Let me show you a completely ordinary throw.
Of course, that was a great throw. But it was an ordinary great throw. Juan Perez throwing baseballs from the outfield is one of my favorite baseball things right now, but when he made that play, I didn't run to my phone to share the moment with everyone. It was a great throw in the same way that a 440-foot dinger is an exceptional dinger. Exciting to watch, but only the diehards will remember them in three months.
This is a discussion about iconic throws. This is about the throws you will remember in 10 years, 20 years. The throws that do make you run for your phone. The ones that you'll be describing to some 23-year-old punk in a bar when you're 60, explaining what he or she missed.
This is not a discussion about whether Yoenis Cespedes's throw is one of those. It is. That's not up for debate. This is a discussion about where Cespedes's throw ranks among other throws from the last 25 years.
From the last 25 years and six days. There will be omissions from this list. Josh Reddick has had a couple brilliant throws recently. Jesse Barfield doesn't quite make the arbitrary cutoff date, but do yourself a favor and check him out on YouTube. But when I think of spit-your-drink-out throws, there are seven that I remember:
- Excitement factor. Everyone was waiting for him to do something like this in every game, but when it happened, it was still amazing.
- Speed of runner. Harold Reynolds was the Dee Gordon of his time, making the play even more impressive.
- He threw it from the goshdanged warning track. This is important because the warning track is far away
- The producer of that broadcast was eating Folgers crystals straight from the can and hanging upside down in gravity boots when he was giving direction on that play. "CUT TO BO. CUT AWAY FROM BO. CUT BACK TO RUNNER. CUT BACK TO BO. RUN COMMERCIAL. PLAY A SONG. SCRATCH MY BACK, JUST ABOVE MY BELT."
- As such, you don't get the full effect of the throw, the force of it. It might be #1, but it's impossible to tell from 2014.
- This throw wasn't called by Mr. T.
- Newness factor. That was Ichiro's eighth game in the majors, and he most certainly was not a household name yet. He was a curiosity, with the offseason filled with different scout-types arguing about whether or not he was going to succeed at all. Then he did that and won the MVP, no big deal.
- Speed of runner. Terrence long wasn't Harold Reynolds, but he could run. Based on this, it looks like he's a little less than halfway to third when Ichiro releases the ball:
- Distance. It wasn't from the warning track, but rather medium right field. That doesn't take away from the throw, but we're putting it up against throws that traveled more than 300 feet.
- Closeness of play. As in, it wasn't close. The runner, Alberto Castillo, was out by 15 feet.
- Accuracy. There's a chance it would have been called a strike if it were a pitch, a literal strike:
Impossible to tell, but certainly a reasonable chance it would have been on the outside corner.
- Vlad's body wasn't lined up for a throw. He wasn't charging and getting his full momentum into it.
- Alberto Castillo approached third base like it was a piranha plant about to bite his ankles.
- Alberto Castillo was not fast
- What are you doing, Alberto Castillo?
- Vlad had other throws that merited consideration, but never one obvious choice. He had slate of top-10 singles, but never the #1 hit.
- The distance. Good gravy, the distance.
- The accuracy. The third baseman didn't have to move at all.
- Neifi Perez. I never liked that guy
- MLB.com's description for this video is "Jose Guillen's mutant throw from the warning track." That's excellent
- I don't know. It didn't hit Neifi Perez in the back?
- Timing. This ended the game. I'm not sure how many 9-3 putouts have ended a game in major league history, but I'm guessing no more than four or five.
- Puigmania. This was his first Major League game. If Ichiro gets a squillion bonus points for his coming early in his career, Puig gets two squillion for this coming in his first game.
- Vin Scully called it. Vin Scully could call me writhing on the floor and passing a kidney stone and I'd re-watch it six times.
- Distance. Right-to-first doesn't have the same gravitas as left-to-home or even right-to-third.
- We never got a clear look at what Chris Denorfia was doing, but he was busy being deked by Luis Cruz and Nick Punto. The other runners up there were just playing baseball like normal, but Denorfia was being a dingus.
- Hard to tell, but it seems like that made a bunch of Dodgers fans happy. Will investigate.
- Distance. It's not quite Bo from the warning track, but there's more distance covered compared to Ichiro's throw
- Trajectory. I'm not sure that throw got more than 15 feet off the ground, which isn't something you see with long throws like that. There's usually a little loft with the 275- or 300-footers.
- Backstory. Rick Ankiel was a cautionary tale, and then he became a thing again because of what he was doing as a position player. This made you remember that he was always blessed with a generational arm.
- It was probably a silly decision to go, based on where the runner was when Ankiel got to the ball. It would have been the winning run on third with one out, but a little more caution would have done nicely, there.
- Distance. He threw that thing from 330 feet away.
- Speed of runner. Howie Kendrick runs well.
- Situation. It was a tie game, and that would have been the go-ahead run. (The A's lost, but still.)
- This seems off, but screw it, I'm willing to believe it.
.@sean_forman With LOTS of assumptions (At Bat doesn't do frame-by-frame), the initial velocity of the Cespedes throw was 115-130 mph.— Meredith Wills (@Bbl_Astrophyscs) June 11, 2014
- Cespedes made this face after the throw:
- The play was set up by his own flub. None of the other throws (besides maybe Guillen's) were anything but a pure baseball play
- Even worse than the flub was the initial step Cespedes took after. As in, "Wait, there are runners on base."
- This throw emasculates me more and more every time I watch it.
1. Jose Guillen
2. Bo Jackson
3. Yoenis Cespedes
5. Yasiel Puig
6. Vladimir Guerrero
7. Rick Ankiel
We can go back to Roberto Clemente, Barfield, or Ellis Valentine for a bigger argument, but in the last 25 years, Guillen's mutant throw is still the champ. That was a Tarsem Singh short, not a baseball play.
Still, that we're even talking about Cespedes's throw like this means something. Maybe a little time will buffer his spot on this list, but for now, goodness, he belongs up there. What a scintillating throw. Almost 25 years to the day after Bo's throw. The torch has been passed, Yoenis. Hang up the phone when the Raiders call.