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Why Is My Steak Chewy? ( 9 Potential Reasons)

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Few things are as tasty as a well-cooked steak.

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A good steak should be flavorful, juicy, and tender.

Unfortunately, not all steaks turn out that way.

Some steaks end up being tough and chewy.

Many things determine the texture of a steak.

Understanding the things that cause a steak to become chewy will make it easier to avoid them, so your steak turns out juicy and tender.

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Here are some potential reasons your steak may be chewy.

 

Why Is My Steak Chewy? 9 Potential Reasons

Woman Eating Meat

 

The most common reason a steak ends up chewy is that it was cooked too long.

Steaks should be cooked at a high temperature for a short time.

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This allows the fat to melt and be evenly distributed through the meat, so it is juicy and tender.

Cooking the steak too long will cause the fat to evaporate and make it tough and chewy.

 

1. Cooking Method

steaks cooking over flaming grill

 

The method you use to cook the steak can have a big impact on how tough it is when it is finished.

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The fat inside the steak breaks down as it is heated, but if it is heated too quickly, it can also break down and make the steak tough.

There are a few different methods for cooking a steak, including baking, frying, and grilling.

Most people agree that grilling is the best method of cooking a steak because it allows the cut of meat to cook evenly, keeps the fats and juices inside, and creates a smoky flavor.

It’s also easier to monitor a steak on the grill to avoid overcooking and causing it to become tough and chewy.

 

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2. Length Of Cooking Time

beef steak cooking over flaming grill

 

One of the most common reasons a steak ends up being chewy is that it’s overcooked or cooked too long.

The longer a steak is cooked, the chewier and tougher it will be.

Cooking a steak too long breaks down all the tissue and fat, and while this can help make a steak tender, if all the fat and tissue are dissolved, it will cause the steak to seize up and could make it chewy.

The steak doesn’t stop cooking when you remove it from the heat.

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It’s best to remove it a little too soon rather than leave it on too long.

Some people prefer a well-done steak, and they don’t mind the chewy texture that comes with it.

Learning the perfect amount of time to cook a steak comes with trial and error.

 

3. Cooking Temperature

Measuring steak temperature on a grill

 

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The temperature at which the steak is cooked can determine the texture.

Cooking the steak at an extremely high temperature will cause it to overcook or will burn the outside and leave the inside undercooked.

Everyone has a different preference when it comes to the perfect temperature or doneness for steak, but it’s best to cook the steak on high heat but for as little time as possible.

As the steak heats up, the connective tissue and fats break down.

Doing so too quickly can cause the juices to ooze out of the steak and make it chewy.

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Not cooking the steak at the right temperature will prevent the connective tissues and fat from breaking down and distributing through the meat.

This results in a chewy texture and a less-flavorful steak.

 

4. Fresh Or Frozen

Raw rib eye steak of beef on a wooden Board

 

Choosing a fresh or frozen steak can also determine the texture.

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Fresh steaks are more likely to retain their juices and fat content during the cooking process.

When steaks are frozen, the fat and connective tissue can become freezer burned or may break down in cold temperatures.

 

Pros And Cons Of Fresh Steak

fresh raw beef steak

 

Fresh steaks can be purchased from a local butcher or grocery store.

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Many people prefer fresh steak because it’s easier to see the marbling and have an idea of the quality before they buy it.

 

Pros

  • Juices distribute more evenly
  • Better flavor
  • Reaches room temperature quickly
  • Cooks more evenly
  • Better texture

 

Cons

  • It does not last long
  • Not as portable

 

Pros And Cons Of Frozen Steaks

Frozen raw pork neck chops meat steak

 

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Some brands of steaks can be bought from the freezer section of the store, and some people prefer to freeze fresh steaks so they can stock up on them during a sale.

Here are the pros and cons of buying frozen steaks or choosing to freeze fresh steaks.

 

Pros

  • They last longer
  • You can buy in bulk
  • Maintains nutrition if frozen properly

 

Cons

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  • Less flavorful
  • Fat can break down and become freezer burned
  • It takes longer to come to room temperature before cooking
  • Firmer, chewy texture

 

Regardless of whether you choose a fresh or frozen steak, it is important to allow it to come to room temperature before you cook it.

Steaks that are cold or frozen take longer to cook and have to spend more time on the grill.

Bringing the steak to room temperature before cooking means the steak won’t have to cook as long, and the juices and fat won’t evaporate and lead to a chewy steak.

 

5. Cutting Into It Too Soon

Cooking juicy beef steak by chef hands

 

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A perfectly cooked steak can be almost irresistible, and it’s easy to see why so many people can’t wait to cut right into it as soon as it comes off the grill.

This can actually cause your perfect steak to become chewy.

