Results tagged ‘ Pedro Martinez ’

The Unbearable Lightness of Perfect Games

There have been 20 official Perfect Games (sorry, Harvey Haddix; sorry, Pedro Martinez) in baseball history, and thanks to Dallas Braden and now Roy Halladay, there have been two of them in just twenty days.

Of course it’s more preposterous than that. Because Mark Buehrle threw his perfecto for the White Sox just last July 23rd, there have now been three perfect games (15 percent of all of them, ever) in the last 130 days of Major League Baseball play.
Wait – it gets worse. The first perfect game, by Lee Richmond of Worcester of the National League, was thrown on June 12, 1880. The second, by Johnny Ward of Providence (also still in the NL that season), took place just five days later. So now we’re talking about a quarter of all of them, ever, being concentrated in a net span of 135 days of play.
Wait – it gets worse still. After Richmond and Ward set the standard for pitching perfection in less than a week, the next perfect game thrown in their league, was a mere 84 years and four days after Ward’s, on June 21, 1964. That was Jim Bunning’s 27-for-27 against the Mets, which, to round it out neatly, was the last such game thrown by a Philadelphia Phillies’ pitcher until Halladay did it tonight in Miami.
And yes, therein lies the last bizarre coincidence. Halladay’s victim: Florida. Braden’s, three weeks ago? Tampa Bay. Buehrle’s, last year? Tampa Bay. Those three perfect games in the 130-day span were each against the two Florida teams.
HELMETS AND GROUP HUGS:
Baseball got lucky again; David Huff of the Indians was sending out his own health updates on Twitter, and actually back in the ballpark with his teammates before they finished their rally against the Yankees. But the luck can’t last forever: at the current rate of growth of bat speed, a pitcher will be maimed or killed before the decade is out, and the sport must take any action that will even slightly reduce the chance or delay the possibility. The easiest solution has been mentioned here before: since at the end of their deliveries, pitchers are closer to batters, than batters were when the pitchers released the ball, pitchers and batters alike should be wearing helmets. Period.
As to the Kendry Morales disaster, this too has been coming for awhile (ask Jake Peavy about it, or Denny Hocking). You are not excluded from the laws of physics just because you’re happy and celebrating. Presumably this needs no new rules, just players seeing the videotape.
MAYBE IT’S THE DO:
Having just watched John Axford (right) record his second career save with a 1-2-3 inning against the Mets, I’m beginning to wonder if half of closing is style.
IMG_2387.jpg

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for gossage.jpg

                                   COURTESY WPIX-TV
Axford’s story is well-known now: Notre Dame, Tommy John surgery, transfer, independent ball, released, A-ball last season, and suddenly thrust into succeeding Trevor Hoffman in Milwaukee when his velocity jumped up to the mid-90’s this spring. Plus he donned the Rollie Fingers style handlebar. The gentleman on the left you may not recognize, and if he had his way, this photo would never have seen the light of day. It is during his time in the Puerto Rican Winter League of 1972-73, at which point his career stats were 7-1, 4.28, 2 saves. Soon would come a Fu Manchu (and a grownup haircut), 309 more saves and eventually Cooperstown. That’s Rich Gossage, aged 21, and, no, the hair wasn’t attached to the cap.

The Ken Burns Cat Out Of The PBS Bag

PBS has officially announced details of Ken Burns’ update to his 1994 PBS “Baseball” documentary, including the (cough) interesting (ahem) line-up (cut to the second paragraph) of interviewees:

Ken Burns’ “The Tenth Inning,” the follow-up to his nine-part 1994 “Baseball” documentary, finally will air on PBS Sept. 28-29, the final weekend of the regular season for Major League Baseball.

Roger Angell, John Thorn, George Will, Doris Kearns Goodwin and Bob Costas return for “Tenth,” and are joined by new interviewees Keith Olbermann, Joe Torre, Pedro Martinez and Ichiro Suzuki.

If you have a long memory, you may recall that Ken and I did not see eye-to-eye on the original series, which was to me a great sadness because I had so enjoyed his “The Civil War” (I watch it at least annually, usually twice a year). I had no desire to make any public criticism of it but was kind of asked to by ESPN when USA Today came asking the network for one of it’s baseball historians to address the series.
Happily, that is a long time ago and Ken and I have since become good friends. He’s been a guest on tv with me several times and did me the honor of letting me see a rough cut of the “Tenth Inning” supplement. It’s exceptional, retains his distinctive style and pace despite the greater availability of video, it’s historically perfect, and as always with his series (Shelby Foote in “The Civil War,” the late Buck O’Neil in the original “Baseball,” and all of the principals in his epic of WWII, “The War”), it will make stars out of some of the interviewees. For my money, ESPN’s Howard Bryant might be the breakout guy of the new production. My MSNBC colleague Mike Barnicle is terrific too. The most fascinating thing for the fan: Pedro Martinez at his reflective best, candid and moving, and a few memorable clips from the first sit-down interview I’ve ever seen with Ichiro. It’s in Japanese, it’s worth it, and he’s thoughtful, proud, and funny.
Me? I’ll do but it was a bad hair day.

