Let’s see how the formidable 30-30-30-10 formation fares.
Yesterday afternoon, who-dat Giants relief pitcher Hunter Strickland plunked Nationals wunderkind and future Pantene spokesman Bryce Harper. Harper charged the mound, where Strickland was waiting, punches were thrown and the benches for both teams cleared.
I saw highlights and there are various entertaining stills from the brawl on Twitter, but especially in light of Mike Trout going on the DL, I just watched with a surprising amount of dread and discomfort, considering how much animosity I have for both teams.
You hear of old timers talk about intentionally hit batters as the result of a violation of the unspoken rules of baseball. Former Phillie and current Dodger Chase Utley gets hit all the time, mostly because his take-out slides, in which he basically slide-tackled infielders, are incredibly vicious. Other violations include taking too long to admire a home run. Harper’s transgression, according to the article referenced above, is simply hitting home runs off Strickland three years ago.
(Aside: Interesting how women are considered the more petty sex but a grown man getting paid exceptionally well to play a child’s game can hold a grudge for three years and start a fight because the other guy hit the ball well is acceptable behavior.)
The brawl was interesting in other ways. The Nationals are running away with the National League East, mainly because all of the Mets are in sick bay. (The Phillies have forgotten how to pitch and hit.) The Giants are floundering in their division. Why did Harper—the best Nats player and arguably a league icon—even engage? Giants catcher Posey, who clearly did not call for a fastball inside, stands up, sighs, and almost audibly says “NOPE,” when his pitcher starts swinging. He doesn’t enter the fracas at all. Neither does most of the Giants’ infield. National Jayson Werth, elder statesman and future Loreal spokesman, literally looks like Jesus as he scrambles to separate everyone. Are the subsequent fines and suspensions even worth it? And these are guys who depend on their health to play every day; depending on how their contracts are structured, they get bonuses for how many games they start. Their chances for injury increase exponentially when they enter that scrum.
If I’m a Nats fan attending a game this week, I’m going to be pissed I’m not going to be able see franchise star Harper as he sits out a suspension because he couldn’t just stare down Strickland for a few seconds, slowly take the base and afterward tell reporters he doesn’t even know who the reliever is.
In what was surely inevitable, Major League Baseball is teaming up with Game of Thrones for a big promotional hootenanny.
I came across this story this afternoon on the Twitters, where I first learned Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard will have a walk-on role on this season of Game of Thrones. (He was available to film in November because the Mets lost their sole play-off game hahahahahaha #soblessed.)
As a surprise to no one, I have some ideas on how to incorporate the Game of Thrones world into baseball games.
1. Introducing the players and their positions. Use the GoT music and title sequence to announce fielders, with each player having his own sigil and his position having a construction similar to places in GoT.
2. Quotes for different situations:
- Bottom of the ninth inning: “What is dead shall never die.”
- Substitutions, especially during the game: “His watch has ended.”
- Refer to a particularly brutal inning as the Red Wedding.
- Referring to the umps: “You know nothing, Jon Snow.”
3. Recite lineups like Arya Stark’s list of revenge.
4. DRAGONS! (I haven’t thought this one through yet.)
5. DIREWOLVES! (Ditto.)
When we last left our intrepid heroes, a quick start to the 2016 season had slowly but surely sunk into a listless and dispirited limp come October.
Interestingly enough, pre-season baseball in Philadelphia right now is competing with the NHL trading deadline (even though, as I understand it, the Flyers are out of playoff contention), a devastating injury to a 76ers player and the NFL … offseason, I guess? There are lots of “trade discussions” and “cuts” headlines floating around.
But in Clearwooder, spring training is a breath of fresh air. John Kruk, he of the 1993 National League Champions (Team Mullet) fame, joins the booth! Roy Halladay, a player on the enormously popular Golden Age of Phillies baseball teams, might be an instructor! Matt Stairs (also on those teams) is teaching Odubel Herrera how to hit, but whether this ability can manifest when the games actually count is up for debate! Brock Stassi is coming out of nowhere to hit massive dingers in an appeal for a bench job!
But friends and neighbors, Aaron Nola, whose promising 2016 season was cut short when nearly every part of his pitching elbow became messed up, stepped on the mound today. His elbow did not disintegrate while in use. His control wasn’t there but the speed was. Everyone is cautiously optimistic.
Nothing else is really happening, except this seems to be the last season for the bar to be so low, and the hope is the prospects will start to deliver next year.
I’d use the final game of the 2016 World Series as evidence that baseball is not boring.
It capped off a wildly entertaining post-season chock full of both pitching gems and offensive prowess; unrelentling second-guessing and armchair game management.
If you looked at it on paper, the Chicago Cubs seemed like a shoe-in to win. They had Major League Baseball’s best record, the stingiest defense on the field, the manager who won the Series last year with the scrappy Kansas City Royals and an
alleged domestic abuser absurdly talented closer.
The Cleveland Indians, however, had a dominating season of their own, ridiculous starting pitching, a manager who’s been known to break title droughts a time or two and former Philadelphia Phillie Rule 5 pariah Michael “Mini-Mart” Martinez, who as the tying run at the plate, made the final out in the Series, #hahaha #lulz.
To recap all the crazy:
The Indians blew a 3-1 Series lead at HOME.
