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There was a no-hitter, a triple play, and a 21-pitch danged at-bat this week

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Baseball is so much fun. C’mon, bring it in for a hug.

Boston Red Sox v Oakland Athletics Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Happy start-o’-the-week, baseball fans. Checking the schedule, it appears that there are baseball games today. And the day after that. And, wow, this season sure keeps going, doesn’t it? No sport is as delightfully gluttonous as baseball.

Here’s us right now:

And here’s us in October:

And while that looks like an Excuse for a Simpsons Reference, it’s actually just a reminder of how lucky we are that ...

Baseball is good, actually

All of that video features fine, watchable baseball, but I’m just here to talk about the first play, in which Andrelton Simmons does something unearthly again.

Will this be on a top-10 list of Andrelton Simmons highlights by the end of the season? No idea, and that’s exactly why it needs to get called out here. It came in the middle of an otherwise unremarkable game. The Angels lost, and then they lost the next game, too.

But, please, allow me to explain exactly why this play is way more fun than a boring ol’ triple play:

  1. It’s fun because the Angels lost. Not that I had a rooting interest in this particular contest, but games — and seasons — are so long, that if you don’t look for this kind of baseball abalone, you’ll get swallowed up by the sea. There was a young Angels fan who left that game more jazzed about baseball than before because of Simmons’ glove-flipping.
  2. Simmons executes a perfect barrel roll into viewing position. That’s where the true artistry lies. Literally, ha ha, but, no, look at how he rolls into position to watch the completion of the play. Good for him. He deserved to see it.
  3. Eduardo Nuñez ain’t slow, which gives this play the tightness and drama it needed for maximum elegance.
  4. How quickly Ian Kinsler turns that low toss into a perfect turn. Mercy.
  5. That Jim Johnson looks like Kyle Farnsworth now. More relievers need to look like they’ll roundhouse-kick a dragonfly out of the sky for no good reason.
  6. That it was at home against the Red Sox. I don’t know if you know what it’s like when the Red Sox play outside of the East Coast. All of the Boston expats gather one by one and stumble to the stadium like the “Thriller” intro, and they spend the whole game being four times louder than normal opposing fans because they have to make up for the games they’re missing because they’re away from home. These people say things like “fack” when plays like this happen, and it’s a small consolation.
  7. Now that kid is trying to replicate this play at home. Cut it out, kid! It’s 5:30 in the morning!
  8. My favorite part, though, might be that Ian Kinsler didn’t have to pick his own toes out of his teeth. Three years ago, he would have worried about getting obliterated at second base. Now he simply gets to complete a baseball play.

Baseball already has enough cruelty and capriciousness. Kris Bryant was hit in the helmet on Sunday, and it was nauseating. Danny Farquhar is fighting for his life because of an aneurysm, and words can’t describe what his family is going through. Life already has enough cruelty and capriciousness. Why add more when it doesn’t make the sport better? Why not just let the baseball man complete a beautiful baseball play?

Which is what happened. It might not have been the best play of the year. It might not have been one of the ten best plays that Simmons makes this year. But it was still one of the reasons all of us keep coming back. It’s almost unfair that he’s turned into a fantastic hitter, too.


What Shohei Did

Blisters, I will fight you.

The world tuned in to watch Shohei Ohtani face the apparent juggernaut that is the Boston Red Sox, and there was more than a little unstoppable force/immovable object fascination going on. And then blisters ruined everything.

Two innings, four hits, two walks, and one measly strikeout. The home run was given up to Mookie Betts — who, if we’re being honest, could probably learn how to pitch and medal in the biathlon over the winter if the Red Sox let him — and it was a messy, unfortunate start. In his next game, he was 0-for-4.

For the week: one bad start, 3-for-12 without any extra base-hits. Now, the purpose of the Shohei-o-Meter isn’t to wildly flail around and panic every time we need to make an adjustment, but, well, the purpose is not not that.

Shohei-o-Meter: Half-Aaron Sanchez, half-Max Kepler

Oh, he won’t stay there. But it’s probably a good week to breathe into a paper bag and remember that there will be speed bumps in just about any major league career.

Also, it’s pretty remarkable that we can use two Angels players to lead off a weekly baseball column dedicated to how fun the sport is without mentioning Mike Trout. Angels fans are spoiled, and they aren’t apologizing for any of it.


Let us study this baseball thing

Bless the MLB Advanced Media person who uploaded the entire Brandon Belt at-bat, unedited:

If you’re the kind of sicko who will watch a 14-minute video of a hitter making an out, good, great, we’re glad to have you. I absolutely live for drawn-out at-bats like this.

