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A perfect pairing: Grudzielanek and Eckstein

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  • A perfect pairing: Grudzielanek and Eckstein

    QUOTE
    A Perfect Pairing
    Insider
    By Jerry Crasnick
    ESPN The Magazine

    Heaven knows what big-leaguers do to kill an hour on a warm spring morning on Saturn or Uranus. In sleepy Jupiter, Fla., David Eckstein and Mark Grudzielanek spent February and March bonding around the second-base bag in the relentless quest for perfection.

    Eckstein and Grudzielanek, new teammates and middle-infield partners in St. Louis, worked endlessly on flips, pivots and pirouettes under the supervision of coach Jose Oquendo. Their mandate: Save a tick here and a fraction there whenever possible. When the goal is two outs per ground ball, time is a precious commodity.

    The tangible reward for all that hard work came in October, when the regular season ended and the Cardinals ranked first in the majors with 196 double plays. Get beyond the team's most thoroughly documented attributes -- Albert Pujols' bat speed, Chris Carpenter's sinker, Tony La Russa's abrasive brand of brilliance and that catchy Clydesdales jingle -- and here's a big reason why the 2005 Cards believe they have what it takes to go the distance.

    They sweat the details.

    How adept were the Cardinals at turning two this year? Consider that Scott Rolen started only 55 games because of a shoulder injury and still participated in 17 double plays -- or three more than Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez turned in 119 games. Eckstein ranked second among big-league shortstops to Pittsburgh's Jack Wilson in double plays with 123, and Grudzielanek led all second basemen with 108.

    Mark Grudzielanek/David Eckstein
    Elsa/Getty Images
    Mark Grudzielanek and David Eckstein are playing together for the first time this season.

    The Cardinals continue to be double trouble in October. San Diego outhit St. Louis in the first two games of the Division Series, but grounded into a demoralizing seven double plays.

    In St. Louis, quashing rallies is a collaborative effort. Pitching coach Dave Duncan likes his staff to pound the zone with sinking, two-seam fastballs, and this year the Cardinals assembled a group that fit the profile. Mark Mulder induced 2.74 ground balls for every fly ball to rank third in the league behind Brandon Webb and Derek Lowe. Carpenter was seventh in the NL in ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio, and Matt Morris, Jason Marquis and Jeff Suppan all finished in the top 21.

    Bench coach Joe Pettini monitors defensive positioning, and the St. Louis infielders are diligent in taking their cues. "Our infielders are very interested in positioning and they pay attention to it the whole game,'' Duncan said. "They don't just go out there and stand in the same spot.''

    Still, when the ball is hit on the ground, it's all about execution. Eckstein and Grudzielanek don't have a reputation for defensive excellence. But Cardinals reliever Julian Tavarez regards them as highly underrated, and he should know: Tavarez pitched in front of Roberto Alomar and Omar Vizquel in Cleveland and Luis Castillo and Alex Gonzalez in Florida.

    "People say, 'Who are those guys?'" Tavarez said. "And I say, 'They're the guys who helped turn almost 200 double plays.' As pitchers, the first thing we think about is a ground ball, because we know they can turn it at any time.''

    Since Grudzielanek is a career National Leaguer and Eckstein had played exclusively in Anaheim, they were strangers before signing with St. Louis as free agents in a two-week span in December and January. During those quiet mornings in Jupiter, they gained insight into each others' tendencies and personalities.

    "When you've come to a club that's won as many games as they won here last year and you're a new face, it's nice to have somebody else who's new also,'' Eckstein said. "We were learning together on the fly, and it made us become good friends with each other.''

    “ People say, 'Who are those guys?' And I say, 'They're the guys who helped turn almost 200 double plays.' As pitchers, the first thing we think about is a ground ball, because we know they can turn it at any time. ”
    — Cardinals pitcher Julian Tavarez on SS David Eckstein and 2B Mark Grudzielanek

    The double-play assimilation process is rooted in subtle cues. In their first session around the bag, Grudzielanek told Eckstein that he likes taking throws near his right shoulder because it facilitates a smooth, quick release to first base. Eckstein, conversely, told his shortstop partner that he's not fussy about location.

    "Throw it anywhere you want, and I'll catch it,'' he told Grudzielanek.

