December 8, 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 16, 2013
Athletics 5, Astros 0: Sonny Gray has only a couple of major league starts under his belt, but this was a spiffy one: eight shutout innings, nine strikeouts. Of course a lot of guys have had spiffy starts against the Astros lately. Rule 5 pick Nate Freiman had himself a nice day too, going 4 for 4 with a homer and four driven in. Saw this guy play in San Antonio last year. He was a beast in Double-A. Obviously the bigs have humbled him a bit, but he is capable of stuff like this from time to time.
Giants 4, Nationals 3: Well, that's not what's supposed to happen when you lead 3-1 in the ninth, have two outs, a ham and egger like Hector Sanchez is up at the plate and your high-priced closer is on the mound. Sanchez took Rafael Soriano deep with two men on as the Giants shocked the Nats, snapping their winning streak.
Rays 7, Mariners 1: Good game for Alex Cobb and Wil Myers and blah blah blah. I'm more interested in the fact that Joe Maddon had a giant python in the clubhouse before the game and that, on Twitter, he said "A snake is a risk taker and a wellspring of ideas. They fit into the Rays Way." I wonder if Maddon's inspirational/new-agey mumbo jumbo is pre-planned or if he comes up with it post-hoc to give everything that happens a sheen of meaning and importance. Like, if next year he goes crazy using replay challenges, will he later say "I challenged Angel Hernandez's call, not because I thought it was wrong, but because challenges are what show us who we are as a person and I wanted him to grow." I think I'd like Maddon even more if he was sorta making this up as he went along as opposed to being some Phil Jackson-style guru.
Tigers 4, Royals 1: Prince Fielder hit a homer and the Tigers take the first of a five-game series which could either give those frisky Royals even more friskiness about them or else put an end to the playoff chatter in Kansas City. As for Fielder, the news that came out yesterday that he's going through a divorce gave everyone license, apparently, to play armchair psychologist in an effort to explain his poor season. As someone who went through a divorce with kids himself not too long ago, allow me to say that people who play that game are full of crap. It affects a person, no doubt, but it probably affects every person differently and you can't just point to their work and say "ah-ha." If anything, I look back to what I was writing in the second half of 2011 and it was pretty darn good. Maybe even better than usual. I was probably concentrating more on work than anything then because everything else sucked. Weird thing: I don't remember writing most of it even when I read it now and baseball happenings are kind of a blur compared to other times. Brains are complex things, folks. Let's not pretend we know how even ours work, let alone some ballplayer you've never met or talked to.
Twins 4, White Sox 3: Big day for backup catchers. Chris Herrmann with a pinch hit RBI single to win it. He copped to not being ready to pinch hit just before Ron Gardenhire called on him. Didn't have his batting gloves ready, his helmet, none of that. As Todd Snider once said, unprepared people around the world need role models. It's nice to see them come through now and again.
Reds 2, Brewers 1: Tony Cingrani struck out nine in six and a third and allowed only one run. My HBT Daily partner Kay Adams said the other day that, in fantasy baseball, she is starting whoever pitches against the Brewers, basically every day possible. Seems like a good rule to live by.
Blue Jays 2, Red Sox 1: Mark Buehrle allows ten 10 but only one run. In other news, in light of this farkakte challenge system idea the owners have devised for instant replay, I believe signing fast workers like Buehrle will be the new inefficiency going forward. Having him on the mound to start pitching before challenge flags can be thrown will be like having your quarterback run up to the line to quickly start a play before anyone can review that last no-fumble call or whatever.
Angels 8, Yankees 4: Alfonso Soriano kept up his hot streak, getting four hits and another RBI, but that wasn't enough on a day when Chris Nelson hit two homers and drove in five and the Yankees bullpen decided to give up five runs. Meanwhile, C.J. Wilson pitched in some fantastic luck, allowing 11 hits in six innings but someone only allowing one run to cross the plate.
Cardinals 6, Pirates 5: Matt Holliday is banged up but he hit a walkoff RBI single in the 12th and Matt Carpenter had four hits. The Cards take two of three from the division-leading Buccos and cut their lead to two games.
