1 Minute Monday, September 7th

Last day of the season and this one has particularly gone by quickly.  well not htis day, this season I meant.  This day is actually just beginning (it’s actually late Sunday Night) but I’m posting because I will be busy all day tomorrow. We have a day game for labor day and then have a flight back to Omaha which we will leave for directly from the field.

Threw tonight and blew a save to send us into 15 innings which was terrible, but I guess on the bright side, I did strike out the side for the first time….ever that i can re

Fan Mail Friday, September 4th

This will be a relatively short and quick post.  We’re coming down to the end of the season and between planning for off season travel back home and packing up, I’ll admit I didn’t have a ton of time to work on this.  I will say I have another post to come out soon that I’m looking forward to hearing your comments about.  In the meantime, if you want one of your questions answered on an upcoming Fan Mail Friday, email me at disco@discohayes.com.

The last time I wrote (and you kindly answered) I asked about what pitches you threw.  This time I have 3.5 questions: 1) Do pitchers generally only throw fastballs in the 8 pitches they get to warm up when they come into the game (or at the beginning of the inning) or do they try all of their pitches? 1.5) Do you have certain routine you go through with these pitches?  2) What glove do you use (make, model)?  3) Besides working on your book and updating your blog, what are you going to do in the off season?
Adam S. Arlington, VA

<2.) Most pitchers have a specific routine they go through for their warm-up pitches.  For example, I typically throw 2 fastballs, 2 sliders, a change-up, a rise ball, and then finish with two fastballs.  Between innings, typically I throw 7 pitches and will often take out the rise ball.  Some days I will throw an extra slider or change-up depending on how the first ones felt.  I think most pitchers are that way.  If a particular pitch doesn’t feel right, they will throw an extra one or two.  But for the most part, they throw fastballs.  When you get on the mound, you should already be ready to throw, so for the most part you are just getting used to the mound and the visuals of the park.

2.) Since college, I have always used Rawlings Gloves.  Do you hear that Rawlings?  I have used your gloves uninterruptedly for ten seasons now and have had the option to freely go to another company.  Who better to represent your company as a spokesperson than a loyal customer with thousands of fans who don’t play baseball themselves?  That’s right, I don’t have a sponsorship.  Yet.  Oh, the model?  I have had a Rawlings ProS15TC.

3.) To be honest, I really don’t know what the off season will hold for me and Mrs. Disco.  We have been nomads for two years now since selling Mrs. Disco’s condo, so we will probably be visiting friends and family for a decent part of the winter months.  I will probably take a month or two off from throwing and then will start getting in shape for next season around December.  Being married to a yoga/pilates master and personal trainer, even if I tried taking a week off from working out and being in good physical shape after the end of the season, she wouldn’t let me.  So needless to say I’ll be working out in the gym all off season.  I will be looking for work (so if anyone is hiring, let me know) and hopefully will get some freelance web design work which allows me to maintain a flexible workout and travel schedule.  Mrs. Disco will work as a trainer and yoga/pilates instructor as well.  We are looking forward to the off season as it will really be one of our first opportunities to be a “normal” married couple for a few months.

I may play winter ball.  We are waiting to hear about that.

Big fan of the blog. What’s your take on stirrups as part of the baseball uniform?  Some guys wear their pant legs down to their shoes, while others (seemingly, just a few), pull up their pant legs to show some stirrup.  I have to admit, I’m an old school guy, and I like the stirrups.  Seems like from your picture, you do too.
Keep up the good work,
EJ S.,

The Royals minor league affiliates made a uniform switch to stirrups in 2007.  I have worn my pants up at my knees since high school, so I’ve always been a fan of the high socks, but now that we have mandatory rules regarding pants, I’m not that unique anymore.  That being said, when I get to the big leagues, I’ll have the opportunity to be unique.  As most everyone is aware, the pant style currently in the big leagues has become one of extremely baggy and extremely long pants.  Like over the shoes long.  I posted in spring training about the cognitive dissonance I experienced with my pants when I backed up a big league spring training game.  My consensus was at home I would wear my white pants down and on the road I would wear my pants up with stirrups.  We’ll see how that evolves.

I have been planning to do something on the 29th of every month in honor of Quiz.  If you guys have any suggestions, I’m open to them.  I may go with the mid-calf pants and high stirrups (see below) because I can’t grow a mustache on command and besides, let’s be honest, I need a few Rolaids Relief Man awards under my belt before I’ve earned such a supreme mustache above my lip.

Mr. Disco, (haven’t called anyone that since that one video in college, but I was young and needed the money), I am new to the Disco Mania, and have read the entire archive, but still have not found the fake interview that started it all, is it somewhere to be found?
J, Kansas City, KS

The guest blog that started it all can be found at this link.  You can also find the link from my bio, which you may enjoy reading.


1 Minute Monday, August 31st

I threw well and got a save tonight which was nice.  Was a well-pitched game all around and was fun to end it with a 1-2-3 inning with some groundouts.

I have to give a shout out to Disco fan Nick O., who submitted this video to show me fans across the world are taking notice of my blog and my suggestions and though this wasn’t the money making idea I had proposed, it’s nice to see people are reading and paying attention.

Now, as many fans have pointed out, if only Adrian Beltre had read

1 Minute Monday, August 24th

I have met a pretty eclectic array of people throughout the years playing baseball and this past week has been no exeption.  During BP in Portland I met Scott the Scoreboard operator (it’s manual) and got to ask him how they climb all over behind teh scenes.  Then I got to meet Jonathan G. (who is famous for long comments on this blog)_ who went billions of inches out of his way to see us play.  Just today on my way to the bullpen I met a grandfather and grandson pair who (along with the dad) man a 13,000 acre farm in NE by themse

Fan Mail Friday, August 21th

After a trip to the west coast which featured no internet in the hotel and then an extra inning game Friday night before a 5am (PT) flight Saturday morning before a 7pm (CT) game followed by a Double Header Sunday, this was tough to get out on time.  Sorry for the wait.  I have been asked this question a number of times in person, and got it in my fan mail, so I decided to answer it.  I went a bit long on it, so this was the only question I got to this week.  Keep the questions coming to fanmail@discohayes.com and I’ll keep on answering.

