Oct 14, 2013, 3:51 PM EST
My pal Bob Ryan brought this up first, but it’s worth reliving for a moment. Sunday night, David Ortiz hit one of the coolest home runs in postseason baseball history. There are many reasons for this. One, is the obvious: The game seemed over. The series, really, seemed over. The Tigers led 5-0, the probable Cy Young winner Max Scherzer was on the mound, Detroit had already won Game 1 in Boston and so the Tigers seemed well on their way down World Series Road.
Then, gradually, imperceptibly at first, things shifted — Boston scored a run, Scherzer came out of the game after a dominant inning, the Red Sox got a double, then a walk, then a single, then Ortiz swung at the first pitch …
Another thing: You very rarely see a grand slam that actually ties a game in the late innings. I think game-tying grand slams, in some ways, are even cooler than game-winning ones. Being down four runs seems like a nearly-impossible climb. And then, one swing, new ballgame. So awesome.
In 2013, there were 96 grand slams hit. Six tied the game. And only one of those six — Kyle Seager’s improbable game-tying grand slam in the 14th inning against the White Sox — came after the seventh inning. in 2012, only three game-tying grand slams happened after the seventh. In 2011, there were two. So, this is a rare thing.
And it’s even rarer in the postseason. There have only been three game-tying grand slams in postseason history. In 1977, LA’s Ron Cey hit a grand slam off Phillies’ silent man Steve Carlton to tie the game in the seventh of an NLCS game. In 2004, free-swingin’ Vlad Guerrero, then with the Angels, grand slammed Mike Timlin to tie the Red Sox game in the seventh inning.And then there was Ortiz last night.
But the coolest thing — or anyway, the most telling thing — about the Ortiz home run was this: ALL FOUR RUNS WERE CHARGED TO DIFFERENT PITCHERS.
What an amazing and odd statistic. Several people have asked me if this has ever happened before — I have no idea how to look it up. Maybe someone already has, I’ll keep looking. But for now, I think that little tidbit tells you more about baseball in 2013 — and maybe even life in 2013 — than just about anything else.
How did it happen? Scherzer was pulled before the inning began because, I guess, he had thrown 108 pitches. He had actually just pitched a dominating inning, but Detroit manager Jim Leyland decided he’d had enough. Whatever. So Scherzer was not even one of the four pitchers who had a piece of the slam.
And Joaquin Benoit came in to face Ortiz. He hit the home run.
And that’s four.
I was having an email exchange with Tom Tango and Bill James about length of games — I have to say that most of the time I don’t care much about length of game discussions. For one thing, it’s kind of a fact of life, like the weather. Baseball is built around a deliberate pace, and while sometimes it can get ridiculous (some of those American League East games are longer than the Korean War) it just, hey, you know, Vanilla Ice goes Amish.*
*I have vowed that I will replace the dreaded “It is what it is” cliche with “Vanilla ice goes Amish,” in honor of an actual reality TV show that more or less puts all reason to an end.
But, I must admit — the games in the postseason are taking too long. A four-hour 1-0 game that was almost a no-hitter? That’s just one example but, I’m sorry, that’s just too long — I don’t care how many walks or how long the playoff commercials. Baseball is absolutely still wonderful. That 1-0 game was still wonderful. But it can be wonderful AND still be too long.
See, the issue is that there’s so much NOTHING that happens now in baseball. So much stepping out, stepping back in, pitcher waiting, pitcher throwing to first, pitcher waiting, batter stepping out again, relief pitcher coming in … does ANYBODY like this stuff? No. They don’t. Plus it gives the television broadcasts too much time, which they too often fill with award-show crowd shots* and reiteration of cliches the announcer had just uttered.
*You know how in award shows, the person on stage will sometimes tell a joke and they will scan to a celebrity in the crowd that had ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the joke. Like someone will tell a Mel Gibson joke and then, suddenly, the camera scans to Marisa Tomei. And even she’s like, “What? Why me?” That’s what I always think of when Fox scans the crowd to show random people during a tense baseball moment.
Anyway, Bill responded this way:
“The PACE of baseball is a huge problem. The commissioner’s office has tried to deal with this, for years, by nibbling around the edges of it. But the real solutions are extremely simple:
1) Don’t grant the batter time out between pitches, and
2) Limit pitching substitutions.
