Mets sign Bobby Abreu

untitledMets sign Bobby Abreu

Mar 31, 2014, 7:41 PM EDT

UPDATE: The Mets have signed Abreu to a minor league contract. He’ll report to Triple-A Las Vegas.

5:40 p.m. ET: The Phillies didn’t have any room for Bobby Abreu, but maybe someone else does?

Seems like any team — especially an NL team — would have a hard time finding room for Abreu. With teams routinely using 13-man pitching staffs, any bench players have to be versatile. And while Abreu may be a lot of things these days — he can still work a walk and hit a mistake — versatile is not one of them. Particularly not on defense.

Injury insurance maybe, if he’ll accept a Triple-A assignment. But not much more.

MLB Uses Expanded Replay 1st Time, Call Confirmed

MLB Uses Expanded Replay 1st Time, Call Confirmed

 

Major League Baseball’s use of expanded replay drew a workout in Monday’s opener between the Chicago Cubs and the Pittsburgh Pirates, with one call being upheld and another overturned.

Cubs manager Rick Renteria asked umpires to take another look after Jeff Samardzija was called out at first base in the fifth inning Monday at PNC Park. The call was confirmed on replay after a 2-minute delay. That marked the first used of expanded replay in regular season play.

Umpires went to replay again in the 10th inning of a scoreless game, with the original safe call on an attempted pickoff play at first by Pittsburgh reliever Bryan Morris overturned after a 2 1-2-minute stoppage.

Most calls can be challenged this season under MLB’s new replay format. The system was tested in spring training and managers didn’t waste much time putting it to use on opening day.

Samardzija was batting with runners on first and second with no outs in the fifth when the Cubs pitcher attempted to move the runners up on a sacrifice bunt. The bunt rolled quickly back to Pittsburgh starter Francisco Liriano, who threw to third for one out, with third baseman Pedro Alvarez’s throw to first appearing to beat Samardzija by a hair.

The call on the field was confirmed, with the packed house roaring its approval when home plate umpire John Hirschbeck signaled the call.

Chicago’s Emilio Bonifacio singled with one out in the 10th when he dived back to first during a pickoff attempt by Morris. First base umpire Bob Davidson initially called Bonifacio safe. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle emerged from the dugout moments later to challenge the call, with Hirschbeck signaling the runner was out.

‘Walking Dead’ Promotes Trio to Series Regular for Season 5

‘Walking Dead’ Promotes Trio to Series Regular for Season 5

The Hollywood Reporter

Warning: This story contains spoilers from the season four finale of AMC’s The Walking Dead.]

Fresh off its bloody and deadly season finale, AMC’s The Walking Dead has promoted three for its fifth run.

Alanna Masterson (Tara), Christian Serratos (Rosita) and new arrival Andrew J. West (Gareth) have been upped to series regulars for season five of the zombie drama, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

PHOTOS: ‘The Walking Dead’s’ Most Shocking Deaths

Masterson made her debut on the drama from showrunner Scott M. Gimple in November, playing Tara, one of the women The Governor (David Morrissey) encounters after the fall of Woodbury. She has become loyal to Glenn (Steven Yeun) after she lost her family and watched as The Governor executed Hershel (Scott Wilson). (The show’s Tara is not to be confused with the comics character of the same name.)

STORY: ‘Walking Dead’ Dissection: Scott Gimple, Robert Kirkman Talk Terminus, Preview Season 5

Serratos, meanwhile, plays Rosita, an iconic character from the comics created by series executive producer Robert Kirkman. She made her debut in the second half of season four in November as a member of Abraham’s (series regular Michael Cudlitz) Army supporting his mission to bring Eugene (series regular Josh McDermitt) to Washington, D.C. She signed on to Walking Dead in September with a recurring role and option to be a regular in season five.

STORY: ‘Walking Dead’s’ Andrew Lincoln: ‘We Ran Into Hell’

For his part, West made his debut during Sunday’s season four finale as Gareth, the head of the group living at Terminus — the so-called “sanctuary for all” who may or may not be overseeing a group of cannibals. THR exclusively reported that the Greek alum signed on to the series in November with an option to be a regular in season five and that the character would have a big presence and play an important character on the series. (And he certainly did: Gareth currently has nearly everyone trapped at Terminus in one of the show’s most dramatic cliffhangers yet.)

STORY: ‘Walking Dead’ Season 4 Finale: Trapped at Terminus

“Seeing Gareth and Rick and the people of Terminus and our survivors go head to head is going to be interesting,” exec producer/comics creator Robert Kirkman told THR. “There is a very deep, dark and storied history to Terminus and how these people came to be that will be revealed in season five.”

Masterson is repped by LB Talent Agency, Masterson Management and Abrams Artists. Serratos (Twilight) is with Global Artists Agency, Thruline and Stone Meyer. West is with ICM Partners and John Pierce at The Group.

Their promotions comes nearly a year after Walking Dead promoted Chad L. Coleman (Tyreese), Sonequa Martin-Green (Sasha) and Emily Kinney (Beth) to regular for season four. This season, the series also added Cudlitz and McDermitt as well as Lawrence Gilliard Jr. (Bob) as regulars.

Padres ball woman makes play of the night to save Dodgers fan from possible doom

Padres ball woman makes play of the night to save Dodgers fan from possible doom

 images

It’s the play of the season so far, even if Major League Baseball has played only three games (one domestic) to this point. A San Diego Padres ball girl, working the right field line at Petco Park, made a terrific catch with a glove in the bottom of the eighth inning Sunday night — and saved a Los Angeles Dodgers fan in the process.

Only she’s not a ball girl, per say, but a ball woman. A ball mama, even. Her name is Catalina McKasson and she’s the mother of three girls, the Padres told Big League Stew. She’s been with the team since 2002.

The Padres had just rallied against Brian Wilson‘s Beard and the Los Angeles Dodgers to take a 3-1 lead and the park was buzzing with Yonder Alonso at the plate. He lined an 0-2 pitch from Paco Rodriguez foul and heading toward the head of a female Dodgers fan sitting in the front row where the stands curve toward the plate. Adding injury to insult on opening day would not have been cool, “Beat L.A.” chants aside,” so it’s a good thing McKasson was on her toes.

View photo

.

Smile, you’re on Big League Stew!

Nice job on the part of the ball girl to hand the souvenir to a young fan also, but that’s just part of the job. Protecting Dodgers fans goes above and beyond the call in San Diego, even though it’s the right thing. This karma will come back on the Padres in a good way.

 

– – – – – – –

David Brown edits Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rdbrown@yahoo-inc.com and follow him on Twitter!

