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  1. #1
    NYYF Legend

    -tz's Avatar
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    Sep 2001

    They're all blind!

    I thought this Tom Verducci story on CNNSI.com was amusing ...


    A sight for sore eyes

    Angels relievers struggle with vision, but not batters
    Posted: Tuesday October 15, 2002 12:36 PM

    No Anaheim starting pitcher has made it through the sixth inning in six of the team's nine postseason games. That sounds like a recipe for trouble. But here are the Angels in the first all-wild card World Series, thanks to the strength of the most visually impaired professional athletes you're likely to find anywhere: their relief pitchers. Brendan Donnelly (who wears goggles), Ben Weber (goggles), Francisco Rodriguez (glasses and contacts) and Troy Percival (who refuses to wear his glasses) may not see all too well, but Anaheim can't win this series without them.

    Angels starters gave manager Mike Scioscia only 49 1/3 innings in nine games, but the bullpen saved the day with a 4-0 record, 2.57 ERA, .212 batting average against and only five walks and 33 strikeouts in 28 innings. Just call them the Guardian Angels. Can't you just picture Percival in a red beret? The veteran right-hander, who broke in with the 1995 Angels (the team that threw away the AL West), is the unquestioned leader of this year's pen -- the near-blind leading the near-blind.

    "He's the worst of all us," Weber said about Percival's vision. "He's blind. He really is."

    There may be no more scary vision for a hitter than to see the burly Percival hunched over at the waist on the mound, wearing a scowl and two-day stubble on his face and squinting hard at the catcher's signs. Just ask Alfonso Soriano, who in Game 1 of the ALDS got drilled with a 97-mph fastball -- the very first postseason pitch Percival ever threw.

    "You know what you're going to get with Percival," Twins first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz said. "You're going to get a squinting madman who throws 200 miles an hour."

    "I can see OK," Percival said. "I just have a hard time seeing the signs."

    Percival does have glasses. "He's too proud and stubborn to wear them," Donnelly said. The glasses are at least supposed to help him read.

    "So I just try not to read stuff," he said.

    Donnelly, who wears prescription goggles, has worn sight aids since 1997, when he was pitching for Chattanooga, one of 16 teams for which he's pitched. One day the catcher called for a breaking ball, but Donnelly thought he had signaled for a two-seam fastball. The catcher could not react to the pitch in time. It whacked the umpire on the arm.

    "The next day the umpire showed up with a cast," Donnelly said, "and I showed up with glasses."

    Weber also pitches with prescription goggles, not to mention the meanest game face since Jack Lambert and an entertaining, furious double-pump arm motion when he deals from the windup. Weber developed The Pump while pitching for the Giants two years ago. "I was just goofing around in the bullpen when I tried it," he said. "I'm always goofing around in the bullpen. But it's not for entertainment value. It helps me find a rhythm."

    Like Percival, Weber likes to pitch mad. "I have to be angry," he said of his scowl. At least he wears corrective goggles, which is what he is trying to sell to the pen's latest member, Rodriguez. The rookie was wearing wire-rimmed glasses before Game 5 of the ALCS last week.

    "I'm going to get him into goggles," Weber said. "I told him I'd get him hooked up with the Oakley people and he thought that was a good idea. Man, I should be working on commission with Oakley."

    What really makes the Guardian Angels so effective, of course, is that they are power pitchers who can get out left-handers as well as right-handers. While Twins manager Ron Gardenhire tried furiously to find the right pitcher-batter matchups in the ALCS -- he made 18 pitching changes while losing the last four games of the series, none of them involving his best reliever, Eddie Guardado -- Scioscia had it easy. He can bring in Donnelly, Weber, Rodriguez or Percival no matter who's coming up for the opposing team.

    Isn't that refreshing in a bullpen world gone mad with specialists? Scioscia has only one lefty in his pen, Scott Schoeneweis. He has pitched to just five batters this entire postseason.

    The World Series will likely come down to how well the Guardian Angels do their job because Anaheim does not have dominating starting pitching. And Barry Bonds of the Giants is so great he puts every manager on the spot when it comes to pitching strategy. Schoeneweis may be called to get Bonds in the sixth or seventh innings, as Scioscia did with Jason Giambi in the ALDS. But the Angels skipper is more likely to have Rodriguez, a right-hander, pitch to Bonds in the biggest moments. How juicy is that? Rodriguez wasn't even called up to the big leagues until Sept. 18 and now he'll have to battle Bonds in the World Series. The kid has the stuff and nerve to do it, too.

    "We had the best bullpen in the league before Frankie," Anaheim pitching coach Bud Black said, referring to the pen's regular season 2.98 ERA, more than half a run better than every other AL team." He's given us an element we didn't always have, the ability to come in and get strikeouts when they're needed."

    Shane Spencer, Hurricane Hazle, Mel Stottlemyre and some other rookies of past years provided unexpected stretch-drive boosts for playoff-bound teams, but the baseball world has never seen anybody arrive so late and contribute so much. Rodriguez has never won a regular-season game in the big leagues, and yet he is 4-0 in the postseason, tying an AL record. With a 93-mph fastball that breaks more than Mariano Rivera's cutter and an 83-mph tightly spinning slider that takes away a hitter's manhood, the 20-year-old phenom has looked downright scary this postseason. Just think how terrifying he'd look in goggles.

  2. #2
    NYYF Legend

    Slippery Elm's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2000
    Cloud Nine
    If it wasn't so late I'd break out the PhotoShop and see how Mo looks in goggles. Or maybe Ryne Duren glasses.

  3. #3
    Released Outright
    Join Date
    Apr 2001
    So THAT'S why Percival squints...

  4. #4
    R-I-P, Mr. Nelson Mandela Jersey Yankee's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    North Jersey somewhere
    Don't worry, Barry's got great vision!!! Here's one to a few into the Drink @ McCovey Cove!!!

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