Steaks need to rest when they come off the grill or out of the oven.

They will continue to cook as their temperature goes down, and the juices will spread back through the entire cut of meat.

This will help make each bite juicy and tender.

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Cutting into a steak before it has a chance to rest and redistribute the juices will cause the juices to leak out.

This will leave the steak with a dry and chewy texture.

Chefs recommend letting the steak rest for 10 minutes for every pound of weight.

 

6. The Type Of Cut

Medium rare Grilled T-Bone Steak

 

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Some types of steak are more likely to be chewy than others.

High-quality steaks have higher fat content and better marbling of the fat, which means it is more evenly distributed through the meat.

Steaks of lesser quality do not have as much fat content and, thus, are more likely to be chewy.

When the steak is heated, the fat melts and helps to tenderize the meat.

If there is not enough fat in the steak to spread through the meat, it will remain tough.

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If you are looking for a steak that is not likely to be tough and chewy, consider one of these cuts.

  • Porterhouse
  • T-Bone
  • Top Sirloin
  • Ribeye
  • Filet Mignon

 

Cuts that are the most likely to be chewy include,

  • Brisket
  • London Broil
  • Flank
  • Chuck
  • Shank
  • Round

 

Keep in mind that the cut alone will not determine if the steak is chewy or not.

The cooking method, temperature, and other factors also come into play.

 

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7. Fat Content

Piece of uncooked marbled steak

 

When it comes to the fat content in a steak, there’s a fine line between too much and not enough.

Too much fat can take away from the steak’s flavor and texture, but not enough will make the steak tough and chewy.

A good steak will have a nice marbling of fat throughout the cut of meat.

 

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What Is Marbling?

If you look at an uncooked steak, you will notice white streaks running through it.

These white streaks are fat.

Certain cuts of steak have more marbling than others.

The type of food that the animal was fed can also determine how much marbling is present or the fat content of the steak.

 

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Marbling Score

Steaks marbling also has a score.

This is based on what percentage of the steak is marbled or how much marbling is present.

According to a chart on Stetson Beef, this is how the marbling scoring works.

  • Devoid has 1.0% to 2.5% of marbling.
  • Trace: 2.5% to 4.0%
  • Slight: 4.0% to 5.0%
  • Small: 5.0% to 6.5%
  • Modest: 6.5% to 7.5%
  • Moderate: 7.5% to 8.5%
  • Abundant: >8.5%

 

How Does Fat Content Affect Quality?

The USDA rates the quality of a steak based on several factors, including marbling.

Not only is the marbling considered, but the experts who rate the steaks will check a specific area of the loin between the 12th and 13th rib.

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The amount of marbling in this area will be the basis for the quality grading.

 

8. The Animal The Steak Came From

Men's hands hold a raw tomahawk steak

 

How the animal was raised before it was processed for meat can affect the quality and texture of the steak.

While you may not always be able to trace your steak back to a specific animal or cow, it is possible to be selective about the steaks you buy.

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If you want to make sure you are getting a good quality steak, only buy from a farm that raises cattle in a way that improves the flavor, texture, and quality of the meat.

 

Age Of The Animal

The more an animal moves or is active, the tougher and chewier the meat will be.

Older animals have moved around more, and their muscles have been more active.

When choosing the perfect steak, it should come from an animal that is less than 42 months old.

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Animals of this age do not have as much connective tissue as older animals, but they do have a higher fat content.

 

Type Of Food The Animal Was Fed

Herd of cows at summer green field

 

The type of food that cattle eat can also have an effect on how tough or chewy the steak turns out.

Cattle are usually fed grass, grain, or a combination of both.

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Grass-Fed

Most cattle start out being grass-fed.

Some transition to grain when they are older, but others are only fed grass throughout their lifetime.

They are generally left to graze in a pasture.

Grass-fed beef cattle are able to obtain a lot of essential nutrients from grass, including antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and Vitamins A, B, and E.

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Grass-fed beef is believed to be more nutritious, and it is leaner.

The flavors in grass-fed beef are not as rich and are more earthy or nutty instead.

The texture of the steak is also leaner, chewier, and tougher.

There is less fat content, which means less marbling and less flavor.

 

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Grain Fed

Grain-fed cattle may graze on grass for a short time before they are fed grain.

Some cattle are fed grass for most of their lives but switched back to grain for the last year before they are slaughtered.

The grain gives the meat a higher fat content, making it juicier, thicker, and more tender.

Most farmers prefer to feed corn to their cattle because it is affordable and helps create better marbling in the meat.

Most farmers agree that a combination of grass and grain is essential to providing cattle with the nutrients they need while also allowing them to fatten up for more flavor and a tender textured steak.

