May 19, 2013
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Wednesday, May 01, 2013
Braves 8, Nationals 1: That's nine straight wins by the Braves over the Nats dating back to last season. Someone should ask Danny Espinosa if he's impressed by the Braves yet. Tim Hudson notched his 200th career win. In pretty grand style, too: he homered and doubled in addition to pitching seven strong innings.
Indians 14, Phillies 2: Ryan Raburn hit two of the Indians' seven homers as Cleveland obliterated Roy Halladay and three Philly relievers. Delmon Young came back for the Phillies and homered.
Marlins 2, Mets 1: A two-run rally in the bottom of the ninth with the winning run scoring on a wild pitch for the Marlins. The run before that came in the form of Chris Coghlan, who may very well have been out just before that when he overslid the third base bag. Viva The Human Element. The Mets have dropped six straight. The Marlins have won three in a row, two via walkoff.
Yankees 7, Astros 4: Three RBI singles from Travis Hafner and a bunch of small ball supported Hiroki Kuroda. Phil Humber uncorked four wild pitches. Note: the word "uncorked" is only used in reference to wild pitches, just a "ensuing" is used only in reference to kickoffs. I think that's in the Chicago style guide.
Padres 13, Cubs 7: Quentin was 3 for 4 with a home run, two doubles and three driven in. The Padres have won five of six. Seven homers were hit in all.
Blue Jays 9, Red Sox 7: Man, that first Encarnacion shot was impressive. His second homer put the Jays ahead. Jon Lester, who had been so good so far, had a Number of the Beast line: six runs on six hits in six innings.
Brewers 12, Pirates 8: Rickie Weeks had a three-run homer and five RBI. The Brewers have beaten the Pirates nine straight times and are 46-7 against them in Miller Park. Milwaukee so thoroughly owns Pittsburgh at home that the Pirates are gonna have to ask permission to leave after today's game.
Tigers 6, Twins 1: Cabrera and Fielder homered, Verlander was Verlander and the Tigers have won five straight. I have this feeling that they're not gonna play that derp-around-until-September-before-taking-control-of-the-division game this year like they did last year.
Cardinals 2, Reds 1: The Redbirds snap their three-game losing streak. Jaime Garcia tossed eight strong, Matt Holliday had a two-run jack.
Rangers 10, White Sox 6: Last time out Yu Darvish got a lot of offense behind him and I called him the recipient of the Run Support Award. That was somewhat misleading because he pitched extremely well that night and didn't really need that support. Last night he sorta needed it, as he gave up four runs and was in a close one until the Rangers broke out for six in the sixth.
Giants 2, Diamondbacks 1: Pablo Sandoval with a two run homer in the ninth. Those two runs were the only ones San Francisco needed as Madison Bumgarner pitched seven shutout innings, besting Trevor Cahill on a pitchery night.
Royals 8, Rays 2: James Shields faces the Rays and scatters two runs and five hits over seven innings. Well, the runs weren't scattered -- they both came on a homer in the first -- but that was about all the damage the Rays could do against him. The Royals were stymied by Alex Cobb until the sixth, when they broke through for four runs. By the way: anyone remember Stymie? Whatever happened to him anyway? Totally underrated.
Dodgers 6, Rockies 2: Hanley Ramirez comes back and homers. Hyun-Jin Ryu stuck out 12. Also: Psy was at Dodger Stadium for some reason. Which I liken to M.C. Hammer showing up at your dorm party in 1994. "Sure, we totally remember you, dude. Just ... why?" Ryu gave his game-worn jersey to Psy after the game. You'll probably be able to buy it from Psy in a year or two.
Athletics 10, Angels 6: Yikes, the Angels stink. Yoenis Cespedes drove in four. After the game he said:
"The reason I was so good was because when I got here, I drank (an energy drink)," said Cespedes, who doubled and tripled to pace Oakland's 10-hit outburst. "I was ready for the game."
But don't listen to him. Stimulants players use to wake them up for a game are in no way performance-enhancers. When Mickey Mantle swallowed a handful of greenies after a long night, he was just allowing himself to play at his native ability.
Orioles 7, Mariners 2: Brandon Maurer surrendered four runs in the first and the rest was mere detail. Nate McLouth led off the game with a homer. He's hitting close to .500 over his past 10 games and has scored 14 runs. Manny Machado has hit in nine straight.
