Monday, September 8, 2008

And That Happened

Giants 11, Pirates 6: In 1908, the Giants had the league's best pitcher in Christy Mathewson, who led the NL in wins, games, complete games, strikeouts, ERA, and shutout 11 teams along the way. That same year, the Pittsburgh Pirates had the best hitter in the game, as Honus Wagner won the batting crown, led the league in RBI, doubles, triples, hits, stolen bases, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Each team fell one game short of the pennant that season, losing the race, of course, to the Chicago Cubs, who are getting all of the centennial attention this season because 1908 was the last time they won it all. It only seems like the Giants and Pirates haven't been good since then.

Dodgers 5, Diamondbacks 3
: The Dodgers' winning streak and the fact that they've taken five straight against the Dbacks is probably more important, but I can't get past the fact that this game was intended to be Randy Johnson vs. Greg Maddux, yet the former was scrubbed due to a tried shoulder and the latter bumped because his manager thought a rookie would have a better shot against Arizona's lineup. I don't know about you, but I feel a little older this morning than I did yesterday.

Astros 7, Rockies 5: Cassel comes in for the injured starter and leads his team for victory. Same thing happened in this baseball game too.

Phillies 6, Mets 2; Mets 6, Phillies 3: Pedro is shelled (4 IP, 7 H, 6 ER), allowing the Phils to pull within one game of the Mets. Then the Phils can't do a whole lot against Johan Santana, dropping down to two back.

Mariners 5, Yankees 2: Now that New York has fallen into fourth place, is it too much to ask that game stories, recaps, and other assorted reportage about them not include their place in the wild card standings or refer to their playoff hopes, however dim? No one talked about the Blue Jays' chances when they were in fourth, and to be honest, no one is going to talk about them now that they're in third. Can we please now treat the Yankees like any other team playing out the string?

Cardinals 3, Marlins 1: The latest edition of Bill James' Historical Baseball Abstract came out in 2001. The blurb following the player rating for Doc Gooden read thusly:
When a young player comes to the major leagues and has success right away, writers will almost always write about what a fine young man he is as well as a supreme talent. Never pay any attention to those articles or those descriptions. Albert Pujols is going through this now . . . people who didn't know Albert Pujols from Jack the Ripper six months ago and have never talked to him more than six feet from his locker are writing very sincerely about what an exceptional young man he is . . . Sportswriters, despite their cynicism or because of it, desperately want to believe in athletes as heroes, and will project their hopes onto anyone who offers a blank slate. The problem with this is that, when the player turns out to be human and fallible, people feel betrayed. It is a disservice to athletes to try to make them more than they really are.
James' point remains a good one. His use of Albert Pujols to describe the phenomenon, however, has turned out to be something of a poor choice. Eight years into his career, Pujols remains by most accounts, everything the glorifiers thought he was back when he provided that blank slate. In addition to stringing together exceptional season after exceptional season, he does things like adopt a child with Down Syndrome. And then sponsor a charity that annually brings Down Syndrome kids to the ballpark and lets them run the bases and stuff. And then he hits a home run on that day and goes 10-for-24 with six homers and 11 RBIs in the six games in the charity's series.

I'm a cynical guy myself, so I'm not going to completely eliminate the possibility that one day they could find a bunch of dead hobos in Pujols' basement or something, but from where I'm sitting, Pujols is pretty much the Platonic Ideal when it comes to baseball players.

Red Sox 7, Rangers 2: If anyone out there believed at the time that the Paul Byrd deal was going to form the basis of a Red Sox September surge, please admit that you pulled such a prediction out of your patootie.

Blue Jays 1, Rays 0: Everyone always talks about teams in the Rays' place going on "skids." Skids themselves aren't that bad, though. I've skidded out on bikes and cars a zillion times. Heck, skidding can be fun! Rather than the skid itself, it's what follows the skid that matters. A nice little fishtail and then an acceleration onto dry pavement? No problem. A scary yet ultimately harmless trip over the handlebars and onto wet grass? Hey, kinda fun! A three game series against a resurgent Red Sox team? I guess we'll know by the time we go to bed on Wednesday night.