Follow @AnswerDave

The Beatles Succeeded Through Talent, Ambition, and a Lot of Arrogance

11.10.13

The Beatles Succeeded Through Talent, Ambition, and a Lot of Arrogance

1384371772148_cached
The Fab Four’s success did not come from hours spent on stage in Hamburg or Liverpool—it erupted from a crazy combination of ambition, talent, and—most of all—arrogance.
When English writer Mark Lewisohn first informed Neil Aspinall—a Liverpudlian accountant who at 19 began ferrying four local lads known as the Beatles to and from gigs in an £80 maroon Commer van, then became the boys’ road manager, personal assistant, and all-purpose fixer, and eventually wound up running their record company, Apple, for the last 39 years of his life—that he, Lewisohn, was planning to pen a three-volume, multi-thousand-page history of the Fab Four, the band’s oldest, closest friend responded with a grunt.

“Does the world really need another book on the Beatles?” Aspinall muttered.

He had a point. With roughly 800 Beatles-related titles in or out of print, according to the Library of Congress, plus a cavernous back catalog of documentaries, feature films, conferences, exhibitions, and tribute albums that is set to grow even larger next February with the 50th anniversary of their arrival of America, it would seem that everything anyone could conceivably say about these most loveable of moptops has been said 11 or 12 times already.

And yet in spite of all the biographies, day-by-day diaries, track-by-track analyses, and, of course, cookbooks—an unwholesome number of which I, a certifiable Beatlemaniac since the age of five, have read—there remains a mystery of sorts at the heart of the band’s story. We know how talented they were. We know how charming they were. We know how lucky they were. And we know how perfect their timing was. What we still don’t know—what’s still so hard to pinpoint—is how all of this potential energy actually cohered into such a singular cultural force. Why did John, Paul, George, and Ringo become The Beatles? What catalyzed that chain reaction? Why didn’t they turn into Gerry and the Pacemakers, their main Liverpool rivals? Was it just magic? Or was it something they did?

This is an important question because it’s really a question about all great art—or, more to the point, where all great art comes from. Yes, the stars have to align. The DNA has to cooperate. But artists can’t control that stuff, and aspiring artists certainly can’t sit around waiting for their talent to crystallize or their luck to change. So what can an artist control? What necessary ingredient—not sufficient, but necessary—did the Beatles themselves add to the mix?

This was the secret I hoped to uncover when I set aside a few days earlier this month and began to burrow into the first volume of Lewisohn’s Gibbonian behemoth, Tune In, which reconstructs the Beatles’ lives through end of 1962 with relentless attention to detail. (For a soundtrack I chose On Air—Live at the BBC Volume 2, a complementary collection of early Fab Four radio recordings out Nov. 14 on Capitol.) I admit it was a high bar to set; none of the tens of thousands of pages of Beatle prose I’d previously devoured had cleared it.

But now, 944 pages later, I think I have my answer.

***

Many experts, real or otherwise, have tried to solve the puzzle of how the Beatles made themselves the Beatles. The most recent, and most fashionable, is Malcolm Gladwell, the halo-haired New Yorker pop intellectual whose simplistic, feel-good summaries of contemporary research on trends (The Tipping Point) and decision-making (Blink) have transformed him into a corner-office icon who can command $80,000 per speech on the corporate lecture circuit. In 2010’s Outliers, his book about successful people, Gladwell tells readers why he thinks the Beatles became “great achievers.” Unfortunately, his explanation doesn’t make any sense.

Gladwell’s big Beatles theory revolves around Hamburg. Between August 15, 1960 and December 31, 1962, the band embarked on five extended expeditions to Germany’s northernmost port city, where they performed late-night shows for sailors, strippers, gangsters, and various other Teutonic oddballs at a succession of dank and dangerous clubs in the seedy St. Pauli district. These trips form the backbone of Lewisohn’s book, and he skillfully captures the ferality of the Beatles’ escapades in Deutschland: the loogies they hocked at walls, the used condoms they set aflame, the bosomy barmaids they bedded, the speedy Preludin pills they gobbled, the toilet seats they wore like necklaces.

Gladwell, however, is mostly interested in the ungodly number of hours they logged on stage. “On the first trip, they played 106 nights, five or more hours a night,” he writes. “On their second trip, they played 92 times. On their third trip, they played 48 times, for a total of 172 hours on stage. The last two Hamburg gigs, in November and December of 1962, involved another 90 hours of performing. All told, they performed 270 nights in just over a year and a half. By the time they had their first burst of success in 1964, in fact, they had performed live an estimated twelve hundred times. Do you know how extraordinary that is? Most bands today don’t perform twelve hundred times in their entire careers.”

Gladwell’s conclusion is simple: it was this grueling performance schedule that set the Beatles apart from their contemporaries and now makes them handy examples, along with fellow workaholics Bill Gates and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, of “the idea that excellence at performing a complex task requires a critical mimimal level of practice.” (Ten thousand hours is his preferred amount.) As Gladwell told a San Francisco audience in 2009, “before [the Beatles] went to Hamburg they were just not a good band. It was as a result of being forced to play in this extraordinary environment that they mastered what it took to be the greatest rock band of all time.”

It’s a snappy thesis—practice makes perfect—but there are a few problems with it. On a basic factual level, Gladwell doesn’t seem to know what he’s talking about. Contrary to his claim in Outliers, the Beatles didn’t have to wait until 1964 to enjoy “their first burst of success.” They scored their first top 20 hit in late 1962 and their first number one single in either February or May of 1963, depending on which chart you consult; as of New Year’s Eve, they had notched two additional U.K. chart toppers and sold nearly 300,000 copies of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” in the U.S. By the time 1964 began, Beatlemania was blossoming on both sides of the Atlantic.

Gladwell seems confused by his own statistics, too. According to Lewisohn, The Beatles played roughly 1,110 hours of music in Hamburg, the equivalent of three hours every night for a full year; when Gladwell writes that they “performed live an estimated twelve hundred times [emphasis mine],” he’s either mixing up his measurements or claiming that the Beatles averaged more than one show per day from the time they went professional until the day they invaded America. The former seems much more likely. Finally, the Beatles weren’t the only act to play endless hours in Hamburg. So did Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, Gerry and the Pacemakers, and Tony Sheridan, who landed in Germany before the Beatles and stayed on long after they left. None of them became the Fab Four.

But this isn’t even the real problem with Gladwell’s theory. The real problem is that while the Beatles’ marathon stints in Hamburg did transform them as a band—they were so vibrant, so tight, and so unrecognizable when they returned from their first campaign that the crowds in Liverpool mistook them for a blistering new German combo—the “complex task” they had now “mastered” was not the same task that would eventually earn them world domination.

Being able to mach schau  in a small club was a pivotal part of the Beatles development: it won them a fanatical following in Liverpool, which in turn drove their debut single “Love Me Do” up the charts even when the suits in London refused to promote it, and it was also the reason the Fabs were able record an LP as a thrilling as Please Please Me in a single ten-hour workday. But beyond that, Gladwell is wrong. The Beatles’ “excellence at performing” is not “what it took” for them to become the greatest rock band of all time. In fact, the Beatles were stuck in a rut even after they returned from Hamburg in 1961—and their live expertise was not enough to get them out of it.