Forty years ago today was one of the wildest, most incredible, and unlikely comebacks in baseball history. It was one of the greatest bottoms of the ninth ever, when the Giants came back from the bring of death to smite the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 1, 1973.
As is typically the case in the game with an impossibly amazing bottom of the ninth, the first eight and a half innings were something of a snooze-fest. The Pirates took a lead and appeared to have the game completely in hand. They scored thrice in the first, and then kept adding to it as the day went on.
Heading into the bottom of the ninth, the Pirates had a seemingly insurmountable 7-1 lead. The 7,972 paying customers must have dwindled down a handful of genuine diehards on that Bay Area night.
Surely the way the inning began gave people no hope for anything memorable. Oh sure, Bobby Bonds led off the inning with a walk, but the next two batters both grounded into force outs. Now the score was still 7-1, San Francisco was just one out from defeat, and all the Giants had was shortstop Chris Speier on first base. You have to admit, coming back to win in this situation sure qualifies as an incredible rally.
According to WPA, the Giants had zero percent chance to win. But they had veteran slugger Willie McCovey at the plate. Hey—you take your good news where you can when down to your last out trailing by a half-dozen. McCovey drew a walk, raising the Giants’ chance of winning up to one percent. Well, it’s an improvement.
Up next came third baseman Ed Goodson, who also walked. Hmmm, that’s three walks to the last five batters – and Pirates pitcher Bob Moose hadn’t walked anyone prior to this inning. Time to get him out of there.
Manager Bill Virdon went to his bullpen for Ramon Hernandez. Ordinarily, Hernandez was a terrific pitcher. The year before, he had posted an ERA of 1.67, and if you exclude what he did in this game his 1973 ERA would be 2.01. But it actually was 2.45 because this game did happen, and he was dreadful.
With the bags packed, the first batter Hernandez faced was pinch-hitter Chris Arnold, who promptly made a game of things with a grand slam home run. Arnold wouldn’t hit another homer all year, and had just four in 483 career plate appearances, but this was one of those four. The few fans cheered heartily. At least someone had rewarded their willingness to stick it out to the bitter end.
As impressive as Arnold’s blast was, Pittsburgh still held all the cards. The Pirates still led by two runs, 7-5, there were still two outs, and the Giants had no one on base. WPA figured that San Francisco’s chance of winning the game was still just one percent.
True, but rookie left fielder Gary Matthews belted a double, and then future manager Doug Rader drew a walk. Now the tying run was on base. With the pitcher’s slot due up, the Giants went to their bench for pinch hitter Jim Howarth. He drew yet another walk—the fifth of the inning.
Now things had gotten interesting. A single could tie the game, and an extra base hit could win it. WPA now gave the Giants a 17 percent chance to win the game, still low, but a lot higher than anyone expected when the inning began.
Oh, and coming up was the ever-dangerous leadoff hitter, Bobby Bonds. A sensational talent, the 27-year-old Bonds already had several notable achievements to his credit. He’d had a 200-hit season, and typically stole about 40 bases while blasting 30 homers a season. This year, he’d hit 39 and collect a league-leading 341 total bases. He’s the last man the Pirates wanted to face at a time like this.
Look, Hernandez didn’t have it. Time to go with the team’s fireman, Dave Giusti. This season, 1973, would be his fourth straight season with 20 saves, an impressive figure for the day. He’d average 90 innings a season from 1970-73 with a 2.61 ERA. He was a genuine bullpen ace. A great reliever versus a great hitter to settle a great comeback. What would happen?
Well, if Giusti got him out, I probably wouldn’t tell this story, right?
Bonds blasted a bases-clearing double. All runners came around to score and that was it—a three-run, walk-off double gave the Giants a 8-7 win. I bet none of the happy few fans in attendance ever left a game early again. How could they, after seeing such a brilliant comeback? And that comeback was 40 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other events today celebrate either their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something occurring X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim through things.
Click for more...
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Athletics 10, Angels 8: Nineteen innings. Six and a half hours. Sixteen pitchers. Ended on a Brandon Moss two-run homer, his second of the night/morning. Albert Pujols had two homers as well. It ended less than an hour and a half before my alarm clock went off this morning. It was the longest game in Angels history and the longest game ever played in Oakland. At least they follow it up with a night game rather than a day tilt.
Braves 3, Nationals 2: Atlanta beats Washington for the eighth straight time dating back to last season. The kicker: the Braves did it without any home runs.
