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June 25, 2013
My favorite baseball player of all time was Joe DiMaggio. When I was seven, I listened to Red Barber and then Mel Allen describe the wonderful hitting and fielding of  the “splendid splinter,” and on and on. I grew up wanting to be like Joe DiMaggio, but fell far short. If I had one pice of baseball hitting advice it would be to hit the ball hard and hit the first pitch. Listen to Bobby Doere (Red Sox secondbaseman). It’s priceless:

Joe DiMaggio, Center Fielder

“He (Joe DiMaggio)
had great wrists and hit balls like rockets, with top-spin, that exploded past third basemen. It always seemed as if he hit the ball hard. Every at bat.” – 
Bobby Doerr

Tampa Raes’ Sean Rodriquez is likely upset at the presence of the new kid on the block, Will Myers, an outfielder who has taken Sean’s place in the outfield because Sean isn’t hitting well these days. Of course, we could say that about some other Rays players as well. If they were all hitting well, the Rays would not be in fourth place in the ALE, but might be leading the division, it’s that close.

The first thing Rodriguez needs to get out of his head is other players competing for game time, such as Sam Fuld and Myers. Be your own man and it wouldn’t hurt if you, Sean, were a little more like our new shortstop. A little cockiness goes a long way toward helping your self esteem and confidence up at the plate.

Sean Rodriguez, Left Fielder

I am watching this from my Orlando office on TV, so I’m sure to be a little off. I do have the advantage over being in the Trop–I can rewind, start and stop the pictue whenever I want, and watch you as long as I want over and over again. But that stance you take is the worst I have seen lately. You have the Evan Longoria foot in the gutter, which is supposed to come out, straight ahead, just a few inches, as soon as you intend to hit a pitch. On Monday night you pinch-hit for Matt Joyce and struck out because of your indecision at the plate and that cockeyed stance. It got you in trouble and it’s going to be a problem in the future unless you do something about it.

If I were the batting coach, I would introduce a brand new stance to you. It wouldn’t be Longoria’s, it would be like old reliable Ben Zobrist. He stands up, feet lined up along the batter’s box. Zobrist has a slight hunched-over look.His knees bend slightly.  I know that you, Sean, understand as well as anyone why batting coaches teach the batter to crouch a little. It tends to put pressure on the legs, particularly the leading leg. You must hit off a stiff front leg or you will disapate power and won’t hit the long ball or even the short ball with authority.  A “floating” front leg is not what you want.

But last night, Monday night, your interesting stance did you harm. You were supposed to bring your left leg and foot out of the gutter with the ball four or five feet from the plate. You did that, and you were on your way to striding into the ball. But then something happened. I can’t tell you what you were thinking. Maybe at the last minute you decided to take the pitch–which you did. But that small element of indecision cost you a strikeout because you were inot in position to do anything except take. The ball moved back over the plate and you realized it too late. There you were, your feet in the wrong place, your weight not back, and your mind playing tricks on you.

Here’s my advice after sixty years of hitting and watching hitters and determining what makes them great hitters and what makes them .240 hitters. It’s the mental preparation. They tell themselves four feet out that they are either going to take a pitch or hit the ball, not both–which you seemed to do. Your body just wasn’t positioned to hit the ball had Toronto pitcher Rogers thrown it ten miles an hour and underhanded.

The above may seem over-the-top, ridiculous and embarrassing, but that’s baseball. I’ve been there–embarrassed and looking foolish. But you’re supposed to forget it and go on and do good the next at bat. But if you completely forget it, you will never become any better than you already are. You, Sean, are a heck of a defensive outfielder. Probably the best outfielder the Rays have. But unless yuo concentrate enough–and work on your hitting enough–you will always be sitting on the bench because Joe Maddon wants runs to win ballgames and you haven’t been producing big and consistently for some time now.

Take a rest from it. I’m not going to tell you to change your batting stance or anything. Just go lay on your sofa or bed and meditate about it. Can you recall a time when you wee really hitting the ball? If so, revert to that stance and approach to hitting that you then had. It’s that simple. If you keep doing what you’ve been doing–the thing that has got you to this difficult point–you will never improve.

Albert Einstein said it best: The significant problems we solve won’t be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”

Posted by at 2:40 PM

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