***

Tune In tells the true story. As performers, the Beatles would never be more magnetic than they were in the summer of 1961. They were by far the most popular group in Liverpool. And yet “it was all becoming a little too easy,” Lewisohn writes. “They were toppermost but bored, John and Paul especially. The local halls were called ‘a circuit,’ and so it seemed: they were going round and round the same places on the same nights, week-in and week-out. This was fine for other groups but not for the Beatles.”

Local DJ, publisher, and Beatle consigliere Bob Wooler once told a reporter that the band “nearly split up in the summer of 1961 because they felt they were going nowhere.” Paul and John were so desperate that they actively considered becoming—or trying to become—the first Liverpudlians since 1923 to swim across the Mersey. As McCartney later put it, “we didn’t have a manager, so we’d just sit around, thinking of [publicity stunts] we could do.” Instead the duo cancelled two weeks worth of dates and absconded together to Paris, where they purchased flared trousers, sipped wine in Les Deux Magots, and had their hair cut in the downswept “Caesar” style then popular on the Left Bank.

Even after the Beatles acquired a manager—a fastidious local record-shop owner named Brian Epstein—their live prowess, though real, couldn’t propel them to the next level. In the autumn of 1961, Epstein convinced Decca A&R man Mike Smith to attend a show at the Cavern Club in Liverpool, the Beatles’ home base. He liked what he saw; a recording contract seemed inevitable. But when the Beatles taped a test session with Smith on Jan. 1, 1962 at Decca headquarters in London, they were cold, nervous, and, in Lennon’s words, “terrible.” Paul over-enunciated. John underemoted. George botched several guitar solos. And even though they took pains to demonstrate the versatility they’d honed on stage in Hamburg—five rock and R&B classics; four humorous numbers; three recent hits; three Lennon-McCartney originals—Decca eventually passed. “We really thought ‘that was it,’” Lennon later said. “That was the end.” Over the next few months, Pye, Philips, Ember, and Oriole Records rejected Epstein’s pitch as well. EMI rejected it twice.

The Beatles might have remained on the dead-end Liverpool circuit for months or even years to come if not for what happened next—and it had nothing to do with Hamburg. One of the songs that the band recorded at their botched Decca session was about to bring them to the attention of galvanizing producer George Martin, secure them a recording contract with Martin’s Parlophone label, and, simply put, make the rest of their careers possible. It was called “Like Dreamers Do,” and in terms of real-life impact, it might be the most important song the Beatles ever recorded.

***

Not that I knew any of this before reading Lewisohn’s book. I had heard “Like Dreamers Do” before, and so can you; a chugging, Latin-inflected number, it’s included on the first installment of the Beatles Anthology series. To be honest, I never thought much of it. Neither did McCartney. “’Like Dreamers Do’ was one of the very first songs I wrote and tried out at the Cavern,” he told his official biographer. “We did a weak arrangement but certain of the kids liked it because it was unique, none of the other groups did it. It was actually a bit of a joke to try your own songs … [The] songs obviously weren’t that great.”

Fortunately for the Beatles, a man named Kim Bennett disagreed. Lennon and McCartney first tried their hands at songwriting in late 1957. They’d skip school and sneak off together aboard a green double-decker 86 bus to Paul’s family house at 20 Forthlin Road, which was empty in the afternoons, and sit “eyeball to eyeball” in the front parlor with their cheap acoustic guitars, puffing on a pipe packed with Twinings tea and striving to emulate their idols. “Practically every Buddy Holly song was three chords, so why not write your own?” Lennon later explained. Atop each page of his notebook McCartney would scribble ANOTHER LENNON-MCCARTNEY ORIGINAL.

By 1960, when the Beatles went professional and began to play for people who had paid good money to hear familiar songs, Paul and John’s writing sessions had already petered out, and they didn’t compose or perform a single original song (with the exception of a Lennon-Harrison instrumental) the entire time they were in Hamburg. It wasn’t until December 1961, well after the boredom had set it, that they began to introduce Lennon-McCartney numbers into their set. “Like Dreamers Do,” written by McCartney in 1959, was the first. Epstein encouraged them to play it at the Decca audition a few weeks later, and they did.

Here’s where Bennett comes in. Stung by the Decca rejection, a desperate Epstein dropped in on an old record-store associate at London’s massive HMV emporium in February 1962. The gentleman said that while he couldn’t help the Beatles get a recording contract, he could transfer some of the tracks from the Decca tape to 78 rpm demonstration discs, which would help Epstein shop them around. Epstein graciously accepted the offer, and while he waited for a disc cutter to complete the acetates, he mentioned, as the cutter later put it, that “some of the songs were actually written by the group, which was uncommon.” The cutter then told Epstein that one of EMI’s music publishing companies was located on the top floor of the shop. The general manager, Sid Colman, was fetched. He listened to the tape, liked what he heard, and said he was interested in publishing Lennon and McCartney’s songs. If you can help us get a recording contract, Epstein replied, then you can have the publishing. A day or two later, on February 13, Epstein, likely with the Colman’s assistance, was back at EMI—a company that had already rejected the Beatles—playing one of his newly-cut discs (Lennon’s “Hello Little Girl” coupled with McCartney’s cover of “‘Til There Was You”) for a man named George Martin.

Martin didn’t enjoy the experience. “I was not knocked out at all,” he went on to say. But back at HMV, Colman’s deputy Kim Bennett was—especially by “Like Dreamers Do.” As Bennett would later recount, Colman told him “the song was available if we could get them a record release and I replied, ‘I like it very much, Sid. I like the sound. If we can get them a record, and then we can get it played, I think it could go in the charts. It’s different.’” Over the next few weeks, Bennett nagged his boss about “Like Dreamers Do,” and in turn Colman pushed EMI to record it.

Finally, in the spring of 1962, EMI relented. Managing director L.G. Wood wanted to get Bennett and Colman off his back, and he also wanted to stick it to one of his A&R men—a tall, willful producer who’d been whining about his contract and having a scandalous fling with his secretary. So Wood decided to kill two birds with one stone. “L.G. Wood didn’t approve of people having affairs,” an EMI engineer later explained. “Not at all. I think it offended his moral standards. L.G. virtually ordered George [Martin] to record the Beatles.”

Martin obeyed. On June 6, 1962, John, Paul, George, and Ringo, summoned by their skeptical new producer, arrived at EMI’s Abbey Road studios with a song they preferred to “Like Dreamers Do.” It was called “Love Me Do.”

