The Domonic Brown Story (so far)

 “Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical.”  – Yogi Berra

 

Photo Courtesy: Decal

 

 My older son plays baseball as his “full-time” sport.  He plays in a fall league and a spring/summer league and does some indoor training over the winter.  Several years ago, on a nice early April afternoon, we went out to a local park to get some batting practice.  I had a bucket with about 25 baseballs.  I threw him 25 pitches and he missed every single one.  It was early in the season, but he was suitably upset.  I reassured him, picked up the balls and pitched 25 more.  Yes, some of them might have been bad pitches, and he fouled one off, but he didn’t hit.  By the fiftieth pitch, he was livid.  I knew it was probably pointless to continue, but I wanted to teach him a lesson, and I didn’t want him to go home with fifty straight strikes.  Plus, I knew he would never hit with his mind so far off.  What could I do to get him to refocus?

 I told him I’d pitch one more bucket, and that I’d pay him $1 for each ball he hit into fair territory or even hard into foul territory (no drag bunting!).  Guess how many he hit? 

 Yup.  All 25.  That spring batting practice cost me $25, but now I can always bring that up when his frustration level is impeding his progress and standing in the way of success.  Even if it’s not about baseball.  Over the years, it’s been worth every penny.

Photo Courtesy: Decal

Domonic Brown was drafted by the Phillies in the 20th round of the 2006 draft.  A “toolsy” outfielder, he also considered playing college football as a wide receiver, but ultimately signed with the Phillies for $200,000.00.

He progressed through the system quickly, playing in the Gulf Coast League in 2006, Williamsport in 2007, and Lakewood in 2008.  By 2009 a .903 OPS had him promoted from Clearwater to Reading.  In 2010 a .602 SLG had him promoted to the IronPigs, where he continued to rake.  He made his Major League debut, played reasonably well, and was the number one prospect in all of baseball by the end of the season. 

But, perhaps, that .210 average in his first 35 MLB games got to him.  Perhaps it wasn’t quite as easy as it had once been for him.  Perhaps not playing every day had some effect.  Maybe he started to hear the whispers:  “He holds the bat too high.”  “He takes poor routes to the ball in the outfield.”  And you know, being the number one prospect isn’t necessarily easy.  Just ask Pedro Alvarez or Mike Trout.

Photo Courtesy: Decal

He went to the Dominican League at the conclusion of the 2010 season.  He hit just .069 in nine games.  The Phillies–it has been reported–asked him to come home for fear frustration or injury could impede the progress of their top prospect.  They tried to change his batting stance, lower his hands a bit.  Spring training 2011 was difficult.  All eyes were on the young gun, hoping he’d seize the right field job left open with the departure of Jayson Werth.  Brown’s struggles continued, culminating with a broken bone in his right hand on his first spring training hit after many hitless games.  He was something like 0-for-9 with two walks, one run, and six strikeouts prior to the one hit which prompted the hamate bone surgery.

“How can you hit and think at the same time?” – Yogi Berra

 

 Following surgery, and a “warm up” with Clearwater, Brown was again here in the Lehigh Valley with our IronPigs.  He picked up right where he left off.  He went back to his original batting stance and even continued a hitting streak which extended back to the previous summer.  When Shane Victorino suffered his annual mid-season injury, the Phillies had no choice but to get their top prospect back to The Show.  A .245 average wasn’t horrible following the call up.  However, Victorino was getting healthy, and the Phillies were trying to catch the Braves and traded for Hunter Pence to fill the right field spot.  With the knowledge of Raul Ibanez’ advancing age, the Phillies asked Brown to go back to the ‘Pigs to work on left field. 

Photo Courtesy: Decal

Then the wheels came off.  Brown’s second tour with the ‘Pigs was not good.  He was optioned to the ‘Pigs on July 30.  He was in the lineup that night hitting fourth, batting .341 from his previous stint.  By August 29, his average had dipped to .265.  He started in left field that night and went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts.  He committed one registered error and misplayed two other balls, was booed, and ultimately pulled from the game.  (side note:  batting fifth that night for Syracuse was Tug Hulett, playing 1B.  Could he fill that Rizzotti spot, now?) 

After that horrible evening, Brown’s appearances for the IronPigs last September went like this:

9/4/11 pinch hit BB

9/8/11 DH, 0-for-3, 1K

9/10/11 DH, 0-for-4, 2K

9/13/11 DH, 1-for-4

9/14/11 DH, 0-for-4, 1K

9/15/11 DH 0-for-3, 1BB, 2K

So what happened after he returned from the Phillies?  What happened in the Dominican League?  What happened there at the beginning of spring training 2011?  Was it his stance?  The blogosphere went wild.  There was conjecture about his vision, his attitude, his skills.  It seemed many (and I’m talking about Phillies fans) were happy about his struggles.  It’s my opinion that the “90%” of his game was just “off.”