What do you think about the deal that Stephen Strasburg got without having pitched to a Major League hitter?  Do you think anyone is worth that kind of money coming out of college?
Chris H., Glendale, AZ

Chris, you ask a good question, but unfortunately you have put me in an awkward position a few times over.  First, as an “insider” and someone invested in being paid to play baseball, this question is a bit tough to answer honestly.  More importantly though, with a name like Chris H., you are undoubtedly going to raise questions about whether or not you are real or if I just made you up [1]
.  Which makes it that much more awkward were I to make up a question which put me in an awkward position to answer.  Perhaps that’s awkward enough people will realize I would never do that to myself.

As background, I’ll lay out all the facts I know on the subject: this guy has never thrown in a Major League game and he just got paid $15,100,000 [2].  That’s it.  I haven’t seen Strasburg throw, so keep that in mind as I answer this.  I don’t know his stats all that well either.  And at the time of writing this, I currently don’t have Internet access at the hotel, thanks La Keentah [3], so I am unable to do a whole lot of research on him.  Or is it Him?  Either way, I will do what I can to answer honestly.  I will mostly think out loud and hope my thoughts will be of interest and perhaps lead to new insights on your part.

Now that I’m done with my disclaimers, I will go on to answer your question.

What do you think about the deal?

I think it’s insane.  Before you start nodding your head and think, “There, see!  Even the players think it’s ridiculous…” keep reading.

I do think it’s insane, I do think it’s way too much money upfront for someone coming out of college.  I also am, of course, insanely jealous, but that’s beside the point.  I know first-hand how difficult it is to make it to the big leagues and how difficult the grind of a daily professional baseball schedule is.  The difficulties reach well beyond the batter 60-feet 6-inches away.  Both on and off the field, being a successful professional is more than velocity and pitch location.  I think back to my team in 2006 which was full of recent draftees and only a select few of us are still in the game.  The attrition in this profession is worse than Freshman Organic Chemistry.  As I said before, I don’t know much about Strasburg, but there are a lot of variables to him being a success.

What I do know about him is he has incredible “stuff”.  I have heard he throws ridiculously hard and locates and has great off speed pitches.  He isn’t just a hard thrower who an organization could plan on teaching how to pitch.  He already knows how to pitch and does so as well, now, as many major league pitchers.  He is polished and a can’t miss prospect.  He’s potentially a major league caliber pitcher right now.  A “no brainer”.

Well, there have been “no brainers” and can’t-miss guys before, and in the past some of them have missed (maybe because they had no brains).  I don’t want to put out a list of biggest busts because that doesn’t seem fun and I’m sure other people have done it plenty of times over in the past, but suffice it to say, there have been a lot of highly touted players ready to “step in to the majors right now” that haven’t panned out.  One of the most prevalent indicators of how cool a game baseball is is that it’s so hard to evaluate which players will have success.  It shows baseball is more than a game of talent or ability.  In the NFL there are seven rounds of the draft.  And realistically, the difference makers are all taken within the first few rounds.  Yeah, Tom Brady this, Tom Brady that, but dimples aside, let me make my point.  The NHL has seven rounds as well.  In the NBA there are two rounds.  Two rounds.  How can baseball have 50 rounds and the other major sports have so few?  Is it that much harder to evaluate talent in baseball?  No.  But in baseball the correlation between talent and success is not nearly as certain as other sports.  It is not at all uncommon to know a basketball player is going to be an NBA star when he is 17 years old.  In baseball, it happens (thanks A-Rod for weakening my argument), but extremely rarely.

From what I’ve heard Strasburg’s talent is undeniable.  The Nationals evaluated this, but paid him a seemingly ridiculous sum banking on his success.  For their sake let’s hope the talent correlation with success holds more like it did for LeBron than it did for Matt Bush or Brien Taylor or Steve Chilcott (the notable #1’s who didn’t even make the Majors).

Do you think anyone is worth that kind of money coming out of college?

Yes, I do.

Wait, you just said all this stuff about how it was insane to give him that much money and how he could be a terrible investment.  How can you turn around and answer “Yes” to this second question?

There are a few approaches I could take here, and in my opinion (which is the only opinion expressed [4] on my blog), they all point to the answer “Yes”.  As crazy as it sounds, I think Strasburg very well may be worth that kind of money.

If you are a baseball stat geek and in your mind “WAR” first and foremost means “Wins above Replacement”, this section of my answer is for you.  Sort of.  If you really want to get that in-depth with it, read stuff that’s more interesting and much better thought-out other places like Rany Jazayerli did for Baseball Prospectus or this from hardballtimes.com.  If you want the Disco spin, I will give it quickly and hope even you non-stat-geeks can enjoy.  Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is a stat that indicates how many wins a player is worth above a Triple-A replacement at his position.  For example, it would attempt to answer the question how many extra games would the Yankees have won if A-Rod were healthy and in the lineup to start this year?  Granted it’s a tough question to answer, but trust me, there is a ton that goes into these calculations.  And if you look on fangraphs.com at a sorted list of which pitchers this year have the highest WAR, it’s a who’s who of sorts, which should give credence to the calculations.  At the time of writing this, Lincecum is currently the top pitcher on the list with a WAR of 7.2  In other words, the Giants have won 7.2 more games this year than they would have if Lincecum hadn’t started a game and a Triple-A pitcher was filling in for him instead.  I won’t go into the math behind it here, but I will use the results in a quick, completely dumbed-down manner for even the non-statistician.

