December 9, 2013
Get It Now!Hardball Times Annual is now available. It's got 300 pages of articles, commentary and even a crossword puzzle. You can buy the Annual at Amazon, for your Kindle or on our own page (which helps us the most financially). However you buy it, enjoy!
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Friday, August 24, 2012
Today, Bruce Bochy fights to get back to sea level. As of this moment, his all-time career record is 1,430-1,431. Thus, if the Giants win today he’ll no longer be underwater but be at .500.
He’s been underwater for quite some time with all those sad sack San Diego games. The early squads, most notably the 1998 Padres pennant winner, put him over .500, but a loss on June 27, 2002 put him under .500, and he’s been under ever since.
That’s a long time ago. It’s so long ago that there was a still a big league team in Montreal. As a matter of fact, the day Bochy went under .500 the Expos got Bartolo Colon. St. Louis still mourned the recently departed Darryl Kile. Don Baylor was still a big league manager.
Moving beyond baseball, it was the same day Who bassist John Entwhistle died. Elsewhere, Saddam Hussein was in charge of Iraq, George W. Bush was president with very high approval ratings, and Pluto was still a planet.
On June 27, 2002, Bochy’s record fell to 597-598. He’s managed 1,666 games since then, which means that if he does get back to .500, he’ll make history. For a manager who was once over .500 and went under, it’s the longest stretch ever to get back to .500.
The current record holder is Jim Leyland, who went over 1,250 games between going .500. He fell under .500 in May 1998 and went back over at the very end of last season.
I figured Connie Mack would hold the record, but that’s not the case. He was over .500 for almost all his career. He was under .500 from 1922-26, then went back over. He fell under again in 1942, but never got back to .500.
Please note there is a key qualifier up above. Bochy would have the longest stretch in the wilderness for someone who had once been over .500. A few managers had longer stretches under .500 but hat never posted a winning record in the first place.
That’s true of Casey Stengel. He began his days managing some bad Dodgers and Braves teams. That left a sizable hole for the Yankees to dig him out of. They didn’t do it until April 17, 1953, when his record was 972-971. But the record holder is another former Yankees manager: Joe Torre. His first term with the Mets put him under .500 and he didn’t get to and over .500 until Aug. 12, 1998 when his record was 1,169-1,168.
So it took Torre 2,337 games to get there. That’s like Bochy not getting there until September 2016. But Torre had never been there. Among those who’d once been over .500, Bochy will be the new king.
Well, that’s all assuming Bochy does get there. While it’s likely given how well the Giants have played so far, it’s not a guarantee. Good teams go on slumps, and winning teams can have a bad month. And who knows what’ll happen in the offseason.
But, barring a considerable turnaround in the fortunes of the San Francisco Giants, Bruce Bochy will soon end his time under water.
It was a light schedule and my Braves played a late game, so I watched "Eight Men Out" last night. For, like, the fifth or sixth time. And that just made me want to watch "Matewan" again for, um, the 20th time or thereabouts. Maybe tomorrow night. Anyway, damn you John Sayles, damn you.
As for "Eight Men Out," I think the best part of it is not the actual narrative, which most hardcore baseball fans know pretty well. I think it's the player interaction during Game 1 of the Series. You can just feel the tension each of them have, whether they're in on the fix or not. It helps bring current the reason for baseball's hard line stance on gambling when, in this day and age, it feels a bit like a historical curio. It's not, though. When you undermine competition like that so blatantly, and when players betray their own teammates, god, that's the worst thing you can do in a competitive sporting atmosphere.
Anyway, good stuff. Worth going back to again if it's been a while since you've seen it. And if you haven't seen it, jeez, what's your problem?
Angels 14, Red Sox 13: This game should be taken out and shot. NESN and Fox Sports are gonna be fined for obscenity for broadcasting it. If pregnant women were watching it they're gonna be charged with child endangerment. It was just the stupidest, ugliest oh-my-god-fans-of-these-teams-probably-want-to-jump-off-of-a-bridge game of the year.
