Schlossberg on Baseball: Travel Tires The Umpires, Too • Latino Sports

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Schlossberg on Baseball: Travel Tires The Umpires, Too

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Anxious to extend player stamina through the dog days of August and beyond, teams are taking extraordinary measures — from hiring nutritionists to refitting team planes.

According to a Wall Street Journal article published last week, run scoring was 7 per cent lower in September than it was in March/April. In addition,  fewer than 9 per cent of big-leaguers played in at least 150 games.

The article, written by Brian Costa, said clubs are even talking to sleep scientists in an effort to find out why production declines as the long season grinds to its end. At least one team, the St. Louis Cardinals, has banned potato chips, soda, and other so-called junk food from its clubhouse.

Since baseball expanded to the West Coast in 1958, coast-to-coast travel and jet-lag weren’t big issues. Now they are, along with the fact that expansion has increased the major-league landscape to 30 clubs, nearly twice the size of the original major leagues. For hitters who don’t see the same pitchers as often, that spells trouble. Unfamiliarity breeds contempt.

But players are not the only uniformed personnel facing the issues of time and space.

Umpires suffer too, according to long-time arbiter Al Clark.

Al Clark's memoirs came out last May

Al Clark’s memoirs came out last May

An umpire from 1976-2001, Clark penned his memoirs in a 2014 book entitled Called Out But Safe.

“Consider how much more commercial travel umpires do as opposed to ball clubs that fly charter,” he says. “Umpires travel at least three times more than players. They do not have the luxury of a traveling secretary or buses to alleviate city travel and to  from airports and ballparks.

“Umpires do not have substitute umpires for in-game fatigue or injury. If an injury occurs, umpires are charged with even more responsibility by having to officiate with three men — or even two — with no substitutes available.

“And let;s not forget that umpires are decidedly older than ballplayers. That makes it much harder on them.

“I could go on with much more. As I’ve said many times, the heirarchy of baseball only cares about the umpires five minutes before the scheduled start of a game when the umpires do not walk onto the field for the home-plate exchange of lineup cards. If that doesn’t happen, they say, ‘Hey, where the hell are the umpires?’ ”

Al Clark says travel takes its toll on umpires too

Al Clark says travel takes its toll on umpires too

Always independent and outspoken, Clark officiated at many historic games, including Cal Ripken’s record-breaker, Randy Johnson’s American League no-hitter, the Bucky Dent playoff game, and the Earthquake World Series.

A motivational speaker who still follows baseball closely, Clark plays golf near his home in Williamsburg, Va. when not on the road.

Around the training camps:

After a winter of maneuvering that made them the favorites in the American League East, the Chicago White Sox learned that lefthanded starter Chris Sale, the ace of the pitching staff, suffered a foot fracture in his spring training home and may not be ready for Opening Day . . .

Perennial Cy Young Award contender Adam Wainwright (Cardinals) may miss the opener against the Chicago Cubs because of physical issues this spring . . .

Cardinals star Adam Wainwright may miss Opening Day

Cardinals star Adam Wainwright may miss Opening Day

If the Cubs need some extra offense this season, they just might active 42-year-old Manny Ramirez, whom they current employ as a hitting consultant . . .

Michael Saunders, just acquired by Toronto, will miss the start of the season after stepping on a sprinkler while shagging fly balls. Mickey Mantle ruined his knees permanently with a similar injury early in his career . . .

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, often victimized by Eric Young’s base-stealing prowess in the past, is likely to start the fleet ex-Met as his leftfielder and leadoff man against righthanded pitchers . . .

A resume with two Cy Young Awards will always convince someone to gamble on a lefthanded arm, so maybe that’s why Toronto signed Johan Santana, an ex-Met with a bad elbow, to a minor-league contract . . .

Worries about the elbow Masahiro Tanaka and the knees of CC Sabathia has convinced Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild to seriously consider a six-man rotation . . .

Former Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long, now with the Mets, is hoping to work the same wonders with Curtis Granderson in Flushing that he did in the Bronx . . .

Evan Gattis MississippiNow that he can spend most of his days as a designated hitter, Evan Gattis (Astros) should be as strong candidate to lead the American League in home runs . . .

Former Mets manager Willie Randolph, who played second base in the Bronx for 13 seasons, will be honored by the Yankees on Old Timers Day at Yankee Stadium on June 20 . . .

Teams went 8-6 in arbitration cases this year, giving them an overall edge of 301-221 against the players still the 1974 advent of arbitration . . .

Brian McCann, who hit eight home runs for the Yankees after Labor Day last year, seems more likely to justify his slot as cleanup man in Joe Girardi’s batting order this summer . . .

Baltimore backtop Matt Weiters, who had Tommy John surgery last June, says he’ll be ready for the opener . . .

Chris Dickerson’s power should prosper at Rogers Centre, where he’ll double as a spare outfielder and DH for the Jays . .

Though he gave up more hits than any National League pitcher last year, Nathan Eovaldi is vital to the rebuilding of the Yankees rotation because of his youth . . .

Nathan Eovaldi adds youth to aging Yanks

Nathan Eovaldi adds youth to aging Yanks

Closer Francisco Rodriguez wanted $10 million a season to sign but settled for a two-year, $13 million deal to return to the Milwaukee Brewers . . .

Tim McClelland, home plate umpire in the 1983 “Pine Tar Game,” has retired after 32 seasons in the bigs . . .

Mets captain David Wright, held to a career-worst eight homers after an ill-advised head-first dive hurt his shoulder last June, swears he’ll discontinue the practice . . .

Maybe it’s good for the Braves that the struggling B.J. Upton — now called Melvin Upton, Jr. — will miss all of spring training with a foot injury . . .

Pittsburgh catcher Francisco Cervelli, signed to start after the free agent desertion of Russell Martin, is looking forward to his first season as a regular . . .

Say it ain't so, Josh

Say it ain’t so, Josh

Alex Rodriguez (Yankees) admits he grew up as a fan of Keith Hernandez (Mets) while teammate Jacoby Ellsbury rooted for his hometown Seattle Mariners . . .

How many chances will Josh Hamilton get? An MVP candidate when healthy, the Angels outfielder has had a relapse in his battle against substance abuse and is likely miss a good part of the 2015 campaign.

 

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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