Josh Hamilton and the breaks of the game

Josh Hamilton threw coach under bus.
Josh Hamilton threw coach under bus.
Posted: April 14, 2011

Observations, insinuations, ruminations and unvarnished opinions . . .

YOU HAVE PROBABLY watched the first bizarre injury of the 2011 season a dozen times. It starts with 2010 AL MVP Josh Hamilton anchored on third after legging out an RBI triple to right-center. Now, Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre lofts a high foul halfway up the third-base line. Tigers catcher Victor Martinez and third baseman Brandon Inge converge. Inge calls him off. The players are perhaps 2 feet apart when Inge makes the catch.

But wait . . . righthander Brad Penny is watching the play unfold from the mound, which makes him 60 feet and 6 inches of useless. The plate is as wide open as an NBA All-Star Game. Hamilton gets a tag-up call from third-base coach Dave Anderson, a call that triggers what the superstar later calls, "a stupid play," leaving his coach with a chest covered in tire tracks. Martinez is a human lava flow, but Hamilton had to run 90 feet against a man with a better-angled route to the plate without the baseball. The most impressive part of the play was Inge leading Martinez with a perfect outlet pass, like a basketball rebounder starting a fastbreak.

The fragile slugger belly-slid across the plate, clearly out thanks to the catcher's airborne lunge. In the background, an embarrassed Penny had started for the plate, as if there was anything he could do to help.

On the Richter scale of bold plays, Anderson sending Hamilton to perform what the alertness of Inge and Martinez turned into a fool's errand was no more egregious than soon-to-be-fired Brooklyn third-base coach Milt Stock challenging Rich Ashburn's below-average arm with the below-average running speed of leftfielder Cal Abrams. If Abrams had scored from second on a two-out single in the bottom of the ninth inning of a tied game with the 1950 pennant on the line, the Dodgers would have engaged the Phillies in a one-game playoff. But Whitey threw a perfect one-hop strike and Abrams was out by plenty, setting the stage for Dick Sisler's 10th-inning homer.

So, Josh Hamilton, who has a Body by Jake but who bruises like a snowflake, is out 6 to 8 weeks with a small fracture of the shoulder. Somebody tell the Illustrated Man it was just a baseball play. Hamilton, who has been accorded many breaks during his checkered career, may have created a wider fracture by calling out his coach.

* Sistine ceiling update: Joe Savery, Anthony Hewitt, Zach Collier, D'Arby Myers and Kyrell Hudson, a pitcher and four high-round, high-bonus outfielders drafted more for speed and athleticism than projectable baseball skills, are in the low minors trying to justify the Phillies' investment. Savery was the 19th pick in the 2007 draft. He was a pitcher, first baseman, DH at Rice and he got big bonus bucks. After a disastrous 1-12 season last year at Lehigh Valley, the lefthander decided to take a stab at the Babe Ruth gambit. He batted .348 in 46 ABs for the IronPigs, so the Phillies, down over $1 million, said what the hell. Joe is playing first and DH at Clearwater, two levels down the food chain from Triple A. So take his six-game, .667 average, including a pair of 4-for-4s, with just a few grains of salt. Savery needs to move back up to the IronPigs.

Myers is in the sixth season of an underachieving career where the cousin of Shaquille O'Neal has yet to play above Class A. He was chosen on the fourth round of the 2006 draft. The speed is there, but there is no part of his game that stands out and he is a Threshers reserve. Myers has just 10 homers in 1,226 minor league at-bats.

Collier, the 34th pick in the 2008 draft, carried a .232 average with one homer in 564 ABs into the 2010 season. He fractured a wrist in spring training and missed the entire year. He is 3-for-17 (.176)at Lakewood.

"Ant" Hewitt is on pace to make notorious Phillies first-round flop Jeff Jackson look liked Reggie Jackson. Once in a while during his journey from elite Salisbury School to a .208 minor league average, the muscular Brooklynite will launch a prodigious home run. His 5 o'clock power is what caught scouts eyes when he was on elite summer travel teams, pounding BP fastballs 450 feet. But he has hit just 19 homers in 800 pro at-bats while striking out at a 37 percent rate. His fielding percentage at third, right and left is under .900. Hewitt is repeating the Sally League and was 1-for-10 at Lakewood with six Ks.

The Phils took Hudson, the state of Washington prep football star, on the third round in 2009 and paid him over slot to pass on a Pac-10 ride. Kyrell batted .173 at Williamsport last year and is currently in extended spring training trying to make friends with Uncle Charlie.

Meanwhile, lower-round pick Jiwan James (22nd, 2007), drafted as a pitcher, is fast-tracking in center for the Threshers. James' body could have been cloned from Dom Brown. A year ago, Jonathan Singleton (eighth, 2009) was languishing in extended, but bashed his way through Williamsport and wound up as a Sally League All-Star for Lakewood's championship team and rocketed to No. 2 on the Baseball America Phillies prospects chart.

* Oh yes, the trivia question: Easy one this week. Who was the non-uniformed "pitching coach" 1950 National League MVP Jim Konstanty would turn to when his palm ball needed a guiding hand? And what was his real occupation?

Send email to bill1chair@aol.com.

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www.philly.com/BillConlin.

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