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Archive for September 29th, 2011

End of the Season Wrap-Up: Vinny Rottino

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As IF/OF/C Vinny Rottino’s season has come to an end, it’s time for an end of the season wrap up.  Rottino batted .167 in his September call-up with the Florida Marlins, getting two hits in twelve plate appearances.  Rottino walked twice (both last Sunday against the Brewers) and struck out four times; he played adequate defense and showed an above-average arm.

But as I’ve said before in all of my blogs about Rottino, this really isn’t the whole story.   And after re-watching last Sunday’s game (as my Mom taped it for me on her DVR), I have some more thoughts regarding Rottino and major league baseball.

First off, Brewers announcers Brian Anderson and Bill Schroeder were quite complimentary to Rottino.  They called him a “very good guy” and mentioned his outstanding AAA season, giving many of the details I’ve related in previous blogs.   (Not that it’s hard to do as stats are printed in many places.)  And when Rottino overran the ball hit by P Chris Narveson in the second inning, while Anderson and Schroeder pointed out it was a misplay, they also pointed out that Rottino had been playing shallow in the outfield because Narveson had shown bunt (meaning Narveson looked like he was about to bunt before pulling the bat back and slapping the ball at the third base bag; the ball actually hit the bag before rolling to Rottino, and as that’s an odd play all the way around, it wasn’t that Rottino was out of position or doing anything wrong — it just was an odd play and Rottino tried too hard as I said in my earlier blog post to pick the ball up).  Throughout the game, Anderson and Schroeder had nothing but good words to say about Rottino and how hard he’s worked in the minor leagues to get another major league opportunity; they also pointed out how classy it was of Marlins manager Jack McKeon to start Rottino in front of his family, friends, and the organization that signed Rottino in the first place, the Milwaukee Brewers.

While looking up stats and trying to compare what Rottino did to other rookies, I found this from Fangraphs, which was written in 2009.  They ranked Rottino 35th on their list of trade deadline prospects, and said this:

  • 35. Vinny Rottino, IF/C
    Milwaukee to Los Angeles NL A 29-year-old rookie, Rottino is your basic triple-A vet and emergency MLB fill-in. The right-handed hitter has some value because he has gap power and can serve as a third-string catcher.

What this says to me is that Rottino does have major league ability to be the 24th or 25th man on a major league roster if he’d only be in the right place at the right time.  For example, in 2010, Jonathan Lucroy started the year in AA at Huntsville, but was the best-available catcher the Brewers had in their minor league system.  Lucroy was brought up (by this time, he’d been in AAA for a while) and mentored by manager Ken Macha and the other catchers on the roster such as George Kottaras (not to mention Brewers bullpen catcher Marcus Hanel).  Lucroy blossomed, and has become a very steady defensive and offensive catcher.

While Lucroy was specifically a catcher and Rottino has always been a utility player, imagine if the Brewers had still had Rottino at that point.  He would’ve been in AAA ball because the Brewers had a crying need for catching as Geoff Zaun had been lost for the season and their best catching prospects (aside from Lucroy) were either injured or unavailable.  It would’ve been Rottino called up at that point, had he still been with the Brewers; Rottino caught every day in 2007 for Nashville and was an All-Star for them.  He also caught every day in 2008 for Nashville, and again was an All-Star.  So it’s likely that had Rottino not been traded in 2009 by the Brewers, he again would’ve been at Nashville and he, not Lucroy, would’ve been brought up as Rottino was by far closer to “major league ready” than Lucroy.

That doesn’t take anything away from Lucroy, mind you; Lucroy is a very good player and his “upside” is probably a great deal more than Rottino’s upside.  But you can see how sometimes it’s just luck — being in the right place at the right time — that gets you a true major league shot, and nothing else.  Rottino has not yet had that luck.  And as he’ll be 32 to start next season, time is running out for him to get that lucky break.

But that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t stay prepared.  After all, look what he did this year; he had a fabulous season at AAA in New Orleans, where he led the Zephyrs in RBI, in hits, in stolen bases, in walks . . . Rottino had a great season, and was once again an All-Star at the AAA level.

So Rottino deserved to be called up, and I’m glad he got the call.

As for anything else, since the last time I was able to see Rottino play in the major leagues, it’s obvious that Rottino has gained weight in the upper body, possibly to add to his power potential.  (Rottino isn’t a home run hitter, but he hits quite a few doubles and some triples.)  Rottino looks fit, healthy, in shape, and if I had seen him in a health club somewhere, I’d have expected him to be the “resident pro” or personal trainer as he definitely exudes workmanlike competence.**

All that being said, I think it’s great that Rottino continues to work hard, stay in shape, and do whatever he can to be prepared if the right opportunity finally presents itself.  I think his persistence is his best quality, something many other people in and out of sports could learn from, while his stalwart refusal to give up on himself is his second-best quality and is also something many people in all walks of life could stand to learn as well.


** — Granted, I don’t know what he’d do with someone like me — someone with physical limitations, who’s out of shape and often in physical pain to the point that it greatly affects any exercising I might be able to do.  But my best guess is that Rottino would be an excellent guide and motivator, considering how he’s been able to motivate himself all these years.

