Talking Baseball – We love rare talent

As an avid sports observer over the years, I realize looking back that I tend to side with the underdog. I enjoy a good human interest story just as much as anyone else. However, in the sports realm, the underdog usually takes on an added spark of curiosity and fan fervor because most of what we consider to be the core of sports in this country, the owners and scouts are looking for prototypes, not rare flukes.

Size, body type and genetic pedigree reign supreme for the scouts. That’s why the NBA rosters look like they do now. That’s why half of the quarterbacks in the NFL are unknown to general fans and seem to show up out of nowhere ready to start. The owners and personnel management feel they have fewer questions they have to answer for if they pick a kid who is 6’5” and can whip a 25 yard out route on the money.

Remember, the year Peyton Manning was drafted 1st overall in the NFL draft? If you do, then you can easily name the guy drafted 2nd that year. Remember? The media, owners, fans, celebrities, players and it seemed like even the concession staff weighed in on who should go number 1. Manning, who by any sane NFL follower over the seasons, is in the discussion as the greatest quarterback who ever lived. Or would it be Ryan Leaf, who by any sane NFL follower over the seasons, is in the discussion as the poster boy for psychotic locker room episodes of random reporter violence and completely irrelevant in any football matters.

Why was it such a close call between Leaf and Manning? Manning is the staple of game preparation, leadership qualities, uniquely brilliant as a film study and his pop was an NFL starter. Leaf, on the other hand, was huge. That is it. Leaf was a big, immature frame that any one interview with him and no owner in his mind would invest 50 million on him.

The NBA is more concerned with getting a long-armed, anti-gravity uberhuman to pay instead of getting a basketball player who can help them win. Deandre Jordan, the center for the Clippers is a free agent and stands to make a ton of money. He is a shot-blocking, rim-protector supreme and was named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year this season. On the surface, he is who you want on your team. His acrobatic oops off of the alleys from his teammates are roof raisers for sure. However, there is no way I could give a salary large enough to buy a bus ticket home with him shooting near 30% from the free throw line. He is a professional basketball superstar but he can’t make even 40 out of 100 free throws.

It really makes me wonder if he ever went to anyone along his way up and simply asked them, “How do I get better?”

His ineptness at the line is a key reason the Clippers can’t advance. Can’t you just hear the coaching staff in the opponents locker room as they go over the game plan to stop the high-octane offense of the Clippers. I figure that is the shortest team meeting in history. “OK fellas after 100s of hours watching film and breaking down all their personnel match-ups and tendencies we have decided to foul that big guy of theirs over and over until the game ends. Ready? Break. 1, 2, 3.. HUSTLE!”

Shaq was never this bad of a shot from the line. But, Jordan is huge and can jump out of the gym. So, he is in.

The men with the money don’t see his 30% as a liability. It is a hang up they are willing to overlook.

The MLB decision makers have their share of hangups when it comes to drafting players. It matters not what your average is or how many runs you drive in. If you hit .350 and don’t strike out very much, your stock would be pretty high. Throw in some power and a good glove and steal some bases and you can write your own check and any club would cash it. Unless you took your helmet off and revealed a head full of hair of red.

That is correct. A very reliable source who needs to stay in the shadows relayed that to me. When I asked why, the response I got was, “Have you ever seen a successful red head in the league?” I had to answer to the negative.

Of the list of NO-NO attributes of a human looking to be drafted in the MLB, trust me, I chose the one that hopefully wouldn’t start a riot. MLB is hardcore in its hangups and quirks it is willing to trust over stats. Production usually wins out over anything else. However, in this new age of prototype hunting, production is losing out in favor of the status quo.

The draft pros of the MLB would rather look at a self imposed bias of 100 years of no redhead success than see a ginger as a 5-tool 1st rounder.

Yesterday, a rare talent burst on the scene of the MLB. I have no idea how they allowed this to happen. Pat Venditte took the mound in Fenway Park against the Boston Red Sox in the 7th inning. The Oakland A’s left-handed prospect faced his first batter and forced a lazy ground out to 1st base for the 1st out of the inning. The score was 4-2 and in stepped Hanley Ramirez for the Sox. Ramirez laced a line drive between short and 3rd base off of the A’s right -hander.

Wait. What? That is not a mistake in type. Venditte is an ambidextrous pitcher, a switch-pitcher. Venditte, the 29 year old novelty is legit. He switched his glove over after the ground out onto his left hand and took the mound as a right-hander like he knew what he was doing. Ramirez’ base hit put Venditte facing a switch hitter next. This meant that the Venditte Rule had to be applied.

The Venditte Rule (too cool to have your own rule named for you in MLB lore) means that a pitcher must declare by which hand he puts the glove on, to the umps, hitter and runners what arm he is choosing to throw with. He must stay with that arm for the duration of the at-bat. In case of injury, the arm can be switched during the at-bat but the pitcher will not be allowed to throw with the other arm for the duration of the game.

The batter is allowed to crisscross the plate however many times he chooses after each pitch if he wants to. It seems a little unfair to me.

Venditte has a unique glove. It has two thumbs and 7 finger holes total so, he doesn’t have to take time tossing gloves in and out from the dugout. After his first pitch from both arms last night, the balls thrown were tossed aside to be sent to the Hall of Fame for display I’m sure. Venditte went on to throw 2 scoreless innings.

You need to see this for yourself. Knowing how hard it is to throw with the other arm, Venditte is a complete stud. MLB will probably hold two different stat lines for him. Being a small market team, I wonder if Billy Beane, the A’s General Manager is just trying to save a buck by getting a two for one. Venditte’s agent will surely seek a double payout for his client. Makes me wonder if Venditte’s little league days were marred in lengthy debates with opposing coaches and tournament directors over if his innings left handed counted against his innings right handed. Those little league inning limits are intended to curb shady coaches from throwing the arms out of one star pitcher. I really am curious if when he limited out on the right side if he was allowed to limit out on the left.

My teammates all admit they of course attempted at some point to throw with the other arm. We all try it. However, none of us tried it where someone might see us. Because that other side just doesn’t act right. Oh it can work a mitt like magic but throwing looks like the last pick on the playgrounds debut performance.

You need to see this guy, Pat Venditte. Consider yourself lucky. He is a rare talent. He is an underdog for sure. It is the coolest thing since Derek and Bernie were in the lineup together.

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