Mets 4, Padres 1: Zack Wheeler struck out 12 while allowing only one run on seven hits and a walk over six innings. No win, though, because the Mets couldn't provide a winning margin until late.
10 years ago today, one of the most comically incompetent plays of the 21st century happened. It’s the game that made Jack Cust infamous.
For years, Jack Cust was a sabermetric darling. At 19, he tore up Rookie ball, hitting .345 with power and 86 walks in just 73 games. From 1999-2002, he kept raising in the minors, drawing tons of walks, hitting 20-30 homers, and posting an on base percentage consistently over .400 with an OPS a tad under 1000.
He was offensive force, but he couldn’t field and he couldn’t run, so Arizona kept him in the minors through 2001, and so did Colorado in 2002. He made some cup-of-coffee appearances but nothing really. It wouldn’t be until 2007 that the A’s gave him a shot. By that time he was 28, but he posted three solid years at the plate.
But his heyday in Oakland came later. 10 years ago today, he made a play that highlighted his weaknesses, not his strengths.
On Aug. 16, 2003, Jack Cust was in the Orioles organization. They’d traded for him back in March. He began the year in the minors, but in early August got his call to play with the big club.
Cust homered in his first full game as an Oriole on Aug. 7, driving in three runs. He did it again three days later. He started most games and often came in off the bench in the other games.
Aug. 16, 2013 would be one of the other games. Baltimore gave Cust a rest today. Though Cust homered off legendary closer Mariano Rivera the day before, on this day Baltimore faced Yankee southpaw Sterling Hitchcock, and lefty Cust would be at a platoon disadvantage.
It was a nice, tight, back-and-forth game, where neither team was ever really out of it. New York took a 4-3 lead into the bottom of the ninth, but the Orioles tied it on a Luis Matos home run. (It was the second straight day with an Oriole homering off Rivera in the ninth).
It stayed 4-4 until the 12th inning, when Yankee first baseman Jason Giambi went deep for a go-ahead homer in the top of the 12th. That put all the pressure on the Orioles to score in the bottom of the frame to keep the game alive.
It started out poorly, with Tony Batista lining out and B.J. Surhoff fanning. Down to their last out, Orioles skipper Mike Hargrove needed someone who could get on base. He called on Cust to pinch hit.
If he’d just made an out, he would’ve been spared the infamy in store for him, but Cust being Cust—he drew a walk to keep the inning alive.
Now left fielder Larry Bigbie came to the plate to begin the play that brought tears to the eyes of Orioles fans—and tears of laughter to the eyes of everyone else. Bigbie hit one over second base into center/right. Cust took off as best he could and headed toward third full steam ahead—it looked pretty clear that he would turn for home. More than that, it looked like he could make it easily.
Here is where the fun began. Cust moved past third, and was given the breaks sign by the third base coach. He wasn’t expecting it, and fell on his butt. By this time, the ball was to the relay man. The ball got to third behind Cust, so he tentatively took off for the plate, and got caught in a run down.
Now things looked bleak, but the fun wasn’t over yet. The third baseman threw to the catcher, who chased Cust back to third. Then the catcher threw back to third—causing Cust to break for home. Normally, this would just lead to another relay throw—but someone on the Baltimore team had fallen asleep on the job. No one covered home. There was nothing standing between Cust and the tying run. However ugly it looked with his earlier slip, it didn’t matter anymore. All Cust had to do was run 50 feet before the man behind him could run 65 feet. That’s it. Even Cust had speed enough for that.
But he didn’t have the footwork. He made it most of the way and then just plain fell over. It was a nice old belly flop. It looked like he was sliding into the plate—except he was still 10-15 feet from home. He fell over, and was tagged out while still splayed across the field. Third out—game over, Baltimore loses, on one of the most embarrassing looking fielding plays of recent times. So naturally you can view it on Youtube.
It was a moment Jack Cust would like to have back – and it was 10 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that happened X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
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