Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Another HBP Walk-Off

Tuesday night saw the season's second extra-innings hit-by-pitch-off, the Indians this time benefitting as the Tigers' David Pauley hit Kosuke Fukudome with the bases loaded to end the game in the 14th. You can watch the video here.

This was the first game of a series with huge implications, too, as Cleveland and Detroit are vying for first place in the AL Central. With the win, Cleveland is now only three games out, with two more games to come in the series.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Great Ejections in Baseball History: Rod Allen

While there's no ejection actually shown in this clip, it can be pretty safely assumed that the proceedings herein resulted in at least one. The clip features Rod Allen, currently a commentator for the Detroit Tigers' television broadcasts, and a former player for the Tigers as well. At the end of his playing career, Allen spent three seasons in Japan with the Hiroshima Carp, where for the most part he was actually fairly successful. But Allen will always be remembered for one particular incident that took place during a game against the Yokohama Taiyo Whales. After running over the Whales' catcher on a play at the plate earlier in the game, Allen was hit by a pitch by Kazuhiko Daimon, which Allen took to be intentional; judging by Daimon's reaction to what followed, it wasn't, or at least he hadn't thought the consequences through ahead of time. Observe, and enjoy:

Monday, August 1, 2011

Great Ejections in Baseball History: José Offerman

Today's Great Ejection is extra special because it's not just an ejection from a game: it's an ejection for LIFE.

Good old José Offerman. Offerman's relationship with baseball was a happy one for a long time. He spent 15 seasons in the Major Leagues, including three and a half with the Red Sox, and even made two All-Star Teams, in 1995 and 1999. He played his last Major League game in 2005.

After this, however, is when the relationship began to sour. And very sour it went. It hit its first major hurdle in 2007, when Offerman was playing for the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League. On August 14, in a game against the Bridgeport Bluefish, Offerman, after being hit in the calf (the calf) with a pitch, charged the mound wielding bat in hand. The Bluefish pitcher ended up with a broken finger; the catcher, who had come out to protect his pitcher, received a severe concussion. Offerman, after being ejected, was arrested by the Bridgeport police, and was suspended indefinitely from the Atlantic League. He has not played or managed a game in the United States since.

But Offerman was not to be discouraged. He went on to play two final seasons with Triple-A Veracruz of the Mexican League before becoming manager of the Licey Tigers in December of 2008 in his native Dominican Republic. This went well for awhile, too; the Tigers won the league championship in Offerman's first season as manager. But the next season, in a playoff game against the Cibao Giants on January 16, 2010. . . .

To be fair, it's not clear that Offerman actually touches umpire Daniel Rayburn at all here; it's been suggested that Rayburn would do well as a professional wrestler. Really, however, whether he hit him or not hardly matters. Offerman threw a punch at an umpire. Not surprisingly, this earned him a lifetime ban from Dominican baseball.

This incident was likely the last straw in the tenuous relationship Offerman was clinging to with baseball by this point. Now banned from leagues in two countries, it appears the relationship is over.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Julio Lugo Gets Thrown Out at the Plate to Win the Game for the Braves

Last night, the Pittsburgh Pirates and Atlanta Braves played a 19-inning game at Turner Field. It was an historic game, the longest in terms of time in either franchise's history (6 hours, 39 minutes). There were fantastic performances by both teams, particularly the bullpens; going into the bottom of the 19th, the Pirates' and Braves' bullpens had each thrown 13 innings of scoreless baseball, including 5 innings by Pirates reliever Daniel McCutchen, and 6 from the Braves' Cristhian Martinez, who had just recently been recalled from Triple-A. And then, it ended like this.

This is one of the worst calls I've ever seen in baseball. How can you end a 19-inning, six hour and thirty-nine minute epic, like that? I'm pretty sure Jerry Meals just wanted to go home.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Great Ejections in Baseball History: Sweet Lou

Lou Piniella doing what he does best.

And this was perhaps the best he ever did it.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Baseball Is Back! Some Notes from the First Night of the Second Half

So, after three nights with no baseball (okay, there was the All-Star Game, but that's not really baseball, is it), the season has begun in earnest once again. Here are some things that caught my attention as I watched the second half get underway last night.

