Tag: Modesto Nuts
I had a bit of an e-mail exchange last night with California League President Charlie Blaney and I obtained his permission to make it public. I thought he might because I believe he told me the same things he’d say to anyone who asked and I appreciated his open willingness to explain himself to me, which he did not have to do. I am not a reporter or a team official, just a photographer and fan.
Further, I have to admit I see his position better than I first did prior to reading any explanations. Even though I still believe some leniency would have been warranted given the situation at the time, I can’t dispute Blaney’s defense of the integrity of the game when Steverson did have other options at his disposal, such as just having his pitching position players groove fastballs down the middle (or even throwing them more at batting practice speeds). It could have still allowed for the risk of injury, but the point is if you lose you do so because the other team hit the ball and beat you fairly. Even though Steverson required Modesto to put the ball in play in the end, the intentional balks did give them a more likely chance of winning if they did.
As Blaney notes, the punishment itself does not prevent Steverson from giving instruction – he just cannot be in the dugout during the games until the end of June 2013. Could the California League have just scolded Steverson privately and been done with it without anyone being the wiser? Absolutely. However, it may also be more important to send some kind of message overall that even when something like this happens and a difficult decision may need to be made, there are certain standards that ought to be maintained.
I’ll let Charlie Blaney speak for himself below. I consider his explanations reasonable in the end and I thank him again for taking the time to respond.
Blaney’s initial response:
We appreciate and respect your thoughts regarding the intentional balk/integrity situation that happened at the end of the extra inning game between Stockton and Modesto on June 23.
In response to your question as to what is the goal of the California League; it is to prepare players for the Major Leagues both on and off the field.
Besides helping the players improve their physical baseball skills, it is also important to teach them to always give their best effort, and how to win each game fairly and properly.
Even though the Stockton Manger, Todd Steverson, had other options available to him, he chose to instruct his pitcher to advance the opposing team’s base runners into scoring position via 3 intentional balks for the sole purpose of expediting the end of the game in Modesto’s favor. While Mr. Steverson’s intent was to protect his players from injury, his decision was a clear compromise of the integrity of the game, and this can never be condoned or tolerated.
Mr. Steverson is the Minor League Hitting Coordinator for the Oakland A’s and will be allowed to perform his regular duties prior to each game as usual. He must then watch the game from the stands when he is visiting any Cal League ballpark until next June 24, 2013.
Mr. Steverson has recognized his mistake, apologized, and both he and the Oakland Organization have agreed that this punishment is fair and reasonable.
Thank you very much for your interest and support of Cal League baseball.
My reply to Mr. Blaney:
Thank you for the response. I do see both sides of the issue and understand the position it puts the league in when it comes to games being played the way they ought to be.
I’ve read that Steverson could have had his position player simply “get wild” and walk someone or throw a couple wild pitches if ending the game safely was the goal, and perhaps that would have kept up appearances since it’s reasonable to expect a position player might not have good control as a pitcher. In spite of that, I appreciate Steverson’s honesty whether it hurt or not.
I simply think that at some point, especially at this level, trying to give your best effort with people who really shouldn’t be pitching and only are because the equivalent of two full-length games have been played ought to lead to some flexibility given the circumstances. You’d like to win every game, but not at the cost of anyone’s health or safety.
Yes, the punishment for Steverson might not hinder things very much when it comes to the instructional side, but I do wonder what could be done to take extenuating circumstances into account when games in the minors reach this length.
Thanks again for your perspective and explanation. In the interest of being fair, since I shared my e-mail with others, would you mind if I also shared your response with them? Whether others agree or not, at least the reasons are clear.
As to having his pitcher ‘get wild’, the method is different, but the intent is the same. And what does this teach the players; that they should try their best for 18 innings and then quit?
Yes, preventing injuries is important, but as long as the game has been played, when pitching has been exhausted, managers have had to pitch position players in extra inning games and told them to just throw fast balls over the plate. While the quality of pitching diminishes, at least both teams are giving their best effort, which wasn’t the case in the 17th and 18th innings on June 23rd. Injuries are possible, but not always probable.
Extenuating circumstances were very much taken into account when making this decision. Fortunately, Mr. Steverson had no malice of thought or any illegal gain in assisting the opposing team win the game, or the penalty would have been much more severe.
The Stockton team still had pitchers available, but the manager was saving them for tomorrow’s game which means he put more importance on that game than the one he was playing. Then, once both managers were out of available arms, they could have asked the umpires to call me and request that the game be suspended and resumed the next time both teams played.