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Animal’s Genetics

Cattle genetics can play a role in their muscle characteristics and overall fat quantity.

Some animals are naturally leaner, and others are fattier.

Breeds that mature early in life are more likely to have less fat content, and those that mature early have more fat and result in a more flavorful steak.

 

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9. Steak Quality

Variety of raw beef steaks on a wooden board

 

The quality of the steak also determines its texture.

The better the quality, the better the texture.

The USDA grades steaks based on marbling and the age of the animal at the time of slaughter.

When you buy a steak in the store, it will have a grade on the packaging.

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Here’s what those grades mean.

 

Prime

Prime is the highest quality of steak available, and it is also the most expensive.

Prime cuts have the most marbling and fat, which means they will have more flavor and a juicy texture when cooked correctly.

It can be difficult to find prime cuts of steak in a grocery store because this grade is usually reserved ahead of time by restaurants.

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Choice

Choice is the second-highest quality, and while it contains less marbling than prime cuts, it still has enough marbling to make it juicy and tender when cooked properly.

Choice is more affordable than prime and easier to find at grocery stores and local butcher shops.

 

Select

Select is the lowest grade and the most affordable.

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Steaks that are select quality do not have much marbling, and they are not as forgiving as higher quality cuts when cooked.

Select steaks are much more likely to turn out tough and chewy.

 

Tips For Choosing The Right Steak

Variety of Raw Black Angus Prime meat steaks

 

If you want to choose a steak that is going to be tender and juicy instead of tough and chewy, keep some of these tips in mind when shopping.

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1. Marbling

Grilled japanese wagyu sirloin steak

 

Marbling is the most important thing to look at when choosing a steak.

Look for a steak that has streaks of white throughout the meat.

As the fat melts, it will distribute the fat and juices through the meat and make it tender and juicy.

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2. Choose Steak That Hasn’t Been Trimmed

Raw steak in an airtight packaging

 

Some butchers prefer to trim the steak before they package it.

If possible, choose a steak that has not been trimmed.

Keep all the fat on the steak until after it is cooked.

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Once the steak is cooked, you can remove the excess fat.

 

3. Understand The Grades

Fresh venison meat steaks on a board with forest plants and juniper berries

 

Make sure you know what each grade of steak means and how it can affect the texture.

You may not want to choose the highest grade, but knowing which grade you have will give you a better idea of how to cook it for the right texture.

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4. The Right Cut

Raw Organic Grass Fed Filet Mignon Steak with Salt and Herbs

 

If your goal is to choose a steak that won’t be chewy, choose a cut that is more likely to give you the texture you want.

A ribeye or filet mignon is a great option for beginner chefs who are still learning how to perfect their steak grilling skills.

 

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5. Know The Source

Raw steak meat from roe deer on the bridlic chopping board

 

Understanding where the steak comes from is important.

If you are hoping for a tender and juicy steak, you may want to choose one that you know came from a cow that was grain-fed.

Some farms advertise their steaks as grain-fed or grass-fed, and understanding what each label means can help you have better expectations for the quality of your steak and the texture you will get once it is cooked.

The post Why Is My Steak Chewy? ( 9 Potential Reasons) appeared first on The Cold Wire.

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Discussing Carson Wentz’s potential, Sam Howell’s development with Commanders QBs coach Ken Zampese

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Ken Zampese oversees an intriguing quarterbacks room with the Washington Commanders entering the 2022 season. There’s Carson Wentz, the former No. 2 overall pick traded by the Philadelphia Eagles and Indianapolis Colts in consecutive seasons after failing to live up to expectations; Taylor Heinicke, the Old Dominion student-turned almost Tom Brady slayer (within a month!) and then the team’s full-time starter last season; and finally Sam Howell, a projected top-five draft pick before an underwhelming 2021 dropped him all the way to the fifth round.

Wentz’s seemingly final chance to be an NFL starter will unfold in Washington, while Heinicke will be anxiously waiting to be called upon if necessary and Howell will look to rediscover his 2020 magic as he acclimates himself to the NFL. Guiding all of these players is Zampese, 55, who enters his 19th season as an NFL quarterbacks coach.

Ahead of the Commanders’ preseason opener against the Carolina Panthers on Saturday afternoon, Zampese spoke with CBS Sports about Wentz’s potential, Howell’s continuing development and more.

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The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What was your initial reaction when you found out Carson Wentz was joining the team?

“I was so excited I could hardly stand myself. My hope went through the roof, my confidence went through the roof. I just know when you add talent and you get a guy that’s accountable and you hold him accountable, good things are going to happen. When? Who knows. But we’re going to be moving in a positive direction all the time, and I knew that was a good deal. … I just know that he is a very capable NFL passer, and I’m very happy we got him here.”

