’t know if I was going to have enough to get back home. It’s the same situation for a lot of the minor leaguers. I talked about it with one of the Royals minor league catchers and we were comparing salaries. I told them I was being paid minimum wage which was around $7.50 an hour and he said he did the math and they were making about $4 an hour. If the team hadn’t put them up in a hotel all season, I don’t know how they would have made it.

Metzger: I absolutely think they should receive more pay, but I like the way you put it – “internship quality.” Some of these guys in the minors aren’t studs or prospects, they’re there to fill a spot, so filling their pockets with cash probably isn’t right. Though one could argue that the studs and prospects get signing bonuses. But I’ve heard the stories – six guys sharing a 2-bedroom apartment, furniture made from pizza boxes. No one should have to live like that.

Wright:  One thing I’ve noticed with the minor league pay situation is team internships for people wanting to work in the front office is tied to whatever happens with that lawsuit. The team I worked for this season said they normally just paid their interns $500 a month and they had to work like 50 hours a week. This season, due to that lawsuit, we were paid minimum wage and only allowed to work 30 hours a week.

Quiroli: Great points…when I talk to guys off the record about pay, they’re honest about the unfairness. Especially guys who’ve been doing it a long time, and then see the bonus money increasing all the time. Great point, Steph, about the ‘non-studs’ or whatever…they’re more valuable to the club. But in the end, there’s got to be a solution that brings more financial balance. You can’t have guys pulling change out of the sofa (one story) & other guys millionaires before they’ve even played a major league game. There’s got to be more equal ground.

Metzger: It’s crazy, how one player I know has a family and kid that lives off his bonus. Other guys, they can’t do that because they can’t afford it, unless their girlfriend/wife makes good money. It’s unfair to have to see some guys put their life plans on complete hold simply because of these wages.

Wright: One of my college friends was engaged to a minor leaguer and their families said the only way they could get married is if she found a job that could support both of them. She got a teaching job and they were married within the year.

Metzger: I guess one could argue that everyone goes through this, though. I mean, I know I couldn’t get married at this point in life unless the guy I marry makes bank. One could argue that everyone has to start somewhere. It’s pretty unfair though.

Quiroli: Agreed. And I’m always amazed that fans believe these guys make a ton of money. And even more amazed at the guys who I’ve talked to who say the major leaguers are all about the money, that’s why they like the minor league games. It’s like, what are you even talking about? The guys in the minors want to make money. A lot of (I’ll say it) guys don’t want to see those players make a ton of money, and they forget that, like any job, you want to move up. True, if they move up, they’re playing a kid’s game. But it’s a business, and a tough one. That’s the other half of it. Making money as a writer in the minors, unless you’re a big time prospect writer, it’s not there. But you have MLB reporters trying to write about prospects they haven’t even seen or worked with. That happened with Bryce Harper. They were writing about what they HEARD. But back to the financial aspect, I guess writers & players have a little in common…. Great story, Jarah. And, of course, during the winter, they’re lugging boxes or caddying.

Metzger: Ugh. Writers who analyze prospects without seeing them in person drive me CRAZY. But that rant’s for a different day. I guess, like industry, they want to see how bad you want it. Interns make crappy pay and they assume the ones who “want it” more will stick around through it. I guess the claim could be made for ballplayers though the odds are stacked against them from the start.

Wright: Thanks. After working with players as a reporter and intern, I’ve realized we’re really alike in terms of working conditions. Unless you’re “it” or you’ve “made it”, you have to grind it out to get to the prestige and the money.

MEN’S HEALTH ARTICLE

Quiroli: The odds are stacked against most of them…and that’s the hard truth of it. Hopefully, the lawsuit leads to a bit better life for them. I’m surprised it took this long. Ok, can we talk about the dipshit Men’s Health article ‘How To Talk To Women About Sports’?

Wright: The word “ugh” comes to mind.

Metzger: Heh. A friend sent me that link and I thought I was reading a Sports Pickle or The Onion piece at first

Quiroli: It did seem like a humor piece. Like, ‘Haha. Good one!’ But no.

Wright: “She doesn’t care about statistics. She likes storylines.” I read that and was like excuse me. What am I? 5 years old???? Their excuse was just sad too. It was like they said we’re sorry we published it but not that we wrote it.

