Translating Don Carman's Clichés Into The 21st Century

Morris Levin

By Russ Walsh

Don Carman was a left-handed pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies, Cincinnati Reds, and Texas Rangers from 1983-1992. During his 10-year career, he compiled a modest 53-54 won-loss record and a 4.11 ERA. It is not for his prowess on the Major League pitching mound that we celebrate Carman today, however. Carman was not only a left-handed pitcher, but he was also a left-handed thinker.

After a particularly poor 1989 season in which he went 5-15, Carman had grown tired of answering reporters’ questions with the same old worn-out clichés. On June 19, 1990, after picking up the win in a 2-1 Phillies victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates, Carman tacked a list of 37 of his favorite clichés to his locker and invited the reporters to choose the ones they liked.

His list featured many baseball chestnuts, including the following:

  • I’m just glad to be here. I just want to help the club any way I can.
  • We’re going to take the season one game at a time.
  • You’re only as good as your last game/at-bat.
  • This team seems ready to gel.
  • You just can’t pitch behind.
  • The catcher and I are on the same wavelength.
  • I did my best, and that’s all I can do.
  • I didn’t have my good stuff, but I battled ‘em.
  • I was getting my offspeed stuff over, so they couldn’t sit on the fastball.
  • I had some great plays made behind me tonight.
  • I’m seeing the ball real good.

And my personal favorite: Hey, that’s the name of the game.

You can find Carman’s full list here.

Reviewing Carman’s list got me thinking. This list was made in 1990 -- 32 years ago. Modern baseball players, whose every pitch, at-bat, and move on the field is based on the relatively new phenomenon of analytics, really need a new list of clichés. In this world of launch angles and arm slots, I am willing to step into this breach and suggest some new ones. I also offer a simultaneous cliché translation for the analytically challenged among the readers.

“The hitting coach and I are working on my launch angle.”

Translation: I have hit into five double plays in the last three games because I keep hitting the ball on the ground.

“The velo on my fastball is down.”

Translation: Those three home runs I gave up in the second inning were the result of nothing-burger fastballs down the middle.

“I know my ERA is over 6.00, but if you look at my FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), I am not really pitching that badly.”

Translation: My team’s defense sucks.

“My exit velocity keeps improving, so I should turn it around soon.”

Translation: I keep popping up to the second baseman.

“A lot of my pitches tonight were just missing the zone.”

Translation: My catcher sucks at framing pitches.

“The card in my hat told me I should be playing the guy in right-center.”

Translation: It’s not my fault that ball fell in left-center for a triple. Talk to the coaches.

“The hitting coach and I are working on my bat-to-ball skills.”

Translation: I have struck out in 13 of my last 19 at-bats.

“The shift giveth and the shift taketh away.”

Translation: If the coaches would let the defense play their regular positions, those four ground balls would have been outs instead of hits.

“I’m working to get a consistent arm slot.”

Translation: I walked six batters in four innings of work.

“This obsession with shifting is killing my batting average.”

Translation: I couldn’t hit the ball to left field if my life depended on it.

“They were able to barrel a few on me tonight.”

Translation: Those four home runs they hit off me averaged 450 feet.

“I really caught that one on the sweet spot.”

Translation: I hit one of those 450-foot home runs.

“My whiff percentage isn’t where it needs to be.”

Translation: I gave up seven hits in my inning and two-thirds on the mound.

“My O-Swing% is just too high.”

Translation: I keep chasing the low and away breaking ball.

That’s baseball!”

Translation: I just gave up five runs on six infield hits. (Pitcher)

OR: I went 0-for-4 after hitting four line drives. (Hitter)

It is heartening in a way that these new analytics can help Major League Baseball players bring a new level of inanity to hoary old baseball clichés. And if some of us old-timers must listen to them with puzzled expressions and a baseball analytics glossary in our laps, so much the better. Never too late to learn a new skill.

Carman, by the way, went back to school after his pitching career ended and got a degree in psychology. He has worked for the past 20-plus years helping professional athletes deal with the mental aspect of the game. I suppose it helps that Carman was always a little “mental” himself.

Russ Walsh is a retired teacher, diehard Phillies fan, and student of the history of baseball with a special interest in the odd, quirky, and once in a lifetime events that happen on the baseball field. He writes for both the SABR BioProject and the SABR Games Project and maintains his own blog The Faith of a Phillies Fan. You can reach Russ on Twitter @faithofaphilli1

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