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Monday, August 13, 2012
Forty years ago today, Billy Martin tried one of his more interesting maneuvers to shake his team up, and it worked pretty damn well.
On Aug. 13, 1972, Martin had a problem. He was in his first season managing the Tigers and trying his damnedest to keep the club in a pennant race. Less than two weeks ago, Detroit had been in first place in the AL East, 2.5 games ahead of anyone else.
Since then, the Tigers had hit the skids, dropping 10 of 14, including four in a row to fall a game behind the defending AL champion Orioles. The culprit for Detroit’s fall was its offense. They’d scored one run or fewer in eight of their last 14 games, including all of the last four.
With the last-place Indians in town of a doubleheader, Martin wanted to right the ship. He sought to shake things up and, hopefully, make things fun for his players to loosen them up.
So he came up with a novel brainstorm. Instead of going with the typical batting order, he’d try something different. Well, so far there’s nothing novel in that at all. Changing the batting order for a slumping team is as routine as it gets.
Aye, but Martin didn’t just make some small changes to the order; he completely blew up the process of picking the batting order. You see, Martin thought it would get everyone’s attention if he picked the batting order out of a hat.
Oh, the pitcher would still bat last—Martin wasn’t going that crazy. But the other eight would be determined by random luck of the draw.
And so it came to be that star slugger Norm Cash batted leadoff. It was the second and final time in his career he did that. Taking Cash’s usual place in the cleanup slot was shortstop Ed Brinkman, who would hit .203 with six homers on the year. Well, if that’s how the hat sorted them out, then that’s what the Tigers would do.
Maybe it’s a coincidence or maybe not, but the Tigers won that game with their odd lineup, 3-2. Sure, three runs isn’t much of an offensive barrage, but please note that the opposing pitcher was Gaylord Perry, who would win a Cy Young Award that season for his outstanding pitching.
Oh, and some of the unlikely placed Tigers hitters played a key role. Cash laced a pair of hits in his leadoff role. But the big hero was the most unlikely one of all, Brinkman. In the sixth inning, he doubled home the tying run and minutes later scored the winning run.
This win proved to be a big help for Detroit, as they ended the season with a slim half-game lead. In other words, if Brinkman’s double had been buried at the bottom of the order and not been able to lead to any runs, Detroit would’ve lost this game— nd lost the division title, too.
Clearly, that hat deserved MVH honors—Most Valuable Hat.
Aside from that, many other events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is an event that occurred X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold.
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Blue Jays 10, Yankees 7: Holy frijole, did you see Rajai Davis' catch, robbing Casey McGehee of a home run in the seventh? The guy is like 5-foot-9 and the wall is like ten feet and he went Spud Webb on that bad boy. Or Spiderman. Or something. Just wow. Otherwise, the Jays beat the tar out of Phil Hughes. Oh, and Davis led the charge there too, doubling in five runs. That was on two different doubles, though. Because you really can't drive in five runs on one double. That would create some sort of divide-by-zero error or something.
Phillies 8, Cardinals 7: These are weird times for me. I had to root for the Phillies here because the Braves need the Cardinals (or the Dodgers or Pirates or whoever) to lose more to give them a more comfortable wild card cushion. Meanwhile I'm going to Washington on Friday where I'll be watching the Mets-Nationals game. I have no frickin' idea what to do there. I want the Nats to start losing because of the NL East race but I can't, on general principle, root for the Mets. Oh, Juan Pierre won it with an RBI single in the 11th.
Dodgers 5, Marlins 0: Chris Capuano? More like Chris Capuwonderful! Oh, God. I'm so sorry. I don't know what came over me. 8 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 10K.
Diamondbacks 7, Nationals 4: Wow, the Nats finally lost. It had been eight straight wins. Patrick Corbin gave up two runs, struck out seven and didn't walk anyone. Unusual stuff on the bases: In the first, Bryce Harper reached first on an overthrown ball but couldn't advance to second because he collided with the umpire. Then he was picked off. In the second, Paul Goldschmidt reached on an error, taking second on the play. Then stole third. Then scored when Kurt Suzuki threw the ball away.
Mariners 4, Angels 1: Wow, Jered Weaver finally lost. It had been nine straight wins. Jesus Montero homered twice. And while Weaver didn't pitch too poorly overall -- he was saved from giving up a homer to Miquel Olivo by a Mike Trout leaping catch -- Jason Vargas outpitched him. Overall, actually, Vargas has outpitched Weaver since the beginning of July.
Giants 9, Rockies 6: The Giants jumped out to a 3-0 lead, blew it, fell behind 6-4 by the seventh and then put up five runs in the eighth, capped by Hunter Pence's tie-breaking and game-winning three-run homer. Folks at AT&T Park got their money's worth.
Rangers 8, Tigers 3: Josh Hamilton had three hits including a homer and three RBI. That helped make up for another shaky Yu Darvish performance. Sure, he only allowed three runs, but he walked five. In other news, no one in this game looked as good as anyone in Saturday night's game. Dear God, look at how awesome those uniforms are.
Reds 3, Cubs 0: Johny Cueto stays in the NL Cy Young conversation (8 IP, 3 H, 0 ER). He wouldn't be my pick if the season ended today, but he's having an outstanding year.
Brewers 5, Astros 3: It's not often that someone beating the Astros on the last day of a series prevents a sweep, but it applies to the Brewers. In fact, Milwaukee had lost 11 straight road games -- a streak stretching back before the All-Star break. Yovani Gallardo gets the win. He has won 10 straight decisions against Houston. This being the Brewers, of course, nothing is easy and the game ended with Houston threatening.
Rays 7, Twins 3: Someone with some time on their hands: find out what year saw the most games with extra inning games ending with the road team winning by four runs or more. It seems like it's happened a bunch this year. It's as if bullpens all over the league just decided "Eh, who needs a long game? Let's end this thing definitively." By the way, the Rays are 6-0 since Evan Longoria came back. They've passed the Orioles, are five back of the Yankees and are at the top of the wild card standings.
Pirates 11, Padres 5: I'm not sure what's more unlikely: Jason Marquis' two-hit shutout on Saturday night or Clint Barmes' grand slam yesterday. This series was run by space aliens who are conducting experiments on us or something.
White Sox 7, Athletics 3: I guess Chris Sale got his wind back thanks to that long rest a couple of starts ago. He struck out 11 here and didn't walk any in six and two-thirds.
Orioles 5, Royals 3: Manny Machado homered again (in case you missed it, he homered twice on Friday night). In the two games he hasn't homered in he's tripled and hit an RBI double. As far as hope-for-the-future goes, this kinda tops Rocky Coppinger for O's fans. By a fair amount.
Red Sox 14, Indians 1: Boston beat Cleveland so hard their kids are gonna come out shaking. Jon Lester finally wins a game, striking out 12 in six innings.
Mets 6, Braves 5: The Mets bullpen made it interesting in the ninth, allowing four runs, but they managed to not totally screw up Jon Niese's nice night (8 IP, 6 H, 1 ER). Ben Sheets reminded us that, no, a guy with a rebuilt everything can't be counted on to pitch like an ace for half a season.