Metzger: Sounds about right. Sorta like the ol’ “Sorry I got caught cheating, but not sorry I actually I did it” apology

Quiroli: Right. The apology reminded me of when Keith Hernandez made that comment on-air about the female trainer in the dugout. He really didn’t want to say he was sorry. What’s so funny about the article is that, both stats & the story are what makes ALL of us interested, including men. Think about the greatest players in history. Guys don’t just run off the stats, they remember a game they went to with their dad, or a retirement speech, or a comeback that seemed impossible. When we talk about sports, whether it’s stats or not, we’re talking about human beings doing something we can’t.

Wright: One thing I thought was funny in that whole situation is the article angered everyone, not just women. I think the male backlash was unexpected and why they were like oh, we should apologize now.

Quiroli: I loved that too.

Metzger: I’ll admit, as a writer, I think the storylines mean more to me. But I think that’s because I’m a writer, not because I’m a woman. Plus, stats are very important to me. I’d get fired if I didn’t know/use stats.

Quiroli: EXACTLY. It’s all part of it. I’m going to talk about stats, whether in conversation or for work, and I’m going to talk about people & stories. And it’s all interesting & what sports is. I just don’t think that we’re at a point in history where an article like that should even need to be written. There’s way too many female sports fans & women in sports to be still writing that kind of silly fluff.

Wright: Stats seem to be what give us credibility as sports writers. Some of the guys I’ve worked with before were like eh, another woman in the press box. But whenever I started keeping a book, knew what a 4-6-3 double play was, and knew how to decipher an ERA, I got respect and never had anymore problems with them the rest of the season.

Metzger: It’s 2014 – women love and know sports, men love and know theater and fashion and it’s all okay. Blows my mind that it’s 2014 and people still adhere to gender roles

Quiroli: Couldn’t have said it better Steph. Getting into baseball & the WS…Brandon Finnegan’s story is so cool & so much fun to follow. It got me thinking about players we’ve covered whose careers surprised us, good or bad. I have a few.

Metzger: The immediate one that comes to my mind is Jose Ramirez of the Indians. In 2012, no one had heard of this small guy that came to Lake County. By the end of the year, all the writers in that press box were blown away by what we saw, and now look where he is.

Wright: Finnegan is from my neck of the woods and that guy is just a powerhouse on the mound. Agreed with Stephanie. Similar situation with Jurickson Profar. Another one was Nick Tepesch. He could definitely throw but seemed quiet and timid in interviews when I chatted with him in 2012. Then in 2013, he won a starting rotation job with the Rangers. I was excited to see him get the shot but didn’t expect it.

Metzger: Kind of disappointed about Mark Appel so far…

Quiroli: There was a point where Dellin Betances looked like he was never going to be what the Yankees expected. Between Triple-A & the majors, he struggled so hard with the issues we saw in Double-A. But things just seemed to get worse at the higher levels. It’s not a whole ‘we knew all along’ thing, because a lot of people in the media, and many fans, believed Betances should & would be moved to the pen. I felt so strongly watching him pitch that he was built for it. He had to learn to be a consistent strike thrower. I can’t believe how it’s finally clicked for him though. He’s moving into elite reliever status. I interviewed Mark Appel in college & he was so level-headed about the hype. And I think he had to be, because, yeah, he’s had a tough go of it.

Wright: With the Royals, Kyle Zimmer keeps surprising me. When he was drafted, the kid was throwing hard and accurate. He rehabbed in Idaho Falls and while he did have a limited pitch count, I wasn’t too impressed with his command. Then he goes to the AFL and does well before getting hurt again.

Quiroli: On the flip side, I could never have imagined what’s happened to Jesus Montero’s career. He had issues in the minors, but the downward spiral has been a wild freaking spectacle.

Metzger: Is it fair to say Montero’s issue is largely mental? Because I totally feel like it is. It’s been like a chain reaction of decline for him.

Quiroli: Zimmer’s a good one. You can have someone that puts it all together, and injury just kills the momentum. I talked to a guy the other day that said he was better AFTER injury, but that’s not always the case. Montero’s issue has always been mental. There was a sense in the early part of his minor league career that he lacked focus. And, I think in many ways, that’s what brought him to the point where the GM was saying he had no expectations for him. That’s rock bottom right there. But, as for his playing ability, he was never going to be one of the best catchers in baseball. His value was in his bat. So once that wasn’t panning out, and then the weight gain, it just compiled.