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 29, 2011 at 10:43 pm

Baseball Season Ends with Wild Finish

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Last night’s major league season ended with a bang, not a whimper, as four teams still had an opportunity to make the playoffs as a wild card (the fourth and final seed), two in the American League (the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays) and two in the National League (the St. Louis Cardinals and the Atlanta Braves).  Both sets of teams were tied going into the final game of the season, and there was a lot riding on the end of the year.

First, St. Louis played their game, beating the hapless Houston Astros 8-0 behind a 2-hit Chris Carpenter shutout.  Which meant that Atlanta had to win to stay even with them, which would force a one game playoff to determine which of the two teams would continue on in post-season play. 

As for Atlanta, their team was in extra innings; the tenth inning went by, tied 3-3 with the Philadelphia Phillies.  The eleventh inning, still tied.  The twelfth, with no change.  And finally, in the thirteenth inning, the Phillies scored a run off a Hunter Pence RBI single (Pence was a member of the Astros until two and a half months ago, being a late-season acquisition by the Phillies) to go up 4-3, while Atlanta had nothing in the bottom of the 13th.

This meant that the Cardinals won the National League Wild Card; they will now face the Philadelphia Phillies in the first round of the National League Division Series.

As for the American League, there was a great deal of drama there also.  First, Boston was playing Baltimore and they were in a very long rain delay, up 3-2 in the 7th.  When Tampa Bay fell behind 7-0 to the New York Yankees, it looked all but assured that Boston would go to the playoffs.

But there was more baseball to play, as Tampa Bay showed by scoring six unanswered runs in the bottom of the 8th; the Yankees still led, 7-6.  As the Red Sox continued in their rain delay, Tampa Bay was down to their last strike in the bottom of the ninth, when pinch hitter Dan Johnson, who’d hit only 1 HR all year and had a batting average of only .108, hit a game-tying HR to force the game into extra innings.

So the tenth inning goes by, with the Yankees and Rays being tied, 7-7.  The eleventh inning, still tied; by this point the tarp is being taken off the field in Baltimore and the game between the Red Sox and Orioles was about to resume.

As for the Orioles, former Brewers shortstop JJ Hardy shut down two Yankee offensive threats all by himself, as in the top of the eighth Carl Crawford hit a double to the deepest part of left-center; the Red Sox runner on second base was sent home, but Hardy’s strong arm in relaying the pitch from the OF (from five or six steps deep into center) was sure and the Orioles catcher hung on to get the third out called there without a fourth run being scored.  While in the the top of the ninth, JJ Hardy started a nifty double play that took the Red Sox out of a promising situation and they again failed to score; between Hardy’s game-saving defense and the 2-run HR he’d hit earlier in the game, it’s obvious that Hardy was the MVP of that game.

At any rate, Jonathan Papelbon, the Red Sox’s closer, was brought in against the Orioles.  He struck out the first two guys, then gave up back to back doubles and was wild in the strike zone with the fourth and fifth batters.  The Orioles were down to their last strike when Chris Davis hit the first double, Nolan Reimold hit the second, and Robert Andino, who’d been 0-for-the-game before this, hit the game-winning single to end the game and the Red Sox’s post-season hopes. 

Note that Boston OF Carl Crawford attempted a sliding catch in the ninth on Andino’s single which, if successful, would’ve sent the game into extra innings; instead, Crawford trapped the ball and wasn’t able to get up and get his throw in from shallow left field.  Had Crawford, who is a former Tampa Bay Rays standout, played that ball on a bounce instead, the Orioles runner would’ve been held at third and the game may well have ended up in extra innings if Papelbon had somehow mustered up enough energy to get the third out.  Crawford is now being called a “goat” in Boston for what amounted to him trying too hard to send that game into extra innings, when the real “goat” for the Red Sox should be Papelbon — who had the Orioles right where he wanted them until Papelbon ran out of gas.  Papelbon blew the save, lost the game, and ended the Red Sox’s season.

So, we go back to the Rays, who are now batting in the bottom of the twelfth.  Evan Longoria was up; he hit a pitch well, but it looked like a double to me off his bat.  Longoria was fortunate, though; he hit it to the shallowest part of left field by the foul pole, at the 315 foot sign, and just barely got it out of the park.  So within three minutes’ time, the Red Sox had lost to the Orioles, while the Rays had beaten the Yankees in 12 innings to advance to the post-season as the American League wild card seed.  The Rays will play Texas in the first round of the playoffs.

I have never seen a baseball season finish like this before, where teams had to step up and play well at the end with two teams forcing extra-innings games, with one team winning (Tampa Bay) and the other team losing (the Atlanta Braves).  So there are two really good teams — the Red Sox and the Braves — who will be joining me and many other spectators by watching the post-season at home, while two other really good teams who played exceptionally well in September (Tampa Bay and St. Louis, respectively) will continue their excellent seasons.

Compared to that, the Milwaukee Brewers and Texas Rangers needing to win their final game in order to clinch the second-best record in their respective league to get home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs doesn’t seem as dramatic.  But the Brewers and Rangers, too, showed the value in refusing to concede anything in September, and played well in pressure-filled situations in the final week of the season . . . any other year, these teams would’ve been the stories, not the Rays and Cardinals.