It is not in my power to change the baseball rules and limit the game to a certain number of innings. This would have to be done by Major League Baseball. Therefore, my job is to enforce the current rules and, most importantly, protect the integrity of the game.
Feel free to share your thoughts and my responses.
All the best.
Edit: A little bit more from this morning. I think what Blaney says at the end about working with the A’s organization on this speaks volumes and it’s something that most people almost certainly don’t know.
Good points, and I wanted to thank you again for your openness in your explanation. As I just told others, you did not have to explain yourself to me – I’m not a reporter or a team official, just a fan and photographer who has worked dozens of minor league games over the last half-decade or so, including visiting every park in the Cal League at one time or another.
Some of my initial reaction was prior to knowing a few of the particulars of your perspective in the decision, and knowing that now I can’t really dispute the reasoning in the end. I may think leniency would have been fine but you do have certain standards to uphold and a message to send. As you said, Steverson himself is not prevented from instructing players before games until the end of next June, and he did have other options at hand.
Once again, thanks for taking some time to write back. I think this helps tell me the league is in good hands when the President is willing to have an exchange with a random person like me.
PS – if I’m not mistaken, didn’t you work to make the schedule more balanced with more games between teams in the two divisions rather than it being so heavily weighted toward the teams in their own divisions playing each other much more? That’s definitely a move I like, as it gives people the chance to see more of the prospects in the other division.
Yes, Mr. Venes, I make up the League Schedule and have tried to give it more balance by playing more inter divisional games.
Your thoughts and comments are much appreciated. Since there was no precedent that I could find, I spent a lot of time and thought investigating and pondering the matter as my goal was to ‘get it right’. To this end I brought the Oakland Organization on board right from the beginning to work this through together, and both Oakland and Mr. Steverson were very cooperative, apologetic, and accepting of the final decision.
Feel free to write any time. It keeps me on my toes hearing what the fans, my real bosses, think.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything here, but I’m still covering games and putting things up in my galleries. This is a baseball-related post but it’s about something I didn’t think I’d be writing about.
Todd Steverson has been in the Oakland A’s organization for years now, as a manager and hitting coach in the minors, briefly as a base coach in the majors, and now as an instructor in the minors. Recently he was filling in as manager for the Stockton Ports as they played a road game against the Modesto Nuts.
In this game, the Ports tied it in the 9th inning and it went into extras. Usually the games don’t last much longer at that point – it IS the California League, which is a High-A level. There are some good players there, and there are some bad. However, this one kept going, and going, and going. 18 innings, in fact. Boxscore here.
You’ll notice Modesto infielder Jared Clark threw three scoreless innings. You’ll also see that Stockton used not one position player but two in Tony Thompson and Josh Whitaker. In the 17th inning, Steverson had Whitaker balk twice to advance Kyle Parker to third after a one-out walk. Clark himself struck out, then Jayson Langfels flied out.
In the 18th Dustin Garneau led off with a single and was sacrificed to second. Whitaker was tasked with balking again to move Garneau to third before Helder Velazquez mercifully ended it with a single.
Stockton lost the game but Steverson appeared to see the bigger picture by looking out for his position players in hope of avoiding injury. Ports radio man Zack Bayrouty tweeted that Steverson had no regrets about the intentional balks and his position players that pitched were sore afterward. Further, as noted by OaklandClubhouse.com editor Melissa Lockard’s tweet, Ports OF Mitch LeVier once pitched in a game in Low-A Kane County, hurt himself, and required Tommy John Surgery. Further, in this story by the Modesto Bee about the 18-inning game, Nuts Manager Lenn Sakata even noted he once used a position player on the mound with San Jose. That player hurt his elbow and never played again.
You’d think all of this would lead to an understanding by the California League that Steverson was looking out for his players first and foremost, but you’d be wrong. League President Charlie Blaney fined Steverson an undisclosed amount of money and banned him from dugouts for a year.
This prompted me to send an e-mail to the California League. Lacking a direct line to Blaney himself, I had to send to firstname.lastname@example.org to his attention. If you feel the decision is as questionable and incorrect as I do, let them know. Here’s what I wrote, complete with a typo I noticed afterward. Will it accomplish anything? Perhaps not, but the important thing is speaking up.
Subj: Fine & Suspension of Todd Steverson
To Pres. Charlie Blaney and whoever else it may concern,
This is in response to the decision laid down on Oakland A’s instructor Todd Steverson, who was filling in for Stockton during the 18-inning game between the Ports and Modesto Nuts on Saturday, June 23.