***

On the surface, the story of how the Beatles signed to Parlophone sounds like another example of their famous luck. But it’s not. If the Beatles hadn’t started to play “Like Dreamers Do” at the end of 1961, they never would have recorded it at their Decca audition. As a result, they never would have met George Martin or had the perfect career they wound up having. None of that, meanwhile, would have happened if McCartney hadn’t written the song in the first place, and McCartney probably wouldn’t have written it if he and Lennon hadn’t gotten into the habit of going “eyeball to eyeball” in the front parlor of 20 Forthlin Road.

The thing that got John and Paul writing songs together at the ages of 17 and 15, respectively, is, I think, the same thing that ultimately made the Beatles the Beatles. It’s there in Lennon’s remark about Buddy Holly’s three-chord compositions—“why not write your own?” It’s there in the capital letters—ANOTHER LENNON-MCCARTNEY ORIGINAL—that McCartney scrawled above each set of new lyrics. “Teenagers all over Britain liked Buddy Holly and rock and roll, but of that large number only a fraction picked up a guitar and tried playing it, and fewer still—in fact hardly anyone—used it as the inspiration to write songs themselves,” Lewisohn writes. “John and Paul didn’t know anyone else who did, no one from school or college, no relative or friend.”

The Beatles’ secret ingredient was arrogance.

I don’t mean that in a pejorative sense. Arrogance—a kind of foolish, adolescent self-belief; an ignorant, intuitive certainty that your way is the right way—is the root of all great art. Without it, talent and timing aren’t enough. We all have a dash of it when we’re young. In middle school we write Whitmanesque poems; in high school we start a Beatlesque band. But then we weigh the odds and consider our options, and reality sets in. Sometime around 18 we begin to assess ourselves more accurately—to find our proper rank in humanity’s big talent show. Our ambition stops outstripping our ability. And then we stall out and settle down.

The Beatles never did that. Unlike most of us, they remained arrogant until their ability finally matched their ambition. Arrogance was the reason they abandoned everything but music. George failed out of high school and bailed on his electrical job. John flunked art college. Paul skipped his final exams, squandering his shot at university. Ringo, who barely had an education, ditched his five-year machinist apprenticeship after four years to play drums at a summer camp. Music was all the Beatles had left. It was their only shot.

Arrogance was also the reason they clung to their vision of the band—with little encouragement and the longest odds of success—even when they were total outliers (to borrow a phrase). In Liverpool, no one wrote original songs; John and Paul believed they could be the Carole King and Gerry Goffin of England. No one played obscure American B-sides like “Devil in His Heart” by the Donays; the Beatles scoured the record-store racks for odd new material every week. Few bands altered their set lists from show to show; averse from the start to repeating themselves, the Beatles never played the same show twice. No one combed their hair forward, Parisian-style, without grease. No one wore leather pants and pink handkerchiefs on stage. And no one from Liverpool, when faced with a big London producer like George Martin insisting that they release a cover song called “How Do You Do It?” as their first single, would have insisted right back that no, actually, they should release an original, “Love Me Do,” instead. But the Beatles did.

“We wouldn’t let ‘em put it out,” Lennon later recalled. “We said, ‘we’d sooner have no contract than put that crap out’—all the tantrums bit. We thought it was rubbish … We thought ours had more meaning.”

“I suppose we were quite forceful really, for people in our position,” Paul has explained. “We said we had to live or die with our own song.”

The Beatles’ arrogance, and the stubborn originality that stemmed from it, didn’t come from Hamburg and the 1,110 hours they spent on stage there. It was born earlier, in the front parlor of 20 Forthlin Road, and it was fortified when George and Ringo, two lads just as arrogant as John and Paul, eventually joined the band. It’s very hard to imagine those four young men ever becoming the Beatles without it, and the same is true for all great artists.

There’s evidence of this attitude on nearly every page of Tune In—first-hand quotations such as “They had cockiness, confidence, a spring in their step” and “We were always thinking we were better than whoever was famous, so why shouldn’t we be up there?”

But the best line, as usual, is Lennon’s, and it appears on the last page of the book. “We thought we were the best in Hamburg and Liverpool—it was just a matter of time before everybody else caught on,” he told an interviewer in 1980. “We were the best fucking group in the goddamn world … and believing that is what made us what we were.”

In Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees buy a ready-made ace

Tom Verducci INSIDE BASEBALL

In Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees buy a ready-made ace

 After seven seasons with NPB's Rakuten Golden Eagles, Masahiro Tanaka is coming to MLB.
After seven seasons with NPB’s Rakuten Golden Eagles, Masahiro Tanaka is coming to MLB.
Chuck Solomon/SI

The black SUVs stood idle on a street in Beverly Hills, inert as a steel Stonehenge, though not nearly as mysterious. Inside these cars waited some of baseball’s most powerful decision makers. If ever one picture told the definitive story of how cherished frontline starting pitching has come to be, this was it: In January, teams lined up in America’s leading neighborhood of $10 million homes to persuade a 25-year-old righthander, fresh off a flight from Japan and eating sushi on a couch inside one of the mansions, to take nine digits’ worth of their money.

It mattered not one unagi that the object of their attention, Masahiro Tanaka, had never thrown a pitch in the major leagues. Nor that since he was a teenager, his arm has endured a massive workload that these same decision makers believe would wreck their own pitchers. Nor did it matter that the transition from playing baseball in Japan to playing in the United States is fraught with competitive and cultural differences that threaten the entire investment: The baseball itself, the competition, the schedule, the travel, the food, the paparazzi, the autograph-seekers, the toilets. Yes, the toilets.

Casey Close, Tanaka’s agent, had made the ground rules clear to major league teams: There would be no Tanaka Tour. If you want Tanaka, you must come to Beverly Hills—Close borrowed the mansion of a fellow agent at Excel Sports—and make your best pitch. Over two days, each club was scheduled for an hour session, though when a meeting ran long, the SUVs began to back up.

No one was sure how high the bidding would go, but Tanaka was looking at Kardashian money. Teams would have to pay a $20 million posting fee to Tanaka’s former club, the Rakuten Golden Eagles of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball, on top of Tanaka’s contract. Roughly 10 teams lined up for the chance to sign him, including the Astros, Cubs, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Rangers, White Sox and Yankees. (Close says some teams asked for and still retain anonymity.)

“It was like The Dating Game,” recalls Arizona general manager Kevin Towers. “[Tanaka] is sitting there on the couch and then, ‘Now it’s bachelor number one!’ You come down and sell your entire organization in 15 minutes.”

Diamondbacks managing general partner Ken Kendrick had read somewhere that Tanaka enjoyed golf, so he gave a detailed presentation on the courses around Phoenix. The D‑Backs also popped in a DVD that highlighted some of the area’s cultural offerings that could make Tanaka feel at home, including a Japanese food market. (Towers jokes that they did not specify that it was the only Japanese food market.)