That’s it. Do those two things, the problem goes away. If you DON’T do those two things, you cannot solve the problem.”
I think that’s probably right. The stalling stuff on both sides — pitcher and hitter — seems pointless and bad for the game. There have been mild efforts to stop it, but I think it’s probably time to just kibosh that.
And then there are the pitching substitutions. I think those speak to the larger issues I was talking about before. We have become so absurdly specialized. I mean, seriously, four pitchers in a single inning with a four-run lead? How is that good for the game? How does that make the game better in any way? How does that even help your team win? And, more to the point, how is that in the spirit of baseball as we know and love it?
All new rule suggestions sound impossible when first brought up. It does not seem feasible that baseball will change its rules so it is more like soccer with a limit on the number of pitching substitutions a manager is allowed to make in a single game. But the question here is simply: Would that kind of rule make the game better?
I think it would. Games would move quicker. I think it would force managers to be MORE strategic, not less because they would have to be smart about how they substituted. And, anyway, it would prevent teams from just throwing stuff at walls.
There was absolutely no good reason whatsoever for Jim Leyland to strangle that inning in an overmanaging feat rarely seen outside of Tony La Russa’s house. Why in the heck did he pull Jose Veras with a four-run lead and one man on second base? What was that Drew Smyly thing about? If you think Benoit is your best pitcher and you’re willing to bring him in the eighth, why wouldn’t you bring him in to face Pedroia? It was Leyland doing stuff just to DO stuff, and it dragged the game to a near standstill. Managers shouldn’t do that. More to the point, managers shouldn’t have the POWER to do that.
I don’t really believe in the baseball gods. But if they are out there, I’m sure they were cheering Ortiz’s grand slam as loudly as anybody.
Dec 9, 2013, 1:50 PM EST
I was born (and raised) to post this: The night before becoming Hall of Famers, Torre & La Russa bumped into John Mayer in Orlando. pic.twitter.com/TT3dXpWUsX — MLB Public Relations (@MLB_PR) December 9, 2013 That meeting, while seemingly weird, will all make perfect sense some day. And when that meeting was over, all they ever…
Dec 9, 2013, 1:40 PM EST
From this afternoon’s SportsDash show, live from the Winter Meetings. Well, it was live at the time. Now it’s not live. You get the idea:
Dec 9, 2013, 1:28 PM EST
The Phillies’ Domonic Brown had a breakthrough season at age 25, finishing tied for fourth in the NL with 27 homers and appearing in the All-Star Game. That would seem to make him a centerpiece player, right? Sources: Phillies actively shopping OF Domonic Brown. Looking for controllable starting pitching in return. Idea is to sell…
Dec 9, 2013, 1:20 PM EST
Magglio Ordonez ran for mayor of Sotillo, Venezuela … and he won. And here are some interesting details from the Associated Press: Ordonez’s victory in the city of Sotillo in eastern Venezuela was announced by President Nicolas Maduro at a rally Sunday for pro-government candidates who won the majority of 335 races nationwide. The socialist…
Dec 9, 2013, 12:53 PM EST
According to FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal, free agent Jeff Francouer recently had LASIK surgery and has decided to go to a lighter bat in an attempt to salvage his career. The soon-to-be 30-year-old Francoeur finished last season out of the league after being let go by the Giants in late August. On the heels of a…
Dec 9, 2013, 12:40 PM EST
Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times wrote a fascinating article about the Mariners’ dysfunctional front office, featuring vicious quotes from former manager Eric Wedge and former assistant to the general manager Tony Blengino. And now general manager Jack Zduriencik has issued a statement in response. It’s too long to reprint in its entirety–you can get…
Dec 9, 2013, 12:16 PM EST
Along the same lines as David Price‘s tweet about female drivers right before Thanksgiving, here’s Logan Morrison just now: I dont think Rachel ray is attractive. Then she started cooking, got slightly attractive. she stopped cooking. she stopped being attractive — Logan Morrison (@LoMoMarlins) December 9, 2013 Sigh. (Last year Morrison tweeted criticizing mothers for…
Dec 9, 2013, 12:04 PM EST