What have been your impressions of Wentz since you started working with him?

“He’s locked into details. He wants to know and he wants to communicate it so that we’re all on the same page. That’s obvious from the time we started when it was just he and I. And then as we get the players into the building, you see the communication and going back to talk through a rep after it’s already been done, to come to a greater understanding so that when we go to the next time, you can anticipate it a little bit more, and you get better balls, better looks, better spots.”

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Is that the main thing that has stood out about Wentz so far? Or have other things also caught your attention?

“That’s the one you want to have, because then the guy’s locked into what you’re doing and is trying to do it the way that we’re talking about doing it. And then he brings his own stuff from where he’s been to where there’s (additions) and there’s things that we subtracted, and we’re just making it our offense this year. It’s our 2022 Commanders offense.”

Any specific examples of his attention to detail?

“There are certain routes where we talk about, ‘Oh, our focus is over here,’ and he says, ‘Hey, if I can get this look on the backside, can we put this on it?’ So you know he’s seeing the whole field. And if we can do that and it works out and we can get another shot to throw it to Terry McLaurin), that’s a hell of a deal. It’s something where you’re seeing the whole field, how we’re using all the pieces, and he sees all the pieces and what we can do with them. That’s the fun part.”

What’s the biggest thing that’s going to change for the offense this year with Wentz at quarterback?

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“Well he’s got his own unique style, which is different than the rest of them. He can reach the whole field easily. He’s really good at quick game. The usual things that have stood out. I mean I think he was in the top 10 in plus-20 air yard passes, something like that, so there’s some downfield elements that he brings; it’s natural to him. And then his style of leadership and communication in the building. He’s very personable, 1-on-1, being deliberate to get to each guy.”

Wentz’s accuracy has been inconsistent at times throughout camp, and coach Ron Rivera has attributed that to learning a new system and getting the rhythm and timing down with his speedy receivers. How long does it typically take for a quarterback in a new system to gain that baseline of comfortability?

“There’s no threshold. You just know it when you see it over time. The easy things stay easy. You don’t see the wheels spinning on an easy concept and it’s hard to get. Guys are getting it, it’s getting to the right spot. It’s also the quickness from one read to another, ‘Oh, shoot, OK, he’s got that one. We feel good about this concept. Let’s try and do more.’ There’s no kind of magic moment, but you kind of know it when you see it.”

Have you seen it so far during training camp?

“We’re in the process. Some days are better than other days, and that’s how training camp goes. … It’s no different than anybody else who walks into the building new. We’re not six years in with somebody. We are six months in with somebody, and even though some other guys have been here, we haven’t done it together. So we’re trying to build our sustainable winning culture within our offense.”

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Wentz will start the preseason opener Saturday against the Panthers, and Rivera said he wants to see the starters get 15-20 snaps. What do you want to see from Wentz during that time?

“I just want to see the ball move down the field. It doesn’t matter to me how it works; just that it works and it’s smooth and we’re happy with the decisions and we’re finding ways to protect the football and take advantage of the defense and big plays when we get them. So yeah, just move the ball, convert some first downs, score — of course — and then just see the offense flow the way it’s supposed to, the way we’ve talked about it. And then we can come back with a greater confidence later because we actually did it on another level other than practice; we did it live.”

This is Wentz’s third team in as many years. What makes you think Washington can be a long-term fit for him?

“We’ve seen it on Sunday, him be productive on Sunday. And we have pretty good skill guys, and I think as you compare that with other spots he’s been in over time, it gives me hope that if we can get the ball out to these guys, we’ll be able to make some very, very productive plays — short range and down the field.”

Switching gears to Sam Howell: You’ve coached a lot of rookie quarterbacks who have gone on to be long-term starters (Carson Palmer, Andy Dalton, Baker Mayfield, etc.) What stands out about Howell in terms of what he brings to the NFL?

“He’s humble, he’s got a live arm, and he likes to be coached. That’s kind of Sam in a nutshell. He really gleans everything off of every meeting and wants to know, and anytime I say, ‘Hey Sam, let’s get together before or after practice,’ he says, ‘Yes sir,’ and we’re on it, we’re doing it. And that’s going to go a long way to his development toward being fast, not slow. He’s very coachable, he’s got a high motor for work and his focus is good, and he has a lot of pride. That’s the other thing that sticks out: he’s got a lot of pride. He sees himself in a very upwardly-mobile-in-this-profession way, and he should, because he can.

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“He doesn’t give himself a crutch if he misses a throw. He knows he can make it because it should be easy for him in his mind because ‘I can do all of these things, and when I don’t, I’m very disappointed,’ as opposed to, ‘Yeah, you know I just missed one. Whatever.’ It’s not like that for him. He holds himself accountable very well.