Padres 10, Brewers 1: Chris Young gets the complete game, giving up only one run on two hits to beat Milwaukee. Only needed 96 pitches to do it, too. It's been fun to try to come up with those Spahn and Sain jokes, but really, if the Brewers hold on, we're going to have the closest thing to a two-man rotation we've seen since the 2001 Diamondbacks rode Schilling and Johnson.

Tigers 7, Twins 5: Hey Twins, you can start taking advantage of that Carlos Quentin injury any time you'd like. No need to wait for permission. Just go out there and claim the division, OK? Anyone? Lost in the disappointing Tigers' season is the fact that Curtis Granderson is once again having a marvelous year (.309/.391/.527).

Nationals 7, Braves 4: There's a non-trivial chance that the Nats could pass the Braves for fourth place in the NL East before the end of the year. Part of me is actually rooting for such an outcome, as awful as it sounds, so that Frank Wren doesn't enter the offseason with anything approaching hope that this team was just a few breaks away from something good. If that happens, he may just try to tweak things or rearrange some deck chairs when more drastic measures are necessary. You finish below the Nats, though, and you can forget hope and get on with the hard work at hand with relative peace of mind.

Indians 3, Royals 1: You really have to look hard to find a chink in Cliff Lee's armor this season. The best I can do is to note that four of his 21 wins have come against the noodle-bat Royals, which is more than he has won against any other team. Yeah, it's a stretch, but I'm running out of ways to describe just how damn good he's been this year.

Angels 3, White Sox 2: Joe Saunders gets his first win since July, and now the magic number is three.

Reds 4, Cubs 3: A couple friends of mine are big Reds fans, and they were heading down to the Queen City to take this series in, convinced that they were going to be outnumbered and outshouted by Cubs partisans. Well, they were outnumbered, but the interlopers didn't have all that much to shout about in this series, as the Reds take two of three and make Chicago look pretty bad in the process.

7 comments:

tHeMARksMiTh said...

Can I get the Webster definition for "patootie"?

Also, Pujols is a great guy, but he has his problems. Anyone remember when he criticized Howard getting the MVP because Howard's team didn't make the playoffs even though the Phillies won more games? Granted, the Cardinals won the World Series, but that doesn't count in MVP voting.

drunyon said...

"Rod Barajas drove in the only run with a second-inning sacrifice fly for Toronto, which pulled within 9 1/2 games of the Rays. The Blue Jays started the day eight games behind the Red Sox in the wild card race."

That's from the AP recap that you yourself linked to. Kinda puts a dent in the whole "Nobody will talk about the Blue Jays' chances even when they're in 3rd" idea, doesn't it?

I also think it's a completely different situation between the Blue Jays and Yankees anyhow- the Yankees started with such higher expectations, payroll, and a long playoff streak, so I think it's completely reasonable to keep discussing the Yankees' playoff hopes. Missing the playoffs is clearly a much bigger deal for the Yanks than for the Jays.

Craig Calcaterra said...

drunyon -- please do not sully my perfectly good points with things like "facts" and "counter-evidence." This blog is about issues and change we can believe in, not the politics of personal destruction.

RoyceTheBaseballHack said...

Re: Red Sox Vs. Rangers. I was having similar thoughts about the Red Sox' mid-season trades on Sunday, listening to the radio account of Jason Bay's HR disappear over the fence in the 7th.

Anonymous said...

APBA Guy-

I was salivating at the thought of Paul Byrd facing Josh Hamilton and Chris Davis in hot (93 F) weather. I had visions of balls leaving the park and never returning to earth. I even told my girlfriend that there would be several long homeruns in Texas during the game.

As we were watching BBTN she turned to me and said "You were right, there were several homeruns in Texas."

Then she started to laugh.

I love baseball in part because it is impossible to predict the outcome.

drunyon said...

Haha. My bad. I briefly forgot it was the Internet. Won't happen again. I'll try and remember to stick to Hope/Change®.

But yeah, for the record, I bet the Blue Jays playoff chances will get mentioned about once more- on the day they are eliminated.

Deaner said...

A great blue horde marches into GABP when the Reds play the Cubs... it's very annoying since Cubs fans rank right up there with Yankees and Red Sox fans as the most obnoxious in baseball.

Great comments on Albert Pujols!