Twelve days after the Beverly Hills summit, Tanaka made his decision: He signed with the Yankees. They outbid the field, giving him $155 million over seven years, with a player opt-out clause after the fourth year. Including the posting fee, the Yankees’ $175 million outlay represented the largest single investment in a pitcher in baseball history, with the exception of the $180 million Detroit committed to Justin Verlander in March 2013. (The Dodgers since blew past both contracts with a $215 million deal for Clayton Kershaw. All three megadeals cover seven years.)

Tanaka was the Yankees’ most expensive bauble in a $491 million free-agent shopping spree that follows the team’s worst season in 21 years (85-77). He brings with him a 24-0 record from 2013 and a split-fingered- fastball that Towers’ scouts not only graded as a perfect 80 (on the scouts’ traditional 20-to-80 scale) but also said was “probably the best” they’ve ever seen.

In signing Tanaka, New York put a price tag on the rarity of a premier pitcher hitting the market at 25. It also placed a $175 million bet. The bet is that when it comes to Tanaka, almost everything we think we know about developing pitchers—the “less is more” catechismal belief in pitch counts, innings limits, mechanics and pitch-selection—is dead wrong. Forget the food and the toilets. For Tanaka, the real drama when East meets West is what happens when pitching cultures collide.

*****

A star in Japan, Masahiro Tanaka pitched on the country's World Baseball Classic team in 2009 and 2013.
A star in Japan, Masahiro Tanaka pitched on the country’s World Baseball Classic team in 2009 and 2013.
Koji Watanabe/Getty Images

Masahiro Tanaka is literally surrounded by Yankees history. On all four walls of a conference room at Steinbrenner Field, his new club’s spring home, the Bronx version of Mount Olympus peers down upon him: Gehrig, Ruth, DiMaggio, Mantle, Berra, Ford, Maris, Jackson and Munson—at least in all their framed-and-matted, black-and-white glory.

“Looking at the names,” Tanaka says through his interpreter, “I know most of them.”

And will he someday be worthy of their company?

“I will try my best.”

In Japan, a new baseball is a thing of beauty, honoring the country’s regard for packaging aesthetics as well as the sport. Each ball is wrapped in a shiny square of silver foil, which preserves the leather’s tackiness. Unlike major league baseballs, which need to be rubbed with a special mud to be deemed game-ready, a Japanese baseball is used immediately after it is unpackaged. It is a man-made pearl. Its built-in tackiness plays to the high art of pitching—the veneration of touch, feel and spin and those who master the craft.

Pitchers are exalted in Japan as a combination of craftsman and warrior; they are at the heart of the Japanese game. High school aces are assigned uniform number 1. In NPB, the very best aces wear number 18, as Tanaka did. (For the Yankees, he’s chosen number 19 out of respect to his teammate, fellow countryman and elder, Hiroki Kuroda, the incumbent 18.)

“I used to kid,” says Bobby Valentine, who managed seven seasons in the Pacific League, “that Japanese pitchers don’t have good pickoff moves [because] they believe rules should be interpreted literally. The rule book says an at-bat does not come to completion until the batter has three balls and two strikes. So when the count is 3 and 2, the next pitch is the pitch of reckoning. The Kabuki theater on a baseball field is the climax of that. They want the best pitcher pitching to the best hitter on a 3‑and‑2 count.

“So I would go, ‘Boys, I can’t wait. You get a bonus if you get a guy out in three pitches or less.’ What a weird look I would get. What kind of stupid hitter would do that? And everybody reads from the same script, including the umpire. Everyone wants to build the at bats as deep as possible.”

Tanaka grew up playing catcher until his junior high school coach asked him to try pitching. “I was really happy when he told me to become a pitcher,” says Tanaka. “Ever since I was in elementary school I’ve thought that pitcher was very cool.”

And so launched yet another pitching career in Japan that, had it occurred in the States, would have been regarded as abusive. As a high school senior in 2006, Tanaka threw 742 pitches over six games in Japan’s famed Koshien national tournament, obliterating the record of 643 that Daisuke Matsuzaka had set eight years earlier. (The Japanese are meticulous about counting—pitches, batting practice, bullpens, off-season- workouts, games, anything—but always as a measurement of prideful work, not in the manner of policing pitchers, as in America.)

A year later, Tanaka was pitching for the Eagles in the Pacific League, where he threw 186 1/3 innings at age 18. It was far more than anyone that young has ever thrown in the majors (the closest: 148 2/3 by Bob Feller in 1937) and a one-year workload that 25-year-old Stephen Strasburg of the Nationals still hasn’t reached.

The innings and pitches just kept piling up. In one stretch of five starts in 2009, at age 20, Tanaka threw 124, 137, 142, 125 and 137 pitches. Angels ace Jered Weaver hasn’t thrown 124 pitches in a game that many times in his entire eight-year career, covering 231 starts. Two years later, in just the second week of spring training, Tanaka threw 520 pitches over five throwing sessions that spanned seven days, capped by a 207-pitch bullpen only two days after a 120-pitch session.

Explained Tanaka after his 207-pitch marathon, “I wanted to find out if I could keep pitching using the [right] form despite throwing a lot of pitches. I wanted to throw a session where I was tired from the start.”

“I did it, too,” says Kuroda, 39, of 200-pitch bullpens. “It’s part of the training. You are training not just your form but also your legs, to strengthen your body.”

By the time Tanaka put himself up for auction in Beverly Hills, he’d thrown 1,315 total innings through age 24, a workload unheard of in the majors for any young pitcher over the past 40 years. The last player to be worked that hard that young was Frank Tanana, who debuted in 1973 at age 19 and whose shoulder was shot by the time he was 25.

“Probably the reason that [Japanese pitchers] can throw that much in games is that growing up it’s part of the culture,” says Tanaka. “In Japan, I didn’t throw much in the bullpens compared to other Japanese pitchers. Now that I’m [in the U.S.], bullpen sessions are more like 35 pitches, but I feel no stress in the number of pitches throwing in the bullpen.”

Reminded of his high school workload, Tanaka laughs. “Looking back on Koshien, I feel that was a lot. I probably wouldn’t be able to do that now!”

The Japanese pitching culture was forged by men such as Keishi Suzuki, a 5-foot-11-inch lefthander who in 1966, at age 18, debuted in NPB with 189 innings. Just two years later, Suzuki threw 359 innings in a 130-game season, the equivalent of throwing 447 innings in a 162-game MLB season. He lasted 20 seasons, pitching until he was 37, accumulating 317 wins and 4,600 1/3 innings. Afterward, he became manager of the only team he ever pitched for, Kintetsu, where he unwittingly became one of the greatest agents of change in the cross-pollination of baseball cultures.