Wright: I know this is slightly off-topic but the weight gain comment made me think of it. Rick Carlisle of the Dallas Mavericks said he thought Chandler Parsons had gained too much weight this off-season. Interesting to me to see that some male athletes have body image issues.

TREATMENT IN BASEBALL

Quiroli: Oh, definitely. They know they have a standard to live up to. I was thinking about the fact that we all have had these secret conversations about how players treat us. I think when you do this, you have to have a great sense of humor & be super focused & confident. But I also think we worry that talking about it makes us look weak, and that bothers me. I talk to so many girls that are afraid to speak out against players. Truthfully, I’ve not named names. And part of that is that it doesn’t matter. But the other part is that at times I worried it would affect me getting other work. And that pisses me off.

Metzger: Absolutely. Sometimes I find myself hesitant to tell anyone some of the stories, because I don’t want people to think I can’t handle this job or am too sensitive.

Wright: True. For me, it wasn’t the players or coaches who treated me bad but other men in the press box. If anything else, I’ve worked with coaches and players who protected me from the press box guys.

Quiroli: And, you know, the other thing is that the lawsuit got me thinking about how many lawsuits I & all of us could file for sexual harassment, particularly in the minors where those guys don’t seem to understand they’re professionals & so are we.

Wright: When I went down for interviews, they always asked how I was being treated and if they could help.

Quiroli: That’s the best. I’ve talked about how much Trenton Thunder manager Tony Franklin changed my career. And my life. He instilled in me that I deserved respect & that it wasn’t just about it being earned, which is of course part of it. But he let me know that as a woman in that clubhouse, no player ever had the right to degrade or humiliate me. That changed me. I gained new confidence because of him.

Wright: I still stay in touch with some of the coaches from Frisco. Coach and scout James Vilade has been one of my biggest supporters and I honestly can’t thank him enough because he told me I could make it in this business and that he would do anything he could to help.

Quiroli: Yeah, you don’t want the dreaded ‘Sensitive’ label. As if ‘total asshole’ isn’t a worse label.

Metzger: Another issue I worry about is, if I make a complaint about players hitting on me or harassing me, would I be burning my bridges with them/the team/team personnel? Would I be pegged as that sensitive woman reporter who players should avoid?

Quiroli: Yup.

Wright: I’ll be honest. At one point, I came to a breaking point and had to wait until I got home to let it out so I could avoid the SENSITIVE label.

Quiroli: The worst thing that ever happened to me was actually in the majors. And had I said anything, ti would have gotten around. And I didn’t want to be attached to that player for the rest of my life & to have it be that I was his victim. I’d rather die. By the way, he’s out of baseball now, and if anyone knew who it was, no one would be surprised. He stood beside me, waited until I turned, dropped his towel, and laughed in my face. That guy was horrific as a person. And couldn’t pitch for shit.

Metzger: Good grief. I think the worst I’ve dealt with is a player sending me lewd photos and texts. I did an offseason phone interview with him and then he started hitting on me. He’s out of baseball too now

BALLPARK ESSENTIALS

Quiroli: And before we go, three ballpark essentials for you when you’re covering a game?

Wright: My purse has turned into a mobile journalism kit but I would say my top 3 are my camera, recorder, and notepad.

Metzger: Good question. I think I have to go with recorder, notebook and a Luna bar to avoid the constant temptation of ballpark food.

Quiroli: I need moisturizer, two notebooks: one small, one large, and headphones. so I can pretend to be listening to something when I don’t want to talk. Oh Luna bars! Yeah…so then we’ll go five. I need my containers of fruit & veggies & Luna bars, so I can eat when I’m running in heels.

Wright: Haha. The other two would be laptop and binoculars to see bullpens lol

Quiroli: I can’t eat that vomit they have in the press box.

Wright: You guys are so smart with having food. I love ballpark food but can’t do it every night. I would probably gain like 30 pounds over the course of the season. No thanks!

Metzger: One team gives media a food card linked to a house account so we can get whatever we want at concessions. It’s lethal.

