Remember May 16th? The Astros were four games above .500 at 24-18. Then Russ “ Jerry” Springer got cute and toyed with before beaning Giants slugger Barry Bonds. Houston fans erupted in pleasure, giving Springer a standing ovation when the joker was tossed. It was beneath baseball. That is not how the game is played.
Houston lost that game. And the next. Indeed, they lost 13 of the next 16 before finally stopping the slide at 27-31, four games below .500. The Springer Show obviously proved to be a distraction.
How much would the Astros like to have just one of those games back today, as they look to fall short for the season by one game?
Of course you could make the argument the Astros were 19-9 before dropping six straight and went 5-9 to end up at 24-18. Fair enough. There was that other distraction, the Rocket in a Recliner. Clemens held the Astros hostage throughout the early part of the season, figuring he would play half a season for as much money as he cared for. Some teammate. So instead of being able to get an offense, an obvious weakness last year as Houston got drubbed in the World Series by the White Sox, the Astros front office was forced to hold on to its cash and wait for Clemens to get off his duff.
Won’t it be ironic if yet another Clemens loss in a critical game dooms Houston’s remarkable run this season? And that the player who struck out looking when it appeared as the Astros were rallying in the ninth, Audrey Huff, was all Houston could acquire to shore up an anemic offense in the squeeze of the Rocket’s extorted vacation? Or was it a vacation? There are those who believe it was another steroid scandal, which would make it all the more ironic.
But then maybe there is enough irony already. The breakdown in discipline on May 16th has yielded its inevitable fruit, which appears to be just beyond the grasp of the Astros.
— Michael Norton
Here is why David Ortiz is not MVP material:
During the Sunday night edition of the Boston Massacre, Game Four, David Ortiz steamrolled down to second on a hit that got past the first baseman in the bottom of the ninth after the Yankees had tied the game in the top half of the inning. His hustle was widely praised. It was also utterly foolish. First, he could have been thrown out. More importantly, he took the bat out of the hands of arguably the best hitter in the game, Manny Ramirez. They walked Manny-of course. Ortiz was thrown out at third on the sacrifice bunt, and the lower end of the Red Sox order couldn’t get the job done.
I said then the season was over for Boston. One of the differences between baseball and football is the role of will in determination of the outcome. Yes, the will to win played a part in the dramatic 2004 Boston championship run. There was also a large element of luck. Boston has been struggling with that ever since. Luck evens out. You’ll more often die than live by the dramatic slugger. More often than not, Casey strikes out.
Jeter plays baseball. He understands the game in a way Ortiz does not. Ortiz thinks the guy who “hits 40 home runs and knocks in 100, that’s the guy you know helped your team win games”. It is all about gaudy stats.
— Michael Norton
As Mr. Doodles reminds me, baseball is a child’s game. That is ultimately, I think, the appeal. Baseball is more akin to hopscotch, or musical chairs or red light, green light than it is a sport. What could be more childlike than running to a safe spot? Run, Doodles, Run!!! With that inane grin he runs and touches his “base”, a place where he is safe and won’t get tickled. He isn’t there yet-he is, after all, only two years old and still soils himself-but I can tell he isn’t far from being able to comprehend such a game. Coz that’s what Doodle Rudles do. – Michael Norton
I was watching the A’s pummel Texas 7-0 last night, while my son and co-author here on SBY was catching some Rays. If you’re a Texas Ranger fan, check out this link, which he IM’ed me…
Then the Rangers started taking a play out of the Yankees book (the Yankees overcame an 11 run deficit against these same Rangers last week), and suddenly it was 7-5 after catcher Rod Barajas hits a grand slam. Then Mark Teixeira breaks out of his homerless slump to make it 7-6. Ian Kinsler, back from rehab, homers for the second time of the night to tie the game.
Up comes hard luck Phil Nevin–remember him? He hasn’t been able to buy a hit in May. Early in the game he crushed a ball that curved just foul, and you could see the frustration on his face. In any case he came up in the bottom of the ninth. I said to myself, the way the rhythm of this game is going, he’s going to homer to win it.
My son is an A’s fan, BTW, while I am a displaced Rangers fan, having spent all those years in OKC. Teach him to dis a Ranger.
— Michael Norton
Defense to me is the key to playing baseball. I know people say, "Well, you’ve got to score runs," but you’ve got to stop them before you can score runs. And I used to love to run every fly ball. — Willie Mays
What a great spring!
Some fans didn’t care for the World Baseball Classic, but I loved it. It was delightful to see a ballpark filled with oriental characters. Baseball and cherry blossoms are suited for one another. Moreover, the Chinese, Japanese, Koreans and Taiwanese play the game the way I like to see it played. I am a huge fan of small ball. It is the minutiae of the game which holds my attention.
Those who think baseball is boring simply don’t understand the game. A skilled batter is not simply attempting to hit the pitch. He is attempting to hit the pitch with purpose. Sometimes the intent is to hit into the gap, or behind a runner. Occasionally the purpose is to wear the pitcher down. At other times the purpose is to probe weaknesses in the defense, or to discover what the pitcher will throw in a particular situation for future reference. Often an at bat has multiple purposes, and varies depending on how the at bat unfolds, which is obviously dependent on what the pitcher, who also has his objectives, throws.
Like the batter, the pitcher may be setting up his opponent for a future encounter. I read once how Greg Maddux gave up a home run in a game which was out of reach simply to set up the batter for a situation down the road where the game was still in contest and he could do the unexpected. Pitchers are sometimes tuning their control, finding out which pitches work for them.
So both the pitcher and the batter are pursuing subtle objectives with each at bat. At no time is this more true than during spring training. A pitcher might throw a dozen curve balls in a row, simply to work on his curve ball. Competition is put aside for the sheer mechanics of the game. And thanks to MLB, which has embraced the possibilities of the Internet better than any other sport in my humble opinion, everyone can now immerse themselves in the minutiae of the game that is the spring training experience. –amn
The ALCS between the Angels and White Sox has turned into a small ball matchup, and I love it. Game One was decided by bunting and baserunning. Game Two? Well, Darin Erstad summed it up: "More proof that people who say they have seen it all, haven’t seen it all." Let’s be clear here: I’m partial to the Angels in this series. My son and co-author here on SBY, is a White Sox fan, hence the logo. I have nothing against the White Sox, and I wouldn’t be sad to see the south siders win the whole thing. But still, I’m partial to the Angels. Why? Because for the last several years they’ve brought small ball to the American League, and I like small ball. So it is ironic that they got beat on the smallest of small ball.
A Little League play. Anybody else think the play looked like a T ball game? Pierzynski was walking back to the dugout with his head down after striking out. You could hear all the parents screaming “Run! Run!”. And sure enough, he did. Heads up play by Pierzynski. Bad play by Paul. I was a catcher and was taught if your glove hits the ground, tag the batter or throw to first. It really doesn’t matter if the ball bounced an instant before it hit the mitt. If you think about it for a moment, there is no way the home plate umpire can see that happen—the mitt itself blocks his angle of view in those scenarios. He is calling that play on what he thinks happened. Nor is the third base umpire really the correct arbiter. Remember, he has to watch whether the batter checks his swing. It is really too much to ask for him to watch the pitch, too. That is precisely why the checked swing call is defered to the third base umpire. The particular scenario is one of those gray areas that caught up with baseball last night. I’ve always thought the dropped third strike rule was one of those anachronisms from the dead ball era at the turn of the century that should be scuttled. — amn