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Three Up with Casey & DeRo: "Top Step It!"

Jun 26 2017
Photo by
Guillermo Hernandez Martinez/The Players' Tribune
Photo by
Guillermo Hernandez Martinez/The Players' Tribune
Jun 26 2017

This is Three Up, a new semi-recurring series throughout the season in which longtime MLB veterans and MLB Network analysts Sean Casey and Mark DeRosa discuss three baseball topics of interest in a way that only they can.

One Guy We Like: Aaron Judge

Sean Casey

Watching this kid hit has been a blast this year. He’s been on fire.

Mark DeRosa

One thing that’s particularly impressed me this season with Judge is how he’s handled himself with the media during post-game press conferences. He carries himself like a serious ballplayer. Whenever he gives an answer to the media, it’s team-oriented, it’s genuine and it’s always well thought out. I think people are getting a bit carried away with the Jeter comparisons, but in terms of how he handles himself off the field, I see it.

Case

I’ve been as surprised as anyone with what he’s done, because when he came up last September, I thought he had a lot of holes in his swing. But the adjustments he’s made since then have amazed me. His power is obviously second to none. When Stanton came up, I thought he’d be the power hitter of this generation, but Judge might have something to say about that.

Bryan Bennett/The Players' Tribune

DeRo

I wonder if he has even more power than Stanton?

Case

It’s possible. But what’s impressed me most is that usually when you have a big guy like that, he’ll be up there pulling the ball. Judge has been hitting a lot of his home runs to right field and center. He’s hitting for both power and average and he’s doing it in the big part of the park. That’s really tough to do as a young player.

DeRo

If you had told me coming into this year that Judge would hit .257 with 20 homers and 68 RBIs, I would have said, “That’s a great year. Awesome appetizer for what’s to come.” But he’s already obliterated that in the first half, so now we have to throw out the script.

Case

He’s basically the size of an offensive lineman out there, with long arms and legs, but he’s found a way to make everything more compact. He’s eliminated a lot of the wasted motion in his swing.

DeRo

It’s like when Magic started playing for the Lakers, and nobody had ever seen a guy his size be able to run the point. Six-foot-seven, 270 lbs usually doesn’t happen in baseball. It’s a lot of hinges and moving parts. But this kid clearly has a mental aptitude for the game that is very rare for any young player, much less a giant. He’s not just out there hitting bombs and striking out, he’s challenging pitchers and having great at-bats… and he’s just getting started.

He’s kind of scary… right, Case?

Case

Oh he’s super scary. 

DeRo

If he drops 50 tanks and wins MVP and Rookie of the Year, they’re going to expect that every year out of him.

Bryan Bennett/The Players' Tribune

Case

Oh man, that’s true.

DeRo

But at the same time, the kid hit the top of the glass restaurant in dead center at Yankee Stadium in a driving rainstorm — with a pink bat.

Case

That’s Paul Bunyan stuff.

One Topic We Like: Bean Ball

Case

This has gotten some attention the past few weeks after what happened with Bryce Harper and also the Manny Machado saga during the Red Sox/O’s series.

DeRo

Personally, I believe in the unwritten rules of the game. I think if you take that tradition away, things would be even worse. There’s a time and a place when a guy gets popped, and that’s O.K.

In the case of Machado, he made a hard slide into Dustin Pedroia that I don’t think was intentional. But I do think it warranted retaliation because he made Boston’s captain limp off the field. It’s how the actual retribution was handled that was all wrong. They had Eduardo Rodriguez miss Machado three times, then called Matt Barnes in from the bullpen, who also threw it behind him. Then Chris Sale keeps it going and throws behind Machado again in the first inning of the next game. At that point, I think we’ve lost the plot.

Case

I mean, shouldn’t this have been over when Rodriguez missed him? Machado did what he did, the Sox had a chance at retribution — and they missed. That should have been that.

DeRo

Well, it was an odd situation because Rodriguez and Machado had been yucking it up on camera just the day before because they’re friends who came up together. I don’t think that means he can’t hit him, but I also know I’d have a much harder time beaning Case in the back than some guy I’ve never met.

Case

I’d hope so.