This spring, Brown has been hitting well.  And for that reason, we can say that his vision is fine.  He hit the ball well in MLB camp, and has been crushing it since being sent to MiLB camp.  However, his fielding in left field has been somewhat of an “adventure.”  He’s made some bad breaks on the ball, and jammed his hand diving for a catch.  His neck hurt after one of the longer Florida bus rides.  And now, he has a sore throat.

So, in any case, he’s ours.  He’ll be our starting left fielder every day barring injury.  We’ll have a front row seat for fielding adventures and batting struggles.  Or, if he comes out to prove everyone wrong, our team will be the beneficiaries of his talent at the bat and his arm in left field.  But please note:  I cannot afford to pay a dollar for each hit.  And, Philly might need bats.  If he does really well, he won’t be here long.

I implore you, though:  Don’t boo him.  It won’t help 90% of his game, and besides, this isn’t Philadelphia.  If he’s doing something wrong, or not trying hard enough, he has a Hall of Fame manager who can point him in the right direction.  I was embarrassed on that August night last year.  I really want The Coke to be a place where we support our team—cheer their success and feel their failure.  Save your boos for the umpires.

Photo Courtesy: Decal



Categories: Kram's Korner - From the Club Level, Lehigh Valley IronPigs

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15 replies

  1. Best column I’ve seen yet on Domonic Brown. Not to mention, extremely well written – and this compliment comes from a former newspaper editor. Keep up the good work and The Horn and Bell will win that Morning Call award again next year!

  2. Very good article! In my opinion, I’ve been saying all along that the Phillies have rushed this kid and it affected him. Granted you can’t help the injuries to the big club, but he needs to be in the minors for awhile especially if the Phillies want him to learn left field. I too was very embarrassed by the boos last year and felt bad for the kid. I was thinking, what is this, Philadelpha??? I agree, save it for the umps.

    oink

  3. The whole notion of don’t boo Brown is flat out stupid.

    He is a professional athlete and if he is doggin’ it the way he did at the end of last season where his play in the field was so bad that he was banished to getting benched or being the DH when the team was in the hunt for a playoff berth/in the playoffs then he deserves to get booed, period.

    He missed multiple cut off men. We should just sit on our hands?
    He loped after fly balls. Do we do nothing?
    He had multiple drops. Do we applaud?

    No we boo.

    He’s a big boy Kram. He’s a professional athlete that’s playing for a roster spot on a professional sports team where he’ll likely make more money than any of us will ever see in our lifetimes, even though you are the original “Heavy Roller”, and when he exhibits so many mental mistakes as he did last season in AAA the boos can and should rain down.

    Any Little League coach worth their salt will tell you that physical mistakes can be dealt with since we’re all human, but mental mistakes will drive them up a wall because that shows a lack of focus/discipline/caring.

    When we the paying the customers see that kind of play exhibited by him, or any player, it’s foolish to not react in a manner appropriate to that player’s actions or inactions.

    That said Brown’s problems are twofold.

    1. He and the organization have over tinkered with his game on both sides of the ball.

    Since he started his career he’s played some CF mixed with RF and now LF.

    The organization needs to pick a spot for him and keep him there.

    The whole thing with his stance and hands were partially driven by the organization, like how they screwed up Aumont for the ’10 season with the whole revamp of his delivery and trying to make him a SP, and also by Brown trying to push too hard himself.

    They need to let him play.

    Clearly he is a gifted physical athlete and that will either get him to The Show or it won’t.

    2. After getting sent down last year Brown more or less flipped the bird to the Phillies organization and to the IronPigs by quitting on them.

    Lots of “extra curricular” off the field distractions coupled with a ton of pouting.
    He needs to pull his head out of his rear and commit himself to playing 100% whether he’s in Philly or in Allentown because if he doesn’t “get it” this year I think he’s done with this organization and he’s also likely done with his chances at being looked upon as an everyday player at the major league level.

    To me he’s about one more 2nd half of 2011 away from being thought of by the Phillies as Jeff Jackson II.

    So while I like the article Kram, as a paying customer it is your right and maybe even duty to applaud when a guy’s play warrants it just like it’s your job to boo his play warrants it.

    If not then you’ve become like the majority of people that show up to games at CCP who have no idea of the inning, score, or that there is even a baseball game going on because they are there only as a social occasion to eat, tweet, and meet.

    • hehe, I knew someone would object to that.
      I stand by my statement. And here’s why:

      “He makes more money than you and me.”
      That’s no reason to boo. To him, he probably feels like he doesn’t make much money. Once you hang with the big boys in Philly, his measily rookie contract looks like minimum wage.

