Can Someone Please Get Addison Russell a Little Pine Tar?
How many times have you watched Addison Russell huck his bat into the stands or down the third base line on a swing and miss? Too many to count if you’ve been watching since at least 2015. Some fans don’t even want to see him swinging a bat for the Cubs at all, let alone repeatedly throwing it into the stands.
It was kind of cute in 2016 when he was an All-Star and the player Len Kasper introduced as a future MVP when the Cubs received their World Series rings early in the 2017 season. It’s not so cute now, and not just because of the domestic violence suspension or the revelation that he may have paid child support in quarters.
Seriously, enough is enough. Get the man something sticky to put on his bat. Or maybe just tape it to his hands like John Heder’s character in The Benchwarmers. That’s what the Dodgers proposed Sunday night after Russell’s 57th bat toss of the series nearly maimed Joc Pederson.
Anyone need tape? pic.twitter.com/w0XtajomUP
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) June 17, 2019
With all the hubbub surrounding the extension of netting around the field to protect fans from baseballs, the most dangerous projectile at Wrigley Field might just be a bat. That was the case in Russell’s Wrigley Field debut in 2015, when one of his errant bat-tosses sent a man to the hospital.
It’s not an entirely foreign concept for a player to lose his bat as the result of a loose grip or being fooled by a pitch. Heck, Javy Báez actually picked up a single earlier this season by throwing his bat at a pitch in the dirt. But that was done with intent. Ever since coming into the league four seasons ago, Russell has been displayed an inability to simply keep his bat in his hands.
He’s been adamant that he hasn’t always done this and it’s a “new thing,” at least as of 2016 when Jesse Rogers let him answer some fan mail. But it’s hard to believe that he can’t make an adjustment to an flying object phenomenon that not even Ancient Aliens guest are mildly interested in seeing at this point.
Hitting instructors and coaches will tell you that you don’t want to “gorilla-grip” the bat or grind it into sawdust like Heddo from Rookie of the Year. The basic premise behind this is the harder you grip or the harder you try to hit, the more you’ll hinder your swing and actually make yourself slower to the ball. According to many hitters and products out there on the market (including the Axe bat that Kris Bryant started using earlier this season), a more traditional grip is actually counterproductive.
Ted Williams, perhaps the greatest practitioner of hitting the game has ever known, said you should swing the bat in a manner similar to the way you’d swing an axe. Williams’ book, The Science of Hitting (now 51 years in print), has been requisite reading for baseball players and fans trying to understand what hitting is all about for half a century. And who better to teach hitting than the last guy to hit .400?
Williams explains that a hitter should have a firm grip on the bat with the “bottom hand holding the bat like a hammer” before following through with the “hard, unbroken swing of an axe.” Not everyone can be even close to Ted Williams, but an abysmal bat-holder and mediocre (at best) hitter could do far worse than to follow the Splendid Splinter’s advice.
Maybe one of Russell’s teammates or coaches — Joe Maddon does like to give out books, right? — could slip him a copy of the iconic hitting manifesto and highlight those two sections. And maybe throw in a jug of pine tar just for kicks.