Cardinals 13, Astros 5: The Astros took a 4-0 lead after four, but they are the Astros so you sorta knew that wouldn't last. David Freese and Matt Holliday each drove in four. Allen Craig had three, and Jake Westbrook got a boatload of run support on a day when he didn't have much of anything.
Rays 5, Athletics 0: Alex Cobb with a four-hit shutout. Can't do much with that.
Tigers 3, Blue Jays 2: I wrote this one up yesterday. But suffice it to say, Justin Verlander just doesn't know how to win.
Rockies 1, Mets 0: In his big league debut Collin McHugh pitched two-hit ball over seven scoreless innings, but the bats couldn't do anything to help him out. Or the defense. The only Colorado run scored when Jordany Valdespin misplayed Tyler Colvin's fly to center in the eighth. He basically pulled a Calcaterra -- the play I perfected in Babe Ruth ball and which got me moved out of the outfield -- running in several steps on a ball and then having to run back when he realized he misjudged it, letting it fall for a triple. Except unlike Valdespin, I did it on every single ball hit my way. Colorado completes a four game sweep.
Giants 5, Braves 2: I still think the Braves will hold on to win the Wild Card this year, but I gotta tell ya, when you let Barry Zito shut you out through eight innings, you probably don't deserve it. The Giants now have a three game lead in the west.
Rangers 10, Twins 6: Josh Hamilton drove in five and Adrian Beltre hit his fourth home run in two games. Texas broke it open with a six run eighth inning, five of which were unearned because of two Twins errors. And there was some chippy stuff too: Roy Oswalt hit Joe Mauer and Scott Diamond retaliated by throwing behind Josh Hamilton, causing him and Ron Gardenhire to get ejected. The win was Ron Washington's 500th.
Phillies 4, Reds 3: Extra innings and John Mayberry hit an RBI single in the bottom of the 11th inning to win it. The Phillies bullpen -- maligned all year -- threw five no-hit innings.
Sixty years ago today, Hall of Fame shortstop Lou Boudreau’s career came to an end—and what an end it was!
On Aug. 24, 1952, Boudreau was the 35-year-old player-manager for the Boston Red Sox. In reality, he was just the manager. Though he’d played in 82 games the year before, prior to Aug. 24 he’d appeared in just three games on the year for Boston—and had just two plate appearances. All his games had come in the last month).
So it’s not too surprising that Boudreau was on the bench when the day began against the visiting St. Louis Browns. It was a really close, well-pitched game. Boston took an early 1-0 lead, but the Browns tied it late to send it into extra innings. Heading into the bottom of the 10th, it was still 1-1 when Boudreau’s playing career came to its triumphant conclusion.
The frame began just the way the Red Sox wanted it to, with each of the first three batters reaching base. Thanks to two singles and an error, the bases were loaded with no outs. All Boston had to do was advance the lead runner 90 feet before making three outs to win the game.
Boudreau didn’t come up right away. But one future Hall of Famer did enter the game—the legendary Satchel Paige. Now, Paige was nearing the end of his line, too. Supposedly 46 years old, Paige was still a damn good pitcher. He proved it by striking out the first batter he faced, George Kell (who, like Paige and Boudreau, became a Hall of Famer).
With a great arm on the mound and Cleveland down to two outs, the field general called on himself to take the bat. Enter Lou Boudreau for his 1,646th and final career game. With the bases loaded and one out in a tie game in the bottom of the 10th against a great pitcher, this was some nice tension.
And now it was time for Boudreau to end his career in style. Paige wound up and threw his pitch. Boudreau readied himself, and ….. laid down a suicide squeeze sacrifice bunt.
What? Were you expecting me to say Boudreau hit a walk-off grand slam? Sure, that’s a snazzy thing to do, but what Boudreau did is actually rarer. Simply put, there are a lot of walk-off home runs in baseball history. But there are damn few walk-off sacrifice bunts. And a large majority of walk-off sacrifice bunts are actually errors where a runner unexpected scores from first or second.
But this was a pure do-or-die suicide squeeze with a runner on third to end the game. This happens once every few years—that’s it. And Boudreau made it work, driving in the winning run for a 2-1 victory. And he never played again. Why would he? How could he top that as a curtain-closer?
And it happened 60 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that occurred X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
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