Game 2: So…

…pretty much all of my complaints and critiques before Game Two were wrong. And not just wrong, but comprehensively, even spectacularly so. Not only was A.J. Burnett crisp but Jose Molina kept him focused, and the timing of Jorge Posada’s appearance facilitated Pedro Martinez’s exit, and it secured the Yankees’ first World Series game win since 2003, and they head to Philadelphia in exactly the situation (1-1 with two southpaws ready to dominate Ryan Howard in that ballpark) even though I thought Sabathia would win and Burnett would lose. So I’ll just shut up for awhile.

But first: you think Ryan Howard had a tough night with four strikeouts and now six in nine at bats? Or A-Rod? Six in eight AB’s, without a hit? How about Brian Gorman? I wanted to wait to see the video, but live from behind the plate it seemed pretty clear that Gorman had falsely called “catch” on Johnny Damon’s dying liner to first in the seventh – leading to a critical Phils’ double-play. In the following half inning Gorman did it again, calling Chase Utley out at first on a 4-6-3. Kevin Millar, seated a few rows closer but about eight more farther away from the bag, called Utley safe, and the replay backed him up. Umpiring is ever more difficult as video improves, but when did the arbiters ever have a worst post-season than the current one? If you and your colleagues blew as many big decisions in as short a span, either you’d all be fired or your company would be out of business by now.

Game 2: Pre-Game

Funny that A.J. Burnett said he cant remember much about his kaboom start against the Phillies in the Bronx in May, but Pedro Martinez seems to recall every detail of every nanosecond he spent at the old Yankee Stadium, and in fact each moment inside the city of New York, and probably which of Don Zimmers fingers first touched him during their still remarkable brawl.
I wonder if the Phillies were not reminded by the travails of Brad Lidge of the intensity and focus required to win a Worlds Championship, while the Yankees might have begun to believe all of the exaggerated things written about them in the New York papers. They still dont seem even slightly worried, and given that Burnett has proved himself the most easily rattled pitcher since Nuke LaLoosh, they should be.

Bunning And Short And Lidge… And Happ?

I don’t really remember the last time I saw him, but it may have been 1987. I never knew his name and I could not then verify his story, but he claimed that he had been at every one of Gene Mauch’s opening days since 1965 (and a lot of other Mauch-managed games, even some in spring training).