But first, I will throw another number out there for you.  The value of winning one game is worth approximately $4.5 million on the open market to a major league franchise (if you visited that fangraphs link, you’ll see they’ve used approx. $4.5 million on the WAR table to come up with a dollar value).  Again, you ask me how that is calculated and I will tell you to dig around online to find it (I’ll give you a hint, it’s not as simple as Revenue / Wins), but it takes into account added ticket sales and concession sales and merchandise sales and TV revenue to spit out a number for how muc
h a win is worth to a franchise.  Granted, getting a win on the last day of the season to finish 63-99 instead of 62-100 is not as valuable as the difference in finishing 90-72 vs 89-73 which may mean the difference in a playoff birth.  But again, people much smarter than me (yes there are a select few, and if they aren’t, they disguise it behind hours of free time spent crunching numbers) created this value so lets use it.

Alright, now we are ready to go.  The Nationals will have made a made a good deal if, over the four years of his contract, Strasburg is 3.36 wins better than a replacement pitcher (at $4.5 million, 3.36 wins is worth $15.12 million).  That comes to .839 wins per year for four years.  Right now, the Nationals have 4 starting pitchers who have surpassed the .839 WAR threshold already this season: Jordan Zimmerman (1.9), John Lannan (1.2), Craig Stammen (0.9), and Ross Detwiler (0.9).  And there’s still a quarter of the year to go.  If, in response to this question, I asked you if Strasburg had the chance to be the next Craig Stammen, would you have said yes?  You probably would have asked who Craig Stammen was and then said yes.

For the people who didn’t run to their junior high math class with their binder already out of their backpack in excitement, here’s some more down-to-earth reasoning.

I can think of two paths of reasoning from here.

Reasoning A:

You asked if anyone is worth it.  All signs point to Him being better than anyone ever at baseball, but lets just assume he isn’t.  Is there anyone in the majors right now who played in college and is now worth more than $3.775 million per year?  That’s a ton of money, yes.  But the market would certainly indicate there are plenty of guys in the majors right now who are worth more than $3.775 million per year.  So, if there’s anyone who played in college and then has gone on to be worth over $3.775 million per year in the Majors, the answer to your question–it could be argued–is “yes”.  Now, the Nationals have Strasburg for the next four years, not four years in his prime, so maybe that changes things.  But names like Longoria, Lincecum, Verlander, Price, et al could quickly help this case.  Even if he is worth nothing his first two years and then $5 million the third year and $10 the fourth, it was a good signing for the Nats.  I’m not prophesying he will be, that’s not my job.  All I’m saying is:  it’s possible.  Other, seemingly lesser mortals have been worth it.  Will Tim Lincecum be worth $15 million over his first four years to the Giants?  If you’re struggling to answer this one, I’ll give you a nudge.  Fangraphs says he’s worth $32.5 million through the first ¾ of THIS YEAR so far (no, this doesn’t discount anything Fangraphs has to say as being bloated, it’s just he’s that good).  Oh, and did I mention Lincecum came out of college?  It is entirely possible Strasburg won’t be worth $15 million, but it’s entirely possible he will (plus or minus that pesky “point one”).

Reasoning B:

It always is important to look at things in perspective, and a number like $15.1 million is easy to take out of perspective, because, after all, it’s insane.  I now make $1,050 per paycheck (before taxes) for ten paychecks a year.  That’s $10,500 for the entire year (and it was much lower when I was in the lower levels).  How can I put $15.1 million into perspective?  How can–god forbid this is actually happening on my blog–Joe the Plumber put it into perspective?  It seems outrageous.  And at a glance it is.  But think about it a little more.

The price of things can be difficult to fairly assess.  Lets say you are debating buying something.  If its price is less than the value of the inconvenience of not purchasing the item, you should buy it.  I’ll give you an example a friend of mine shared with me.  He had been mailed a contract to play baseball in France and had to sign it and mail it back to France.  He went to the post office worrying it would cost an arm and a leg.  After mailing it from the post office, he called me and asked how much I thought it cost.  I think I guessed $60 with a chuckle.  It was $1.89.  A dollar eighty nine!

Without the $1.89 option, my friend could have hopped on a plane or boat and deliver the contract himself.  Which, despite Southwest’s “no hidden fees” policy, I doubt he could have done for less than $1.89.  Of course mailing it was more than cost-effective.  If the Nationals didn’t sign Strasburg but instead wanted to sign a replacement pitcher, odds are they would have had to pay more than $3.775 million per year.  To get a number one starter in the major leagues can cost you easily over $10 million a year.  If you don’t believe me, go here to check out some of the names you know and see what they make.

   This may be true, but Strasburg isn’t ace caliber, he hasn’t proved it yet.

OK, maybe they wanted a guy who throws 100mph with plus off-speed pitches.  Well that’s gonna cost you, too.  Who else does that?  Verlander, maybe?  $3.675 million (and that’s through arbitration, not free agency…and I’m willing to bet Justin has a pretty nice raise coming here shortly).

    Yeah but you said so yourself, it’s not stuff, it’s how effective a pitcher is.

Perhaps, but the Nationals are running a business and, though ideally winning is a large part of it, we are talking dollars and cents here (mostly dollars) and whether or not Strasburg is worth it.  If he doesn’t add to wins and losses (though earlier arguments show he doesn’t need to add to wins by that much to be worth it), he is a big name now and I’m sure the Nationals are hoping people will pay to come see him pitch.  A household-name starting pitcher in the majors will, again, easily run you over $10 million per year, which, again, is way more than $3.775.

When I told you about my friend having to “decide” between flying to France or mailing the contract for $1.89, it was a “no brainer”, right?  He was saving thousands of dollars.  Using the same reasoning, the Nationals may be saving millions by going with Strasburg for $3.775 million per year.  That’s a no brainer a thousand times over, right?

Another way to look at the value of mailing the contract to France would be from the postal carrier’s perspective.  If it marginally cost them less than $1.89 to mail the envelope, then they are making a good deal by charging $1.89.  Assuming a long-standing company would not be in business if they consistently lost money, they must have a positive marginal revenue from charging $1.89.

Will the Nationals make money off Strasburg if they pay him $15.1 million?  Well, this isn’t as easy a call as the $1.89 the postal carrier charged, but you’d have to assume there has been some thought that went into it.