I started off watching the Orioles broadcast of the Indians-O's game in Baltimore. Camden Yards is a truly picturesque ballpark, a great place to watch a baseball game; it's easy to get caught up in the beauty of the setting. But then, this graphic flashes across the screen:

Honestly, couldn't the Orioles' TV network come up with a slightly less hideous graphic?

Moving on to Toronto for the Yankees-Blue Jays game, however, we got this fantastic graphic from the Blue Jays' network:

I didn't see the whole game, but I gathered that there was some kind of flash-back-to-the-'80s deal going on, and these excellent '80s graphics were part of it. Man that old Blue Jays logo is awesome.

Finally, in San Diego, the Padres were sporting some pretty excellent throwback uniforms:

and Luke Gregerson was sporting a pretty excellent mustache:

All did not end well for Gregerson, however. You'll note in the above photo that the score is tied 1-1, the inning is the 12th, the bases are loaded, and the count is 3-0. As you may have guessed from the foreshadowing, Gregerson walked this batter to give the Giants a 2-1 lead. He would go on to be charged with 5 runs in all, although none were earned because of a fielding error made by (you guessed it) Luke Gregerson. The Padres went on to lose 6-2.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Great Ejections in Baseball History: Wally Backman

This week's Great Ejection features a video that I didn't think was real the first time I saw it. It is indeed real, however; the South Georgia Peanuts were a real team in the South Coast League, and their manager, Wally Backman, is a real manager (and former Major League player), who was in fact a finalist for the Mets' managerial position this past offseason. Here, we observe him at his finest.

The footage was filmed for a documentary TV series called Playing for Peanuts, documenting the team's 2007 season (the team, and league, folded after just one year of existence). Let's hope Backman gets that job managing in the Majors sometime soon.

Friday, July 8, 2011

My Take on Improving the All-Star Game

With the All-Star Break coming up next week, many around the world of baseball have taken the opportunity to vent about the All-Star Game's problems, and present their opinions on how to fix them. I certainly agree that there are problems with the current format, so here I'll offer my take on some of the ideas that have been put forth.

First off, the most obvious thing that needs to happen is something that nearly everyone who's made their voice heard on this issue seems to agree with: the World Series home-field advantage rule needs to be done away with. Home-field advantage is worth a lot in the World Series, and should be awarded to the team with the best record during the regular season, not to the team whose league won the All-Star Game. I understand Selig's desire for the All-Star Game to carry some kind of meaning, but in reality, the All-Star Game has always been fun because it's an exhibition. Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports has proposed a system of bonuses for players making the All-Star Team, as well as the game MVP, as a means of encouraging players to want to make the team, and to play hard in the game itself. I don't have a strong opinion on this one either way; seems like an interesting idea, at least.

One idea Passan puts forth that I strongly agree with, however, is to start the game earlier. As Passan points out, the first pitch is currently thrown at around 8:50 p.m. ET, meaning the game ends at around midnight. When you think about the fact that the All-Star Game is probably most exciting to kids, this really doesn't make much sense.

So, these are my main thoughts on the subject. Please post your own ideas in the comments. Finally, it should be noted that Carson Cistulli of FanGraphs has also advanced a quite interesting list of ideas to improve the Midsummer Classic. In all seriousness, I think vintage uniforms are a pretty good idea.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Baseball in San Francisco

While I don't particularly like the Giants, I must say I do like what San Francisco brings to baseball. San Francisco has always been one of the United States' more eccentric cities, as well as one of its more progressive ones. Its countercultural history has informed its identity, and this identity is expressed in its attitude toward baseball. The Panda hats, the Brian Wilson beards (primarily worn by ladies, it seems); these are things that make sense on the heads of San Francisco baseball fans. Of course, these accessories relate to actual Giants players, players who are also somewhat unique and eccentric in a manner fitting of their city: the Panda, Pablo Sandoval, a very large and exuberant man widely beloved in San Francisco; and closer Brian Wilson, with his beard more impressive than any replica any fan could wear, his jersey undone several buttons to show off his chest hair. Tim Lincecum also deserves mention here; his surfer hair and violent delivery absolutely belong in San Francisco.