Astros 9, Yankees 1: Hey, even the worst teams win several dozen times a year. You just don't expect them to beat the tar out of Andy Pettitte, that's all. Catcher Carlos Corporan went 4 for 5 with a homer, double and four RBI. Lucas Harrell allowed only one run in six and a third.
Tigers 4, Twins 3: Prince Fielder's three-run homer helps the Tigers to their fourth straight win.
Marlins 4, Mets 3: The Marlins won in 15 innings, but they lost their best player—Giancarlo Stanton—to a strained hamstring and he may miss more time than that after saying he felt a "pop" in his leg. Five straight losses for the Mets. No one is leaving this game happy.
Indians 9, Royals 0: Ryan Raburn hit two homers and drove in four and Ubaldo Jimenez tossed seven shutout innings to notch his first win in 12 starts. Wade Davis was shelled.
Cubs 5, Padres 3: Darwin Barney went 2 for 3 with two doubles and Cody Ransom went 2 for 4 with a home run. Chicago, you may not have noticed, has won five of seven.
Brewers 10, Pirates 4: Milwaukee hit five home runs, including one from Yovani Gallardo of all people, in the rout. They hit three triples too. Gallardo likewise allowed only one earned run in seven innings. Miller Park continues to be a house of horrors for the Pirates.
Mariners 6, Orioles 2: Joe Saunders with a complete game, allowing only two runs against his old mates. At least I assume they were his mates. I dunno. Maybe everyone hated Saunders in Baltimore. Called him "jerkface" and stuff. We never can really know these things.
Reds 2, Cardinals 1: Mat Latos outdueled Adam Wainwright, extending his scoreless innings streak to 17. The Cards have dropped three in a row.
Giants 6, Diamondbacks 4: San Francisco halts its losing skid, coming from behind after Matt Cain allowed three home runs in the fourth inning. Brandon Belt drove in three.
Rockies 12, Dodgers 2: Colorado rattled off 19 hits. Including three from pitcher Tyler Chatwood who drove in two to [all together now] help his own cause. His six shutout innings helped that quite a bit too.
Monday, April 29, 2013
Pirates 9, Cardinals 0: Two homers for Russell Martin and a strong start from Jeff Locke. The Pirates -- the Pittsburgh Pirates -- are in first place in the National League Central. This goes with the Royals being in first place in the AL Central. I predicted each of these teams would be better this year. Maybe even surprisingly good compared to usual expectations. But I figured that meant the Pirates finishing a smidge above .500 and the Royals making third place. Second if absolutely everything went right maybe. That may be where each of them end up, but for now they gotta be enjoying the ride. This was the Pirates' 15th win. They last won 15 in the month of April in 1992.
Marlins 6, Cubs 4: Giancarlo Stanton hadn't hit a homer all year until Saturday, then he launched two homers yesterday. He was just giving everyone a head start I guess.
Yankees 3, Blue Jays 2: For years Blue Jays fans -- and often Blue Jays employees -- whined how it was so darn hard for them to break through in the AL East given the expensive star power the Yankees were able to assemble. Yesterday the star-laden Blue Jays got swept behind homers from Brennan Boesch and Lyle Overbay. What's the excuse now?
Reds 5, Nationals 2: Once my daughter found some random baseball trivia/facts website for kids and learned about the drop-the-third-strike rule which enables a struck out batter to go to first base. She thought this was quite rare and esoteric and asked me how a pitcher could strike out four batters in one inning, thinking she'd stump me. I gave her a bunch of dumb answers like "the batter distracts the umpire" or "the umpire is cheating" or "gamblers fixed the game." I pretended to be all exasperated with her and INSISTED that there can't POSSIBLY be a way for a pitcher to strike out four batters in an inning because EVERYONE knows that there are only three outs in an inning and a strikeout is an out. Later I admitted that I knew the rule and that I was just having fun with her. To this day she thinks I was lying and that I really didn't know the rule and she's the one who taught me. Guess I'll let her have that one. Anyway, Tony Cingrani struck out 11, including four in one inning. Because he was cheating, I assume.
Red Sox 6, Astros 1: John Lackey had one more tuneup against minor leaguers yesterday. Looks like he'll be set for his return from the disabled list Thursday versus the Twins. He's really gotta be looking forward to that.
