Welcome to the weekend recap that isn't really a comprehensive weekend recap because, good gravy, there's a lot of stuff that happens every weekend. You know what I did this weekend? Watched baseball for about 12 hours. That means I have missed about 125 hours of baseball since Friday morning, give or take. I have no idea what's going on around here.
But allow me to present three things that caught my eye:
Mike Piazza played 1,912 games for five different franchises, but when I type "The Mike Piazza game," you probably know what I'm referring to. It was the Mike Piazza game. You know. The Mike Piazza game. And it stands out from the other 1,911 games because those were baseball games. Organized contests in which 50 grown men play a game in front of thousands of people who don't really think about why they're paying money to watch it. They do it because they like baseball, and that's as deep as the explanations usually have to go.
But for one of those games, the appeal of sports was explicit and poking everyone in the chest the second they started to forget. It was meaninglessness wrapped in meaning. Sports are usually a way to tune out the outside world. For a single game, everything was inverted to bring the outside world along with every pitch.
There wasn't another game like that for over a decade. On Saturday, Boston needed to yell and cheer about something that didn't matter. The pre-game ceremonies featured rule-bending passion and the eighth inning featured the actual Neil Diamond. Shortly after, this happened:
The Royals swept the doubleheader on Sunday, and it's almost like that was the result of a Solomonesque compromise between the two teams. Give us the late-inning win on Saturday, the Red Sox might have said, and we'll be open-minded about Sunday. Daniel Nava gave the Red Sox an emotional win in a game that didn't exactly feel like baseball. Not like we're used to, anyway. Except it felt exactly like baseball, and that's why it's a big freaking deal.
2. Matt Harvey
And on April 19, 2013, Matt Harvey became an event pitcher. That is, the kind of pitcher you break engagements to watch. "Look, it's not my fault you scheduled the Caesarian for five days after Matt Harvey pitched." It was kind of humorous that the transformation from young pitcher to event pitcher happened with Stephen Strasburg pitching on the other side. He was the last guy to make the leap, I think.
Strasburg is a young dynamo, and he's still an event pitcher. But he was the second-best starting pitcher on Friday. Here's one of those embeddable videos again, but if you're short on time, all you need is the first out.
That would be a 99-m.p.h. fastball breaking down a good major-league hitter. Harvey has a plus-plus fastball, and he holds his velocity deep into games. He also has a goofy curveball that's an excellent strikeout pitch. And here's the freaky part: He knows where they're going.
The weirdest thing about Harvey, though, is how low-key his debut, development, and success have been up until now. He was a first-round pick (#7 overall) for a visible franchise. He did good things in the minors. Yet when all of the preseason prospect rankings came out before the 2012 season, Harvey usually wasn't in the top half of the top-100 lists. That isn't to say he wasn't highly regarded. All top-100 prospects are highly regarded. But there wasn't that separation between him and the prospects around him -- he was between James Paxton and Wily Peralta, for example.
It's like he broke a ? block and ate a mushroom since he was a prospect, because there's no other way a pitcher could look as otherworldly as Harvey without already being a scouting legend. He was supposed to be good, but this good this quickly? Maybe the rest of us should have seen it coming.
A list of sweeps from the weekend:
The Rays swept the A's
The Twins swept the White Sox
The Rangers swept the Mariners
The Angels swept the Tigers
The Brewers swept the Cubs
The Giants swept the Padres
That doesn't even count the Pirates, who won three games against the Braves on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. It was a four-game series that started on Thursday, though, so it doesn't officially count.
But the Pirates and Braves might prove this point better than any of the other teams: About 17 percent of the 2013 season's completed games were played over the weekend. We knew that some of those early-season narratives and established truisms would eventually be proven false, but I underestimated how much damage a weekend's worth of information could do. The Braves were unstoppable, then there was a weekend of baseball, and suddenly the Braves were a team with a good record. Huh.
Same goes for the A's, who were one of the hottest teams in baseball when they went to visit a struggling Rays team. The Angels were the popular what's-wrong-with-x punching bag of the early season, but they swept the consensus favorites of the AL Central. The Brewers started the season 2-8, and they were another bad week from being an afterthought for the next month or two.
It's too early to make any grand proclamations about anything. You know that. I know that. But every April, a lot of us fall down the same idiot hole. A weekend of sweeps can change a lot of things. One moment you're celebrating about everything right in the baseball world.
And suddenly the celebration stops. You're not quite sure what happened.
Baseball, man. Baseball.