      “We’re paying customers.”
      Not really. Your $10 ticket and my $15 ticket do not pay Brown’s salary. Like it or not, we pay for the experience, and must take the bad with the good. A carnival with a baseball theme? Yeah, somewhat. And if you travel hours and pay hundreds and hundreds of dollars to see one NFL game and your team comes out flat for 1/16 of the season, then fine. Boo because you’re a paying customer. For 1/144 of a MINOR LEAGUE baseball season? Feh. Not worth it. The ‘Pigs aren’t going to lower ticket prices because you’re booing. We sat through 2008, didn’t we?

      “He had his head in is butt.”
      Yes. Yes he did. But is ‘booing’ going to help him get it out? Is he going to suddenly snap out of it, saying, “Golly, the guy in the $10 seat is unhappy with my play this evening?” Nope. But he might get back to the bench and get an earful from a guy with a Hall of Fame ring. This isn’t the days of Grandpa Huppert anymore. It’s not like you’re the only one who knows he’s having a bad night. His manager does, and so do the Phillies.

      You are correct about this, though: This is somewhat the Phillies fault. Endless tinkering with your top prospect is a bad idea. They owe him better, really.

      Here are the best defenses to booing:
      1. Freedom of Speech. There is no counter. You have the freedom to boo if you like.
      2. You’re a die-hard Phillies fan who’s counting on this kid to help the big team sooner rather than later. I suppose your disappointment might manifest in a vocal sound resembling a boo. I view the Phillies as merely the evil overlord who governs the team I like to cheer FOR.

      So it’s your freedom and your right. I’m not going to come to your seat and tell you to stop (or to put away the turkey sandwich you brought ;-). But I am going to be embarrassed because I think we can do better as minor league baseball fans. I think we shouldn’t try to mimic Philadelphia. Are we going to have a police station in the basement next?

      Stay classy Lehigh Valley.

  4. Woo Hoo!

    Tell them like it is, Lefty.

    Speaking from first hand experience, it’s amazing how that unique experience of several thousand people screaming and hollering and laughing at you just after you made a boo-boo can combine with personal pride to motivate you, the athlete, professional or otherwise, to make sure the same silliness and resulting repercussions never happen again …

  5. @ Loose Cannon: and your experience is…?

    Name one Iron Pigs player who actually improved through your, um, “method of motivation,” please, ’cause I guess my memory is failing me in this regard. I’m sure there are others in MLB who you can point to, but let’s keep in mind the venue we are dealing with…AAA league, a FAMILY stadium that many bring young kids to. I don’t take my kids to the Philly games (b-ball or football) due to the vocal, um, BLASTING and immature behavior of some fans. Bad enough that they see it on TV.

    Everyone is entitled to his/her opinion, but I’ll vote for player support any day. What are we teaching others and our kids by booing? Poor sportsmanship, and we see more than enough of that elsewhere, rather than adding to it ourselves.

    Just MY opinion, for what it’s worth…

    • Yeah, I’m familiar with it. Didn’t work for me, BTW. Don’t really care which team you played for, either. If it made you a better player, good for you. Not everyone benefits from that kind of crowd mentality. Good , um…GREAT coaching starts from the top.

      I’m glad you feel it’s a waste of time blogging about minor league baseball…and you’re responding, WHY?

      You’re entitled to your opinion, as am I, and countless others. I stand by my opinion. You have a good day, too.

  6. “That’s no reason to boo.”

    Anytime a player makes the kind of mental mistakes that Brown made last year he deserves to get booed. Like I said before, physical mistakes are forgivable because everyone is human but mental mistakes are not because that shows a lack of caring/focus/preparation/commitment.

    “ To him, he probably feels like he doesn’t make much money. Once you hang with the big boys in Philly, his measily rookie contract looks like minimum wage.”

    My comment about the money was taken out of context as I said that as only one part of a larger thought. As for his contract, sure it looks like minimum wage to a guy like Utley making $15 million but compared to guys currently on the Pigs that are not on the 40 man roster he’s making a ton of money and they’re not.

    “Not really. Your $10 ticket and my $15 ticket do not pay Brown’s salary. Like it or not, we pay for the experience, and must take the bad with the good.”

    Right, but his play is part of the experience and if part of that experience is less than ideal you say something.

    So I when you go out to eat and the chef prepares either incorrect or inedible food you don’t say anything and just eat it?

    You assign a project to a subordinate at work and he/she doesn’t deliver either on time or to the quality that you expected. Do you just say “Aw Shucks” and that’s it?

    “A carnival with a baseball theme? Yeah, somewhat”

    No

    Its professional baseball the same as in A ball or in the majors.
    The IronPigs organization has turned everything on the periphery into a carnival but what happens in between the white lines is not effected by that. In that area it’s still baseball the same as always.

    “And if you travel hours and pay hundreds and hundreds of dollars to see one NFL game and your team comes out flat for 1/16 of the season, then fine. Boo because you’re a paying customer. For 1/144 of a MINOR LEAGUE baseball season? Feh. Not worth it.”

