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.
Mar 7, 2014, 10:30 PM EST
Marco Scutaro was scheduled to make his Cactus League debut on Sunday or Monday, but his back problems are persisting and now the Giants are keeping him out for the time being, Alex Pavlovic reports for the Mercury News. Manager Bruce Bochy says that if Scutaro isn’t ready to go at the end of next…
Mar 7, 2014, 9:20 PM EST
You might not guess it by looking at him, but Jayson Werth is a very good base runner. The 34-year-old veteran has stolen 37 bases in 43 attempts in three somewhat injury-plagued seasons with the Nationals. In his prime with the Phillies, under the tutelage of first base coach Davey Lopes, Werth stole 60 bases…
Mar 7, 2014, 8:10 PM EST
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Mar 7, 2014, 7:05 PM EST
Deep into the off-season, Ubaldo Jimenez, Nelson Cruz, Stephen Drew, Ervin Santana, and Kendrys Morales were still free agents despite being productive players last season. Jimenez and Cruz recently signed with the Orioles, but the latter three still remain unsigned with the regular season just weeks away. All five rejected $14.1 million qualifying offers from…
Mar 7, 2014, 6:00 PM EST
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Mar 7, 2014, 4:17 PM EST
Oliver Perez is one of the best unsigned free agents and Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com says that’s about to change, reporting that the left-handed reliever is close to a multi-year deal with the Diamondbacks. Arizona had already invested an awful lot of resources into the bullpen even before bringing in Perez, who went from being…
Mar 7, 2014, 3:50 PM EST
Angels right-hander Dane De La Rosa went for an MRI exam after getting knocked around and being pulled from his appearance Thursday, but the initial news is good. Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com reports that the MRI exam showed no structural damage and De La Rosa is hopeful that he can avoid beginning the season on…
Mar 7, 2014, 2:44 PM EST
Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips isn’t talking to the Cincinnati media, but he’s willing to talk to the national media and willing to talk to the national media about why he’s not talking to the Cincinnati media. Case in point, this Phillips quote to Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com: I don’t have nothing to say to…
Mar 7, 2014, 2:00 PM EST
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Mar 7, 2014, 1:30 PM EST
Because of course he is: In Jeter’s retirement call, Hal Steinbrenner said he said, “I know everybody says this, but I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life.” — Jack Curry (@JackCurryYES) March 7, 2014 Guess that means Brendan Ryan isn’t going to get as much playing time as he hoped.
Mar 7, 2014, 1:10 PM EST
Brad Penny‘s comeback attempt didn’t last very long, as the Royals just released the 35-year-old right-hander. Penny didn’t pitch in the majors at all last season and hasn’t been effective since 2010, when he made nine good starts before getting hurt. Since then he has a 5.41 ERA in 210 innings and Penny got knocked…
Mar 7, 2014, 12:30 PM EST
FORT MYERS — I have seen the future of spring training complexes, and its name is Jet Blue Park. Or maybe it’s not the future, because frankly, I’m not sure who else is going to shell out the kind of dough this place likely cost besides big money teams like the Red Sox (or the…
Mar 7, 2014, 11:50 AM EST
By now, most baseball fans know the story of Tommy John surgery. In 1974, John — a solid pitcher for a decade — blew out his elbow while pitching for Los Angeles against the Montreal Expos. “Blew out his elbow” is not a medical term, of course, but there was no need for medical terms…
Mar 7, 2014, 11:19 AM EST
A whole lot of people said a whole lot of good things about the Nationals’ trade to acquire Doug Fister from the Tigers, but now there’s this: Fister was scratched from today’s scheduled start and sent for an MRI exam after complaining of elbow soreness. No structural damage was found during the MRI exam and…
Mar 7, 2014, 10:47 AM EST
Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer checks in with an update on Carlos Santana‘s progress trying to transition from catcher to third base and … well, it ain’t going perfectly: Right now, Lonnie Chisenhall and every other third basemen in camp look better than Santana when it comes to defense. No.1 Santana hasn’t gotten…
Mar 7, 2014, 10:15 AM EST
Mariners third base coach John Stearns was expected to miss the early part of the season after undergoing hiatal hernia surgery last week, but instead he’s decided to step down from the job altogether. Stearns explained that he felt it would be unfair to the players and coaching staff to reclaim the position in mid-April…
Mar 7, 2014, 9:59 AM EST
A friend of mine once said that this profession is filled to the brim with unrealistic mother[expletives]. Mother[expletives] who thought their [expletive] would age like wine. If you mean it turns to vinegar, it does. If you mean it gets better with age, it don’t. Exhibit A, Manny Ramirez, who said this to Enrique Rojas of…
Mar 7, 2014, 9:42 AM EST
Just about every ballpark you go to plays that Blake Shelton song, “Boys ’round here” during warmups or batting practice: Yeah the boys ’round here Drinking that ice cold beer Talkin’ ’bout girls, talkin’ ’bout trucks Runnin’ them red dirt roads out, kicking up dust The boys ’round here Sending up a prayer to the…
Mar 7, 2014, 8:49 AM EST
CC Sabathia has a new trick in his bag: Andy Pettitte did more than simply watch CC Sabathia‘s bullpen session on Monday. The guest instructor actively instructed, primarily helping to teach Sabathia a cut fastball, something the Yankees’ ace hopes to add to his repertoire this season. “He was showing me a grip with the…
Mar 7, 2014, 8:12 AM EST
FORT MYERS — A day after we learned of the stink the Marlins are raising about the Red Sox not bringing a sufficient number of major leaguers on their long road trip to Jupiter, the Braves are traveling here to Fort Myers to face Boston. Here’s who is making the trip: #Braves travel roster for…
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