One of Suzuki’s pitchers with Kintetsu was a righthander with a tornado-like delivery and suspect control named Hideo Nomo—and he took the Kabuki theater of the full count to ridiculous lengths. Nomo averaged five walks and 10 strikeouts for every nine innings pitched, a total he reached in 60 percent of his starts. Suzuki knew only the traditional way of throw, throw, throw, so he left Nomo in games to toss as many as 191 pitches. The manager liked to say, “To cure your pain, throw more.” The author Robert Whiting characterized Suzuki’s pitching philosophy even more bluntly: “Throw until you die.”

Nomo’s shoulder began to give out; he could not pitch the final two months of the 1994 season. He was 25 years old. He’d had enough. So he did something so contrary to the Japanese way of dutifulness to superiors that even his parents advised against it: He jumped to the major leagues. After signing with the Dodgers, Nomo posted two sensational years with Los Angeles. But in what has become a familiar pattern for Japanese pitchers who find initial success in the majors (Matsuzaka, Hideki Irabu, Masato Yoshii…), his stuff and his arm health began to decline starting with his third year.

“With his stuff, he immediately becomes the best pitcher on the Yankees’ staff. And it’s not close.”

Anonymous scout on Masahiro Tanaka

After the 2012 season, Tanaka informed the Eagles that he wanted to pitch in the majors and requested that they post him following their ’13 campaign. He cut back on his bullpen sessions, and when he did throw them, he used a major league baseball to grow accustomed to it. In his final season with Rakuten, he went 24–0 with a 1.27 ERA. He didn’t lose an outing until Game 6 of the Japan Series, a possible clincher for the Eagles. In that 4-2 loss to the Yomiuri Giants, he threw 160 pitches, refusing the entreaties of his manager, Senichi Hoshino, to bail out after 120.

“He wasn’t in the mood to be replaced,” the manager told reporters. “He felt like he wanted to be on the mound until the end. I think it’s an ace’s will.”

Japanese teams can alter their rosters within a series, with starting pitchers typically removed the day after an outing in favor of a fresh arm. But Tanaka would have none of it. He told Hoshino he was good to go for Game 7, then came out of the bullpen to throw 15 pitches and close a series-clinching win.

“I can’t say I was at my best physically,” Tanaka says, “but I knew we had one more game to go, and I had to make myself ready for it. I didn’t let my mental part slip away. Usually for starters, once the start is over, you relax. But I didn’t let that happen and kept my mentality.”

*****

Adjusting to a new pitching routine will be one of Masahiro Tanaka's many challenges in the U.S.
Adjusting to a new pitching routine will be one of Masahiro Tanaka’s many challenges in the U.S.
Chuck Solomon/SI

Major League Baseball began keeping official data on pitch counts in 1999. That year, pitchers aged 24 and younger threw 120 or more pitches in a game 87 times. Nobody paid much attention. The pitch count was little more than a novelty.

Four years later, Cubs manager Dusty Baker rode the young power arms of Kerry Wood, 26, and Mark Prior, 23, down the stretch and to within five outs of the World Series. Individually, Wood and Prior threw 120 pitches or more in nine of their 11 combined starts that September and twice more in the postseason. Both subsequently broke down with arm injuries and were never the same.

The grind and physical violence of pitching has always carried injury risk, but in 2003 critics had a new, readily available and easily understood measurable to explain what sometimes is unexplainable. Never mind that Prior taxed his shoulder with poor mechanics. Or that Wood threw a violent cross-body breaking ball. The pitch count was easier to understand than biomechanics. The demise of Wood and Prior sent a chill through the industry.

The next year saw only 27 games in which a pitcher younger than 25 threw 120 pitches. Such outings have since become almost extinct—there were just four in ’12, seven in ’13. From ’09 through ’13, Tanaka threw at least 120 pitches in a start 47 times, a workload that major league teams would consider ludicrous for a pitcher not yet 25 years old. During that same stretch in the majors, the most such high-volume games by pitchers that young was just five, by the Brewers’ Yovani Gallardo.

What began with the pseudo-science of pitch counts soon gained scientific support. Research by Glenn Fleisig, James Andrews and their colleagues at the American Sports Medicine Institute in Birmingham showed the two greatest risk factors for pitching injuries to be overuse and poor mechanics. Young pitchers especially were at risk. In a 2011 study, the institute recommended that “pitchers in high school and younger pitch no more than 100 innings in competition in any calendar year. Some pitchers need to be limited even more, as no pitcher should continue to pitch when fatigued.”

Has this conservatism worked? A hitter would tell you yes. Pitchers dominate the game unlike anything we’ve seen in more than 20 years. It is harder to get a hit today than at any time since the DH was established in 1973. Rises in velocity and in the depth of specialized bullpens have created a new paradigm that works: More pitchers with more stuff being asked to work less. Still, injuries mount. One out of every three active major league pitchers has had Tommy John surgery. About 40 percent of starting pitchers will go on the disabled list.

Meanwhile, in Japan, despite all that throwing, “the good pitchers start the season and end the season,” reports Valentine. “There weren’t teams that fell out of the race because ace pitchers got hurt. I didn’t have any arm injuries in six, seven years.”

How could this be? Valentine suggests that the Japanese throwing program ensures a survival of the fittest. NPB is a league of survivors. “They do it in Little League, they do it in high school,” he says of the prolific throwing. “So the weak fall by the wayside. Kids get hurt by 12 or 13.”

Another part of the equation: NPB operates on a much smaller scale. Its 12 teams play, on average, a 144‑game schedule, requiring some 1,728 starts, compared with 4,860 in MLB. Pitchers enjoy more recovery time in Japan. Mondays tend to be built-in off days, meaning that pitchers typically throw with six days of rest rather than the standard four in MLB. Teams do not travel across time zones. Pacific League hitters have less power than American League hitters (though they strike out less). The grind of major league baseball is simply harsher. That is why Tanaka—like the Rangers’ Yu Darvish and Kuroda before him—quickly adopted an Americanized, save-your-bullets training regimen.

On Feb. 15, for instance, in his first official bullpen session as a Yankee, Tanaka threw 32 pitches, followed by two days off. On the same day, Kuroda threw 36 pitches, as he does every bullpen session. The next day at Rangers camp, Darvish threw 34 pitches, as he usually does.

Meanwhile, on the very day Darvish threw, halfway across the world, in the training camp of the Yokohama Bay Stars, a 6-foot righthander named Daisuke Miura threw what Daily Sports in Japan reported was a personal high for a bullpen session this year: 301 pitches. That marathon increased his workload in the first 16 days of camp to 1,973 pitches.

Miura is 40 years old. He is entering his 23rd season.

*****

Masahiro Tanaka shakes hands with Joe Girardi during his introductory press conference in January.
Masahiro Tanaka shakes hands with Joe Girardi during his introductory press conference in January.
Jim McIssac/Getty Images

Two weeks before he addressed 200 reporters in English (“I am very happy to be a Yankee”) at his introductory press conference in New York, Tanaka spoke at a symposium at Edogawa University in Chiba, Japan. The moderator asked him if he had “anything to say to our students.”