Phillies 5, Mets 1: Carlos Ruiz came back, Ryan Howard -- who has driven in ten runs in his past five games -- came off the bench to deliver an RBI double and Cole Hamels got his first win of the season as the Phillies sweep the Mets. Hamels walked six dudes and the Mets didn't really make him pay for it. Man.
Rays 8, White Sox 3: David Price finally gets his first win of the year. And got into a big bunch of controversy with umpire Tom Hallion, too. I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say that, even if Hallion was 100% in the wrong here, MLB will do nothing to him publicly because, as history has shown us, umps can pretty much get away with murder. In other news, White Sox hitters struck out 12 times in all and Alex Rios allowed two runs to score when a catchable ball doinked off his mitt. Not a great day on the south side.
Dodgers 2, Brewers 0: Clayton Kershaw is a ridiculously good pitcher (8 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 12K). Carl Crawford joins Russell Martin and Giancarlo Stanton in the two homers on Sunday club.
Padres 6, Giants 4: The reigning world champs are swept by San Diego. It's the first time the Pads did that in about three years. Chase Headley had three hits including a dinger.
Twins 5, Rangers 0: Kevin Correia shut out the Rangers for eight innings. Just junked 'em to death. It's the first time Texas has lost two games in a row all year.
Royals 9, Indians 0; Indians 10 Royals 3: According to the AP gamer, this was the first day-night doubleheader in the history of Kauffman Stadium. That's pretty surprising. Anyway, without looking at the box score for the first game, I'm gonna assume that it was a forfeit. [looks]. OK, wasn't a forfeit. But I do love how forfeits go in the books as a 9-0 win. I'm sure someone like Neyer or Mark Armour or Bill James or whoever knows why that is, but I don't. Jeremy Guthrie got the win. He hasn't had a loss in 16 starts. That's something. In the nightcap Mike Aviles had five RBI. Good for him.
Diamondbacks 4, Rockies 2: The loss of the game was bad, but the loss of Troy Tulowitzki to a strained shoulder was worse for the Rockies. The Dbacks take three of four and have won five of six overall.
Athletics 9, Orioles 8: Yoenis Cespedes gets activated and then hits a two-run homer to tie it in the ninth inning. In the tenth, Manny Machado -- who had four hits on the day, by the way -- threw the ball away on a sacrifice attempt, allowing the winning run to score. Welp.
Mariners 2, Angels 1: Jason Bay and Michael Morse homer. And the Angels keep pace with the Blue Jays in the Most Disappointing Team in All of Baseball race.
Tigers 8, Braves 3: What a blah of a series for the Braves. Wait -- I think they just struck out again. And ... again. God.
Last Friday was the 20th anniversary of one of the most memorable managerial tirades of all-time, when Hal McRae lost his mind after a Royals defeat. Today is the anniversary of a managerial meltdown that puts that one to shame. It’s the mother of all terrific tirades.
It was 30 years ago today on April 29, 1983, that Cubs manager Lee Elia completely lost his composure.
Odds are that more than a few of you out there in readerland are familiar with this one. It’s actually the most famous moment of Elia’s long baseball career, a fact that mortifies the one-time Cub skipper. Long story short, Elia did something managers rarely do: he completely tore into his team’s fans. And boy, oh boy, was it ever classic.
The Cubs had just suffered a tough loss, blowing an early lead to the Dodgers only to fall, 4-3. The loss dropped them 5-14 on the year, the worst record in baseball. This was all too familiar territory for the Cubs in recent times. Since Opening Day of 1980, they’d played 180-266 ball, a .403 winning clip.
The fans gave the club some grief that day, and Elia thought it went too far. In fact, some of the fans were so belligerent, Cub shortstop Larry Bowa and outfielder Keith Moreland nearly went into the stands to deal with some especially obnoxious louts.
Angry at the season, upset at the game, and irate at the fans, Elia had the 200 seconds that earned his place in the game’s folklore. Standing before a quartet of Chicago reporters, he unleashed this following profanity-laden bit of poetry. Here is the best part:
I'll tell you one f***in' thing: I hope we get f***in' hotter than s*** just to stuff it up them three thousand f***in' people that show up every f***in' day. Because if they're the real Chicago f***in' fans, they can kiss my f***in' a** right downtown—and print it!
One of the reporters, Les Grobstein from WLS, had a microphone turned on. Thus, Elia's tirade became forever preserved. He immediately apologized once he heard the tape and ever since then has regretted it. But it’s always there.