Wright: Yeah. That could be bad.

Metzger: It’s nice when I need to satisfy an ice cream craving though.

Quiroli: I cannot have such a card. I would eat my veggies still, but end up buying funnel cake & passing out on the gross carpet.

 

That’s all for this edition of “Three Up…” Stay tuned for more chats in the future!

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Royals Postseason Stats

The Kansas City Royals have made the playoffs for the first time since 1985 and currently have a winning streak that dates back to the 1985 World Series. The 2014 squad is the first in the history of professional baseball to win eight consecutive playoff games. Considering this team has been somewhat of an underdog during the regular season, they have risen to dominance over the course of this year’s playoffs. With that being said, I decided to look at their stats through the course of the ALDS and ALCS en route to winning the American League pennant.

In the ALDS against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the Royals were able to compile 15 runs on 21 hits while walking 12 times and striking out 26 times and stealing five bases. This is compared to the Angels who scored six runs on 18 hits while walking nine times and striking out 25 times and stealing one base.

In the ALCS against the Baltimore Orioles, the Royals compiled 18 runs on 37 hits while walking 15 times and striking out 28 times and stealing one base. The Orioles scored 12 runs on 30 hits while walking 13 times, striking out 29 times, and stole two bases.

To compare overall postseason totals, excluding the AL Wild Card game against the Oakland Athletics, Kansas City almost doubled their opponents’ run production, 33 to 18, and stolen bases, six to three. The Royals hit slightly better than their opponents, 58 to 48, and walked a bit more, 27 to 22, but had the same number of strikeouts at 54.

Pretty good for a team that was dead last in this year’s home run totals, 95, and in walks drawn at 380. However, the Royals led in stolen bases, 153, and in the least amount of strikeouts, 985, at the end of regular season. And shockingly with the prevalence of bunting under manager Ned Yost, the Royals only rank 22nd in the league for sacrifice bunts.

With the aggressiveness and winning streak keeping its playoff sweep in tact, the Royals now have several days off before facing off against either the San Francisco Giants or the St Louis Cardinals in the 2014 World Series. Game one is slated to being on October 21st at Kauffman Stadium. Kansas City has Minnesota Twins reliever Glen Perkins to thank for that.

Screenshot from Glen Perkins' Twitter account

Screenshot from Glen Perkins’ Twitter account

Former Chukars Producing In Playoffs

As part of the Kansas City Royals farm system since 2004, the Idaho Falls Chukars have produced many major leaguers over the years with some shining bright during the 2014 MLB Playoffs. Perhaps the two former Chukars that have generated the most buzz have been Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas. Moustakas was on the 2007 team while Hosmer was a member of the 2008 squad. In game one of the ALDS against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Kansas City came away with a 3-2 victory after 11 innings. The go-ahead run hit in the 11th inning was by Mike Moustakas to give the Royals the lead and ultimately the win.

Game two was Eric Hosmer’s time to shine as he went 3-4 with 2 RBIs en route to the Royals’ 4-1 victory to put Kansas City up 2-0 in the series. Another former Chukar Greg Holland, member of the 2007 team, picked up the save striking out two Angels en route to a shutout inning to secure the win. Kansas City takes on Los Angeles at Kaufmann Stadium at approximately 6:37 p.m. CT.

Other former Chukars on the Royals’ roster include Danny Duffy (2010), Salvador Perez (2008-2009), and Billy Butler (2004). Non-active members on the roster are Aaron Brooks (2011), John Lamb (2009, 2012), Chesler Cuthbert (2010), and Lane Adams (2010) with Michael Mariot (2010) on the 60-day DL.

There are also several former Chukars among other playoff teams this year. The Detroit Tigers have Blaine Hardy from Idaho Falls’ 2008 season. However, he isn’t active on the roster.

In the National League there are two Idaho Falls representatives on the San Francisco roster in the form of Erik Cordier who played with the Chukars in 2006 but is not active on the Giants roster. Jake Peavy also pitched in two games for Idaho Falls during the 1999 season. The lone rep on the Washington Nationals is Jose Lobaton who spent the 2003 season with the Chukars. Finally, the Dodgers have J.P. Howell who played six games with the Chukars during the 2004 season.

And this concludes your Idaho Falls alumni wrap-up.