I believe in the unwritten rules too. They’ve been practiced since before any of us were alive, and up to this point, they’ve worked out pretty well. Here’s what I don’t like: This new trend of throwing behind guys. I’d rather just get drilled in the ribs first pitch and have it be done with. Stop dragging it out. We all know the intention. Why do we have big league pitchers — guys capable of dotting a gnat’s ass with a baseball — acting like they can’t hit a grown man standing in a batter’s box?

If Machado had just been drilled in the ribs, even by his buddy, I think he would have been okay with it. But when they missed him over and over, they’re just asking for the situation to boil over.

DeRo

I think from a fan’s perspective, there’s some misconception about why we follow these unwritten rules when it comes to beaning guys. They might think it’s based in some sort of tough guy, machismo thing, but I’ve never looked at it like that. I’ve always viewed it as a way for players to police the game and make sure there’s order, rather than relying on the league to do it for them. In basketball, every altercation gets reviewed and assessed after the fact. In baseball, the players can take care of disputes on their own and focus back on the game. Like you said, this stuff has been around for more than 100 years and it’s worked out pretty well for the most part.

Case

That’s exactly right.

DeRo

Look, there’s a time and a place for a good bat flip, but there are some bat flips that are just plain wrong, or uncalled for. And if you flip your bat at the wrong time, it’s known that…

Case

You’re gonna wear one.

DeRo

That’s right, you’re gonna wear it. I mean, this could all be simplified if they just had a steel cage out by the bullpen.

Case

Good for ratings.

DeRo

Hey, at least it would even things out. I mean, if a guy does get hit on purpose, is it ever really worth it to charge? You’re at such a disadvantage. You can get one punch off — maybe — before getting tackled by, like, 15 dudes. Then you’re at the bottom of the pile suffocating, getting gloves in the face and being raked by metal cleats.

Case

When you see guys sort of hesitant when benches clear, it’s probably because they’ve been at the bottom of one of those piles before. It suuuucks.

DeRo

Yeah, when a guy gets beaned he should be able to brush himself off then just tell the pitcher, “Okay, well, see you in the cage after the game.” I’d prefer that. You can put me in a cage and punch me in the face, but at least let me breathe.

Also, yeah, it would be good for ratings.

Guillermo Hernandez Martinez/The Players' Tribune

Case

I remember one game I played in when Adam Dunn ran over Mike Lieberthal at the plate trying to score, and he probably shouldn’t have. Wasn’t a super necessary play. Dunn’s next at bat, Carlos Silva is on the mound and he throws one behind Dunner on the first pitch.

So I know it’s about to go down, and I yell to the rest of the dugout, “SADDLE UP! TOP STEP IT, BOYS! WE’RE GOING!”

So I’m waiting on the top step of the dugout, next pitch drills Dunner and he motions towards the mound, but he hesitates for a second.

DeRo

Oh no, you can’t hesitate.

Case

Both benches are running onto the field, I see Lieberthal get Dunn’s legs and dump him. Now I’m flying in there like Braveheart, and my intention is to break it up — until I see Silva throw a punch at Dunner’s head while he’s face down. So I’m like, “WHAT!?” and then — BOOM! — I hit Silva.

Then next thing I know I’m airborne.

I’m like OH MY GOD, WHAT’S HAPPENING!? WHO GOT ME?

I crash onto the mound. I’m dead. And I just see Todd Pratt on top of me. He threw me like I was a six-year-old kid.

DeRo

Oh, you don’t go at Todd Pratt.

Case

It felt like I got thrown off the top rope. Placido Polanco was like, “Case, you okay? You okay?” And I’m like, “NO, NOTHING’S OK!”

DeRo

One time, I knocked Mike Lieberthal out of a game when I ran him over at the plate. My next at bat, Todd Pratt was catching, and he says to me in his deep, tough guy voice, “You knocked him down, why don’t you try knocking me down?”

Case

Hard pass.

DeRo

Oh my god, I remember one time Tim Salmon beat the hell out of me at the bottom of a pile.

Case

What happened?

