Tag Archive | "Heck"

The Art Of Scorekeeping

During a recent interview with Bethany Heck, she let slip that little phrase.  “The art of scorekeeping”.  I must admit, it seems poetic and it epitomizes precisely why I sought her out.

EephusLeague

You see, Bethany Heck, a graphic designer that focuses primarily on web design, is the proprietor of Eephus League Baseball.  A project that grew from her work at Auburn University and eventually found its way to Kickstarter to provide the world with a simple, clean, and easy way to bring basic record keeping back into focus.

I knew I wanted to do a baseball project and I started gathering visual inspiration and breaking down my favorite aspects of the game. I settled on the unifying theme of “minutiae”; the special things that spring up around the game of baseball, and I started planning out the website and wrote and illustrated a small book to go along with it. I decided last minute that a scorebook would be a nice thing to add on to the project and I really wanted to make another physical object to go along with the site.

Enter Paul Lukas of Uni Watch.  Heck thought he would enjoy the site, so she sent him a link.  The link led to an interview, the interview led to massive exposure for the site, and the exposure led to people clamoring to get their hands on the scorebook.  A commenter on the site suggested using Kickstarter, a funding platform for creative projects, to fund the venture.  The Kickstarter campaign generated over $27,000 and sold over 1,000 scorebooks, nearly twice what Heck had aimed for.

My goal was to create a scorebook that would be easy for anyone, kids to adults, to use and would bring a new perspective to scorekeeping. In my opinion, as scorekeeping has aged it’s become less universal and more specialized towards a certain type of fan. I wanted something small and fun to bring to the ballpark that would look great and lend itself to more casual scorekeeping. Most modern scorebooks are extremely complicated and almost force you to keep score a certain way, so I wanted to keep the grid itself simple. I also included lines for noting certain details about the trip to the ballpark. Scorecards are really time capsules of games so I wanted to push that idea. There’s a fold out guide for first time scorekeepers, a reference card for common abbreviations and a set of stickers for signifying whether your team won or lost.

Heck admits to not keeping score on a regular basis during her youth, though her father did teach her and she would do so sporadically.  She grew up watching Braves games with her family, playing softball and collecting baseball cards.  It was a Braves game that provided her with her earliest baseball memory:

I can remember going to my first Braves game at Fulton County Stadium. I had a Braves jacket and a shirt and we got a tomahawk and a pennant outside the gates. David Justice was my favorite player at the time so I asked where he was in the outfield and my dad pointed out to the Hooter’s ad and some something like “He’s over there, by the… owl.” They also gave out a Braves Duffel bag (which recently perished) and a pack of Lays sponsored cards (I’ve still got the Javy Lopez card that came in the pack).

Baseball cards played a big part in Heck’s young life.  However, he memories of the cards she collected leads here quickly to the elusive card she never could get,  the 1995 Leaf Statistical Standout insert card for Frank Thomas.

I had an old SI Kids issue that had an ad in it for Leaf’s 1995 set of cards, and it featured Frank Thomas, who was my favorite player post-Justice. I’d look at it all the time and covet this card  but at the time I had no way to acquiring it. I went to a lot of card shops and always looked for it and never found it, and now, I could probably get one, but I think it’s better than it always remain unattainable.

It was easy to see during our conversations that she loves the game.  It left one key question out there, however: Why “Eephus League”?

I wanted a unique name and I was doing some type tests with the script I had just bought to use for the logo, and I tried “Eephus” and it was just perfect. I essentially let the font decide the name! A lot of my professors were unsure about the name but I was hopeful that people who were baseball fans would recognize the word and in the end I think most of them do.

You can visit Eephus League Baseball on the web by clicking here.  Make sure to drop by the shop and pick up your own Eephus League Scorebooks for the upcoming season while you are there.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball
Follow him on Twitter here.

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The rise of Moose, the struggles of Hos

Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are good friends. They play on opposite ends of the diamond. They were both selected as first round picks in the amateur draft. They made their major league debuts last season. They dressed as the Ambiguously Gay Duo for their rookie hazing. It was supposed to be Hosmer as the superstar, the face of the Royals franchise. Moustakas was going to be an important piece of the Royals youth movement, but play second fiddle to Hosmer. But at this point in the season, Moustakas is becoming the superstar and Hosmer is just another player making his way through the major leagues, trying to live up to expectations.

The bottom line is Moustakas is performing and Hosmer is not. Moustakas has a .273/.341/.468 line compared to Hosmer’s .218/.287/.370 line. Moustakas has more runs, hits, RBI and home runs. Hosmer does draw more walks and strikes out less than Moustakas, making Hosmer the more patient hitter. Hosmer is still climbing out of an extended slump he had earlier in the season and he’s playing better. But Hosmer still has a ways to go before catching up to Moustakas.

The defensive numbers favor Moustakas as well. Moustakas has a .958 fielding percentage, which is above the league fielding percentage of .946. Hosmer’s fielding percentage is at a league average .995. Moustakas has made his share of defensive highlight reels, such as yesterday’s game against Houston where he backhanded a ground ball to third and from his knees threw out a runner going to second.