In that game, both teams were forced to use position players as their bullpens were depleted. In hope of protecting his players from injury, Steverson elected to have position player Josh Whitaker balk runners into scoring position in two innings. Then, Modesto won in the bottom of the 18th.
I refer you to the Modesto Bee story here: http://www.modbee.com/2012/06/25/2255980/stockton-helps-nuts-put-an-end.html
He was quoted as being concerned about position players being hurt, and Modesto Manager Lenn Sakata even said at once he had a position player pitch when he managed at San Jose, that player hurt his elbow, and never played again. One of Stockton’s position players, Mitch LeVier, had Tommy John Surgery after pitching in a game in Kane County and injuring himself.
I have to ask what the goal of the California League is. Is it winning baseball games no matter the potential cost and risk, or is it developing players for the next level and beyond?
Would the punishment have been any different if Steverson ordered Whitaker to intentionally walk batters? I’m all about upholding the integrity of the game but this sort of punishment does not fit the so-called crime of looking after the health of your players first when a game is in the 18th inning and you’re not sure when it’s going to end.
Rather than fining Steverson and suspending him for a full season (which mainly means he can’t fill in for the Stockton manager), I believe the California League should look more at what’s right for the players in an abnormal situation. I urge you to reconsider the action taken and prove the league’s top priority is the development of its players.
Edit: Here’s more from a Modesto bee story, including Blaney’s statement.
Catching up on some things since the last entry, with another to come after this.
I stayed busy with that lens I rented about a month ago, finishing up with a few more games to begin July. More worth noting was a game where Oakland’s Dallas Braden went back to pitch for Stockton in an injury rehab start. While coming up through the A’s system he briefly played for Stockton in 2005 and 2006 but I never saw him pitch. The only thing I really remember of him was a photo I took from the seats of a few players before a game. Braden was in it and he was goofing around. Sounds about right.
When the City of Stockton honored him in May, that was a pretty special moment. Braden himself admitted before the rehab start that he was going to be the most excited person there by far but he had to remember the purpose of the outing. As expected, it brought out a pretty good crowd. I’ve got pictures from that and a few more, including a 4th of July game in Stockton:
From Banner Island Ballpark in Stockton. The Ports won, 10-9. Mike Spina’s 3-run walkoff homer capped a wild game that featured hometown hero Dallas Braden making an injury rehab start. He pitched 4+ innings, allowing 7 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 4 K and 2 HR on about a 75-pitch limit. Jermaine Mitchell led off the 1st with a homer & Yusuf Carter hit a 3-run homer in the 4th for Stockton. Marc Krauss, Paul Goldschmidt & Josh Ford all homered in the 5th for Visalia (the first two were back-to-back against Braden).
From Banner Island Ballpark in Stockton. The Ports won, 7-5 in 12 innings. Stephen Parker’s walkoff home run gave Stockton the win after they came back from a 4-0 deficit only to see Modesto tie it on a single by Jordan Pacheco with 2 outs and 2 strikes in the 9th. Brandon Pinckney, who replaced Grant Green after an 8th inning ejection, singled with 1 out in the 12th before Parker ended it with a blast that was gone the moment it left his bat. Todd Johnson, who had 3 hits for the Ports, drove in 3 with a bases-clearing triple in the 7th. Modesto’s Scott Robinson had 3 hits, 3 runs and 2 stolen bases.
From Raley Field in Sacramento. The Grizzlies won, 5-1. Brett Pill doubled twice and drove in 3 runs to lead Fresno to the victory. Eugenio Velez & Tyler Graham also had a couple hits. Kevin Pucetas couldn’t finish the 5th inning and Alex Hinshaw picked up the win. Matt Carson had a double for Sacramento and Michael Taylor drove in their only run with a single. Graham Godfrey took the loss.
From Raley Field in Sacramento. The River Cats won, 4-3 in 11 innings. Matt Watson had an early 2-run homer and drove in 3 for the River Cats, who rallied late to tie it before winning in extra innings. Matt Downs & Jesus Guzman both homered for the Grizzlies. Fresno’s Joe Martinez pitched 5 innings and allowed a couple runs, while Sacramento’s John Halama gave up the same in 5.2 innings.
The past couple months have been mostly taken up by finalizing a home purchase and moving and I’m getting settled in enough that I can go back out and do some games. Shooting a lot of stuff in Sacramento and Stockton is nice when I’m only about 20 minutes from Sacramento and 40 minutes from Stockton compared to about two hours and one hour respectively, depending on traffic.