    If you paid money for a ticket it makes no difference if it’s NHL, NFL, MLB, or MILB as you now have a vested in interest in either seeing “your team” or at least seeing a quality product being put out/played on the field.

    And that the end of the day: You still paid money and they are still professional athletes.

    Maybe you like to piss away your discretionary dollars on an inferior product or on inferior play but I do not.

    “The ‘Pigs aren’t going to lower ticket prices because you’re booing.”

    No one is asking them to.

    Obviously I’m not booing the organization, I’m booing a specific play and/or the player that didn’t execute in a manner that he should have.

    “We sat through 2008, didn’t we?”

    And we sat through 2010 which was worse because the team quit on Huppert.

    “But is ‘booing’ going to help him get it out?”

    It’s called feedback Kram and yes it’s always helpful.

    When a ball is hit over his head and he lopes after it and then misses the cutoff man or throws into the wrong base I’m not going to just sit there with my Earl Grey (pinkie in the air) and be content with what just transpired and neither should you or anyone else.

    There are standards and when a guy doesn’t live up to them he deserves to get ripped/told about it/or whatever term you wish to use.

    “Is he going to suddenly snap out of it, saying, “Golly, the guy in the $10 seat is unhappy with my play this evening?

    Who knows?

    I’ve talked with a fair share of the players and for some of them the fans getting on them does matter and to others they are just there to collect a paycheck and to extend adolescence with that kind
    of “interaction” providing no motivation at all.

    Either way, saying nothing only reinforces that poor effort is acceptable/tolerated.

    “But I am going to be embarrassed because I think we can do better as minor league baseball fans.”

    Define do better.

    Do mean do better like most fans where they sit there with a beer in one hand with a Big Porker in the other oblivious to what’s happening on the field?

    You’re right that embarrassed is what you should feel towards most “fans” that shows up for IronPigs games because they are unknowledgeable and could care less.

    It’s not about watching a baseball game in so much as it’s about going to the zoo/carnival/circus with a bunch of quasi-large men in uniforms doing ??? on the field.

    I could count on one hand the number of intelligent conversations about the Phillies/IronPigs/or what’s going on during that game that I’ve had in four years.

    And that because there is rarely anyone else in my row and there are few if any of the same people around me. It’s always different faces who sit there on the phone talking/eating/drinking/get up to for more beer five times a game/etc.

    It’s a social exercise and the fact that baseball is being played is irrelevant.

    The concept behind that is stupid.

    “I think we shouldn’t try to mimic Philadelphia. Are we going to have a police station in the basement next?”

    That’s a nice touch of hyperbole but clearly there is no logic behind that statement.

    No one is saying to throw batteries and curse at the players.
    There are far more civil ways to show displeasure that to engage in behavior that would only have been appropriate in the days of the 700 level at The Vet.

    “Stay classy Lehigh Valley”

    Or in another words, “Stay Ignorant Lehigh Valley”.

    Bow down to the holy funplex at CCP and who cares what happens on the field.

    If it’s great, have another beer. If it sucks, just shove a cheese steak in your pie hole.

    Just don’t dissent.

  7. Kram,

    Our college coach used to pay kids $ 20 to hang around the practice field and yell at the goalkeepers … to prepare us for what we WOULD encounter on the road. Have you ever had to play at the University of Connecticut? Those fans are absolutely out of their minds … But, whatever. Coddle and baby Domonic Brown all you like.

    However, If YOU expect ME to to keep my temper in check, then you will tell Cnrp2001 not to lecture me about Sportmanship immdiately.

    Hab ein schoenes Tag.

  8. “and his manager was afraid to put him in the field”

    I doubt Sandberg was afraid to put him in the field.

    It’s more like his play had become a deterrent to the team winning and it was getting embarassing. At the end of the day the team does exist to win games and having Brown in LF was not the best option at that point so hence he rode the pines.

    Anyway Kram, you wrote a very good and thought provoking article, hence the “strong responses”, and I really hope you do many more in the future because your stuff has some real depth to it.

    Until the next one I guess we agree to disagree on booing and Brown.

    Truce?

  9. Looking back on this and reviewing everything that’s been written–and through the looking glass of the past three seasons, I think we got away from my original point: It wasn’t “don’t boo at all ever” the real point of the article was that booing wasn’t going to help THIS CASE. Something else was wrong and “oh, I’d better snap out of it because folks are booing” wasn’t going to be the solution. And, it didn’t make us look smart or particularly knowledgeable as a fan-base. But whatevs. It’s been a fun ride around here regardless.

Trackbacks

  1. Domonic Brown Where Are You? | The Philadelphia Story
  2. The Return of Domonic Brown |
  3. What’s With The Booing? –and other Sunday Notes

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