But there’s more than the on-field performance. There’s Moustakas’ nickname, Moose. It’s the perfect name for a player like him. In ballparks wherever Moustakas plays, his fans will don antlers and sometimes make moose calls. Almost every time Moustakas comes up to bat or makes a play, you’ll hear fans going “Moooose!” Heck, I even heard fans in St. Louis cry “Moooose!” after Moustakas made the final out of last Friday night’s game against the Cardinals. Or maybe that was something else.

Hosmer’s nickname? It’s Hos. Not Hoss, Hos. You don’t hear many fans yelling “Hos!” when Hosmer makes a great play. And Hosmer doesn’t have fans wearing antlers on their heads, faux hawks or Amish style beards for that matter.

Lately, the Royals are making Moustakas the face of the franchise. If you go to www.kcroyals.com, you’ll see Moose towering over the Kansas City skyline where Hosmer once stood. And that’s understandable. In All-Star votes, Moustakas is fifth among American League third baseman. Moose even has a Twitter hashtag, #VoteMoose. And if there’s any Royal deserving a spot in the All-Star game, it’s Moustakas.

Meanwhile, Hosmer isn’t near the top five in votes among American League first basemen and I haven’t seen any #VoteHos Twitter hashtags either. Looks like he’ll get a few days off during the All-Star break.

It’s not as if Hosmer is a bust. Far from it. You could say Hosmer is in a sophomore slump and Moose is not. In time, Hosmer will find his stroke and become the player fans expect him to be. And baseball being what it is, Moustakas could be in a July slump while Hosmer gets hot.

Despite the 12 game losing streak earlier in the season, the countless injuries to key players, the 1,834 roster moves (rough estimate) and the up and down play of the Royals, the team is 31-36 and only 4.5 games out of first in the American League Central. Yes, the Royals are still in fourth place, but they’re only 4.5 games out. With the return of Salvador Perez, Felipe Paulino and Lorenzo Cain, the continued great play of Moose and a resurgent Hosmer, the Royals could make a run towards first in the A.L. Central.

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Man down!

No, it’s not a leftover headline from 54 weeks ago, it’s a new one, but one that’s all too familiar.  St. Louis Cardinals’ workhorse, Chris Carpenter hasn’t thrown from a mound in days, and it’s likely to be several more days (at the very least) before he does again.  Manager Mike Matheny reminded everyone this week that you’ve got to ‘work backwards from what you think Opening Day is going to look like’, and prepare accordingly.

Chris Carpenter is being evaluated for carryover injuries from carrying the team on his back down the stretch in 2011.

With that in mind, consider Carpenter the Opening Day starter when the Cardinals and new-look Miami Marlins open their new ballpark (and the season*) on April 4.  Assuming the club would want his last spring training start to go 7 innings & take place 5 days before the opener, which admittedly is probably more rigid that what’s probably really expected, especially now, it turns out to be a very aggressive schedule.  Counting backwards from there, Carp would need to pitch on roughly the following schedule…give or take.

This coming Thursday, the 15th, he would need to throw four innings.  If you don’t already see the big problem here, you’re missing something big.  After this Thursday, it would need to be:

  • Tue March 20 – 5 innings
  • Sun March 25 – 6 innings
  • Fri March 30 – 7 innings (last spring start)


I know, right?

Four more starts between now and Opening Day.  The first of those, we KNOW (or are at least 95% certain) isn’t going to happen.  Assuming he does come back and pitch again in spring training this season, a reach at this point, there’s little hope that he would be opening the season that night in Miami.  Heck, back that schedule down to 6 innings on the 30, and it’s still a longshot.

This isn’t good, Cards fans.  ‘course, we were all saying the same thing 54 weeks ago, and I’d say the 2011 season turned out just fine.

*Kind of.  You know, those games in Japan 5 days prior count, but aren’t supposed to be considered “season openers”.  Plus, if you have to add the tag “for games played on U.S. soil” it kind of loses some luster.

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Staple Remover

Tony LaRussa, Albert Pujols, Dave Duncan, Joe Pettini, Jeff Luhnow, and Dave McKay.  Talk about a serious number, those six people have been a part of the St. Louis Cardinals organization for a combined 4,263 years.  And not one of them will be back with the club in 2012.  Those are just the names that pop to the top of your head when you start listing the personnel this franchise has parted with since clinching their 11th World Championship.

A little less than a year ago, I wrote about how if Albert Pujols didn’t sign an extension with the Cardinals, that they’d still be just fine.  The St. Louis Cardinals have a very rich and storied history, and one person does not make or break the team by themselves–this isn’t golf.  They won before Pujols came into the fold, they’ll win now that he’s gone, and lucky for us, they won a couple times while he was in St. Louis.

That’s the thing, fans, about rooting for the name on the front of the jersey before rooting for the name on the back — your allegiance should remain with the team.  I’m not saying you can’t remain a fan of an individual, heck, we all do it.  Sometimes it’s hard to be a “team first” fan, let’s not kid ourselves.  Easy to see Matt Morris leave?  Not at all.  Right move for the ballclub?  Sure was.  Anybody throw a “Yippee, we finally got rid of Ryan Ludwick” party at the 2010 deadline?  Nobody in St. Louis, that’s for sure!  Curious what he’s done since?  The Pirates let him go, if that tells you anything.  I wrote about that too, actually, and since the time of that article, he’s declined further.