I got back out to Sacramento on the 11th then did a game in Stockton on the 17th followed by another in Sacramento the next night as I work on getting more used to night games. After covering the first game I started thinking more about getting a little extra zoom. Before I got the new camera and lens for it, I’d been using one that went up to 300mm but the problem was its aperture settings were nowhere near good enough to shoot at night (about f5.6 when at full zoom). Now I have one that’s f2.8 but it’s only 200mm and I’ve been noticing it’s not quite enough for me when it comes to cropping to a larger part of the image for a better-looking result.
I started looking at 300-400mm lenses with f2.8 but they’re definitely expensive. Rather than plunking down a few thousand on one (I’ve been spending more than enough lately getting necessary items for the house) I decided to try a 1.4x teleconverter Nikon puts out. So far I’m pretty happy with it, though having to go down a full stop to f4.0 does make for some differences in how I can shoot once night sets in. It’s a fair tradeoff, though.
Before getting into the next bit of news, three galleries:
6/11/09: Tacoma Rainiers at Sacramento River Cats: From Raley Field in Sacramento. The Rainiers won, 6-4. Brad Nelson tied the game with a 3-run homer in the 8th inning and two-out singles in the 9th by Mike Carp and Mike Morse was enough to overcome an early 4-1 deficit. Travis Buck hit a solo homer and had a sacrifice fly and Danny Putnam had a 2-run homer to account for Sacramento’s runs. Andrew Baldwin went 7 innings for Tacoma and pitched well aside from the homers while James Simmons worked 5 for the River Cats before leaving with tightness in his back.
6/17/09: Modesto Nuts at Stockton Ports: From Banner Island Ballpark in Stockton. The Nuts won, 6-2. Connor Graham pitched 6 2/3 shutout innings for the win, allowing just 4 hits while walking 4 and striking out 7. Tyson Ross was undone by a 5-run 6th, giving up 6 runs on 9 hits with a walk and 4 strikeouts in 5 1/3. Home runs were hit by Modesto’s Jay Cox and Stockton’s Jemile Weeks, who has at least one hit in all 18 games so far this season. Brian Rike drove in 3 of Modesto’s 6 runs.
6/18/09: Salt Lake Bees at Sacramento River Cats: From Raley Field in Sacramento. The River Cats won, 9-0. Cliff Pennington’s 3-run triple in the 7th broke open a 1-0 game and the River Cats scored a total of 8 runs in the last 2 innings to turn it into a blowout. Gio Gonzalez worked 5 1/3 innings, allowing just 4 hits and a walk while striking out 10. Dan Denham pitched 6+ for the Bees but left with the bases loaded before the bullpen failed to limit the damage. Eric Munson’s solo homer was the only run until late in the game. Pennington finished with 4 RBI while Travis Buck, Munson and Aaron Cunningham had 2 hits apiece for Sacramento. Brandon Wood was the only Salt Lake batter with multiple hits, also getting a pair.
Something else I’ve started playing around with are animated gifs. Of course they’re nothing like video with 30-60 frames per second, but with a camera that lets me shoot about 10 fps it can be fun messing around with throwing a sequence together and seeing how it comes out to get a better look at someone’s pitching motion or a stolen base. Here are a few examples:
* Salt Lake’s Howie Kendrick tags out Sacramento’s Cliff Pennington
* Sacramento’s Gio Gonzalez from the first base side
* Sacramento’s Gio Gonzalez from behind the plate
* Salt Lake’s Dan Denham from the third base side
* Stockton’s Tyson Ross from the third base side
Some talk has surfaced among A’s fans about the delivery Ross has ever since he was drafted last year and just looking at one or two still shots doesn’t tell the story the same as a video or animation like this does. With the camera what it is, I can play around with things like this a lot more and turn it into another part of what I do.
As for the actual news, I’ve got credentials lined up for three minor league All-Star Games in the next month:
* June 23: High-A All-Star Game in Lake Elsinore, CA (California League vs. Carolina League)
* July 1: Double-A All-Star Game in Frisco, TX (Texas League North vs. Texas League South)
* July 15: Triple-A All-Star Game in Portland, OR (Pacific Coast League vs. International League)
The opportunity to cover a few of these is a good one, especially with the chance for some of the photos to see further exposure online and in print. It’s also just a lot of fun to be around things like this. I’ve been to both ballparks in Lake Elsinore and Portland but the one in Frisco will be a first and from everything I’ve seen it’s a beautiful ballpark. You’ll see what I mean. I’ll also be close enough to go watch a game or two in Arlington and knock one more MLB ballpark off my list. Midland (the Oakland affiliate in the Texas League) is too far to go to this time around but about 10 players from the team will be in the All-Star Game anyway.