Again, it has to be in perspective.  Does it make sense the Nationals will benefit on spending $15.1 million on a guy who’s never faced a Major League hitter?  No.  For all the reasons listed above, there’s a chance this will be a bust.  But does it make sense a hot dog and a beverage costs $12 at a major league park?  No.  Does it make sense tickets cost $50?  How about parking for $35?  What about jerseys for $100 and TV deals worth millions?  Those don’t make sense either.  But what if the average fan spends $150 on a trip to a ballgame between parking, ticket costs, concessions, refreshments, souvenirs, and apparel?  What if, over the course of 324 home games over the next four years, an extra 400 fans come to see the Nationals play each of those games?  That doesn’t seem outrageous, does it?  Only 400 fans isn’t much.  Well, if we guess a fan spends $150 per game, some quick math shows 400 fans really is a lot: 400 x 324 x $150 = $19.44 million.

Sure, Strasburg will only pitch one out of every five of those games.  But if I had said 2,000 extra fans for each of his starts, I doubt you would have objected.  Maybe 400 fans come to get his autograph even if he doesn’t start.  We aren’t even including TV revenue which would perhaps increase for road games, too.  This is all speculation, but you can see why $15.1 million is no longer sounding so ridiculous.  Sure, he could pitch in one game and get hurt and never play again, it’s all possible.  But maybe he becomes Lincecum and 5,000 extra fans come to each of his starts.  Maybe he leads them to the playoffs and the Nationals got a steal at $15.1 million.

The Nationals are paying pitchers Mike MacDougal and Scott Olsen $2.65 and $2.8 million respectively this year.  Nothing against those guys at all, I’m just a dude in Triple-A who throws 78, so I can’t say anything, but the casual sports fan probably hasn’t discussed their contracts over dinner.  The simple fact someone emailed me this question about Strasburg shows his popularity, which may make him worth an extra million per year more than MacDougal and Olsen to the Nats.

There are tons of factors here.  Yes, he could be a bust.  Yes, he could get hurt.  Yes, he could develop a crippling case of agoraphobia.  The $15.1 million is a risk.  The draft is risk vs reward at it’s finest in the player development game.  At a glance, $15.1 million is an insane amount of money and seems like way too much.  But it is all relative.  Did it seem insane and unreasonable for the Nationals to hope Strasburg becomes at least the next … oh …. what’s that guy’s name?  You forgot too?  Well, it’s Stammen, but I think I’ve made my point.

If you wanted cruise control on your car and a mechanic tried to charge you $5,000 to install it, you’d say he’s crazy and the cruise control is way over-priced.  If NASA wanted to put cruise control on the space shuttle, and that mechanic gave the same quote, the $5,000 would seem laughably beyond petty.

So, what do I think about the deal?  It’s insane, it really is.  Put $8 million away and live off the half-a-million-dollar interest for the rest of your life without facing a single major league batter?  That’s nuts.

Do I think anyone’s worth it?  Paradoxically, yes.

What I’m trying to say is: It’s all relative.

Except for Chris H.  I swear he’s not [1].

[1] I swear I did not make this person up. [back]
[2] I wrote it out fully so as to not neglect the “point one”.  I make less than point one of “point one” per year, so I become ornery when people say “He got signed for fifteen million, can you imagine that?”  I can’t imagine being signed for “point one” let alone 150 times that! [back]
[3] I have changed the name of the hotel to protect the innocent. [back]
[4] On days that don’t start with Wednesda. [back]

Wed=Wife, 2 Frees for the Price of One

As promised: an elaboration to Disco’s 1 Minute Monday mention of getting stocked up on Nike gear.

So, let me first start off by saying I love Nike clothing.  As someone in the fitness profession, this kind of gear has been my entire wardrobe like Banana Republic might be for you business folks, so the opportunity to be a Nike VIP for a day was pretty awesome… especially under the top secret conditions by which we were admitted.

The deal is if you work for Nike, you get a 50% discount off Nike merchandise and have premiere access to their Employee Store (the only one of its kind) in Beaverton, Oregon.   Each Nike employee is allowed five guest passes per year for family and friends, but come on, how many Nike employees do you actually know who would also be willing to share their coveted guest passes?

Well, this is where we start feeling like total VIPs.  Somehow, some way, someone within the Portland Beavers knows someone who knows someone who was able to put the entire Omaha Royals team on ‘the list’ for admission to the Employee Store on Saturday, August 15th between the hours of 9:30 AM and 4:30 PM ONLY.   If you’re not on ‘the list’, no matter how you swing it, you will not be admitted.  In fact, my name was not on it and when Chris inquired about getting my name on, he was met with, “Sorry, ‘the list’ already went out and we can’t get anyone else on it.”

Chris says, “Okay, I’m sure they’ll just let her in right?”

“Oh heck no.  They are super tight with security over there.  She has to be on ‘the list’ or she won’t be allowed in.” 

So, not only do I need to be on the list like everyone else, but the team was strongly advised not to wear any athletic items that didn’t say Nike.  If you only had Adidas shoes, you had to borrow a pair or go barefoot.  One player admit that since he was sponsored by a competitor, he had nothing to wear except his dress slacks and button down he wore on the plane, so he was strongly advised to wear that while everyone else was in jeans.    

They run a tight ship over there, huh?  In an effort to get me in, Chris made a call to the Beavers front office to see if they could help, but their response was,  “We’re really sorry, but once the list goes out, there’s no way to put anyone else on and if she’s not on it, she can’t get in.  Heck, we’re not even allowed in.”

“Well then who do I call?”  Chris practically has to beg to get the number of a guy who knows a guy over at Nike, who might be able to help, but it’s now 6 PM on Friday and we’re supposed to be going at 10 AM tomorrow.

Chris leaves a message for the guy who knows a guy, pleading to get me on ‘the list’ and when he doesn’t hear back, he calls his agent who is all sorts of connected.   They’ve got big leaguer after big leaguer, and a bunch of clients with Nike deals, so piece of cake, right?  If the guy who knows a guy doesn’t call back, at least we’ve got a full proof way through the agent.   