Oddly enough, a lot of the Cub fans I know don’t mind it that much. First, it was so long ago that it predates the rooting interest for many. Heck, the whole Cubs popularity phenomenon didn’t really get going until 1984, just after Elia. Besides, while some of the tirade is just profane, parts of it are just fantastic. 85 percent of the world works and the other 15 percent come here? Frankly, that’s a hilarious putdown of the fans of what was then the only park without lights.
Oh, and Elia didn’t last the season. That shouldn’t be too surprising. The club was losing, and the manger had a tirade like that. He made it several more months, though, lasting until late August. He even succeeded in finding another big league dugout gig, piloting the 1987-88 Phillies.
But there is only one moment people think of when they hear the name Lee Elia, and it was the tirade he had 30 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other baseball events celebrate their anniversary today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
Click for more...
Saturday, April 27, 2013
Saying that the Mets bullpen is not very good is an understatement. The bullpen season ERA was at 5.57 at one point during Saturday's game (in which a 3-2 deficit became 8-2 immediately upon starting pitcher Shaun Marcum exiting). Mets fans hope it can only get better from here. I have some humble suggestions:
-Promote sidewinder Greg Burke. Burke started with the big league team out of spring training, but got demoted after a 7.36 ERA in just over seven innings. The problem? Burke was actually pitching well in the limited time (2.31 FIP). He's dominated since getting sent to Triple-A Las Vegas and Steamer thinks he's good for a 4.04 FIP the rest of the way.
-Promote Collin McHugh. McHugh got some starts for the Mets last year and did pretty well; in 21 innings he had a 4.77 xFIP. His ERA skyrocketed because of a HR/FB rate of 18.5 percent that will most likely regress a fair amount. So far in Las Vegas he's pitching extremely well with a 2.34 FIP and 1.93 ERA, and Steamer thinks he's good for a 4.06 FIP the rest of the way. Importantly, he's a natural starting pitcher and can eat innings.
-Promote Gonzalez Germen. The underrated Mets right-handed prospect has dominated Triple-A this year with a 10.93 K/9 and 1.93 BB/9 in 14 innings. His career minor league numbers are solid, and Steamer likes him for a 3.77 ERA and 3.80 FIP in the big leagues. That's much better than what's currently on the roster.
-Demote Robert Carson. The kid just doesn't have it yet. After a poor outing today he has an ERA of 45.00, and both ZiPS and Steamer think he's a below-average big league reliever at the moment.
-Demote Jeurys Familia. Another kid who just isn't ready for the majors just yet. His control is supremely poor and he doesn't have the overpowering stuff to make up for it. At just 23 years old, there's time for him in the minors.
None of these are panaceas. Barring something surprising, the Mets will continue to have one of (if not the) worst bullpens in the majors. But marginal differences matter, and at this point changes have to be made.
Friday, April 26, 2013
Royals 8, Tigers 3: You can try to make Phil Coke a multi-inning reliever all you want, but he's still going to be a lefty specialist. And when he comes in and has trouble even getting the lefties out, you can't stick with him. He's not the one who gave up the grand slam to Alex Gordon, but he set the stage. Well, that and Jim Leyland intentionally walking Jeff Francouer, but the outcome was all but set when that happened. We were just waiting for it to finish playing out.
Pirates 6, Phillies 4: Hey, did you realize that Pittsburgh was 13-9? It's true. The Pirates are winners of 10 of 13. Gaby Sanchez homered and drove in three. The Phillies dropped their first home series against the Pirates in over a decade.
Red Sox 7, Astros 2: Now witness the firepower of this fully ARMED and OPERATIONAL David Ortiz! The Sox' DH was 3 for 4 with a homer and an RBI single. He's 11 for 20 since coming off the DL. Clay Buchholz struck out 10 while pitching into the eighth. Daniel Bard made his 2013 debut, striking out one in a scoreless inning. Oh, and alert the media and/or relevant first responders: Rick Ankiel drew a walk. His first of the year.
Dodgers 3, Mets 2: Hyun-Jin Ryu had a nice performance, holding the Mets to one run on three hits in seven innings while striking out eight. Andre Ethier broke a 1-1 tie in the ninth with an RBI single, followed up by Juan Uribe putting the Dodgers ahead with a single of his own.