The Cubs had three errors in the game, blew a 5-1 lead and still managed to win.
Joe Maddon lifted fully rested Kyle Hendricks, with two outs and one on in the bottom of the fifth for headcase ace Jon Lester –who apparently cannot field ground balls unless they’re hit directly at him, and when they are only can manage an underhand throw to first base–and he (on two days’ rest) promptly gave up two runs.
Maddon then brought in closer Aroldis Chapman for four outs, but since Chappy had pitched the past three games, the Indians finally solved him and Rajai Davis hit a line drive home run to tie up the game in the bottom of the eighth. Then Chapman was brought in for the ninth and my head nearly exploded. (Maddon had other pitchers. I’m also sure celebrity fans Eddie Vedder, John Cusack and even Bill Murray would have had no problems suiting up.)
Chicago Cub Javy Baez tried to bunt Jason Heyward in from third on a safety squeeze with two strikes with the Indians playing the infield in (meaning, a sacrifice fly would score the winning run). Baez bunted foul, which is scored a strikeout, and I actually watched this happen and have written the sentence and I do not understand it and lack the ability to explain it.
After the ninth, RAIN DELAY. Fox color guy and play-by-play announcer John Smoltz and Joe Buck likened the 17-minute break to Armageddon (the PITCHING and the MOMENTUM and the GAME PLAN and the WEATHER #clutchingpearls), and all the other pre-game show guys (Pete Rose, Frank Robinson, Alex Rodriguez), barely batted an eyelash.
Then the Cubs loaded the bases, scored two runs and pitchers who were not Aroldis Chapman saved the game.
The Indians had plenty of chances, too, so it seems all of the recapping crazy falls on Maddon’s shoulders and really shouldn’t. Corey Kluber was pitching on short rest, and the supposed bullpen advantage of Andrew Miller and Cody Allen evaporated the same way Chapman’s high heat did.
Part of me wishes the series was something like best of 13, so it could distract us until after the election next week, but then I would be in dire need of heart medication. I had no vested interest in the outcome of the Series but I was practically doing La Maze last night.
My daughter was nervous about moving up to a softball team in a older league in which she’d be one of the youngest players. She had to adapt to some new rules, a larger ball and different coaches.
Grant it, fall ball is not nearly as competitive as it is in the spring and this was the perfect opportunity to ease into a new league, but she was still jittery.
Then she met you.
You’re a veteran who’s been playing at this level for a few seasons, and you were a shining role model and leader this season for my kid and the other younger players.
Throughout the season, at every practice and game, you’ve been the team’s heart: the fiercest leader, its loudest cheerleader, the kindest and most patient friend. You’ve played any position asked–catcher, pitcher, infielder, outfielder–without complaint. You’ve been just as encouraging in an inning that dragged on for 30 minutes before ending on the mercy rule as you have when it took only seven pitches to get three outs.
You’re one of the best players on the team but you’ve never showed off, argued with an ump or coach or disparaged another teammate when she’s made a mistake. I’ve never even seen you in a bad mood, and the doubleheaders you play can take up to three hours. It’s enough to drain the energy out of anyone, but not you.
I told you an abbreviated version of the above after the game today, mostly because it’s what we have been talking about on the sidelines during the season. I hope I didn’t freak you out or make you feel uncomfortable, but I wanted you to know how much I appreciated you.
I would have told your folks, but I’ve never seen them. You always come to games and practices with a friend from the team. I don’t know your situation; it’s none of my business. But please know the rest of the team parents think the world of you, and we hope to see you in the spring.
Number Fourteen’s Mom
The Blue Jays, Orioles, Giants and Mets have given us quite the Wild Card treat this year. The American League game went 12 innings and last night’s nail biter was scoreless until the top of the ninth inning.
I really had no vested interest in either game, with the Phillies being eliminated from playoff contention since mid-June or so. I don’t follow the American League because of a deep disdain for the designated hitter–but let me just say that had a Phillies fan chucked a beer at an opposing player, the uproar would have been swift and loud– and the only possible outcome of the National League game that would have left me satisfied would have been a double forfeit.
It’s because of the Phillies that the Mets were able to start Norse phenom Noah Syndergaard last night. The Mets clinched a Wild Card berth in the second game during a series in Philadelphia last weekend, which allowed the Mets to manipulate the rotation (Syndergaard was set to start Sunday) to put their best pitcher on the mound for the Wild Card playoff game.
However, the Giants answered with October Specialist Madison Bumgardner, who was a huge factor during the Phillies-Giants National League Series in 2010. The Giants have won the World Series every other year since then. I can’t stand them, but a being a division rival (just barely) outweighs a nearly perennial pain in the butt, so I was halfheartedly rooting for the Giants. They won on a three-run homer in the top of the ninth. It was brutal all around.
I have friends who are Mets fans and I couldn’t even bring myself to trash-text them today, because the only mistake really was one pitch. There were no LOLMets moments, like errors or gaffes or other hilarity that so often befall the Metropolitans in the playoffs.
However, in honor of Throwback Thursday, let’s revisit 2007, when the Mets completed an epic collapse that catapulted the Phillies into the playoffs. Sometimes, when I’m having a bad day, I look at these newspaper covers and I feel better.