Well, come Saturday morning, Chris’s agent calls back shocked to admit he doesn’t know what kind of store we’re trying to get into, but he went through every contact he had and they weren’t able to get me on.  If Chris had a Nike contract, I could get in with no problem, but not otherwise.

You’ve got to be kidding me.  

So now we’re on the train heading to the Employee Store and I’m still not this secret list!  Chris decides to try the guy who knows a guy one more time and if he couldn’t reach him we devised a method where Chris would take a picture of something he thought I’d like, email it to me standing outside the security gates and we’d make purchases that way.  I was totally about to be the ugly girl eagerly waiting outside the velvet rope while all the cool kids walk right past me into the hottest nightclub in town.  Sigh.  But I was prepared.

We get off the train in the middle of NOWHERE, look around, and there are no signs, no arrows, nothing pointing us in the direction of the store.  Luckily one of the guys knew where to go, but even he had a little bit of trouble navigating the team through tall grass, roaring streams, and barbed wire fences in order to spot a “big building with a white roof” as we were told.  Okay, we didn’t have to jump a stream, but it is in the middle of nowhere and only if you know where you’re going would you be able to find it from the train.  Just as we’re walking up to the entrance with a line out the door jetting into the parking lot, Chris’s phone rings and it’s the guy who knows a guy!  Good news.  I’m on ‘the list’!  Ahem.  I can now huff on my fingers and shine my nails on my shirt cause I’m now kind of a big deal, too.

After waiting in line for thirty minutes amongst all the other VIPs, we were called to a counter where our IDs were checked with ‘the list’ and given a small piece of paper with the date, which goes to the cashier when you check out.  So, even if you’re able to find this place and somehow sneak past security, without the piece of paper, you’d be sh!t out of luck and shown the door. 

We walk in to find a huge warehouse filled with Nike everything: clothing, shoes, golf clubs, bags.  You name it they had it.  And it wasn’t the stuff you’d find at the Outlet stores, either.   This was the real deal, a Niketown on steroids.  It was huge and I was in heaven.  Chris and I split up and as we browsed separately, the store just continued to get more and more jammed with people.  After our second hour there, it was hot, the aisles were packed, and luckily for me, everything was my size; unlike Chris who only found “ah” shirt.  That’s it?  Just one shirt?? The only downside to the store is if you weren’t an X-Small or an X-Large, you might only luck out with a single shirt like Chris did because by Saturday all the middle sizes had been picked through already.

Once you’ve battled the crowds and survived the line to check out, your last step is making it past the cashier cause as soon as you hand that little piece of paper over, that was it.  No turning back so you better make sure everything fits and you like what you got, because they don’t allow exchanges; just returns.

In the end, I made out pri-tty darn well with two pairs of Nike Free 5.0s for the price of Chris’s single pair he got two weeks earlier and workout clothes for half price.  Can I get a heellllls yea!  And just to make sure we were getting the best of the best, we checked out a Niketown in Seattle today to find the exact same stuff, but double the price.

So, moral of the story here is if you want Nike gear for half the price, you have to be a pretty darn big deal, have a contract with them, or know a Nike employee who doesn’t mind sharing one of their passes.  Otherwise, plan on paying full price because getting into the Nike Employee Store is harder to get into than a virgin’s pants Harvard Law.  

1 Minute Monday, August 17th

Last day of a 4 game stand in Portland and it’s been a nice trip so far.  Mrs. Disco was able to come with (thanks to our ridiculously generous host mom) and we have had a blast going around the city.  After getting stocked up on Nike gear* we became pros on the “light rail” and then even got a chance to go to Multnomah Falls near the gorge and hike after a day game yeste

*more on this later from the Mrs.

Fan Mail Friday, August 14th

Each Friday Disco takes the time to answer your fan mail questions.  If you have a question of your own, please email it to fanmail@discohayes.com.

Dear Mr. Hayes,

I am new to learning anything about baseball. I have a person named Ryan M. B. who just graduated High School here in Arlington Texas. He is going to Texas Tech in Lubbock, I believe to better himself with the game. He is a true lover of the sport I am being told & shown. I believe he will indeed make something of himself in a career that will lead to the major leagues.

This is how I stumbled onto your blog. Not knowing anything about the order of things in baseball I figured that minor comes before major. So I feel that Ryan would do minor first the reason I followed it & found you. I would like to know how all this works. If Ryan is doing baseball as a study at TTU and is good at it what happens next up to how someone gets to the Major leagues? Would you know how to find the information on all the steps? I am curious to find out how a person makes it to the major leagues. If I know more I might be able to assist him  somehow along the way.

One thing I might be able to help you with in your game ability. Your nickname & the type of song style you are seeking. First of all what you are focusing on is a ‘Disco type of music’, you got this title as well from the speed of your throwing capabilities. What I believe you need to improve your skills is a different type of music & drop the ‘Disco’ from your name. You will be whatever you focus on.

You need a more power driven type of music. One that is energetic based, more speed. I have just the music style I believe that you need. If you listen & focus on all this, I believe you will indeed improve your skill. I am enclosing some music by a band called, ‘Volbeat’ that are from Denmark. A uniqueness in power driven, smoothness & style.

Tell your fans & others that you are officially dropping ‘Disco’ from your name & stop using it. That is unless you are happy where you are. Plus you will get that ‘Chick’ off your back, I believe she calls herself,’Lady Gaga‘. I doubt if she can compete with Volbeat’s music. I have never heard her personally, I do hear that she has a bad taste in fashion though.

Take Care & Blessings,
Janette S., Arlington, TX

Jeg er ny på den måde, du taler. Jeg har konkluderet, at du har skrevet noget på et fremmed sprog og oversat det til engelsk for at sende til mig. Sikke en fornøjelse for mig! Jeg føler mig beæret over at have fans fra hele verden, selv om det betyder kun, Texas. Jeg havde aldrig hørt om VOLBEAT, så jeg gjorde en hurtig Wikipedia-søgning og fundet det er et dansk rock band, der fik det navn fra “Vol” stående for “bind” og “Beat” stående for “Beat”. Åh, disse vanskelige dansk. Så I’m guessing du er dansk og så jeg håber du er Værdistigningen det sjove ved at have mig svare dig på dit modersmål, selv om det kan være brudt i oversættelse en smule.

