Saturday, April 14, 2012

Grounds crew games in Chicago

Miguel Cabrera explains the issue
to the home plate umpire,
Adrian Johnson.
The groundskeeper for the Chicago White Sox, Roger Bossard, is the third generation of his family in the field, and he is widely regarded as the best in the business.

And the craftiest. His grandfather, Emil, was the man who helped Bill Veeck rig a movable outfield fence in Cleveland — the numbers on the fence stayed the same, but the wall would move in and out depending on the opponent. Yankees in town, move the fence back; the punchless Senators are visiting, bring 'em in tight. Such illicit gamesmanship helped the Indians win the 1948 pennant (and the World Series; Cleveland hasn't won the Series since). Roger Bossard is the heir to that tradition, and by reputation there is nobody better at grooming the field to the advantage of the home team.

Which makes Friday's batter's box incident at the White Sox's home opener curious indeed.

Miguel Cabrera noticed that the box was not properly aligned with home plate, and the umps quickly agreed. The grounds crew was ordered out to rechalk the boxes. The White Sox radio crew (I was listening via my iPad) ridiculed Cabrera for the delay, but described the boxes as "six to eight inches" too far out toward the pitchers' mound.

Now ... anybody who's watched a grounds crew chalk the boxes knows that kind of error is no accident. They use a template that fits the side of home plate. The only way to make the boxes a half foot out of alignment is to place the template a half-foot out of alignment, and that would be obvious.

Bossard does not run a slipshod operation. If the batters' box was six inches out of place, it was done deliberately.

The thing is, I'm not sure how it helps the White Sox in this particular matchup. Max Scherzer, the Detroit starter, probably throws harder than the declining Jake Peavy, the Sox starter Friday. Peavy could probably use the help — make his fast ball six inches quicker — but Scherzer probably stood to benefit more.

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