There’s a lot of context to this one, too. You have to realize that a very, VERY vocal minority of Giants fans are eternally disgusted with Brandon Belt. They’re upset that he’s been one of the best first basemen in baseball since he entered the league instead of the best. They’re upset that his career AVG/OBP/SLG numbers look like Anthony Rizzo’s instead of Paul Goldschmidt’s. They’re upset that he doesn’t use his mind to repel baseballs thrown at his head. They’re upset that he doesn’t use the offseason to move the right-center fence at AT&T Park closer to home plate, brick by brick.

Mostly, though, they’re upset that he has a better eye than most umpires and will take the occasional called third strike.

The gap between the perceived problem and reality is so great that John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote an entire article about it. The conclusion? Belt isn’t that unique when it comes to taking third strikes, expanding his zone, or attacking first pitches. He’s the right amount of aggressive and patient. Which is why he’s been productive as long as he stops getting hit in the head with baseballs.

Now that you’re armed with that information, let’s watch a 14-minute out. Jaime Barria was the pitcher, and the first pitch was a fastball that was fouled off. The second pitch was an easy take, high in the zone.

The third pitch of the at-bat was a nasty, tight breaking ball to bring the count to 1-2. The league is hitting .172/.228/.267 after reaching a 1-2 count, striking out nearly half the time. Based on how fooled Belt was on that breaking ball, it was easy to expect a strikeout.

We’re just a minute into the at-bat at this point.

The fourth pitch was a fastball that Belt spoiled.

The fifth pitch was that same breaking ball, and Belt looked desperate to stay alive.

The sixth pitch was a changeup, which was a fine pitch, considering that was the same velocity as the slider, but broke the opposite direction.

The seventh pitch was that slider again, except Belt looked a smidgen better against it, spinning early on it.

The eighth pitch was a jam sandwich, a 92-mph fastball on the hands, and Belt was lucky to make contact and keep his thumbs intact.

The ninth pitch was another easy take on a high fastball. Now the count was 3-2, and the at-bat would certainly reach its logical conclusion soon.

The 10th pitch was a fastball down the middle. Belt had regrets. But he also stayed alive.

Meanwhile, Joe Panik is drawing throws at first base and taking aggressive leads, which could have ruined everything.

The 11th pitch was a breaking ball that was fouled back awkwardly. At this point, announcers Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow are talking about the weather.

The 12th pitch was a low fastball that was spoiled. It would have been ball four, and it’s exactly the pitch his detractors say he takes too often. Those people remain weirdos.

The 13th pitch was a hittable fastball fouled to the left. Panik was running on the pitch because Bruce Bochy has never watched Brandon Belt in his life and thought, “There’s just no way that he’ll strike out and a Gold Glove catcher will complete the double play on a below-average runner trying to steal.” But I digress.

The 14th pitch was a repeat of the last pitch, and everyone started to play attention. The announcers are talking about it. The camera pans across a Giants dugout filled with goofy smiles.

The 15th pitch was another spoiled breaking ball, and the crowd is now actively cheering for foul balls.

The 16th pitch was a line drive with home run distance that was foul by about 15 feet. Before the pitch, Andrelton Simmons was dancing around like a gooney bird.

Was he trying to distract Belt or confuse Panik? Both, probably. And, heck, at this point, throw it all to the wall and see what sticks.

The 17th pitch was another fastball down the middle, which Belt fouled off to as much applause as a visiting player has ever received for a foul ball at Angel Stadium.

The 18th pitch was another fastball, which Belt fouled off, breaking his own record for applause received by a visiting player for a foul ball at Angel Stadium.

Then there was a pickoff attempt because lol.

The 19th pitch was another fastball, which Belt fouled off, breaking his own record for applause received by a visiting player for a foul ball at Angel Stadium.

The 20th pitch was another fastball, which Belt fouled off, breaking his own record for applause received by a visiting player for a foul ball at Angel Stadium. And perhaps the record for applause received by a visiting player hitting a foul ball anywhere.

The 21st pitch was a fly ball to right that was caught for an out. No big deal. Here’s a picture of it that makes it look like my daughter got a hold of it on the iPad.

The visiting fans appreciated Belt for his persistence and patience, whereas beat writers in San Francisco have to remind people that he’s a valuable player, dang it. The Giants dugout giggled and laughed about a routine out, and Barria finished the next inning before being pulled with 77 pitches.

It was the most remarkable out I think I’ve ever seen.

I think the main point of this article is to let you know that you should watch the Angels more often. Maybe we should move on to a new team.


This week in, no, really, it’s good that my hand was hit by a baseball

Anyone who’s been around a four-year-old can respect that defensive position. It’s saved my life. Now it’s saved Tom Hallion’s.


Picture of the week

Boston Red Sox v Oakland Athletics Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Every week, there are pictures of a baseball man being doused in liquid because he helped his baseball team win a baseball game. They’re always pretty cool, considering that hydrodynamics are a freakish science that the future will have to figure out. Which is another way to say that pretty sugar-water rivers look pretty. Because they always do.

This one is special, though, for one very specific reason:

These are A’s colors.