There are also things like the World Championship Baby promotion the Giants are currently running: expecting Giants fans are encouraged to enter a contest which would award the first baby born after 7:54 p.m. on August 1 (the moment exactly 9 months after the Giants got the final out to win the 2010 World Series) the title of "World Championship Baby."

Of course, also making the baseball scene in San Francisco easy to love are the facts that it's home to one of baseball's most beautiful ballparks, and that the Giants sell out this ballpark almost every night. The atmosphere at AT&T park is fantastic, and games there are a joy to watch (although I do find their broadcasters a bit annoying).

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Losing in Style: Another Balk-Off

Last night, the White Sox won on the second balk-off of the MLB season, the Royals this time taking a cue from the Mets on ways to lose creatively. Enjoy:

Monday, July 4, 2011

Great Ejections in Baseball History: Phillip Wellman

Well I've had limited ability to post recently because my laptop's been in the shop (my cat spilled some Sprite on the keyboard). Happily, though, I am able to bring you your Great Ejection for Monday:

I imagine anyone who was paying attention to baseball in 2007 will remember this one. This is one of the all-time most over-the-top, and most famous, post-ejection managerial meltdowns, and gained Wellman, then manager of the Double-A Mississipi Braves, considerable Internet attention at the time it happened. Incidentally, the following season, Wellman went on to lead the Mississippi Braves to the Southern League championship.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Great Ejections in Baseball History: "You're here just to fuck us!"

Another excellent baseball moment, this time involving the ejection of Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver by umpire Bill Haller, and the dialogue that ensues. Let us all be thankful that Haller was wearing a microphone during the exchange.

Earl Weaver, it should be noted, was also born in 1930, the same year as Jack McKeon.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Baseball in the Year of Jack McKeon's Birth

Earlier this week, the Florida Marlins named 80-year-old Jack McKeon as their interim manager, making him the second-oldest manager in MLB history, behind only Connie Mack, who managed until he was 87. Plenty of jokes have been made on this subject already, so I'll refrain from adding to those. What I will do, however, is take a look back at what baseball looked like the year McKeon was born: 1930.

In 1930, there were sixteen teams in the Majors, eight in the American League and eight in the National League. Only ten different cities had Major League clubs, and New York had three. The westernmost city with a team was St. Louis, which had two. The AL teams were:

Boston Red Sox
Chicago White Sox
Cleveland Indians
Detroit Tigers
New York Yankees
Philadelphia Athletics
St. Louis Browns
Washington Senators

and in the NL:

Boston Braves
Brooklyn Dodgers
Chicago Cubs
Cincinnati Reds
New York Giants
Philadelphia Phillies
Pittsburgh Pirates
St. Louis Cardinals

The Philadelphia Athletics were the year's World Series Champions. After winning 102 games to finish the regular season with the best record in baseball, they defeated the NL Champion St. Louis Cardinals in six games to win the World Series for the second year in a row. George Earnshaw threw a complete game to win Game 6 and clinch the series, giving up one run on five hits and striking out six. Earnshaw won two games in the series for the Athletics; the other two were won by Lefty Grove, who also won the Major League Triple Crown during the regular season with 28 wins, 209 strikeouts and a 2.54 ERA in 291 innings. And the manager of these Philadelphia A's: none other than Connie Mack. He was only 67 at this point, though.

Elsewhere during the regular season, Hack Wilson of the Chicago Cubs led the Majors with 56 home runs and 191 RBI. The 56 home runs set a National League record that stood for 68 years; the 191 RBI are a Major League record that stands to this day, and likely will stand long into the future. His .356 average wasn't enough to win him the batting Triple Crown, though; in fact, it was 8th in the NL. The owner of the best average in baseball was Bill Terry of the New York Giants: along with 23 home runs and 129 RBI, Terry finished the season with a batting average of .401. He is the last National League player to hit .400.

