This was late Saturday afternoon. I’d filed my Sunday column, now it was time to sit back, watch some baseball. As the Byrds sang, “Just relaxed and paying attention.”
But how can you relax if you’re paying attention?
On FS1, Boston’s Nathan Eovaldi was shutting out the Yanks, 3-0, on just 69 pitches, three hits, one out in the seventh. Take it, John Smoltz:
“I think this will be his last inning, no matter what. They’ve got some guys down there they need to get in to the game.”
What?! Is there a Dr. Kevorkian in the house? Had Red Sox manager Alex Cora promised the relievers’ parents that everyone would have a chance to play?
Even by today’s preposterous norms, this was heard less as analytics or analysis than insanity, as what’s leaving The Game stripped of its practical senses.
Imagine: Smoltz, who threw 55 complete games, twice led the NL in innings pitched and pitched 21 MLB seasons, is throwing a three-hit, 69-pitch shutout in the seventh when Bobby Cox tells him, “You’re done after seven. I know you’re still fresh and we’re a contending team, but guys in the pen need work.”
In the bottom of the seventh with two on, Boston’s Sandy Leon hit a liner down the left-field line. Close, it was ruled foul. Challenge. In a ho-hum tone, Smoltz said it’s no big deal. If it’s overruled, the umps will just give Leon a double and rule that the runner from second scored.
Yep, replay rules now include estimates of what might’ve happened. But how can you “get it right” if it never happened? When the call, after a long delay, was reversed, the umps had to pretend that what never happened had, per pure guesswork, happened.
Eovaldi pitched the eighth, “I’m shocked,” said Smoltz. He’s shocked? By what? That this week’s designated “eighth-inning guy” wasn’t in?
Closer Craig Kimbrel, one Smoltz earlier said “needed to get in,” pitched the ninth. Though up, 4-0, he was ineligible for a save, a wildly misleading individual stat nonetheless worshiped by managers as pre-scripted doctrine in their pursuit to fix what ain’t broken. Kimbrel allowed a run, two hits, two walks and left the bases loaded in a 4-1 final.
Sunday’s Post carried a quote from Mickey Callaway about Jose Bautista: “He’s been tremendous. … Puts up great at-bats. We’re lucky our young players get to be around a guy that’s done it for so long and is willing to do that.”
Yet, his “great at-bats” — hitless in his last 19 — likely were why he was rested Saturday. Sunday he’d make it oh-for-his-last 24 with a .198 batting average.
Three days before Callaway’s ode to Bautista, his lead-by-example play included walking back to the dugout after swinging at a third-strike wild pitch that the catcher finally retrieved at the backstop. Bautista’s rank unprofessionalism caused instantaneous apoplexy in SNY’s booth.
“That’s awful, just awful!” Gary Cohen said. He and Ron Darling then said Bautista sets a rotten example for young players. But one man’s trash is Callaway’s “tremendous.”
Sunday, Braves’ manager Brian Snitker played it by The Book, although there is no book, thus he did what he could to keep the Mets in it.
In the seventh, at 3-3, he called in reliever Brad Brach, who allowed a walk but struck out two. The Braves didn’t reach Brach’s turn to bat, so why not allow him to pitch the eighth? I dunno. In the ninth, Atlanta up, 4-3, closer-without-portfolio A.J. Minter entered. The Mets tied it with a home run and left the winning run on second before losing in 10.
Sunday’s TBS game, Angels-Indians, ended the new-fashioned way. With the Angels down, 4-3, two out, one on, David Fletcher swung, strike three. But the ball bounced free. Fletcher didn’t run. He hesitated, then, with neo-classical indifference, jogged. The catcher lobbed it to first, game over.
Next it was ESPN’s pro forma Yanks-Red Sox Late Sunday Night Baseball.
You already knew what to expect. The telecast would be dreadful, insufferably suffocating, a dare to all the good senses. ESPN’s sense of brilliance again left us stuck in a packed, frozen elevator.
Perhaps acceding to ESPN’s urging, Matt Vasgersian and Alex Rodriguez never stopped talking. Never! Jessica Mendoza again spoke redundant, self-evident, long-form pitching analysis. Yes, Masahiro Tanaka tries to throw sinkers, and if you don’t believe her, here’s a dazzling, multi-colored thermo-nuclear bar graph.
The 5-4, 10-inning Boston win was thoroughly modern: 16 hits to 25 strikeouts, 11 pitchers and ran 4:39, ending just before 1 a.m. You can graduate from an online college in less time. Good thing there was one, time-saving automatic intentional pass.
Impossible. You can’t relax if you pay attention.
Sorry apology is not O-Kay
There’s only one way to thoroughly correct a mistake made in public: Head-on in public.
Michael Kay, the radio host version, spoke recklessly in making shame-shame at Jacoby Ellsbury and Clint Frazier for being out with injuries while Boston swept the Yanks: “Shame on Clint Frazier for not getting healthy!” Sounded ugly, reckless, no?
Yet those who host talk shows can reasonably be expected to occasionally speak the regretful. Given their job, they’re easily forgiven, often even admired, for making good on bad.
But Kay’s public “apology” was dressed in something less. It was spoken like a clarification, as if he’d been misunderstood by Frazier, not to mention his audience. Rather than invoking his previous praise of Frazier as self-mitigation, Kay could’ve flat-out said that regardless of what he meant to say, what he said was wrong.
As a matter of good faith, he could have finished a winner.
Readers have their say
From the world’s best readers:
Walter Rondesko: “I’m not a car racing fan, but if they showed the last few cars in the race as they show Tiger Woods when he’s well behind, I think racing fans would be outraged.”
Ed English: “If golf announcers had been calling my weekend yard work would they have said, ‘And Ed has found the poison ivy’? … Not that I was looking for it.”
John Cafarella: “We’ll know about Pat Shurmer as a head coach by his response to Odell Beckham, Jr.’s first penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.”
Finally, a multi-tasking woman last week won a NJ online casino-record $288,000 on a $2 slots bet.
The AP reported that she hit the jackpot while on a conference call with work.
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