Yankees 5, Blue Jays 3: Robinson Cano, Vernon Wells and Frankie Cervelli went deep. The Yankees were down 3-0 early, but Hiroki Kuroda settled down after that and waited for the bats to boom. A record low crowd for Yankee Stadium. Which is kind of a shame, actually. This Yankees team isn't what people are accustomed to, but it's kinda cool seeing contributions from different faces and names in pinstripes. If nothing else, people should be bearing witness to a resurrection: Vernon Wells is hitting .293/.361/.587 with six homers on the year.
Nationals 8, Reds 1: If the bats are gonna sleep, it's up to the pitchers. That's what Gio Gonzalez must've figured, as he allowed only one hit -- a Joey Votto solo shot -- in eight innings. Except the bats did show up, actually, with the Nats rattling off a dozen hits, including a Danny Espinosa two-run homer and RBI double. Denard Span drove in three as well.
White Sox 5, Rays 2: Chris Sale walked four dudes, but allowed only two runs and four hits in seven innings. Adam Dunn homered. Life is more fun when Adam Dunn homers. He's now hitting a crisp .108 on the year.
Cubs 4, Marlins 3: It's 2013. Terrorism, war and ecological destruction ravage the planet. Still, I'm gonna offer that a Cubs-Marlins series is the worst thing affecting humankind at the moment. Luis Valbuena hit the go-ahead homer in the ninth. Afterwards he said "Ninth inning, two outs, I tried to hit a home run. I didn't want to play extra innings." I don't think any of us wanted to see it either, Luis. Give that man a humanitarian award.
Rangers 2, Twins 1: Nick Tepesch allowed five hits in six and two-thirds, with a solo homer to Josh Willingham the only blight on the box score. The Twins' best chance to get even or better ended, however, when Willingham hit into a bases-loaded double play in the eighth. Selah.
Diamondbacks 3, Rockies 2: Paul Goldschmidt with a two-run homer helped a not-great but good enough Trevor Cahill, who notched his first W of the year.
Orioles 10, Athletics 2: Nate McLouth singled, doubled, walked and drove in two. Chris Davis homered. Adam Jones had three hits. All nine starters got a hit and six different O's drove in a run. The A's have dropped six of seven.
Mariners 6, Angels 0: The Mariners' sleepy bats woke up. Including Carlos Peguero's, whose bat hit a 450+ foot homer, adjudged the third longest in Safeco Field history. Kyle Seager has a 14 game hitting streak. As for Anaheim, I'm not wishing any ill-happenings for anyone, but I'm still liking my "Mike Scioscia is the first manager fired this year" prediction.
Today marks the 20th anniversary of one of the all-time great managerial meltdowns. It’s so good,that you just have to say the name and most baseball fans old enough to remember can fill in the blanks on their own.
That manager was Hal McRae.
Does this one sound familiar to anyone out there in reader-land yet?
McRae was in the midst of what now sounds like one of the most thankless jobs in baseball: managing the Royals.
However dismal a chore that might sound like to readers in 2013, it must have sounded different to McRae when he landed the position during the 1992 season. After all, it was a place where McRae had played and starred for many years. Now he’d manage before the fans who had cheered for him.
And his memory of the team was of a beautifully run, model franchise. After all, in the 1970s 1980s Kansas City typically contended and seemingly always had a winning record. Please note this wasn’t ancient history, either. They had won 92 games in 1989 and posted a winning record in 1991. In fact, that very season, McRae took over after a slow start and helped them rally to a 82-80 end record. They flopped badly in 1992, 72-90, but hoped to bounce back in 1993.
At any rate, on April 26, 1993, the Royals lost a game 5-3 to the Tigers, dropping their record to 7-12. This wasn’t the Royals record McRae expected.
Then came the post-game conference. It started off fairly generically, with McRae holding court in his office. Then a reporter asked a question McRae didn’t like. And history was made.
The question was whether he’d considered using the aging George Brett as a pinch hitter in the seventh with two outs and the bases loaded. Something inside McRae snapped.
First he called it a “stupid a** f***ing question.” Well, that’s a nice little quote. But before anyone could go on, he got up, and started throwing things. Just whatever was in front of him on the desk. He screamed some more at the reporter, threw some more objects—most notably his phone, which caught a reporter in the face, drawing blood.
McRae chased everyone out of his office, followed them out, and screamed at them some more before concluding, “Put that in your pipe and smoke it!”
It was over—but as it happened, McRae’s managing career wasn’t. He survived the incident and actually led the Royals to a winning record in 1993, and then again in 1994. The club let him go after those back-to-back winning records—and the Royals have had just one winning season since.