“He’s not happy about it. Those things happen because guys are rookies, but when you don’t get something that doesn’t happen right, there’s a sting that goes along with it. And if you don’t use it for fuel, you don’t gain from the experience. He uses all the stings as fuel, and that’s the important part, no matter what year you are but particularly as a rookie because you get so many of them.”

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What are the biggest areas you want to see him improve throughout his rookie campaign?

“I want to see his pocket moving and sliding to make a play. And then knowing when to cut your losses and run; just the natural feel of that part of the game, like to see that. We’ve seen him out here on one-hitch fire the ball around. He’s been very productive, and now we’ll get to see it in the game. I want to see the improvisational skills.”





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By being himself, Schneider’s message is resonating with Blue Jays’ stars

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TORONTO — John Schneider arrived at spring training in 2008 with a life-changing decision to make. Six years, seven concussions and a major back surgery into his pro ball career with the Toronto Blue Jays, he’d topped out at triple-A. He had enough raw tools — strong receiver, a knack for getting on base, some pop — that he could keep grinding and perhaps find his way to a cup of coffee in The Show. But Voon Chong, his trainer in 2006-07, warned that another blow to the head would be major trouble. Dick Scott, the club’s farm director at the time, suggested a transitionary job coaching in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League if the 28-year-old was ready to move on. The club thought enough of him that the offer that would stand even if he first wanted a release to pursue a playing opportunity with another organization.

All the possibilities swirled in Schneider’s mind and his lean was toward coaching, which he’d already kicked around during the off-season. “Give me a few days,” he told Scott after their meeting. One morning, before heading over to a minor-league spring game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, as they were then called, he stopped manager Gary Cathcart. Bring another catcher for the trip, he said, because if he hit a homer that day, he was calling it a career right then and there. “Haha, OK,” is how Schneider remembers Cathcart’s response.

Sure enough, in his second at-bat, against a left-hander whose name he can’t recall, Schneider did indeed go deep. Cathcart gave him a knowing grin as they high-fived at third base. “I came in and literally took off my spikes, hung them up in the dugout and coached first the next inning. That was the last time I ever played,” says Schneider. “It was great. Went out on a high note. Because there are a lot of low notes in there.”

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The next morning, rather than sitting in the clubhouse with his teammates and friends, he was in the coaches room for his first day as hitting coach of the GCL Blue Jays, the beginning of a career arc that led to his promotion as interim manager of the big-league club on July 13. Like Cito Gaston in 1989, Schneider is a long-time franchise man with deep ties to his players essentially thrown behind the wheel of a speeding car that’s at risk of veering off the highway. The task for him now, just as it was for Gaston then, is to ensure a built-to-win club remains on course and accelerates into the playoffs. At 14-8 so far, Schneider’s helped steer the Blue Jays back on the road, but the finish line is still a long way off and a steady hand is needed.

“This is so much about the players,” Schneider says of what he most enjoys about managing. “Our job as coaches is to just get them prepared and have all the information. The greatest joy is watching guys have fun, play well, win, celebrate a win. Watching them interact with one another, watching the coaches interact. Being around this group for so long, four years with the staff and most of the players, every day when you see it work is the best feeling.”

***

Even as a kid growing up in Lawrenceville, N.J., Schneider tried to think along with the manager when he watched baseball on TV, drawn to the bigger strategies inherent to the sport. Fittingly, he ended up behind the plate as a player, relishing the games within the game every catcher must play, the vision of the entire field. Undrafted out of high school, Schneider ended up at the University of Delware, where he logged 171 games over three seasons, earning first team All-Colonial Athletic Association and American Baseball Coaches Association All-East honours in 2002. That year, the Blue Jays selected him in the 13th round and he was the prototypical college player valued by the J.P. Ricciardi-era front office, carrying both a high on-base percentage (.387) and slugging percentage (.519).

Once he signed, Schneider remembers the organization stressing the importance of on-base percentage over batting average, that the fewer outs a player made the more valuable he was, along with other principles that changed the game in those Moneyball days. Such thinking resonated with him and in 311 minor-league games across those six years, he had an on-base percentage of .340, compared to a batting average of .206, while slugging .336, rolling up and down the system almost annually.

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Interspersed through that time were six documented concussions, all off foul tips that struck him on the mask. Those followed a more severe incident in 2001 while he was playing in the Cape Cod League, when a backswing shattered his helmet. Add in the 2006 surgery to correct a herniated disc in his back, it’s understandable why Schneider was already weighing his options when he got to spring training in 2008. “It took a lot of prep work to just get ready to play three times a week, know what I mean?” he says.