Many of the long-time staples of the Cardinals franchise have moved on to other things this offseason

But, dude.  Seriously.  This isn’t just one player we’re talkin’ about here.  The Cardinals have parted ways with::

  • Their future Hall of Fame manager of sixteen years, who led them to the World Series three times, including two Championships.
  • Their future Hall of Fame first baseman of eleven years who <fill in the blanks of all the things that make him one of the greatest players ever to play the game>
  • Their pitching coach, who may very well be the first-ever pitching coach to get into Cooperstown
  • Their Vice President, master of scouting & player development, and 71%* of the reason Jocketty left (both of whom now compete with the Cards in the National League Central)
  • One of the most resepected bench coaches in the game today.  Think bench coaches don’t matter?  How about the fact that it took Jeff Luhnow all of one month to bring Pettini over to Houston?
  • Dave McKay, whose first base coaching career was more than just raising a son to have  cup of coffee in the major leagues and reminding (now hitting coach) Mark McGwire to “touch first” on the night of September 8, 1998.

On the other hand, it’s the “name on the front” argument.  This team has been around for a long time…like, 1892 “long”.  Sidebar: The cubs most recent World Series Championship took place one Tony LaRussa Cardinals era (a new measurement of time) after the Cardinals were brought into existence.  An organization that’s been around that long, with a winning history is strong enough to withstand significant personnel losses, though it may not be without “feeling it” at least a little bit.

Look, I’m not here to blow smoke you-know-where.  But no one can look at the major pillars of this team that have been lost over the past couple of months, and expect the smoothest of transitions, now that they’re gone.  One, maybe two of those positions turn over during the off season, and sure, maybe the continuity remains in tact for the most part.  Let six of the most important people in your franchise roll out, and see if you don’t find yourself asking rhetorically if you’ll need “Vaseline or Preparation H?”.

I’m not saying I fully expect a #12in12 season or anything (of course, I’d be ecstatic, should it come to fruition), but given the new chemistry & dynamic in that clubhouse, I’d deem a return to the postseason a “successful season”.  Let’s face it: Depending on the outcome of some scheduling of postseason games, wildcard slots, and other various factors that impact the situation, the Cards should be expected to reach the 2012 playoffs.  A World Series Championship repeat may not be a realistic expectation, but to miss the playoffs in a division like the National League Central, particularly when A) you’re the defending World Champions; and B) There may be a 2nd Wild Card playoff spot coming into play this year…there’s little excuse not to see October baseball at Busch again this year.

*Totally pulled this number out of thin air.  It’s based on nothing at all.

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Double-A Championship Is Meaningless – But Not Worthless

The Northwest Arkansas Naturals have won the Double-A Texas League championship, powered by a whole slew of exciting young prospects. And that’s terrific, but of course it’s completely meaningless to the Kansas City Royals.

That’s right – minor league titles are meaningless, unless you happen to be a fan of that particular team and not the franchise as a whole. The minor leagues exist purely, solely for the purpose of supporting the major league team.

And, based on that criterion, the Kansas City Royals’ minor league system has been a complete and utter failure over the past two decades.

But…

Just because the Texas League title is meaningless doesn’t mean there’s not value in it. Those may sound like conflicting ideals, but let me explain.

Mike Moustakas was a star for the Naturals early in the season before being promoted to Triple-A

The Naturals team is a simply collection of individual players. It’s not a team in the true sense. And that’s really true of all minor league organizations. Just look at the transaction logs for each minor league team and you’ll see that it’s a constant revolving door, with players being shipped in, shipped out, shipped up and shipped down on a daily basis. At the major league level, players stay together for a much longer time and are able to form a team. And we’ve seen over and over and over again that the best teams are not necessarily made up of the best players.

But it sure as heck helps. And it bodes well for the Royals that the Double-A team this year was made up of superb individual players.

Clint Robinson won the Texas League Triple Crown this season

And the star offensive players on the Naturals this year are much different than any players we’ve seen on the big league team in recent years. Northwest Arkansas’ lineup was composed of headlining sluggers, including the likes of Mike Moustakas (who was shipped to AAA halfway through the season and excelled there, too), Eric Hosmer (who was promoted from Single A halfway through the year and became a playoff hero for the Naturals) and Clint Robinson, who was arguably the best of the bunch this year.

For crying out loud – Clint Robinson won the Texas League Triple Crown award, leading the league in batting average, home runs and RBIs.

All of those guys could be contributing at the major league level soon – perhaps even as soon as next season for Moustakas.

Another benefit: it gives these young players a sense of what it means to play for something, even if what they’re playing for is only a meaningless title. Perhaps in a few years, some of them will be in Kansas City, playing for a much more meaningful purpose: a World Series.

Matt Kelsey is a Royals writer and the content editor for I-70 Baseball. He can be reached at mattkelsey@i70baseball.com.

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