“It is important to see things from different angles,” he told the crowd. “You will probably make mistakes, but if you can use that to your advantage, then your mistakes do not go to waste. Keep your focus wide, and do not get stuck on one thing.”

It is not just when and how much to throw; everything is different now for Tanaka. The way autograph-seekers tailed his car in Tampa. (“That I did not experience in Japan.”) The way reporters have access to clubhouses where players change. (“I just change as I normally do; if people want to watch, feel free.”) The way American roadways seem overwhelming. (“As of now I have no intention of driving.”) The way American toilets lack the amenities of Japanese plumbing fixtures. (Asked to identify the most striking difference between the two countries, Tanaka thought for a moment and replied, “The washlet is a system in Japan where you press a button and water comes out and washes your ass. Not having that is a big difference.”)

Two years ago the Rangers invested $107.7 million in Darvish, including a $51.7 million posting fee. As a rookie, he won 16 games with a 3.90 ERA. Last year, he improved that ERA by more than a run, to 2.83, led the majors in strikeouts (277) and was voted the AL Cy Young Award runner‑up. Asked to identify what adjustments he made to account for such improvement, Darvish replies, “Two main things: I was able to make the adjustment with the American baseball and also American culture itself. My first year I couldn’t eat sandwiches. The second year they started to taste really good, so I was able to eat a lot. The food was the biggest adjustment.”

The Yankees have been surprised at how quickly Tanaka has adjusted. He is picking up some English. (He interrupted a reporter’s question by proudly announcing that he recognized some of the words because “I have been watching the Olympics.”) He regularly jokes with teammates and reporters. Says New York GM Brian Cashman, “He’s open to change and very much at ease. … He’s really like any other pitcher now—the only thing that would prevent him from being successful is the pitcher-hitter confrontation.”

Though Tanaka throws as many as seven pitches, he has two elite wipeout offerings: The splitter and the slider. The former represents another collision of pitching cultures. American coaches generally discourage using the splitter out of fear that it increases torque on the elbow; some teams even take it away from young pitchers. Last year, only two American-born pitchers threw splitters even 15 percent of the time, about how often Tanaka throws it: Jeff Samardzija and Dan Haren.

In Japan, says Valentine, “everyone throws the splitter. The star high school kid throws the splitter. If I had 14 on my staff, maybe three didn’t throw the splitter.”

“I don’t see anything about throwing the splitter to cause an injury,” says Kuroda, who has thrown more combined professional innings than any active major league pitcher except Mark Buehrle. “I always have thrown the splitter and never had any problems.”

Because Americans discourage the pitch, Tanaka has a distinct advantage over major league hitters: They are not trained to hit it. They don’t see it regularly. Against the six pitchers who threw it the most last year, for instance, major league hitters batted no better than .201 against the pitch. (Kuroda and the Mariners’ Hisashi Iwakuma threw it most often.)

As much attention as Tanaka’s splitter gets, his slider, which he throws more often, is underrated. Yankees scout Brandon Duckworth (Tanaka’s teammate last year with the Eagles) needed to watch him throw only one live batting practice session this spring to see that Tanaka’s slider had even more bite than he remembered. “Best I’ve seen it,” says Duckworth. The slicker surface of the major league ball creates later and sharper tilt on the pitch.

“If you get a good grip of the ball, the slider is more crisp than in Japan … a better slider,” adds Tanaka. “The problem could be that sometimes the balls can slip.” Says Darvish, who has held major league hitters to a .160 average on his slider, “I totally agree.”

“Very few pitchers throw a slider where the dot disappears,” says Yankees special assistant Trey Hillman. “A hitter looks for that dot on the baseball as it spins to identify the slider. But only a few pitchers spin the slider so fast that you can’t see the dot. I’ve only had two of them: Darvish and Zack Greinke. Now I’d put Tanaka’s slider with them. It’s that good.”

If there is vulnerability in Tanaka’s repertoire, it is in his fastball, even though he has good velocity and commands it well on both sides of the plate. Unlike most American pitchers, who stay tall through their deliveries to generate a downward plane and movement on their fastballs, Tanaka is a drop-and-drive pitcher, a technique that generates power through the legs but results in a lower release point, which limits the downward plane of his fastball.

“He’s definitely not Darvish,” says one talent evaluator for a team that bid on Tanaka. “We see him as a No. 2. He’s not a No. 1. His fastball is pretty flat. There’s a good chance in Yankee Stadium he’s going to give up a lot of homers to lefties. But he’s got a legit split, he commands really well, and he’s a competitor.”

Says another evaluator from an interested team, “With his stuff he immediately becomes the best pitcher on the Yankees’ staff—and it’s not close.”

*****

Masahiro Tanaka will face increased attention as the latest Japanese star to come to Major League Baseball.
Masahiro Tanaka will face increased attention as the latest Japanese star to come to Major League Baseball.
Chuck Solomon/SI

Tanaka was working out in the Yankees’ spring training weight room one day last month when suddenly a song by the Japanese bubble-gum pop group Momoiro Clover Z, “Ikuze! Kaito Shojo,” blasted through the room’s speakers. Kuroda had helped arrange the music selection, knowing that Tanaka is a big fan of the five-girl group, which follows in the lineage of the Spice Girls with lines such as “There’s nothing we love more than putting all our energy into/Singing! Dancing! Smiling!” There is no irony in Tanaka’s adoration of their music. There is a lightheartedness about him.

“He is not just open to change, he is happy about it,” says Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild. “He’s excited, like when you look forward to a new adventure. He’s ready for this.”

The true test comes over time. He will have shorter recovery periods between facing more powerful lineups over a longer season. And, at least to an American observer, all those pitches and all those innings at a young age could be ominous. An executive from another club that bid on Tanaka was asked how much the workload scared him. “A lot,” he said. “But he’s young enough that you can expect probably three good years. Hey, everything scares you with pitching. The prices scare you. There are no pools of players without risk.”

What exactly is the risk? Who really knows? The more we collect data—pitch counts, innings, motion capture, biomechanical studies, military-grade measurements of velocity, spin rates and release points—the more we define what we don’t know. The mystery of pitching is eternal: Some pitchers get hurt and some don’t. Art does not surrender fully to science. Applied against Western philosophy, Tanaka is a $175 million bet. Viewed from the East, he is exactly what an ace should be: What survives from rigorous training. Kuroda is forged from the same crucible. And still he pitches, with no major scars. In the past 21 years, only Randy Johnson, R.A. Dickey and Kuroda have thrown 200 innings in the majors at ages 36, 37 and 38. Who really knows, indeed.