So, 1930 was a fairly eventful year in baseball. A few final facts about the year: Hall of Famers Luke Appling, Dizzy Dean, Lefty Gomez, and Hank Greenberg all made their debuts in 1930, while Pete Alexander, Dave Bancroft, Eddie Collins, and George Sisler played their final Major League games. The Cubs had the highest average attendance during the regular season at 18,527, while the Browns had the lowest, with an amazing average attendance of 1,950. The ground rule double was first implemented by the American League in 1930, but in the National League, a ball bouncing over the outfield wall was still counted as a home run (the NL implemented the rule in 1931). And finally, one other notable 1930 birth: George Steinbrenner was born on July 4.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Santos Win Copa Libertadores; Brawl Ensues

"Esto es Sudamerica, señores. Esto es Sudamerica." These were the words of the commentator for Fox Sports at the end of the match between Santos (of Brasil) and Peñarol (Uruguay) on Wednesday night. Santos had just won the Copa Libertadores, the most important club tournament in South American football, in front of their home fans. But instead of it being a joyous scene, the moment was marred by a brawl that broke out amongst players, coaches, fans, and basically anyone who was on the field at the time.

This was the scene following the final whistle:

It apparently all started when some fans of Santos ran onto the field and provoked the Peñarol players; the players did not handle the situation professionally. "Qué lástima, realmente," said the commentator. I couldn't agree more.

Mets Win on Bases Loaded HBP; Baseball Gods Smile

Last week, the Mets suffered a painful extra-innings loss to the Atlanta Braves on a balk-off. Wednesday night, they got redemption: A's pitcher Brad Ziegler hit Justin Turner with the bases loaded, and the Mets won in extra innings on a hit-by-pitch-off. Almost gives the impression that the baseball gods do have a sense of fairness, until you remember the Cubs.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Great Ejections in Baseball History: "He's taking the bag home!"

I came across this video on YouTube, and I liked it so much I decided to post it here.

Definitely one of the best post-ejection scenes I've seen. What I think makes this video so good, though, is the commentator's giddy depiction of the proceedings, in his thick Boston accent.

Long live Butch Hobson.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Albert Belle Apparently Justified in Decking Fernando Viña on the Basepaths

Just something that caught my attention during ESPN's broadcast of the Yankees-Cubs game on Sunday night: sometime during the middle innings, commentators Dan Shulman, Orel Hershiser and Bobby Valentine came onto a discussion (I can't remember how) of a 1996 incident on the basepaths involving a collision between the Cleveland Indians' Albert Belle and Fernando Viña of the Milwaukee Brewers. Regarding the collision, Hershiser stated that Belle had done the right thing as a runner, and Viña the right thing as a fielder, and that the result (Viña lying on his back on the infield) was just a matter of Belle being a larger man than Viña.

Here is the incident in question:

Clearly, the right thing to do when running from first to second on a ground ball on the infield is to elbow the second baseman in the face.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Four MLB Ballparks That Need to Not Be MLB Ballparks

Thankfully, in recent years, there has been a renaissance of beautiful new ballparks, and many of baseball's most objectionable venues have met their demise. However, a few (four, in my view) of these atrocities still remain in the Majors, much to the chagrin of myself and, presumably, baseball purists everywhere. To be fair, I've never been to any of these ballparks (nor do I particularly want to), but they do make my TV viewing experience less enjoyable. My negative judgments are based primarily on the presence of artificial turf, domes, and ballparks that are actually football stadiums. Feel free to respond with your thoughts in the comments.

4. Coliseum, Oakland, CA
First of all, this place is called the Coliseum. Well, no; maybe that's not first of all. First of all is that this is a football stadium, and watching a baseball game here is painful. Especially when there are 63,000 seats and the A's pull in 17,511 (2010 average attendance). I also hate the 50 miles of foul territory on the first and third base sides.

3. Sun Life Stadium, Miami, FL
At least this one won't be a Major League ballpark much longer. This building has 75,000 seats; the Marlins' average attendance in 2010 was 18,953.

2. Rogers Centre, Toronto, ON
While the former SkyDome does have a retractable roof, it's still a dome, and it's cursed by the #1 most damning feature a ballpark can have, artificial turf. It's also too round and symmetrical.

1. Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, FL
I don't think any explanation is needed for this one. The turf, the lighting, the roof, the friggin catwalks. Please, for the love of god, will someone tear this place down so I don't have to watch the Red Sox play ten games here every year.