Also, it was in honor of a no-hitter, which is infinitely cooler than a simple walk-off, which is infinitely cooler than just about anything else in baseball. But let’s focus on the A’s colors. There’s a hyperactive yellow, there’s a green, and there’s white. It’s all there, and it’s beautiful, with the coop de gracie being the twin jugs of Gatorade above Manaea’s head like a pair of moose antlers.

This is definitely a celebration of a brand, yes. However, dear gentle reader, is not the celebration of baseball a celebration of a brand? In this very dispatch, I implored you to appreciate Andrelton Simmons. Was that not the celebration of a brand?

So, yeah, gimme that sugar water with the same colors and hues as the baseball team.

Also, goodness, it’s awesome that Sean Manaea threw a no-hitter. I watched the top of the ninth inning on my phone in a fancy restaurant, with people at the next table side-eying me in disgust, and I hope they got home, realized what I was doing, and reflected back on the mistake they made. I was right. They were wrong.

Also also, if you weren’t aware that Dallas Braden looks like a Lord of the Rings extra now, here’s your chance. He’s the guy with the microphone in the left side of the picture, and he definitely plays the flute in a progressive rock band called Chalice.

Also also also, that picture was taken right after a shaving cream pie and right before Manaea was awarded a Dubble Bubble crown. So maybe considering all the action it missed, it wasn’t the picture of the week.

I like the colors of this picture, though, so I’m keeping it. Don’t you get it, people? These are almost A’s colors.


This week in “Aw, raspberries”

aw raspberries

The best part about the most boring triple play you’ll ever watch is the first base coach reappearing into the frame to yell, “JAMES EVAN GATTIS, YOU GET BACK HERE THIS INSTANT.”

Other than that (and Gattis’ aw-raspberries reaction when realizes his screw-up), this might have been the 728th-most interesting triple play of all time. It might be one of the funniest, though.


This week in This Rays Reliever Reminds Me of a Pablo Picasso Painting

Joseph Garnett Jr./Getty Images
Pablo Danged Picasso

There are some of these categories that I’ll use every week (“Baseball is good, actually”) and some that will be used once and get dusty while I wait for another reason to use it (“This week in guy looking like he swallowed a gnat”).

This is one of the former. I will absolutely compare a Rays player with a Picasso painting in every one of these Monday articles for the next seven years. Come back next week to see which Picasso I choose. There’s no way this will be an isolated incident

I was going to make a joke about the Rays experimenting with cubist relievers, but I knew I’d screw it up somehow, so I looked the painting up on Wikipedia. Apparently that painting, Le Rêve, is owned by Steve Wynn, a human Chia Pet whose seeds were germinated by urine and shame. But after Wynn had agreed to sell it for $139 million, he gesticulated wildly and put his elbow through the painting, as Barbara Walters and Nora Ephron watched in horror.

As one does.

So Wynn restored the painting and kept it, ostensibly in his goblin lair, where it probably still resides. It’s still worth millions and millions of dollars, as is Wynn, which is a reminder that this is a cruel, cruel world.

Will the same thing to a museum-quality print of Jose Alvarado? Will an obscenely rich pig-person own a priceless example of Alvarado’s beauty and genius, only to ruin it in a hilariously buffoonish way?

Only time ......................................... will tell.

(But probably.)


This week in McGwire and Sosa

McGwire
20 AB this week
78 AB for the season

2 HR this week
10 for the season

.200/.304/.600 this week
.321/.476/.782 for the season

Sosa
22 AB this week
96 AB for the season

2 HR this week
5 for the season,

.409/.500/.773 this week
.311/.363/.473 for the season

At this point in the 1998 season, McGwire is pulling redwoods from the earth and picking his teeth, and Sosa was still just a guy. A guy on his way to a very nice season, but still very much just a guy. He had the same OPS after three weeks of play as Francisco Cervelli does this year.

Will Cervelli hit 66 home runs this year?

Only time ................................................................................................................................................................................................. will tell.

(But probably.)


Spoonerism of the week

While it’s delightful to travel back to the turn of the 20th century and have fun with the spoonerisms from players named Hork or Doc or Bart, there’s no connection, there. I never saw Sig Bpoon play, so it mutes the impact of his spoonerism. Or it would have, had he been a real person.

So give me the players I’ve watched play. Give me the spoonerisms I can relate to. Give me ...

If there isn’t an Urban Dictionary entry for “Crank Fatalanotto” right now, there will be before the end of the day. And you shouldn’t open it around your parents. Please, they’ve been through enough already. They don’t need to know what sort of sex or drugs you’re referring to.

Unless Crank Fatalanotto makes his living by jumping motorcycles over 36 flaming buses.

There are options here, but if you do anything today, make sure that you say “Crank Fatalanotto” about 800 times. It’s what I’ve done. And I recommend it.