McRae even found work managing another team, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He lasted two years, but after a horrible 106-loss season in 2002, the club let McRae go. He hasn’t managed since, and isn’t likely to ever again.
But he had one moment people won’t forget—and it happened 20 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other baseball events celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that occurred X-thousand days ago) today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d prefer to just skim.
Click for more...
Thursday, April 25, 2013
I worked from home today, which meant a consistent stream of sports news outlets streaming in the background for many hours. As such, I was subject to incessant chatter about the back-end bullpen situation for the Detroit Tigers. Normally when we think about the detrimental effects of the 24-hour cable news cycle, we apply it to much more serious matters than sports, but today I really began thinking about some of the outside the lines impacts of Detroit’s closer landscape in light of the modern media environment.
First, let me put my cards on the table. I hold the standard sabermetric-oriented beliefs regarding the closer role. Here are a few things I believe.
With all that said, here’s something else I consider relevant—a media circus is not good for a team; when your team is making the a-block of sports highlight shows for the wrong reasons, that is not a good situation. Players are professionals and it is their job to block out distractions and just play, but incessant questioning by the media and a team’s own fanbase can wear at a team and allow minor issues to snowball. It is through this lens that I question the way the Detroit Tigers have handled their bullpen situation in 2013.
So far the Detroit Tigers have either failed to or decided against bringing in an established closer to replace Jose Valverde in the offseason. They then led most to believe that Bruce Rondon was in line to open the season as their closer. Shortly before Opening Day, they optioned Rondon to the minors. They then announced they’d be using a closer by committee, though it appeared Joaquin Benoit was going to emerge as the closer. During this time, Valverde was pitching in the minors. Earlier this week, they called up both Rondon and Valverde. Valverde converted his first chance. Rondon failed to hold a lead today, allowing the tying run to score in the eighth, while the Tigers ultimately lost in ten.
If part of your job is to evaluate and question the moves across the league, or to find angles to second-guess the Detroit Tigers, you’ve stumbled upon a treasure chest. In terms of giving the media the rope to hang your organization, Detroit has basically done as much wrong as possible, even if the actual impact on winning games is less profound than portrayed.
Instead of essentially institutionalizing uncertainty and indecision and well as bringing back a player they lacked confidence in a mere few months ago, there were a number of other defensible avenues the team could have pursued.
For one, Detroit could have simply brought in a closer from outside over the offseason. Perhaps, there are strict financial and player value arguments against this idea, but it would have changed the discussion regardless of outcome. Detroit is a contender and a spender, so they are certainly in a position where spending a premium for an established closer is defensible. Additionally, had they added a Rafael Soriano type, the organization would largely shield itself even in the case of failure. One of the rubs between pure analytics and real-life team management is that among a fanbase and the media, not all failure is treated equally.
Hypothetically, had the Tigers brought in Soriano only to see him not get the job done, the majority of the blame would be placed on the player, not the Tigers organization. The fact would have been they brought in a player who had done a specific job before and he was asked to do it again, and was unable to do so. For the reputation of the organization itself, that’s a common and acceptable way to fail.
Another less messy way of going about assigning the job of closer would have been to pick a guy – Benoit was probably a decent enough choice – and run with it. Let him pitch himself out of the job or lock it in. This is not necessarily the ideal situation for a team with the expectations of the Tigers, but it’s certainly a common enough situation for teams around the league.
Finally, they could have simply brought a shaky Valverde back and looked for upgrades while letting him prove or disprove himself.
Instead, what they’ve done is open up every possible line of questioning, while relying on a highly questionable option, who has the pressure of essentially being a savior. He’s also fresh off a string of disappointing his team’s fans in the previous postseason.
Again, it’s not just if you lose, but how you lose that drives perception in the pro sports fishbowl and 24-hour cable sports news cycle. There will be a lot of teams whose bullpens will blow many games. There will even be teams who might be playoff teams but for horrible bullpen performances. But that won’t be big news and it won’t be tremendous fodder for everybody to question the wisdom of entire organizations. Last year, the Brewers likely could have made the postseason, if not for an absolutely horrible bullpen, and a seemingly endless string of blown saves by John Axford. The narrative there was that Axford was not performing, not that the Brewers were inept.