The physical toll Schneider had endured and the leadership qualities he’d displayed on his various teams both caught the eye of Scott, who as a matter of course sought to identify potential future coaches among players who weren’t on a fast-track to the big-leagues. In Schneider, he saw “a hard-nosed guy who always had a sense of humour,” says Scott, now co-ordinator of coaching development and instruction for the New York Mets. “And when guys are likable and they’re good baseball guys and they care, plus being a former catcher, it’s like this guy could be a good coach in our organization. As it turned out, he was.”

Scott also valued hiring players from within the system because they understood organizational priorities and were more invested in them. Schneider checked all the boxes, which is why he broached the idea that fateful spring, leading to a choice. He could kick around for a couple more years and see where it took him. Or he could get a head start on a different career path. “It keeps you in the game,” Schneider says of the transition. “I always said, if I wasn’t going to be a coach, I would be a teacher. I don’t know why, but I like sharing experiences. I like getting to know people. Baseball is what I know best, so it’s easy to talk to guys about anything that the game has to offer.”

Those qualities helped him learn on the fly, which helped because he didn’t jump into coaching with preconceived ideas about philosophies and approaches. Mostly, he trusted his instinct, the way he builds relationships with an added a dose of cautionary tales he’d seen. A prime example? “Not being connected to your teammates. Not being connected to your staff,” he replies. An important early piece of advice he adhered to was, “try to spend one minute a day with each person. I literally tried to just talk to people, whether it was during BP, clubhouse, whatever.”

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That part came easy to him. As a catcher he was the same way. “Social butterfly,” Schneider says with a grin. “It’s easier when people trust you. Like when pitchers trusted what I was calling, it just made it easier. And that comes through conversations, not just game experiences. With relationships comes trust.”

Among his initial coaching influences were Dwayne Murphy, Ernie Whitt and Scott, who’d regularly visit with Schneider to dissect various decisions, kick around different approaches and generally offer support. Scott liked his work as hitting coach with the GCL Blue Jays so much that the next year he made him the club’s manager. Another promotion, this time to short-season A Vancouver, came in 2011, after Scott had left the Blue Jays when Alex Anthopolous replaced Ricciardi as GM.

“John probably wouldn’t like me saying this, but he’s probably a better coach than he was player,” says Scott. “He wasn’t a bad player. But sometimes guys, their makeup is just suited for leading and coaching other guys. That’s really something that he showed.”

***

After a leave of absence in August 2011 so he could tend to a personal matter, Schneider resumed managing in 2013 with GCL Blue Jays, returning to the Canadians in 2014-15 and then jumping to low-A Lansing in 2016. It was during this period he began to find a better balance between being demanding instead of too hard on his players, while learning to manage with a bigger picture in mind. Some of the philosophies he employs now, particularly being aggressive on the bases, started taking hold then, too. “I remembered how hard baseball was and I always found it easier to not wait around for a big play to happen,” says Schneider. “If you can kind of dictate the momentum of the game or the pace of the game, it’s just easier that way. Baserunning is a big part of it. Putting the ball in play is a big part of it. And just trying to take advantage of mistakes.”

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By 2017, when he was promoted to high-A Dunedin, Schneider’s star really started to rise as he was handed many of the organization’s most important prospects. That season alone, he managed Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Danny Jansen, Jordan Romano, Ryan Borucki and Tayler Saucedo, among other future big-leaguers, and led the club to a share of the Florida State League championship. The next year, with much of the same group at double-A New Hampshire plus Santiago Espinal, Jonathan Davis and Harold Ramirez, also ended with a title. “He did a good job of making us feel like a team,” says Bichette. “In the minor leagues, a lot of times it can feel pretty individual. He made sure that we remembered it’s important to be a good teammate, important to come on the field every day to win. Yeah, we had talent, but I think he definitely had a big part in us winning.”

None of that was by accident. Typically the focus in the minor leagues is on development. At times the way players are used and how they perform is based on growth priorities and organizational restrictions. Winning can become a happy by-product as opposed to the sole goal. But Schneider refused to let one come at the expense of the other because “I thought I’d be doing them and the organization a disservice if they didn’t appreciate winning, knowing how to celebrate a win, knowing how to learn from a loss,” he says. “In between, yeah, you want to get better, you want to improve your skills. But really those years, especially in 2018, I thought it was really important to preach this is winning baseball. There’s practice time. There’s development time. And then at 7 p.m., it’s ‘Hey, we’re going to try to win.’”