His act was always the same. He was there when the park opened, and he stayed till it closed. And any time he thought Mauch could possibly see him, he raised his sign, which read, simply “BUNNING.” If he had one friend with him, that guy carried another sign reading “AND SHORT,” but there was supposedly a three-man version (one fellow with “AND” and the other with “SHORT.”). “He has to be reminded,” I heard the guy say. “He has to be reminded, every year, what he did.”
The vengeful fan’s argument – echoed by a lot of people then and now – was that the infamous Philadelphia Phillies collapse of 1964 was neither organic nor accidental, but the direct result of a crazy managerial strategy pronounced by then-Phils’ skipper Gene Mauch. Around the 13th of September that year, with Ray Culp lost to injury and onetime ace Art Mahaffey shaky, Mauch had pronounced that he wanted the Hall of Fame righty Jim Bunning, and the unsung southpaw Chris Short to each pitch in each of the remaining six series the Phils had to play. “Bunning and Short,” Mauch supposedly said, “these are my men. Bunning and Short.” If Mauch indeed said it on the 13th, he said it when the Phillies still had a six game lead and an 86-57 record.
They would thereafter go 6-13 and between them Bunning and Short would win a total of three games and the Phillies’ collapse would be etched for all-time as the most painful, if not the mathematically worst (they were still 90-60 after play on September 20th, still six-and-a-half up, and then lost 10 of the last 12).
So this fan followed Mauch to Montreal, to Minnesota, to the Angels, and every year trotted out his message of “Bunning And Short.” And Gene Mauch never did get to the World Series, and as history narrows his place in its nooks and crannies, it will be for the collapse, and “Bunning And Short,” that he will be remembered. 
And I wonder if Charlie Manuel isn’t going to join him. Inherent in the criticism of Mauch is that there is nothing unforgivable in a manager, other than inflexibility. Indeed, some of the greatest managers have been the ones who have let go of their deathgrip on consistency. Think of Connie Mack starting the washed-up Howard Ehmke in Game One of the 1929 Series. Ehmke was, in fact, Mack’s seventh starter, behind Hall-of-Famer Lefty Grove, 24-game winner George Earnshaw, 18-game winner Rube Walberg, and three lesser lights who had each won 11. Ehmke merely set the then-record for strikeouts in a Series. Later skippers like Chuck Dressen used relievers like Joe Black and Clem Labine as Series starters. As late as 1974, Walter Alston was leaning towards starting Mike Marshall – who had only relieved 114 times that year – to start the sixth game against Oakland, if the Dodgers had survived that long. Consider Mayo Smith of the 1968 Tigers deciding, on August 23rd, with his team up by seven-and-a-half games but his shortstop Ray Oyler hitting just .142, that he had better find an alternative – and giving centerfielder Mickey Stanley an audition of exactly nine games before penciling him in at short for Game One of the World Series.
And here is Good ‘Ol Charlie, insistent on closing with Brad Lidge, who has the singular flammability – and more impressive, the endurance - of the infamous Underground Fire Of Centralia, Pennsylvania. I have written before here of the paucity of viable alternatives: Ryan Madson is now at 8/14 in Save conversions this season, but just 13 of 32 lifetime. Brett Myers may not be able to pitch on any nights, let alone consecutive ones. Eyre, Park, and Romero are hurt. Condrey’s a quandary and Durbin’s doubtful.
But whatever his future redemption might be, Lidge is Charlie Manuel’s ticket to Mauch-like infamy. He needs to punt, and he needs to punt now, and he has insisted he will not. And still there is Tyler Walker and his respectable record as a closer, or if this still somehow seems more terrifying than a guy doing the Human Torch act during your three-game failed defense of your World’s Championship, take a page from Chuck Dressen or Walter Alston, mix in a little Mayo Smith, and work in reverse. Nominally, at least, you have six starters, two of whom you will not use as such no matter how long you go in the playoffs.
This is no time to stick to tradition. Crunch the numbers and talk to the men and, if need be, ask for a volunteer. Presumably you cannot envision a world in which you don’t start Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee as often as you can. But are you really risking your rotation if you pick one man out of the other four to serve as your emergency closer? 
Interestingly, just a superficial look at data suggests there are two candidates, one of each arm kind. A closer must have, more than any other attribute, the ability to be effective immediately. If you get that first man out in the ninth, your track record with runners-on or in late innings becomes decreasingly relevant. And one Philly starter offers these numbers in the first innings of his games: .219 opposing batting average, .259 opposing on base percentage, less than one base-runner per first inning, 3.41 ERA. Another maps out at  a.197 BA, .288 OBP, 1.05 WHIP, 1.35 ERA.
The first guy is Joe Blanton. The second one is J.A. Happ.
Charlie – you can’t get by without one of them in your rotation? Hamels, Lee, Happ, Martinez is too lefty-laden for you? What about Hamels, Lee, Blanton, Martinez? (Parenthetically, if you’re wondering about the others, Hamels has a .238 OBP in the first inning, Lee .268, Martinez .369, Moyer .381. Intuition tells you that a still-rehabbing Pedro might be the choice – the numbers don’t).
The point here, of course, is that if the Phillies swap out Lidge for Blanton or Happ, and it fails, Manuel will be criticized. But at least he won’t be criticized for ignoring the possibility that there was a way of avoiding the iceberg. Fate even offers him one righty and one lefty, to fit whichever kind of rotation he thinks will serve him best against whoever he might face along the way.
The other alternative, I’m afraid, is three guys showing up every day for the rest of Charlie’s managerial career. One has a sign reading “Brad,” the second has one reading “Lidge,” and the third one uses the fireplace lighter for comedic effect.

Things I Promised Not To Tell

Batting clean-up last night, Micah Hoffpauir of the Cubs
homered to erase Cincinnati’s only lead (off his rival Micah, Owings, no
less), walked, then lifted a sacrifice fly to put his team back in front.
“He’s going to get 350 at bats this year,” Lou Piniella told me as Hoffpauir’s
dominant spring training ended. “A little first, a little left, a little
right.” Lou being Lou, of course, after Hoffpauir showed what he could do with
those 350 at bats, he was due up with the bases loaded and a lefty reliever on
the mound. So Lou pinch-hit Reed Johnson for him, and Johnson promptly struck
out. Sigh.

Pitching Coach Joe Kerrigan never counts chickens in
advance, certainly not in Pittsburgh, but even in the middle of the spring he was
insistent he had been able to help Jeff Karstens and Ross Ohlendorf -
especially Karstens – with arm slots and release points. Are the last two
nights against Florida indicators that he was right, or just the odds breaking
against the Marlins?

The latest Pedro Martinez story – about some vague interest
by the Angels – is probably overblown, to say the least. A National League
General Manager who was incorrectly rumored to be interested, said a month ago
that people sure were getting hopped up over him handcuffing the Dutch team -
during the first week of spring training – and not hitting 90 on the radar gun
as he did so.