Jeg researchede VOLBEAT, men jeg har ikke hørt nogen af deres sange endnu. Jeg har en fornemmelse jeg må stick med Disco stuff, i det mindste for nu, selv om. I beg i halvfjerdserne er en sætning, ikke mange mennesker kan sige, selvom jeg er sikker på, at de fleste af VOLBEAT’s lyrics er temmelig svært at sige, også. Med hensyn til din bemærkning om “du er hvad du fokuserer på” Jeg er helt enig, og jeg er en dominerende Pitcher grund af præcis hvordan jeg kast. Jeg takker Dem for Deres tips og overvejelse.

Jeg ønsker din ven Ryan de bedste på Texas Tech. Det er en god skole for at studere baseball, så han er på rette vej.

De vigtigste for ham vil være at spille godt i college og derefter håber spejdere vil kunne lide ham og ønsker at udkastet til ham. Mere end noget, jeg vil fortælle ham at falde helt kæmpe bomber og forsøger at kaste langt over hundred miles i timen. Jeg tror i kilometer, der er over hundrede og tres. Hvis han ikke gør nogen af disse to, han bare har at være virkelig konsekvent og udbudt gode numre. Som freshman, fortælle ham, at bare arbejde virkelig hårdt og komme i virkelig god form, så en Sophomore og Junior han vil være stærk og klar til at klare sig godt. Når han kommer i kontakt med spejdere, de normalt har spillere udfylder oplysninger pakker så de organisationer vide noget om ham. De er ofte spørge ting som, hvor mange penge, han ønsker at underskrive for, og selvom jeg aldrig oplevet dette, eller har jeg haft råd til det, blot i form af forhandlingstaktikker vil jeg anbefale forlader disse ting tomt. Det ser ud til en ung knægt med stor spænding at få underskrevet vil sandsynligvis sige noget, og måske give de organisationer, alt for meget information. Gøre dem svede det ud og lad dem tilbyde noget først.

Når han gør få underskrevet, er det en lang vej til at komme til de store ligaer. Jeg skriver en bog om det, og meget af min blog taler om det, så hvis du holder læser her, kan det være nyttigt. Din ven har i mindst tre år, indtil han kan få udarbejdet, så min bog vil være ude af derefter, og det bør kaste ganske lidt lys over processen.

Jeg håber, at dette hjælper, og du deler min blogs med dine danske venner.

Diskotek [1]

Hey Disco,
I’m from the Omaha area originally, and now reside in Florida. Could I mail you an item to have you autograph it for me?
Cord C., Port Charlotte, FL

Cord, this seems silly to respond on my blog, but I’ve tried a number of times via email to reply to you, and I keep getting “Return to Sender”.  Perhaps this is better, because other people may have the same question, so I’ll answer publicly:

Rosenblatt Stadium attn: Disco Hayes
1202 Bert Murphy Ave.
Omaha, NE 68107

Feel free to send anything with a self-addressed, stamped return envelope and I will sign it and put it in the mail for the next day.  This happens on a daily basis in the clubhouse, though I have only had the honor of signing two things in such a way (both to the same guy in Florida on consecutive years).  I would be thrilled to sign something, so send away!  Again, Cord, sorry my previous emails didn’t go through, so I hope you’re checking back to read the blog.

In ancient times (roughly 1979), a fellow with a rather odd, underhanded delivery, also given to bouts of wit, was promoted from Omaha to Kansas City.  He drank coffee in the bullpen until the eighth inning, came into games throwing baseballs rarely touching 80 miles per hour in velocity, yet somehow persuaded real athletes to beat their bats into plowshares and the ball into the ground, where Frank White, U.L. Washington and various firstbasemen cooperated to turn doubleplays, upsetting the sense of fair play and providing the Royals Baseball Club with two pennants and one World Championship.  For years now, masochistic Royals fans such as myself have wandered in the desert, listening on our radios as people with names like [Censored] made a mess of things. We have been waiting for “THE ONE”.  I really don’t care about all this “Disco” nonsense.  Ever since I heard about
your promotion and modus operandi, I’ve been wanting to watch you in action.  That other fellow was 26 when he was promoted from Omaha to KC.  I hope history repeats itself.  I prefer to call you “Chrisenberry.”

Suitcase [2]

For as much crap I have thrown on you and made you carry my baggage for me all these years, I feel it is the least I can do to change my name for you.  I’ll take out that little cardboard label in the “American Tourister” tag and change my name to Chrisenberry.  I should probably update my address from the house I moved out of eight years ago, too.

When I make it to KC and we get two pennants and a World Championship, you can call me “Carry On” if you’d like for all I care.  You just may have to go around the luggage carousel a few extra times because I doubt I will catch on right away that the bag passing by shouting, “Carry On,” is calling for me.  I’ll be used to “Chrisenberry”.

Dear Disco,
I am also a little annoyed you didn’t give me a “shout out” as the person who got your blog put up on The Big Lead.  Just as your wife was about the Lady Gaga song.
Jeff W., Omaha, NE

Jeff, I have a number of bones to pick with you here.  First, leave the sentence fragments to me.  That’s my job.  Secondly, I’m surprised you’re selfish enough to try to take some of the credit away from me for being such a big hit on The Big Lead.  After all, the point of this blog is to give credit to me.

Was I aware you were the one who got me on The Big Lead in the first place? [3]  And what has The Big Lead done for me anyway? [4]  I mean, you asking to be shamelessly promoted on my blog is like me begging to get back on The Big Lead by continuing to link to it from my blog.  But why would I even want to be on their site anyway? [4]

If I had known [3] you were involved in the exposure to The Big Lead [4], I would have been more than happy to give you props as I did with Chris M on my awesome Twitter background design and will do in weeks to come when web developer Dan P. from Austin, TX may help me with some poll ideas for the blog.  But I had no idea you were involved [3] and that’s why I didn’t give you any credit for my blog becoming insanely more popular than ever before on one particular day. [4]

So, if you want to get full credit for submitting my blog to The Big Lead, IF you claim you already have once [3], perhaps you can do it “again” [3], even though we all know you never did [3], and though any increase in ratings [4] will obviously come, not due to the exposure [4], but rather due to pure chance [4] or just a particularly funny day [4] on the blog.