As important as that was, similarly critical to Schneider’s path was the way he embraced the latest information revolution sweeping over the game at that time. The Blue Jays in those years were both diving into the new opportunities created by advances in on-field data collection and completely rebuilding the entire organization after president and CEO Mark Shapiro and GM Ross Atkins took over the club following the 2015 season. Gil Kim, hired as the club’s director, player development, “challenged me to do things differently, think openly,” says Schneider, and just like he had during the Ricciardi/Moneyball years, he embraced all the new info filtering down to him, from new practice drills to unorthodox pitch usages.

At times, Kim concedes, the Blue Jays identified development concepts they liked but were unsure of how to implement. Schneider would “brainstorm with his staff, brainstorm with other coaches, come up with his own tweaks on it. And then the biggest key is that he was very consistent with implementing a lot of the new ideas that were being introduced. He was also very consistent in coming up with his own ideas as well. And through that process, we were all able to learn what are the best ways to go forward.” Kim laughs when he thinks back to some of the things they threw against the wall. “You’re not always going to agree with everything you see, read or hear,” he says. “But listening, taking time to digest the information, trying it out and then drawing conclusions is very important and that’s how he handled it.”

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Pivotal, too, is knowing what to change, and what to leave the same. The Holy Grail in baseball management is finding the right blend of traditional coaching/scouting and advanced methodologies. “When I was in minor-leagues with him, the game was still a little bit old school,” says Biggio. “Then probably about 2019, the game kind of changed, went more analytical and he learned that side of the game but ultimately maintained his feel, which is what made him such a great coach over the years.”

In a sense, then, that period of time turned out to be the perfect training ground for how the modern manager operates, buffering various inputs from the front office, fellow coaches, players and his own ideas in search of the best decision for a lineup, an approach, a pitching change, etc. Essentially, a manager must act as a translator to ensure the different parts of the organization understand what the other is saying, whether it’s why defensive shifts make sense, how to best leverage a pitching repertoire or what type of swing adjustment needs to be made. “It’s having the information and being able to answer why we’re doing it,” says Schneider. “Also it’s a credit to the players for understanding the information and being able to push back or ask questions, and never wanting to put them in spots where they’re uncomfortable. They know just about as much as we know. And then it’s coming together and saying, yeah, OK, this is important, to win we should do it. I think we do a good job of educating them on why we do certain things. It makes it a lot easier for us to have those conversations.”

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All of that progress led to speculation about Schneider as a candidate to become Blue Jays manager after John Gibbons parted ways with the club after the 2018 season. He wasn’t interviewed and the job eventually went to Charlie Montoyo, but Atkins and assistant GMs Joe Sheehan and Mike Murov did speak to him afterwards about a coaching position on the staff. They hired him initially as a major league coach but by last season he was the de facto bench coach, a title he officially took this year.

During that 2019 season, Schneider made a point of getting to know established big-leaguers like Justin Smoak and Clay Buchholz, plus guys he’d touched in the minors like Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez, to understand how their mindset and needs changed in the majors. He tried to soak in all he could from Montoyo, pitching coach Pete Walker, third base coach Luis Rivera and Dave Hudgens, who this year moved from bench coach to hitting strategist.

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That’s why when Atkins fired Montoyo last month, Schneider was ready to grab the wheel.

“I love this. This is what I do,” says Schneider. “The organization does a great job of giving you every piece of information you need. Being familiar with the staff is huge. Being familiar with the players is huge and having an idea of how they like to play. It’s not just like, ‘Hey, this is my style.’ You’re always evolving around your roster and the people you work with, both players and staff. So just being familiar with everyone has made it that much easier.”

***

After parting with Gibbons, the Blue Jays conducted an exhaustive search for his replacement. This is how Atkins at the time described the attributes they were looking for: “Tough, smart and passionate. Those are the overarching themes as I think about what it means to lead an environment in here to sustain championship-level expectations, understanding what it takes for communication to keep not just 25-man roster, but also the 40-man roster, the 200 minor-league players, the 100-plus scouts, the 100-plus coaches and medical staff people pulling in one direction and feeling connected. That person has to be an organizational leader and spokesperson, not just a leader of the 25-man clubhouse.”

Montoyo was Atkins’ first attempt at fulfilling that vision. How the Blue Jays fare the rest of the way will determine whether Schneider eventually has the interim tag removed to become the second. That will sort itself out in due course.

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For now, Schneider is in charge and running things the way he always has. He tries to sleep seven hours, gets to the ballpark around noon for a 7 p.m. game, makes the rounds a couple of times, stopping to chat with everyone from the security guards at the clubhouse door to the chef in the kitchen to players as they arrive, holds a staff meeting at 2 p.m. and then gets into the day’s routine. He’ll throw batting practice and watch some video, seeking out a weakness or a tendency that can perhaps be exploited before running the game, where every decision he makes is subject to internal and external judgment.

