Wednesday, August 24, 2005

You Could Look It Up

Over the past few weeks, that old Casey Stengel adage, "You could look it up," has popped up more than Kevin Millar. As much baseball as I watch, I still see something now and then that I've never seen before, or that I didn't know could even happen. But lately, it seems as though there have been more nows than thens.

Two weeks ago in Los Angeles, the Phillies and Dodgers were tied 0-0 heading into the bottom of the fifth inning. Phillies pitcher Robinson Tejeda walked the leadoff batter, Cesar Izturis. Next up: a rookie to keep an eye on, Oscar Robles. With a one ball, one strike count, Izturis took off for second base, and Robles smacked a single to left field, with Izturis ending up on third. A well executed hit-and-run play? Even better than that--the pitch that Robles hit bounced in front of the plate before he hit it. Put aside the hand-eye coordination needed to successfully hit the ball off a bounce in such a way as to not put the base runner in jeopardy. Put aside the team-first attitude that says, "I'm going to follow the third base coach's signs, no matter what." I had never before seen a player get a hit off a pitch that bounced before reaching the plate. I didn't even know that you could. As it turns out, you can. Check out the clip, "Robles singles off a bounce" listed under August 9th (click the 350K; if you're still using dial-up, you can probably wait for the year-end highlights video to come out):

That very same night, during the Yankees-White Sox game on YES, Yankees announcer Michael Kay made me question what was possible in the game of base. Now this wasn't a typical Kay bombastic call, making a routine ground out sound like the final out of Game Seven of the World Series (been a while). Nor was it one of his shameless promotions of the Yankees and Yankee programming ("No true Yankee fan will want to miss Yankeeography: Scott Proctor, playing in an endless loop between the Nissan postgame show and tomorrow night's pregame."). Kay, who more and more tries to provide analysis along with his (greatest) play (you'll ever see) by (greatest) play (you'll ever see), said of the White Sox, roughly, "They won't beat you by outscoring you." Is that right? All smoke and mirrors then? Though it's an admittedly small sample size, I went back through the White Sox season, and in all 75 of their wins so far, they have outscored their opponents, while in all 47 of their losses, they have been outscored. Perhaps it's a coincidence.

Later that week, the Mets were in San Diego, playing an afternoon game against the Padres. Tied 1-1 entering the bottom of the 7th, the Padres pinch hit for starting pitcher Woody Williams with David Ross. With a 2-2 count against Tom Glavine, Ross took a swing. I was following the game on MLB Gameday, and the text came across as: David Ross triples (1) on a pop up to second baseman Kazuo Matsui. The screen didn't update for a long time after this, leaving me to wonder how a pinch-hitting catcher hit his first triple of the season on a pop up to second. While waiting for the screen to update, I shared this with a Mets fan at work, and asked him how that could happen. His response: "Matsui stinks." When all was finally updated, the real reasoning for the strange play description was hardly funny, as this was the play on which right fielder Mike Cameron and center fielder Carlos Beltran collided in the outfield, chasing down Ross's shallow pop. But because of the limited options that the game editors at have to describe the action on a given play, for a few minutes, given all the bizarre things that have happened to the Mets this year, it seemed like it might actually be possible to triple to second. Ya gotta believe.

Last week, the New York Daily News reported that the Yankees were close to signing Ruben Rivera to a contract. The one-time can't miss prospect will be getting his third crack at the Yankees, the last one cut short when Rivera couldn't miss stealing Derek Jeter's glove and selling it to a memorabilia dealer during Spring Training in 2002. He was also caught stealing twice that year while a member of the Texas Rangers, though that had more to do with the opposing catchers. Trying to allay concerns of a recurrence, Yankees' GM Brian Cashman said, "[Rivera's] been in Derek's house since then." It's unknown whether Jeter was home at the time.

Lastly, I want to point out a multi-talented player. Playing baseball at the Major League level requires such commitment, such focus, that it is always impressive when a player can achieve mastery of another field at the same time. Bronson Arroyo and Bernie Williams are accomplished guitar players who have released records. John Burkett was a renowned (to the extent that's possible) bowler, with multiple 300s attached to his name. Mike Piazza is an ardent supporter of heterosexual rights. And during last week's Mets-Pirates series at Shea Stadium, we saw that last year's National League Rookie of the Year has some non-baseball talent as well. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Jason Bay, king of ballet:


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