So far this year Daniel Murphy has dropped a fly in left to
cost Johan Santana a game, and, last night, after getting picked off by Yadier
Molina, and then deciding that the only way to get past Molina at the plate was
not to slide but rather enact a dance move, managed to slide out from under a
crucial fly ball in St. Louis. The Mets are in awe of the youngster’s plate
discipline but after Murphy’s tight night, manager Jerry Manuel suggested he
needed to relax and admitted “I guess I’m a little concerned.”

Another Cubs note. If you’re wondering how they hope to keep
Rich Harden
intact into the second half of the season, yes, they will occasionally
skip his starts or give him extra days off. Kind of like the Chien-Ming Wang
plan. Only without the euphemistic “tune-up in Florida.” And replacing him in
the rotation at some point, more likely with Phil Hughes than Ian Kennedy. But
Wang is just fine – there’s nothing to see here.

A last question. Does it seem to you like the Angels treat
Brandon Wood as if he owed them money? Like they let him up every once in
awhile so he can breathe, before they stick him back under the water?

By the way, the title of this post is facetious – it comes from an obscure reference in the movie “All About Eve.” No actual confidences were violated in the writing of this blog.

FAN OF THE DAY:

Hats off to Ben Erdel. As part of his big night at Yankee Stadium last night, Brett Gardner let one of his Louisville Sluggers fly into the stands. Mr. Erdel and a much younger gentleman both had their hands on the rare souvenir – although only the younger gentleman had just managed to avoid getting hit with the helicoptering bat. Mr. Erdel took the bat, took a few steps, and then thought better of it, and generously did the right thing.

The younger gentleman now has a singular thrill from his first Yankee homestand, exceeding his previous one – being my nephew.

Here is Nephew, Jacob Smith, far left, and his bat, which was not stolen by either Katy Tur or Maegen Carberry.

IMG_1698.JPG

And here is Mr. Erdel, whose second prize is a blog posting (and a clear conscience, and one happy kid left in his wake). Thank you, Sir.

IMG_1696.jpg

Introducing the Baseball Nerd

Phoenix, Arizona

GREAT TRUTH

Do not be overwhelmed by the 15 homers propelled yesterday in Surprise by the Angels and Royals, nor any other offense you see in the Arizona boxscores. An unrelenting 20 MPH wind blew across the fields of the Cactus League. Cars wobbled on highways, at least one canopy was toppled at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, and Randy Wolf pounded the Rangers for two long hits, including a two-run double.

ON THE OTHER HAND

It’s not like the Dodgers managed to turn the wind off as Wolf shut down a Texas lineup that included Josh Hamilton on two hits over six (six strikeouts). The positioning of the otherwise splendid new park the Blue share with the White Sox appears to have been done in the dark. The sun will not let up on the batters; the batters’ eye in centerfield is about half standard size, and the Dodgers’ bullpen is uncovered and does not see shade until nearly sunset. The players have less of a chance of being grilled than do Dodger Dogs.

MISLEADING HEADLINE OF THE DAY: MARTINEZ REJOINS DODGERS

That’d be Ramon Martinez, who celebrated his 41st birthday yesterday by sitting in the dugout of the team for which he won 123 games in the eleven seasons ending in 1998. The former 20-game winner – who set the land-speed record for going from being “The Martinez,” to “He’s Pedro’s Brother” – looked not much heavier than the 165 at which he pitched for the Dodgers’ last champions. He knew nothing of his brother’s chances, silently underscoring the mumbles of the spring: that Pedro’s WBC performance did not resonate, and with his killer fastball down to 90, is unlikely to find a home this year – or at least not a prominent one.

UNLIKELIEST SIGHTING

The skinny blond guy in the Rangers’ uniform staying low-key in the tunnel between the clubhouses and the field was not a minor leaguer summoned to take the road trip in hopes of a late-game at bat. It was actor Owen Wilson, getting into what is apparently his next character – that of pitcher – in his next film, opposite Reese Witherspoon. Coincidentally, Ms. Witherspoon was on The Tonight Show last Wednesday with your faithful Nerd, and offered viewers a bewildering variety of jokes based on the German words “Ausfahrt” and “Einfahrt.”

NERD THRILL

Like the relaxed pace and increased interaction of Spring Training wasn’t thrill enough. This is the start of my 43rd year as a fan, my 43rd year attending games, and my 43rd year of keeping score. On Saturday in Phoenix, I witnessed, for the first time, a triple play. First and second, Oakland’s Bobby Crosby with a solid one-hopper to Ryan Rohlinger of the Giants. Rohlinger unsuccessfully tried to tag elusive Oakland runner Matt Carson, fired to Matt Downs at second for one out, who relayed to Scott McClain at first for another. That’s when it became evident Carson had been called out for leaving the baseline. A double play is, of course, scored by writing the position numbers (5-4-3) and circling them. A triple play requires two circles. Making my first “second circle” was the thrill of the spring

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,942 other followers