But seriously, thanks for submitting, and any time anyone wants to help make me more famous, I’ll be happy to give you props at the bottom of a post most people gave up reading half way through.

So, thanks Jeff, keep up the good work.  You are now the proud owner of a lifetime VIP pass to the “Discotheque”.  Any other readers out there doing work to broaden my fame?  Email me and I’ll probably forget about you too.  But the thousands of fans and future dollars you bring in for me will never be forgotten (unless they, in turn, do something nice and email me about it).

[1] As saddened as I was Google Translator had nothing for “Godspeed”, I was even more elated with what it did with “Disco”. [back]
[2] I swear I did not make this up, he/she actually signed it “Suitcase”. [back]
[3] Turns out I went back and checked and sure enough, you did send me an email making it unequivocally clear you submitted my blog to The Big Lead. My bad on that one. [back]
[4] It did increase my page hits TENFOLD on the day it debuted on The Big Lead. [back]

One Minute Monday, August 10th

not much happened today; a pretty boring monday in fact.  Which is nice, considering how busy it has been with games, family visiting, our book proposal, and trying to keep up with the blog, etc.  I am still gleaming about my “strikeout looking” from last post, which was basically the highlight of my day.  We have a literary agent looking over our book proposal and if she likes it, it will make for a busy offseason writing

Fan Mail Friday, August 7th

I had three sets of visitors this weekend between my mom and two very close family friends, so I wasn’t able to get to Fan Mail questions very easily.  I have some quick, odds and ends, baseball-related questions I’ll answer, even if it’s a few days late.  I’ve been getting quite a few new fans emailing in, but just a reminder to everyone, if you have a question, no matter how wacky or weird, please send it to fanmail@discohayes.com and I will do my best to answer it for you.

Do pitchers really hit batters on purpose?  If so, have you ever hit a batter on purpose?
Ginny P., Goodyear, AZ

This is one of those “unwritten rules” in baseball, so I’m finding it hard to write an answer for you.  I will now do an interpretive dance in front of my computer to explain.

Lots of dramatic thrashing and arm waving with short pauses for reflection.

I look shocked and run backwards in place.

I begin jumping frantically in the air kicking my legs.

I crouch down and pull my face into my knees with my hands.

The crowd grows silent.

I erupt into action and fling myself high into the air with my hands over my head.

I drop my head back behind my body and stare into the sky.


I hope you understand now.

What is that white pillow-looking bag on the mound?  Is that a dumb question?  I assume it’s something for your hands or grip as guys usually grab it and powder comes up, but I can’t imagine baby powder in there.  What is it used for?
Kate K., Joplin, MO

It’s called a rosin bag.  Rosin is made by vaporizing resin from trees and plants until it becomes a solid crystal-like rock.  Typically the bat boys fill a long tube sock with rosin and then they crush it to form a powder.  The sock is then tied off and cut making the little pillow-shaped marshmallow on the mound.  When you toss it up and catch it or hit it with your hand, the powder comes out bit by bit.  Rosin is used for grip and keeping your hand dry.  Some guys’ hands sweat profusely when they pitch and so they use a ton of rosin to keep it dry and get a good grip.  On the other hand, they wear a glove.  Bada bing.  Get it?  On the other hand?  Cause they are pitchers.  I digress.

On the other hand, some guys don’t like the sticky feeling you get with the rosin.  It’s a personal preference.

It’s not a dumb question, Kate, in fact I’m glad you asked because I bet it’s one a lot of people have.  Guys like to have an especially good grip on their breaking pitches to try to maximize the spin.  Fastballs and change-ups often are better served to have less spin (which makes them sink), so it’s not as beneficial on a fastball.  That doesn’t mean if you see a pitcher go to the rosin bag he’s about to throw a breaking ball; that would be too obvious a tell, but it gives you a little better understanding.  Some guys who are obsessed with rosin will end up with a patch of white powder on their hat or jersey so they can get extra rosin for each pitch without having to walk back and pick up the bag.

Personally, I used to never touch the rosin bag because I didn’t like the stickiness.  I felt like the ball wouldn’t come off my fingers as well and I never had a problem with sweaty hands.  As I’ve become more of an experienced pitcher, I use just a bit of rosin on my pointer and middle fingers.  So if you see me pitch, I’ll bend over and tap the bag with those two fingers instead of tossing the bag in the air or smacking it against my whole hand.  Because I throw underhand, I like the added spin it gives me on my fastball because it’s topspin and adds to the sink.

I have heard cards are often played in baseball clubhouses.  Do you slough aces when you play a game like Spades or Bridge?
Tom H., Queens, NY

Pluck is the big game in most clubhouses.  Aside from the fact it is the most dumbed-down trick taking game in history, I have no idea why everyone chooses to play it.  It’s pretty stupid.  Anyways, I do slough Aces depending on the situation, of course.  Typically if I have three or less of one suit with the Ace, I will slough it if I’m in second position (meaning the player to my right leads that suit).  Otherwise, I play it straight.  Most of the time.

Do all pitchers wear a cup?  Do you wear a cup?  What’s that like?
Jordan B., Kansas City, MO

I would say most pitchers wear a cup.  As I’m typing here, I’m trying to figure out what I’m basing that on, and it’s an awkward mental exercise, so I’ll just go with no “supporting” facts for my argument and say most do wear a cup.

I wear a cup.  I played a lot more catcher and shortstop than I did pitcher in the early part of my baseball career, so I got used to wearing a cup.  For me, it now feels really weird to wear a uniform without a cup.  As much time as we spend on the field in uniform before the game practicing and shagging, I have started to get used to it, but if I were to walk on the mound in a game without a cup, I don’t know what I’d do.