The next month will be pretty busy but that’s just fine with me.
The good news? I finally got a high-scoring game to shoot.
The bad news? It was about 100 degrees at this game and it lasted nearly three and a half hours.
Sometimes I have to be careful what I ask for because on a day like this I’d have taken a quick pitcher’s duel without much offense. I don’t like to leave a game early so it was vital to get a lot of water and what shade I could.
Visalia scored 5 in the 2nd and 3 more in the 3rd and had an early 8-4 lead, but Modesto kept chipping away before overcoming a 9-7 deficit in the 8th inning by plating 4 of their own for an 11-9 win. After Michael McKenry tied it on a walk, Matt Repec gave the Nuts the lead for good with a 2-run bloop single to right, doubling his RBI count on the day to 4. McKenry had 3 of his own. Visalia’s Steve Mena homered and drove in 3 for the Oaks.
I tried shooting a little differently by upping the ISO settings to let in more light, allowing me to work with a faster shutter speed in exchange, but in many cases the digital noise it added left it not worth the trouble. I figured Visalia would be the place to try it since it’s already a bit of a difficult place to shoot in and I did it again in Fresno the next day with some better results. It’s something I can use here and there if I’m careful about the conditions.
Part two of the Wednesday doubleheader and I finally got more of a high-scoring game: 10-6, Bakersfield. Of course, that made the game three hours long instead of most of the other ones clocking in closer to 2:15 in length.
Julio Borbon, K.C. Herren and Manny Pina, with three hits apiece, accounted for half of Bakersfield’s 18-hit barrage and Borbon led the way with a pair of doubles, 4 RBI, a couple runs and a stolen base. Evan Reed pitched 6 solid innings for the win, leaving with a 10-2 lead before Modesto staged a brief comeback attempt. Nuts knuckleballer Simon Ferrer, an outfielder turned pitcher after the 2005 season, continued to struggle as he fell to 1-6. His battery mate Michael McKenry hit the only home run of the game.
Modesto is fast becoming one of my favorite places to work. Between the bases, the photo wells are closer to the mound and the plate than other ballparks I’ve been to and as the late afternoon sun moved more behind the first base seating it made for some great light behind me when I shot from that side. I was able to crank up the shutter speed to 1/4000 for some shots and I was rewarded for it with a great broken bat photo on a swing by Modesto’s Jay Cox. Earlier, I also got my best hit by pitch photo when Modesto’s Victor Ferrante was plunked. Overall, the number of other things I got in the field such as stolen bases, a rundown, Herren chugging around third and more was probably my best collection from a single game this season.
This is often a bad thing in sports since, though it brings new fans to new areas, it often dilutes talent. In my case, it’s a very good thing.
While most of the games I’ve shot featured affiliates of the Oakland A’s or San Francisco Giants, I’ve begun to branch out in covering other teams as well and I expect to continue that over the next month in particular. In this case, Lancaster is a High-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox while Modesto is with the Colorado Rockies.
This was another Wednesday morning game and it stayed overcast most of the way with brief periods of sunlight. While it makes for easier shooting in the sense that shadows aren’t as severe as they are on a cloudless day, I do have to shoot a little slower so things don’t come out too dark to clean up later.
John Thurman Field in Modesto is unique in the sense it’s right up against a golf course so there’s a high screen behind the home/third seating area to help keep balls from landing on the course, but a number go over anyway. It’s also got a very deep left-center field power alley: 393 feet. Dead center tops out at a more traditional 400, but it’s even easier to hit home runs than usual closer to the lines as the foul poles (fair poles to me) only reach between about 310-320 feet from the plate. The jump from 312 to 393 in left is very quick. The facility itself has seen various renovations over the past decade or so and it’s not bad for a site that first hosted baseball in 1955. Personally, I like the trees that are prevalent mainly beyond the right field wall.
Continuing my trend of low-scoring games this season (2-1 and 3-0 before this), Modesto pushed across single runs in the 6th, 7th and 8th innings to take a 3-0 victory over Lancaster. Australia’s Shane Lindsay went 6 innings for the win while Mike Paulk, Cole Garner and Daniel Mayora each picked up 2 hits apiece for the Nuts. One of Paulk’s was a triple.