    After bonding in spring training, the new teammates became even better pals as the season progressed. Eckstein, a self-professed "boring" guy, is accustomed to going home and crashing after games. So Grudzielanek achieved a major social coup when he coaxed his buddy to attend a team function in September, then treated him to dinner and "Sunday Night Football" at an Irish pub during an off night in Chicago. Eckstein had so much fun, he even stayed out past his bedtime.

    "He's a good man, but you have to force him to go out,'' Grudzielanek said.

    The double-play partners are stronger as a unit because they know their limitations. While Eckstein relies on quick hands and feet and has to crank it up to get the ball across the diamond, Grudzielanek is a second baseman with a shortstop's arm. He has what's called a "hose,'' in baseball lingo.

    That's why it's preordained for Grudzielanek to cover the bag and try to turn the double play when a right-handed batter hits the ball back to the mound against St. Louis.

    "I tell our pitchers, 'Do you want me to take it, or somebody who throws 20 miles an hour harder?'" Eckstein said, laughing.

    Jerry Crasnick covers baseball for ESPN Insider.
    http://insider.espn.go.com/mlb/playoffs200...tory?id=2187452[/b][/quote]

    "Can't buy what I want because it's free...
    Can't buy what I want because it's free..."
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  • #2
    QUOTE
    Grudzielanek is a second baseman with a shortstop's arm. He has what's called a "hose,'' in baseball lingo.

    [/b][/quote]

    OK, I thought bp told us Grudz had a weak arm?
    Un-Official Sponsor of Randy Choate and Kevin Siegrist

    Comment


    • #3
      QUOTE(*007* @ Oct 11 2005, 04:23 PM) Quoted post

      QUOTE
      A Perfect Pairing
      Insider
      By Jerry Crasnick
      ESPN The Magazine

      Heaven knows what big-leaguers do to kill an hour on a warm spring morning on Saturn or Uranus. In sleepy Jupiter, Fla., David Eckstein and Mark Grudzielanek spent February and March bonding around the second-base bag in the relentless quest for perfection.

      Eckstein and Grudzielanek, new teammates and middle-infield partners in St. Louis, worked endlessly on flips, pivots and pirouettes under the supervision of coach Jose Oquendo. Their mandate: Save a tick here and a fraction there whenever possible. When the goal is two outs per ground ball, time is a precious commodity.

      The tangible reward for all that hard work came in October, when the regular season ended and the Cardinals ranked first in the majors with 196 double plays. Get beyond the team's most thoroughly documented attributes -- Albert Pujols' bat speed, Chris Carpenter's sinker, Tony La Russa's abrasive brand of brilliance and that catchy Clydesdales jingle -- and here's a big reason why the 2005 Cards believe they have what it takes to go the distance.

      They sweat the details.

      How adept were the Cardinals at turning two this year? Consider that Scott Rolen started only 55 games because of a shoulder injury and still participated in 17 double plays -- or three more than Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez turned in 119 games. Eckstein ranked second among big-league shortstops to Pittsburgh's Jack Wilson in double plays with 123, and Grudzielanek led all second basemen with 108.

      Mark Grudzielanek/David Eckstein
      Elsa/Getty Images
      Mark Grudzielanek and David Eckstein are playing together for the first time this season.

      The Cardinals continue to be double trouble in October. San Diego outhit St. Louis in the first two games of the Division Series, but grounded into a demoralizing seven double plays.

      In St. Louis, quashing rallies is a collaborative effort. Pitching coach Dave Duncan likes his staff to pound the zone with sinking, two-seam fastballs, and this year the Cardinals assembled a group that fit the profile. Mark Mulder induced 2.74 ground balls for every fly ball to rank third in the league behind Brandon Webb and Derek Lowe. Carpenter was seventh in the NL in ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio, and Matt Morris, Jason Marquis and Jeff Suppan all finished in the top 21.

      Bench coach Joe Pettini monitors defensive positioning, and the St. Louis infielders are diligent in taking their cues. "Our infielders are very interested in positioning and they pay attention to it the whole game,'' Duncan said. "They don't just go out there and stand in the same spot.''

      Still, when the ball is hit on the ground, it's all about execution. Eckstein and Grudzielanek don't have a reputation for defensive excellence. But Cardinals reliever Julian Tavarez regards them as highly underrated, and he should know: Tavarez pitched in front of Roberto Alomar and Omar Vizquel in Cleveland and Luis Castillo and Alex Gonzalez in Florida.