Everyone has their own method for wearing a cup and everyone thinks theirs is the best.  But I KNOW mine is the best, and so, whether you wanted to hear or not, I’ll share with you how to properly wear a cup.

If you go to the store and buy an “athletic supporter” it comes with 2 parts:  the cup and a jock strap with a sleeve into which the cup is supposed to slide.  I would recommend throwing out the jock strap with the sleeve.  If you’re a parent and you’re planning on buying your little-leaguer a cup for perhaps the first time, listen carefully, you will save your child years of discomfort, ridicule, and chafing.  You can thank me later.

You can’t wear a cup directly on your … hmmmm … how do I finish this sentence without being lewd?  Let’s use an At Bat as an allegory, here.  The pitcher throws three pitches.  The first is a ball, the second is a foul tip, and the third is a ball.  The umpire happens to be terrible that day, so he calls the balls strikes.  That means, on this day, two balls and a foul tip turn into a “strikeout looking”.  So from this point forward, I’ll refer to the “balls” and “foul tip” as a “strikeout looking”.  I hope I haven’t lost you and now that the anatomy is set, we can continue.

If you were to put the cup in the jock sleeve and put that directly on your strikeout looking, it would chafe terribly on your groin.  So, everyone in baseball wears something underneath the cup as a layer of protection over their strikeout looking.  When I was young, I remember it being cool to wear boxers in general, and as a result, kids wore boxers under their cup.  Boxers are designed for maximum freedom and are therefore meant to be loose-fitting, so when you plop a cup over them, all freedom and comfort is not only lost, but you have an excess of material that gets folder over and scrunched up against your strikeout looking.  Boxers are also not designed to stretch much so they don’t allow for much movement once they are smashed into place.  Result:  boxers TKO’d.

I’ll give a quick brief on briefs.  They don’t provide a layer of material far down
your leg enough to prevent chafing on the upper thigh and groin.  So, tighty whities are out.

That leaves us with what have come to be called “sliders”.  For those of you moms out there writing this all down, first off, you’re welcome, your sons will thank me some day, and who knows, maybe if you hadn’t read this your son wouldn’t wear a cup and someday wouldn’t be able to provide you grandchildren.  Man, do you owe me!  Back to “sliders”.  If you go to a sporting goods store, you probably won’t see the term “sliders” on any products.  They are typically called “compression shorts” and are mass-produced by companies like Nike and UnderArmour.  They are spandex-like material and are long enough to go down at least half way down your thigh, but not all the way to your knee.  Buy two pairs of these sliders.  Then, while you are buying a cup, buy a regular jock strap, not one with a sleeve, I can’t stress this enough.

The method for wearing these articles of clothing goes like this: put the first pair of sliders on.  They should fit tight and be stretchy across your legs.  Pull the bottoms of the sliders (which should be sitting down on your thighs) UP towards your strikeout looking so the inseam is shorter than it was.  This should allow for a snugger fit on your strikeout looking.

I need to digress again for a minute.  The key to wearing a cup is you want it as form-fitted to your strikeout looking as possible.  Let’s picture this for a minute: you have to wear a hat, but you decide to balance a large dinner plate on the top of your head first before putting on the hat.  When the hat goes on, it has to sit on the dinner plate and is way up and off your head.  When you move or spin around (let’s assume you have excellent balance and don’t knock over the plate) the hat is bound to bounce around on the plate.  Now, let’s say instead of having a plate on your head, you have a swim cap.  When you put your hat on, it now fits snugly over your head and will stay in place and is more comfortable.  It also does not stick as far up off the top of your head.  This is the idea behind the best method for wearing a cup on your strikeout looking.

When you pull the first pair of sliders up, you don’t want to give yourself a wedgie, but you want your strikeout looking to be under the swim cap, not under the dinner plate.  Capeche?  OK, no put the jock strap on over the first pair of sliders.  The jock strap should fit the same as if you didn’t even have the sliders on.  Now, put the second pair of sliders on over the top of all of this.  Don’t hike the second pair of sliders up.  Leave them be for the time being.  Now you are ready to insert the cup.  I’ve harped on this, but one last check…don’t use a jock strap with a sleeve.  Take the cup and put it between the first layer of sliders and the jock strap.  You will notice the jock strap forms nicely over the cup and the cup forms nicely over the strikeout looking.  There should be no uncomfortable pinching or chafing because you have the bottom protective layer.  There should be no sliding bouncing of the cup because it is in the jock strap, and the cup should not be sticking out far and should be held perfectly in place because you have the second pair of sliders over the top of everything.

Gone are the days of painful, awkward running and chafed and pinched thighs.  Let’s rejoice.

A special thanks to my assistant high school baseball coach, Ray Werner, for telling me about this method as I have used it every day for the past ten years since he showed me.

Oh, and how could I forget?, use a generous amount of baby powder for maximum comfort.

Do you keep in touch with former Northwestern teammate and current Phillie, J.A. Happ?
Jerry D., Wheaton, IL

I do keep up with J.A.  It’s been an exciting season.  It is hard to imagine 2009 would be anywhere near as exciting as 2008 was for J.A., but he’s throwing so well it’s been really fun to watch.  I remember being so fired up watching last year’s playoffs and World Series because I wanted J.A. to get a ring in his first trip to the post season.  This year was a entirely different set of circumstances for him because of his name being mentioned in much of the deadline trade talk, but he’s been a true professional and gone out and thrown the ball well all year.

I typically send him a text after his starts and rate how well he did based on the number of hits he gets at the plate.  Only just recently did he get his BA over the .100 mark, so that should give you an idea how supportive a friend I am.  He’s a ridiculous athlete and used to be a very good hitter in college, so I like to give him a hard time about his swing.  He’s got something like 3 career hits in the big leagues.  I think in scrimmages in college I was 4 for 20 off him with 3 bunt singles, so I feel I can still give him a hard time.


Here I am (left to right) with teammates Evan Blesoff (who’s playing Independent ball now) and J.A. Happ (currently with the Phillies) during the National Anthem in a game at Northwestern.