Oct 14, 2013, 3:51 PM EDT
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.
Sep 2, 2014, 1:13 PM EDT
Polanco went 4-for-26 (.153) during his brief demotion and was in a nasty two-month slump before being sent down, hitting just .204 with a .564 in his last 40 games.
Sep 2, 2014, 12:45 PM EDT
Toronto transferred infielder Brett Lawrie from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day disabled list, which means he won’t be eligible to return to the active roster before the season ends.
Sep 2, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
Gambling on baseball is dumb. But Kershaw for the Cy Young Award is a pretty safe bet.
Sep 2, 2014, 11:50 AM EDT
Adams has thrown just 42 total innings for the Phillies with a month remaining in a two-year, $12 million contract.
Sep 2, 2014, 11:35 AM EDT
Or: meanwhile in weird concessions . . .
Sep 2, 2014, 11:19 AM EDT
Neftali Feliz has regained the Rangers’ closer role, but not his old velocity.
Sep 2, 2014, 11:02 AM EDT
And if their shovels are as good as their bats have been lately, they’ll probably dig a hole three miles off target and a month too late.
Sep 2, 2014, 10:47 AM EDT
Among the Giants’ call-ups for September 1 roster expansion is 27-year-old right-hander Brett Bochy, who in addition to being a Triple-A reliever also happens to be manager Bruce Bochy’s son.
Sep 2, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT
Credit to Joe Girardi, perhaps?
Sep 2, 2014, 10:15 AM EDT
Overall this season the impending free agent has a 6.03 ERA in 25 starts for the Indians and Cardinals.
Sep 2, 2014, 10:01 AM EDT
Bright side: The Nats’ lead is big enough to where he can rest as much as he needs to in September.
Sep 2, 2014, 9:21 AM EDT
Maybe Houston is totally dysfunctional. But the idea that Porter didn’t know what he was getting into is off base.
Sep 2, 2014, 8:23 AM EDT
Preserved the shutout too.
Sep 2, 2014, 7:10 AM EDT
Four Phillies combine for the no-no. I’m actually surprised we haven’t seen more of these in recent years.
Sep 1, 2014, 11:17 PM EDT
Miguel Cabrera had just one home run in August. He doubled that today.
Sep 1, 2014, 10:09 PM EDT
Bailey is currently deciding whether to undergo surgery for a flexor mass strain in his right elbow.
Jorge Soler is third player in last 100 years with an extra-base hit in each of his first five games
Sep 1, 2014, 9:11 PM EDT
Enos Slaughter (1933) and Will Middlebrooks (2012) are the only others.
Sep 1, 2014, 8:12 PM EDT
Acquired from the White Sox on Sunday, Adam Dunn made an instant impact in his A’s debut this afternoon.
Sep 1, 2014, 7:21 PM EDT
Franco got off to a slow start this season, but he has been on a tear in Triple-A since the start of July.
Sep 1, 2014, 6:31 PM EDT
The Brewers have had at least a share of first place since April 4.
- We’re not going to pretend that Bo Porter had no idea what he was getting into, are we? 40
- And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights 47
- The Cardinals have moved ahead of the Brewers for first place in the National League Central 27
- No-hitter! Four Phillies pitchers combine to blank the Braves 59
- Bo Porter fired by the Astros 56
- Settling the Score: Sunday’s results — and a reminder of what Labor Day is all about 47
- Reds trade setup man Jonathan Broxton to the Brewers 19
- Miguel Cabrera sits Sunday with nagging ankle injury 13
- Could women play major league baseball? Sure. Right now, though, the deck is stacked against them. (220)
- Albert Pujols plays the “you never played the game!” card (104)
- Great Moments in Drug Testing and Punishment: The NFL Edition (101)
- And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights (75)
- Baseball is dying, you guys, because no one would recognize Mike Trout in a bar (74)