I have a new ESPN feature today, but it’s not uni-related, so we’ll continue here as usual.
So: I generally like Jerry Manuel. He cuffs his pants high, he’s clearly very smart, and he appears to be comfortable with who he is (a stark contrast to Willie Randolph, who always sounded defensive). I hope the Mets bring him back next season, no matter how the rest of this week plays out.
But there’s one aspect to his game — an aspect that’s a crucial part of any manager’s visual repertoire — that’s really been bugging me: I hate the way he changes pitchers.
When Manuel wants to bring in a fresh arm, he hops out of the dugout, starts jogging, and quickly signals to the bullpen by raising his hand and waving it, like he’s hailing a cab or something. When pointing to the ’pen, he waggles his finger around, sort of like an umpire signaling a home run. All the while, he’s still jogging, which he continues to do until he reaches the mound.
Here’s what I don’t like about it:
• Manuel’s too jumpy to leave the dugout. In this shot, you can see that he’s already gone into his trot before the batter (who had walked) has reached first base! Similarly, when Jon Neisse gave up that salami to Jason Marquis on Monday night, Manuel had left the dugout and already signaled to the ’pen before Marquis had reached home plate. Dude, show a little patience and let the batter finish doing his thing before you start doing your thing. Maybe Manuel thinks his quick dash looks decisive, but to me it just makes him look like an overprotective parent scurrying out to rescue a vulnerable child. Which leads us to…
• Once he’s on his way to the mound, he signals to the ’pen way too quickly. He always does it before reaching the baseline chalk (which seems like bad form), and often well before the next hitter has been announced (which is bad strategy). Look, in this shot he’s still on the warning track in front of the dugout — he hasn’t even reached the foul territory grass yet! Leaving aside the question of why anyone would be a big hurry to call for anyone in the Mets ’pen, the whole thing feels too rushed, too premature. Is he afraid that the pitcher or catcher will talk him out of it if he doesn’t make the call before he reaches the mound?
• I hate the little finger-wave signal. It looks bad enough on its own (always makes me think of this or this), but it looks extra-bad when combined with the rush out of the dugout. When my team’s just given up a big hit, the last thing I want to see is the skipper looking panicky. That’s how I always feel when I see Manuel scampering out there and waving his hand — almost seems like he’s waving a white flag instead of just his index finger. What’s wrong with a nice, slow walk to the mound? At a moment like this, I want calm, steady leadership, not a frenzied “Oh my god, the ship is sinking, get me a reliever right away, HEEELLLLLLPP!!!” Looks like amateur hour out there.
Manuel’s particular approach notwithstanding, the act of a manager signaling for a new pitcher is one of those great little visual protocols that are unique to baseball. There’s the overhand method (raise arm about three-quarters and decisively point), the underhand method (half-extend arm at hip level and cock wrist repeatedly), and, my favorite, the crossover method (extend one arm and tap inner forearm with fingers of opposite hand). Next time you’re practicing these moves in the mirror — we all know you do it, just like we know you practice football ref signals, so don’t bother denying it — try Manuel’s delivery and see how it compares. I think you’ll agree that it’s unworthy of serious consideration. Does anyone know if he used to do it this way back when he managed the Chisox?
One other Manuel-related protocol worth mentioning: Soon after he took over for Randolph, Mets pitchers who were being removed from a game got in the habit of waiting on the mound for the new pitcher to arrive before departing for the dugout. The idea was to show solidarity with the next guy and metaphorically hand off the baton to him (or maybe just to say, “If my ERA goes up because you let these runners score, you’re totally paying for my next batch of HGH”). I liked this approach, which I believe was much more common in the 1970s and ’80s, but now the Mets appear to have stopped doing it. Too bad.
Scoop Hoax Tease: So two nights ago I got a note from someone named Alex. Mr. Alex said he had some news relating to this recent Ticker item about Nike breaking out a new look for Oregon at some point this season. Here’s what Mr. Alex wrote:
I just graduated from Oregon. During my final class this summer, we had a group project. One of my group members told me about his uncle, who is personal friends with Phil Knight. During dinner one night, Phil told my friend’s uncle and his dad about the Oregon uniforms. They are going to be a solid, one-piece uniform (unitard) with a very space/tech edge. “Very strange-looking” was my friend’s description. And apparently they will be worn at homecoming versus UCLA [which is on October 11th].
Whether it will be all-black, including helmets, as someone mentioned in the comments following that article you posted to, I am not sure. But my friend said that is solid inside information from his uncle.
Hahahahahahahaha. My compliments to Mr. Alex for being able to type that last sentence without, like, rupturing a kidney from laughing so hard. An inside tip from a reader’s friend’s uncle’s close personal friend Phil Knight isn’t quite as good as this, but it’s getting there.
Naturally, I was suspicious, especially since it seems fishy that Phil Knight would have friends over for dinner without inviting me, am I right? So I went ahead and did some checking on Mr. Alex (who has a last name but asked me not to use it), and it appears that he is indeed a recent Oregon grad, so that part of his story checks out. Of course, that doesn’t mean he isn’t pulling my leg, or that the story, even if Mr. Alex is on the square, hasn’t morphed a bit on its way from Phil Knight to the uncle to the friend to Mr. Alex.