A lot of the work happens during the pre-game staff meeting. Schneider is very organized, to the point “I’m almost OCD sometimes with certain things.” The group will try to plan for various scenarios, using all available information to identify ideal matchups and possible opportunities they can exploit and debate the merits of different plans. “Some of it is projection, some of it is percentages,” Schneider explains. “Doing things consistently and not shying away from saying this is how we’re going to do it, this is collectively how we feel we’re going to win and staying consistent with that is key.” There’s still room for instinct. “Totally,” he continues. “You’ve got to still use your eyes. You’ve got to feel out what this guy is doing that night, how has his work been? Where is he at mentally? There are so many numbers and pieces of information you have where it’s like you could just go by the book and there’s always a handful of decisions each game that you go, OK, this is what I feel is best, along with the staff, you’ve got to make it and live with it. Sometimes you’re right, sometimes you’re wrong.”

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And then there’s managing a group of 26 highly driven, uber competitive players who will have varying needs and desires at any given moment. A big part of what Schneider does when he’s making the rounds is taking the temperature in the clubhouse because “you’re never going to have perfect attendance — someone’s always going to be pissed off at you,” he says. “Someone’s always going through something and you kind of just try to stay ahead of it.”

To that end, he believes in “being brutally honest with players” but approaches difficult conversations with empathy “and always having their best interests in the forefront,” he adds. “It’s not being afraid to say, hey, that’s not up to standards, that’s not up to par, this needs to be better or, hey, man, way to be aggressive. Whatever it is. But that’s the delicate part. Being consistent in who you are. I’m not going to come in and bang tables and pound my chest and say I’m in charge. That’s not how I operate. But them understanding yeah, I want to have fun and be loose, but at the same time there’s definitely a standard we’re going to hold you to.”

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That’s something Biggio has long appreciated about Schneider, whom he’s played for every year since appearing in nine games with Lansing in 2016. Especially now that he’s in a super utility role, the stream of communication about why he is or isn’t playing is especially important on a personal level, and it eliminates the guesswork on a collective level, too. “You want someone who has your back and sets you up for the best chance to succeed,” says Biggio. “And then one of the biggest parts is having poise. John embodies all three of those things really well.”

Dick Scott saw the ingredients for Schneider to provide all that way back in the day and now that his focus is on developing coaches, he still sees all the current elements a manager needs in him, too. “There’s a lot more to it than X’s and O’s. There are guys who are good managers that know the X’s and O’s and there are guys who communicate well. When you get a combination of that, you’ve got yourself a good guy,” explains Scott. “From the periphery the players seem to like the vibe in the clubhouse, and that’s so important. It’s really the vibe, guys comfortable being themselves, they can go play, no extra tension coming from the manager’s office. It’s effective, especially in this day and age. That’s what players want.”

For the time being, that seems to be what the Blue Jays have. “I just know how I’ve always done it and it just feels natural for me to do it that way,” says Schneider. “I’ve always said that great teams at the end of the year, they always say what a great group of guys, we loved coming to the field every day. I always try to keep that in the forefront and make sure that vibe is consistent, both with staff, players, support staff, everyone. That’s just how I operate.”

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Ravens extend NFL record for consecutive preseason wins following Thursday’s victory over the Titans

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The No. 21 is now synonymous with the longest winning streaks in NFL regular and preseason history. the 2003-04 Patriots won 21 consecutive games, an NFL record. On Thursday night, the Ravens won their 21st consecutive preseason game after securing a 23-10 decision against the Tennessee Titans

Baltimore has not lost a preseason game since 2016. Joe Flacco was their starting quarterback when the streak began, while Steve Smith Jr., who this past year was eligible for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the first time, was heading into his final NFL season. Baltimore’s roster also included Terrell Suggs, who was entering his second-to-last season with the franchise. 

Along with not losing preseason games, another constant in Baltimore over the past six years has been kicker Justin Tucker, who is entering his 11th season with the Ravens. Tucker’s field goals of 47, 25 and 47 yards on Thursday night helped Baltimore pull out the win after falling behind midway through the second quarter. 

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The Ravens won Thursday’s game by winning the turnover margin while holding the Titans to 1 of 3 red zone efficiency. One of those turnovers was scooped up by Kyle Hamilton, the Ravens’ first-round pick in this past year’s draft. 

Baltimore won despite the efforts of Malik Willis, the Titans’ rookie quarterback who overcame a slow start to score his first NFL touchdown, a 7-yard run early in the second quarter. Speaking of quarterbacks, the Ravens received a strong night from Tyler Huntley, who completed all but two of his 18 pass attempts that included his game-winning touchdown pass to Shemar Bridges



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