Like an ancient explorer heading toward the horizon’s end, Tanaka is enthused about the mystery of it all. In the conference room of Steinbrenner Field, the most time Tanaka takes before answering a question occurs when he is asked what he regards as his biggest challenge. He closes one eye like a marksman, as if to focus on an answer hanging somewhere in the air. He purses his lips. “Hmmm…”

Finally, he decides on this: “Everything feels different from Japan. I feel it’s important for me to go through the experience. What’s normal in Japan may not be normal in the U.S. I want to experience it all, and through life experience I like to learn.

“I never think, I’ve always done things this way, so that’s the way I will do it here. That’s not the way I think. But when I pitch here, there are things I don’t want to change. As far as going through daily practices and things like that? There’s no stress on me.”

A baseball in a shiny silvery sheathing, like a 25-year-old ace pitcher up for bid, may be a beguiling aesthetic. But the true beauty of it comes in the unwrapping.

Yankees, Mets Rebuild Differently

Yankees, Mets Rebuild Differently

After a decade of dominance, the Yankees faltered last season. After a decade of mediocrity, the Mets actually showed life in 2013.

Both Big Apple teams missed the playoffs last year, and both are itching to reach the postseason. Yet, their maps have different directions.

The Yankees have a tendency to spend. Just a tiny bit. In this off-season alone, general manager Brian Cashman brought in players such as Brian McCann, Brian Roberts, Masahiro Tanaka, Carlos Beltran, and others. As per 2009, the front office believes purchasing quality talent leads to success. 2009 proves that hypothesis true. Although, this Yankees renaissance coincides with the retirement of a member of the 90′s dynasty. This season will undoubtedly be a going away party for Derek Jeter, the most celebrated and respected player of the 2nd millennium. While the Yankees obviously want to win, the team desperately wants the Captain to win his sixth ring.

The Mets were a successful franchise, once upon a time. Unfortunately, due to owner Fred Wilpon’s financial issues, the Mets have been unable to compete for the last five seasons, forced to rely on their farm system to produce star players. Before this off-season, the only large free agent Queens lured was Jason Bay, and he imploded. The only consistent players the team has had were Jose Reyes, who jumped ship to the Marlins in 2012, David Wright, who continues to play well despite constant injuries, and Daniel Murphy, a solid hitter who plays multiple positions.

To counteract the last five years, the Mets have been hoarding prospects. Matt Harvey came up two seasons ago, and was masterful before tearing his UCL in 2013. Among the stockpile are pitchers Noah Syndergaard, Zack WheelerRafael Montero, and catcher Travis d’Arnaud. Plus, Flushing now has former Yankee Curtis Granderson to roam the outfield. GM Sandy Alderson has done a fantastic job of preparing the Mets for the future, and the future could be now.

Both ball clubs built new stadiums for the 2009 season. The Yankees have Yankee Stadium, and the Mets have Citi Field. Although it probably won’t happen this year, a repeat of the 2000 Subway Series would be amazing. So the Yankees will ride the B,4 or D trains, and the Mets will take the 7 train, and are both ready to chug along for seasons filled with excitement, exhilaration, and winning!

Rendon rallies Nationals past Mets 9-7 in 10

Rendon rallies Nationals past Mets 9-7 in 10

AP – Sports

Rendon rallies Nationals past Mets 9-7 in 10
.

..

NEW YORK (AP) — Anthony Rendon hit a three-run homer in the 10th inning and drove in a career-high four runs, twice rallying the Washington Nationals against the New York Mets‘ suspect bullpen for a 9-7 opening-day victory Monday.

Denard Span hit a tying double with two outs in the ninth off closer Bobby Parnell, and Ian Desmond put the Nationals in front for the first time with a sacrifice fly in the 10th. Rendon connected two batters later against former Washington pitcher John Lannan, securing a win for Matt Williams in his first game as a major league manager.

Stephen Strasburg struck out 10 over six innings in his third straight opening-day start. But he fell behind early and was outpitched most of the day by starter Dillon Gee, given the assignment because of injuries to Matt Harvey and Jonathon Niese.

Several fill-ins came through for New York, in fact. Juan Lagares and Andrew Brown both homered after they were surprise additions to the lineup.

MLB brings baseball into the modern age with first regular season use of new instant replays

MLB brings baseball into the modern age with first regular season use of new instant replays

(Blulz60 / Shutterstock)

Major League Baseball used expanded replay for the first time during a regular-season game this afternoon, confirming an umpire’s call during a game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs, reports the Associated Press. The league announced that it would begin giving managers the option to challenge calls for the first time this year, and it didn’t take long on opening day for the Cubs’ manager to take advantage of it, calling for a replay after his player was called out at first base. It reportedly took two minutes for review officials, who are located offsite in New York, to confirm the call.

First challenge confirmed the umpire’s call

Not long thereafter, an umpire’s call was overturned for the first time in the regular season during a game between the Milwaukee Brewers and Atlanta Braves, according to the AP. It was also regarding a play at first base. The umpire initially called a Brewers player safe, but after a challenge from the Braves’ manager, umpires reviewing the replay reversed the call. It reportedly took just 58 seconds.

All MLB ballparks will be outfitted with the new system this season, making replays a more integral part of the game than when they were first introduced in a limited fashion for umpires in 2008. Though it may be somewhat ironic that the first challenge only confirmed an umpire’s call, blown calls have been increasingly problematic as high-definition cameras and TVs make it clear to viewers when they actually occur. The system has been in testing since spring training, and officials are targeting bringing the average review time down to just minute and fifteen seconds.

WWE news: Bray Wyatt writes his own promos for The Wyatt Family

WWE news: Bray Wyatt writes his own promos for The Wyatt Family

One of the biggest complaints about the WWE in recent years is that no one cuts their own promos and instead just regurgitate what writers pen for them to say. It makes it hard to really live your gimmick. One of the best characters in the WWE now is Bray Wyatt and Rajah.com reported on Feb. 3 that Wyatt actually writes his own promos.

This is very unique. One of the most famous wrestlers to cut his own promos from the top of his own head was “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, although Rowdy Roddy Piper also did so back in the ’80s.

However, today most wrestlers get a script, learn their lines, and then come out and say what they are told to say by the creative writers. A perfect example of this is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who cut some of the best promos in recent memory – all of which was written for him. When The Rock returned the last time around, the WWE re-hired his old promo writer as well.

However, talking to many old school stars, the spontaneous nature of cutting un-written promos was a big part of what made wrestlers so relatable to the fans. Bray Wyatt, whose father was one of the WWE old-school wrestlers “IRS” Mike Rotundo, has brought back at least part of that old school thinking.

Bray Wyatt writes his own promos, sends them to WWE creative who then make edits and suggestions, and then Wyatt cuts his own promo. Wyatt developed the character himself in NXT and mastered it before coming up. He knows his character better than anyone and writing his own promo makes him even better.