But here’s the thing: I’ve predicted for a while now that the advent of a football unitard was only a matter of time, what with the skintight jerseys and the ever-widening superhero design trope. Frankly, I think it makes a lot of sense, at least from a practical standpoint, although it will no doubt look uglier than a festering sore. And if such a one-piece uniform were to debut, who better to showcase it than the Ducks? As completely unconfirmed and unsubstantiated rumors from semi-anonymous readers’ friends’ uncles’ close personal friend Phil Knight go, this one sounds pretty plausible.
If any of you Nike people reading this would like to confirm or deny, I won’t use your name either.
(The added tragedy of all this, of course, is that even if this unsubstantiated rumor turns out to be true, I won’t be able to see the uniforms, because I’ll be on tour with the Forewords on October 11th. Phil Knight’s gonna have to cook me a really good dinner to make up for this one.)
Uni Watch News Ticker: The audio is NSFW, but get a set of headphones or something so you can hear George Brett talking about a very special kind of uniform disaster. … Patrick Ryan notes that Prince Fielder appears to be wearing official Brewers boxers. … New mask designs for Martin Gerber (additional info here) and Patrick Lalime (all pics poached from the Chris Creamer board). … Cute. Details here (with thanks to Matt Bachovchin). … For those who are wondering, Joe Skiba says he’s not sure yet if the Giants will wear a memorial patch or decal for Dick Lynch, but they’ve got a bye this week, so they’ll certainly have enough time to come up with something nice by their next game. … Great old movie poster here (with thanks to Ronnie Poore). … Mike Verna reports that These guys have moved from Tucson to Reno and are now these guys. … Once upon a time, nobody was required to wear white (with thanks to Tim Powers). … The Canadiens have unveiled their centennial initiative, which among other things will feature six different throwback jerseys. There’s a photo gallery here, and an additional gallery here that shows what the 2009 All-Star Game jerseys will look like as well. … Turns out we all missed a great little detail Colorado/CSU game back on August 31st (but fortunately Johnathan Valdez didn’t): Colorado was wearing a helmet decal showing the American and Colorado flag (here’s another view). Not clear whether CSU was wearing it too. … Pretty funny uni-related Minnesota Wild commercial here (even if it’s a total stylistic rip-off of the “This is SportsCenter” campaign, but I won’t blame Jeff Barak for that). … Check out the Sabres’ new ice: no center slug! (Thanks to Mark Kluczynski.) … Still more about Saints punter Steve Weatherford and his wedding band and wristwatch: According to the “Watch Your Jewelry” item in the middle of this page, Weatherford wasn’t wearing the bling during pregame warm-ups, so he apparently puts it on specifically for the game (with thanks to Rachel Bicicchi). … Several cool old high school football pics from Nick Zajicek: Faux stirrups don’t look any better on the gridiron than they do on the diamond; nice helmet logo here; and this is the team from Brownwood, Texas — the stars on the shoulders represent the school’s number of state championships. … Mike Menner was at last night’s Twins/Chisox game and was given a 2009 schedule (apparently next year’s MLB schedule was announced last week, which seems much earlier than usual, no?). As you can see, it does say “Early Schedule,” so maybe it’s preliminary or something. Anyway: “The schedule features a logo for the last year in the Metrdome and a graphic that could be new formal signage for the new ballpark, Target Field.” I’m not supposed to tell you this, or even know about it, but since they’re already pimping it on that schedule I will happily confirm that the Metrodome logo will be worn as a home sleeve patch next season. … Hey, speaking of schedules: The MLB schedule is all done by computer these days. But it used to be done by hand by Henry and Holly Stephenson, a husband-and-wife couple whose daughter Katie happens to be a good friend of my Forewords bandmate Liz Clayton (not quite as good as knowing about the new Oregon uniforms via a reader’s friend’s uncle, but whaddaya gonna do). Upon being introduced to Katie during one of Liz’s social events in 2004 and being told what her parents did for a living, I peppered her with questions about the schedule-making process, her parents’ methodology, etc. She basically ended the conversation by saying, “Everyone thinks it’s really complicated, but it’s not. They do most of it just by sitting down with a bunch of index cards while watching MacGyver.” This was right when the Stephensons were in the process of losing the schedule contract, so I asked Katie for their phone number, because I was certain I could save their gig if I wrote a heart-tugging piece about this adorable couple slavishly working over the MLB schedule (I figured I’d probably leave out the MacGyver part). Unfortunately, they didn’t want to be interviewed, so that was the end of that. A pity…. Collateral Gammage and I will be attending tonight’s Mets/Cubs game, where I’ll probably get to see Jerry Manuel doing the “Oh, waiter, another basket of bread sticks, please!” routine way too many times. Weather’s supposed to be iffy, so please do an anti-rain dance for us. Thanks.