DeRo

We were in Anaheim and Scott Feldman drilled Adam Kennedy, and Kennedy charged. I was playing third so I was the first person there and I tackled Kennedy, but I tackled him softly. It wasn’t like I took a shot at him. I know AK, great dude. So I take him to the ground and kind of just hung on. Next thing I know I feel a thud behind me, and Tim Salmon hopped on my back. He started riding me around the infield like Seabiscuit, punching my head. He beat the living tar out of me.

Case

Wait, he punched you in the head?

DeRo

YES! I had to get a shot in my neck just to get on the flight to our next game. I couldn’ turn my head to the right.

Case

O.K., O.K. I got one more.

DeRo

Indulge me.

Case

In ’08, remember the Shields–Coco Crisp fight?

DeRo

Ohhhhh yeah.

Case

So Coco made a hard slide into second base, and the Rays dugout started talking. Tensions were up. Next time Coco is at the plate, basically the same thing happens as with Dunn and Silva, where Shields throws behind him first pitch.

So I’m ready. I’ve seen this movie before. I yell to the bench, “TOP STEP IT, BOYS! HERE WE GO!”

Next pitch, Shields hits Coco, and it’s on. Shields threw a huge haymaker, but Coco was an amateur boxer, so he was ready to dodge it and then landed a shot. That’s when both teams converge at the mound.

Jonny Gomes had Coco bundled up, but I was too hot to help him out. I’m running right at James Shields.

So I’m just about there, and this thought pops into my head.

Hey, I like James Shields.

Then I’m right next to him and I think, What am I doing? James is such a good dude.

And right that second, our third base coach, DeMarlo Hale, jumps in and gives James a suplex like Magnum T.A. Belly-to-belly, remember that move? It was crazy.

DeRo

No way.

Case

So now I’m on the mound, but I don’t have a dance partner. So I kind of just jump in place and drop an elbow right onto …. nobody.

Then I’m like, AH S***! MY ELBOW!

And when I hit the ground, Justin Ruggiano puts me in a headlock.

AH S***! I’M IN A HEADLOCK!

And Justin’s like, “Case, what are you doing?”

And I’m confused, “Why am I in a headlock? I just elbowed the mound! What the hell’s going on?”

DeRo

That’s amazing.

Case

Best part of all of it: I got a three-game suspension for that. Three games for elbowing the mound.

DeRo

Worth it for the story?

Case

No, not really.

One Team We Like: Houston Astros

Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

DeRo

Let’s talk the best team in baseball right now.

Case

’Stros.

DeRo

They’re on fire.

Casey

A lot has gone right. Keuchel’s back, McCullers is legit. Then that lineup, top to bottom, might be the most fun to watch in all of baseball.

DeRo

I got a little inside info on them because I’m tight with Brian McCann. He’s played on some great teams, so he knows what he’s talking about. With the Astros, he’s excited because he tells me that not only do they have dynamic talent, but there are just a lot of good people in that clubhouse. When you have that positive vibe, it spreads all over the team — and that shows.

Case

That’s true. You look at the production they’re getting from Jake Marisnick, their fourth outfielder, and guys like Marwin Gonzalez. Marwin has been unbelievable this year. They have the depth to match up with anybody.

Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

DeRo

Mac says he’s not surprised by any of it, because these kids just come to the yard ready to go. There’s no riff-raff. Everyone’s focused. That’s not always the case when you have a team filled with younger players.

Case

I think that’s also a testament to how they’ve rounded out their roster with veterans. The buildup to this point wasn’t pretty. They lost big and often for several seasons. But once the cornerstones were in place, the front office did a good job supplementing the lineup with guys who do know how to win.

DeRo

A.J. Hinch has done a really good job altering his managerial style to fit with this roster. Now that they have those veteran players in the locker room, he doesn’t need to play babysitter anymore. He can just manage the team now. What’s so fun about them is the variety of ways they’ve been winning games. They’ll be down 5–0 and win 10–5. They’ve gotten gems from their rotation and have had their bullpen step up and shut teams down. This is what a confident ballclub looks like.

Case

There’s definitely a buzz there. They kind of have a similar dynamic to what the Cubs had last year. I don’t think anybody wants to see this team in October.

DeRo

Just imagine how loud Minute Maid Park would get if they closed the roof for a World Series game.

It could happen…