      "People say, 'Who are those guys?'" Tavarez said. "And I say, 'They're the guys who helped turn almost 200 double plays.' As pitchers, the first thing we think about is a ground ball, because we know they can turn it at any time.''

      Since Grudzielanek is a career National Leaguer and Eckstein had played exclusively in Anaheim, they were strangers before signing with St. Louis as free agents in a two-week span in December and January. During those quiet mornings in Jupiter, they gained insight into each others' tendencies and personalities.

      "When you've come to a club that's won as many games as they won here last year and you're a new face, it's nice to have somebody else who's new also,'' Eckstein said. "We were learning together on the fly, and it made us become good friends with each other.''

      “ People say, 'Who are those guys?' And I say, 'They're the guys who helped turn almost 200 double plays.' As pitchers, the first thing we think about is a ground ball, because we know they can turn it at any time. ”
      — Cardinals pitcher Julian Tavarez on SS David Eckstein and 2B Mark Grudzielanek

      The double-play assimilation process is rooted in subtle cues. In their first session around the bag, Grudzielanek told Eckstein that he likes taking throws near his right shoulder because it facilitates a smooth, quick release to first base. Eckstein, conversely, told his shortstop partner that he's not fussy about location.

      "Throw it anywhere you want, and I'll catch it,'' he told Grudzielanek.

      After bonding in spring training, the new teammates became even better pals as the season progressed. Eckstein, a self-professed "boring" guy, is accustomed to going home and crashing after games. So Grudzielanek achieved a major social coup when he coaxed his buddy to attend a team function in September, then treated him to dinner and "Sunday Night Football" at an Irish pub during an off night in Chicago. Eckstein had so much fun, he even stayed out past his bedtime.

      "He's a good man, but you have to force him to go out,'' Grudzielanek said.

      The double-play partners are stronger as a unit because they know their limitations. While Eckstein relies on quick hands and feet and has to crank it up to get the ball across the diamond, Grudzielanek is a second baseman with a shortstop's arm. He has what's called a "hose,'' in baseball lingo.

      That's why it's preordained for Grudzielanek to cover the bag and try to turn the double play when a right-handed batter hits the ball back to the mound against St. Louis.

      "I tell our pitchers, 'Do you want me to take it, or somebody who throws 20 miles an hour harder?'" Eckstein said, laughing.

      Jerry Crasnick covers baseball for ESPN Insider.
      http://insider.espn.go.com/mlb/playoffs200...tory?id=2187452[/b][/quote]
      [/b][/quote]
      I didn't realize Carp was a sinkerballer. Hmmmmmm.
      --Official Lounge Sponsor of Coach Mike Anderson, Colby Rasmus, and Pearl Jam.
      --Suck it cubbies.
      --Thanks to RBB for my kick ace avatar!!** --RETIRE #51!!!

      Comment


      • #4
        But Jason Stark assured us David Eckstein was by far the worst FA signing in the off-season!!

        How can this be?!


        Official lounge sponsor of new Busch Stadium!

        Comment


        • #5
          The Cards need to sign Grudz for another year.

          Comment


          • #6
            QUOTE(Iowa_Card @ Oct 12 2005, 08:14 AM) Quoted post

            The Cards need to sign Grudz for another year.
            [/b][/quote]


            ++QFA yep uh-huh
            But wait. There is something that can be done afterall. My good friend Angelo is a cop in the Tampa/Clearwater area. Since I kept all of the files from the access logs when I had the power to see them, guess what, I have everyone's IP addresses. Hmm..what can I do w/ those??
            ...

            Comment


            • #7
              QUOTE(Fred Garvin @ Oct 12 2005, 09:53 AM) Quoted post

              QUOTE(Iowa_Card @ Oct 12 2005, 08:14 AM) Quoted post

              The Cards need to sign Grudz for another year.
              [/b][/quote]


              ++QFA yep uh-huh
              [/b][/quote]
              No doubt.

              And I'm not saying that just because I'm his sponsor.

              He's earned it.
              "Let me lay it right on the line. Bigotry and racism are among the deadliest social ills plaguing the world today. The only way to destroy them is to expose them. If man is ever to be worthy of his destiny, we must fill our hearts with tolerance.- Stan Lee (circa 1968)

              "Compete less with the person in front of you than the person inside of you." - Anonymous

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