You won’t be shocked to hear that baseball’s union leaders, past and present, issued statements late this morning condemning the Veteran’s Committee for not electing Marvin Miller. First up, current MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark: “Words cannot adequately describe the level of disappointment and disbelief I felt when learning that once again the Hall of…
Dec 9, 2013, 11:58 AM EST
Roy Halladay‘s shoulder let him down in the end, but not until after one of the best 10-year runs in memory. From 2002-2011, Halladay went 170-75 with a 2.97 ERA and 1,699 strikeouts in 2,194 2/3 innings. He went to eight All-Star Games, won two Cy Young Awards and finished second twice more. During that…
Dec 9, 2013, 11:33 AM EST
Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Dodgers have contacted the Rays to discuss a potential David Price trade. But don’t get too excited, as Hernandez says the Dodgers “don’t plan to aggressively pursue Price” because they don’t want to completely deplete their farm system. Still, you can’t count the Dodgers out…
Dec 9, 2013, 11:08 AM EST
Three years ago Roy Halladay was arguably the best pitcher in the National League, going 19-6 with a 2.36 ERA while finishing runner-up in the Cy Young voting to Clayton Kershaw after winning the award the previous season. And now, as Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly tweeted, Halladay is retiring at age 36 after struggling…
Dec 9, 2013, 11:03 AM EST
I think Tony La Russa, Joe Torre and Bobby Cox are no-brainer Hall of Famers. Congrats to them and to the Committee for voting them in. I think that the rest of the Hall of Fame ballot contained mostly borderline selections. I’d vote for Ted Simmons. I’d consider Steinbrenner for historic reasons. But I shed…
Dec 9, 2013, 10:47 AM EST
Jorge Cantu, who played eight seasons in the majors, has signed a one-year deal with the Doosan Bears of the Korea Baseball Organization. According to the Yonhap News Agency he’ll earn $250,000 up front, plus another $50,000 in potential incentives, which is about the middle ground between what he’d earn at Triple-A in America and…
Dec 9, 2013, 10:20 AM EST
This should super-charge the Matt Kemp trade speculation: Kemp’s agent, Dave Stewart, told Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times that he’d “be surprised” if the outfielder isn’t traded by the Dodgers. “I haven’t heard a player’s name floated around like that and something not happen,” Stewart noted, adding that “Matt wants to be a…
Dec 9, 2013, 10:14 AM EST
LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL — For the first time in a long time we have living, breathing inductees for the Hall of Fame. The Veteran’s Committee has elected Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre. They will be inducted next summer in Cooperstown. La Russa – unanimously elected by the sixteen member Veteran’s Committee…
Dec 9, 2013, 9:28 AM EST
Yesterday we learned that Orel Hershisher is leaving ESPN to take a job broadcasting Dodgers games. Because, for some reason, ESPN thinks that a three-man booth is good for baseball (it isn’t) they felt obligated to fill Hershiser’s spot. And because, for some reason, ESPN thinks Curt Schilling is someone people want to listen to…
Dec 9, 2013, 9:19 AM EST
Fox’s Ken Rosenthal reports that ”teams are pushing Chicago to consider” trading Chris Sale. Intriguing, but it seems to me unlikely. Mostly because I have found it useful in life to go back to the idea that if people keep telling you that you should do something you weren’t already considering, it’s more in their best interests…
Dec 9, 2013, 8:59 AM EST
Tim McCarver retired as Fox’s leading analyst after the World Series. But he’s not dropping the mic just yet: Fox Sports Midwest is about to hire him to do a limited number of Cardinals games next season. The idea is for him to do 20-25 games, with opportunities coming as a result of an expected reduction…
Dec 9, 2013, 7:56 AM EST
The Hall of Fame will gain a few members later this morning as the Veteran’s Committee will vote on inductions this morning. The official announcement will take place at 10AM. The nominees: Dave Concepcion Bobby Cox Steve Garvey Tommy John Tony La Russa Billy Martin Marvin Miller Dave Parker Dan Quisenberry Ted Simmons George Steinbrenner…
Dec 9, 2013, 7:40 AM EST
Munson. Martin. Mariano. Mattingly. Mandela. Wait, what? During a triumphant visit by Nelson Mandela to New York in June 1990, shortly after he had been released from a South African prison, one of his most memorable stops was a rally and concert at Yankee Stadium, where he put on a team cap and jacket and proclaimed, “I am…
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- Rakuten Golden Eagles appear likely to allow Masahiro Tanaka’s departure to MLB 46
- 2013 Winter Meetings Preview 23
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