The MLB Roller Coaster

Paying close attention to a major league baseball team would cure any casual fan of any preconceived notions of how things should be. In 2009 alone, the Marlins have had 7-game winning and losing streaks. Sandwiched between two Lindstrom blown saves, their bullpen had a streak of over 24 scoreless innings.

Take Emilio Bonifacio. He has gone from one of the hottest players in baseball to having Marlins fans wondering if he will ever make contact again. Check out Bonifacio’s splits as a switch-hitter, they are dramatic. As a left handed batter, he has struck out in 20 of 62 at-bats [as opposed to 2 of 22 at-bats as a right-handed batter] and has less power than from the right side. Those numbers scream out for a platoon role as right-handed batter.

But not so fast [pun intended], he’s a lead-off man and has yet to draw a walk from the right side of the plate this year. Yesterday, he gets his first start at 2nd base and turns in a great defensive play to save a run and the lead and also goes 2 for 5 at the plate, the last hit a double off K-Rod from the left side of the plate. Go figure.

Take Matt Lindstrom. After his blown save last Friday, which took his ERA from 1.5 to 10.8, he proceeded to save 2 games within 24 hours in New York. But his ninth inning yesterday was a good example of the unpredictability of MLB.

Yesterday, the Marlins beat the Mets by scoring two runs off of J. J. Putz, the Mets designated 8th inning relief pitcher. If Putz were with the Marlins, he would be their highest paid player–since counting is what I do, 11 Mets would fit that description. Then the Marlins bring in their closer and the line score indicates no runs, no hits, no errors, Lindstrom gets the save, end of story. Not exactly. In my last post, I had a defense of manager Freddi Gonzalez’s use of Lindstrom, so no Lindstrom-hater here. But check out his ninth inning:

Score FLA 4 / NYM 3
M Lindstrom relieved L Nunez.
G Sheffield hit for F Rodriguez.
G Sheffield walked.
C Beltran walked, G Sheffield to second.
D Wright struck out looking.
R Church grounded out to first, G Sheffield to third, C Beltran to second.
F Tatis hit by pitch.
O Santos hit for R Castro.
O Santos popped out to shortstop.
0 Runs, 0 Hits, 0 Errors

After watching Putz get burned by walking the first 2 batters, Lindstrom proceeds to do the very same thing. I’m listening to the game at ‘work’ on MLB.com [getting the Mets broadcast for perspective], and I’m dying with every ball. Veteran radio listeners are always tipped off by the crowd reactions, so I suffer each ball twice since I’m hoping I misinterpreted the crowd reaction.

But it’s too late to erase my blog post defense, so like Freddi Gonzalez, I have to [spiritually in my case] hang with Lindstrom–speaking of spiritually, you might root for Lindstrom a little harder if you knew that he did missionary work as a teenager–since I figure another blown save might ruin his career, so I’m really pulling for the dude. He then hits Tatis!

Now I’m worried about manager Freddi Gonzalez’s job. Another Lindstrom blown save and it will get ugly. Momentarily, I slip into a tribal warfare mentality. We can’t have a Cuban-American manager sacrificed for this wild Swede, we just can’t have it! I regain my composure. Karma now all moving in the ‘save’ direction. Mets broadcasters are not too happy that Manuel’s pinch hitter was fetched from the bullpen. I visually imagine them sharpening long knives like an old style barber on a leather strap in case it does not work out. Santos pops out. No runs, no hits, no errors, many frayed nerves. On to Wrigley. Man, I can’t believe it’s still April.

Article about Lindstrom’s missionary work is copied in full at end of post.

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Life experiences help Lindstrom

Sunday, February 22, 2009 | Feedback | Print Entry

When Florida Marlins relief pitcher Matt Lindstrom was young, maybe 12 or 13 years old, he decided he wanted to go on a mission for his church. He made that decision before he developed into a major baseball prospect and before there was a real lure for him to continue to pursue baseball. When he was 17 years old, he could throw 90-94 mph.

But Lindstrom stuck to his plan and went on his two-year mission to Sweden, the homeland of his great-grandfather.

“It was an incredible experience,” Lindstrom said in a phone interview. “I came away with stuff I’ll always have my whole life.”

Lindstrom lived in seven cities and saw the whole country, and he stayed in Stockholm for eight months. He did service work, doing things such as cleaning up yards in homes owned by elderly women. They’d get up early in the morning and work until night in Sweden’s rapidly changing climate. When Lindstrom was in the southern part of the country in the summer, daylight would just be fading at midnight.

“It was just crazy, having that much daylight,” Lindstrom recalled.

And he remembered the winter day when he stopped work for lunch at 1 p.m. and when he stepped outside again, it was pitch-black.

Lindstrom grew an inch and put on 10 pounds when he was in Sweden, but his development went beyond his height and weight. Had he chosen a different path, he could have been in college or perhaps could’ve played minor league baseball during that crucial time in his life. Instead, he did something else besides baseball. Lindstrom believes it helped him physically, because he wasn’t throwing a baseball every day, as well as emotionally.

“At that age, you are still maturing, still growing into your body,” he said. “Pitching too much at that age could be detrimental to your health. I think it helped me to take that time off and mature into my body, I thought.

“But beyond that, I can’t imagine being a major leaguer at such a young age,” Lindstrom said. “There are temptations that baseball brings with it, and in the two years, I matured spiritually as well.”

Lindstrom told his father that if he had signed at 18 years old, he’s not sure he would’ve been as equipped to make the same decisions he made after his two-year mission.

When he returned to the U.S., the velocity of his pitches was down to 86-87 mph, but within five years, his fastball reached 100 mph. Late last season, he emerged as the Marlins’ closer. He is well-armed as he prepares for the 2009 season, in velocity and in perspective.
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About Jorge Costales

- Cuban Exile [veni] - Raised in Miami [vidi] - American Citizen [vici]
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