If the Detroit bullpen keeps blowing games, it will keep making news in ways that other teams’ bullpen failures won’t. If they were consciously attempting to implement a strategy that was unconventional, but in line with analytic-based understanding, I’d defend them all the way. But, frankly, it looks like they don’t really have a vision at all, and that’s a recipe to turn a molehill into a mountain in short order. The dominant narrative of Detroit’s 2013 season may depend on Jose Valverde taking this opportunity and really running with it.
Mets 7, Dodgers 3: Jordany Valdespin with a walkoff grand slam. See, good things happen when he doesn't try to bunt.
Reds 1, Cubs 0: Mat Latos tossed seven shutout innings and Broxton and Chapman finished it off. Tough luck for Jeff Samardzija, who struck out eight in six innings, but he's gonna have to get used to tough luck pitching for these Cubs.
Blue Jays 6, Orioles 5: The first extra innings loss for Baltimore in over a year. That covered 17 instances of free baseball. Oh well, luck comes and goes. Well, maybe it wasn't luck: the winning run came when Jim Johnson walked Maicer Izturis with the bases loaded, but still.
Cardinals 4, Nationals 2: The sweep. Stephen Strasburg had a rough first inning, but then he settled down and kept his team in the game, only to watch as Washington whiffed and ran its way out of a couple of would-be rallies. Strasburg's record now stands at 1-4.
White Sox 3, Indians 2: Alex Rios hit a two-run homer to help the Chisox earn a split. I'm not sure who let Zach McAllister leave the Columbus, Ohio he and I are so accustomed to, but he walked five and allowed five hits in five and two-thirds innings. Come back home, Zach. We'll go get some paella at Barcelona and then some Jeni's ice cream, maybe, and we'll never make you lave Franklin County again.
Rockies 6, Braves 5: I left for an early dinner reservation just as Fredi Gonzalez sent Jordan Schafer home on a botched squeeze play while up 5-3 and one out in the ninth. I figure that Gonzalez was tired of seeing the Braves hit the ball all over the ballpark without any of his own input and felt like he had to justify his existence by managing the hell out of that little situation. If he had let Coors Field's nature take its course I'm guessing one of the next two batters could have or would have hit the ball in the air to score Schafer anyway, the game wouldn't have been tied after nine and the Rockies would not have been able to mount this comeback win. And yes, if you think this is just some long distraction enabling me to overlook the fact that Craig Kimbrel coughed up two runs in the ninth, well, you're right.
Astros 10, Mariners 3: Baseball has 162 games and rarely does any one game matter or even mean anything all that much. But dudes, you just got scorched by the Astros. Three homers for Houston, which has four wins against Seattle in six meetings this year. The Astros have won only seven overall.
Diamondbacks 3, Giants 2: Brandon Crawford his a homer in the ninth to tie it, but Arizona won it on a sac fly and is now 5-0 in extra innings games this year. The new Orioles or something.
Red Sox 6, Athletics 5: David Ortiz had two hits and an RBI. Stephen Drew hit an RBI triple. Boston has won nine of 12. Oh, and the Red Sox sent Alfredo Aceves down to Pawtucket after this one, so it's like a total exorcism of that 13-0 loss the other night.
Tigers 7, Royals 5: Jose Valverde comes back and gets a save on his first try out. Victor Martinez drove in two. Welcome to 2011.
Rays 3, Yankees 0: Alex Cobb was dominant (8.1 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 7K), allowing only three singles. Not sure what beat writers do in games like this when there's really only one thing to talk about. I only have to write, like, three or four sentences. They have a whole story to fill. Maybe they can just CTRL-V "Alex Cobb" over and over again like the restaurant scene in "Being John Malkovich" or something.
Pirates 5, Phillies 3: Roy Halladay allowed only one hit and struck out eight in six innings and Ryan Howard and Chase Utley hit big booming homers. That used to mean an easy Philly win, but we're a long way from 2010. Brandon Inge came and hit a pinch hit RBI single to tie it in the eighth because of course he did. Then Starling Marte tripled in a run in the ninth as part of a four-run Philly bullpen failure.
Rangers 11, Angels 3: Texas with a nine-run fourth inning put this one away pretty early. Nelson Cruz with a three-run homer. Lance Berkman drove in four. Yu Darvish wins the Run Support Award for the night. The pitchers in the Angels part of the box score look like a list of names from the witness protection program.
Padres 2, Brewers 1: I suppose Milwaukee had to lose eventually. I didn't think Edinson Volquez would go seven innings without walking anyone eventually, but I'll be damned if he didn't.