It’s that time of the week where we meet and talk about various baseball things. Last week at this time, the Indians hadn’t yet run away with the American League Central, and the Mets were on a teensy little winning streak. Right now ... neither of those things are true. A lot can change in a week.
For example, Mike Trout hit just .278 without an extra-base hit last week. Has the league finally figured him out? Tune into this column every week for updates.
Also, don’t forget that you can tune in every week for reminders that ...
Baseball is good, actually
This isn’t an ultra-remarkable catch. It’s a fine catch, to be sure, but it’s not something you’ll see on a “Top 100 baseball catches (please subscribe!)” video on YouTube. It’s just a splendid catch (click here to view if you’re reading on Apple News).
It is the 34-year-old-with-roughly-average-defensive-statistics of diving catches, which makes it a perfect fit for Nick Markakis. But this catch also helps explain one of the greatest things about baseball: that this kind of defensive play can end a game.
Consider the game situation. It was a 4-1 Braves lead with two outs in the ninth. There were two runners in scoring position. If Markakis clanks the catch, two runs score. If it deflects off his mitt and into the corner, there is no one other than Markakis picking up that ball, which means it’s possible that Franmil Reyes has a chance at an inside-the-park homer. At the very least, it’s 4-3, and the Braves still have a chance to screw it all up.
Instead, the game is over. Poof. Crisis averted on a great play.
There’s no analog in the other North American sports. In basketball, a trailing team doesn’t get to keep bombing shots just because a defender screwed up on a single play. There’s no play in hockey where a single split-second play can wipe out what could have been a sustained, lengthy comeback effort.
Fine, football comes close in a scenario where the trailing team is driving and throw an interception in the final seconds of the game. The sense of immediate closure is probably just as thrilling.
Still, if I can slip into a George Will bowtie for a second, there’s something about the absence of a clock that makes Markakis’ catch that much more satisfying. In football, you know there’s going to be resolution in (x) number of minutes, one way or the other, so while the interception might keep you from biting your nails, it’s only in a rare situation where it will save you a whole bunch of time.
In baseball, the stakes are higher. If Markakis borks the dive, there could be an extra three hours of dumb baseball. It could screw up the entire bullpen for a week, even if they end up winning anyway. There was so much hinging on that dive, just like there is on every game-ending play in a close game that has an above-average degree of difficulty.
Baseball is good because of plays like this, which, uh, guarantee that you won’t have to watch more baseball.
More than that, though, it’s that before the play, there is a huge mathematical set of all the possibilities. Ten unanswered runs, a streaker on the field, a comebacker up the box that knows a pitcher out for the year ... let your imagination run wild.
After the play, there is only the victory.
I promise, there’s a section with the Phillie Phanatic almost shooting a lady’s eye out with a hot-dog gun later in the column. The serious stuff is mostly over.
Let us study this baseball thing
Again, if you’re reading on Apple News, you can click here to watch the video.
Whereas the last section also highlighted a fine play to end a game, and that seems superficially similar on the surface, this one also contained a catcher almost murdering his pitcher. Which seems noteworthy.
I can’t stop watching the video. The progression goes something like ...
- Pitcher gets mad at himself for missing his target
- Pitcher gets lost in his rage for a split-second
- Pitcher almost dies
Maybe that last one is hyperbolic, but I’m not so sure.
It was face-high, and we know that catchers often throw in the mid-80s or even low-90s. It definitely could have ended a career.
Mostly, I’m just amazed this doesn’t happen more often. We take ducking pitchers for granted, in part because we’ve completely forgotten about them. The pitcher means as much as the right fielder or third-base umpire on an attempted steal, so we don’t notice that they’ve shrunk down and become a human rosin bag.
Until one of them doesn’t do that.
The best part? That was Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s first game as a catcher in the majors, and it was the first time he cut down a would-be base stealer. He thinks this happens all the time.
There’s no way to run a Play-Index search for this, but I’m going to guess that it’s at least possible that Yadier Molina has never threatened his pitcher’s life in 1,762 games behind the plate. Here, Kiner-Falefa does it in the ninth inning of the first game he’s ever caught.
Baseball is hilarious, actually.
Can someone check on Jake?
What Shohei Did/Excuse For a Simpsons Reference
What did Shohei Ohtani do? Boy, what didn’t he do? He’s not just playing FIFA ‘19 until his thumbs are sore, like me. No, he’s out there hustling.
So there’s that. Which is really exciting in its own way. All that’s left is the waiting game.
We should have an update about Othani’s update soon, everyone.
A Grown Man Bought This Baseball Card on Purpose
Because not only is his name a complete sentence, but it looks like the logo is hiding the evidence.
I spent $10 on an entire team set just for this card.
I’ll be upset when my wife leaves me, but don’t worry too much. I’ll have this card, after all.
the “Buck” in Buck Showalter came from Fort Lauderdale Yankees manager Ed Napoleon because of his tendency to sit around the clubhouse “buck naked.”
Baseball picture of the week
We like the silly pictures around here, but we also love the pictures that highlight a player’s unreal athleticism. You can usually count on one of those two genres.
Here’s a new one, though. This is an extremely literal piece of art. I call it “The Punch Out,” and even though I didn’t take the picture, I have the right to title it because there is no other possible title. Sorry, that title is official, and I want this picture hanging on my wall.
Unless I want to commission a painting of this.
Someone get Roy on the phone. I have $232 in my bank account and an open spot on my wall. Let’s make this happen.
When you know it’s way past your bedtime, but you’re a shrewd negotiator and decide to ask for one final concession
We are pleased to announce that former Royals manager Trey Hillman has a MAJESTIC mullet now
Trey Hillman? I know that dude. I might as well click on the v
WHERE YOU LEAD, I WILL FOLLOW.
I’m running out of words, so my only request is that you open this important link in a new tab then come back.
Hillman is something of a cult hero in Korea, it would seem. This burger looks legitimate:
But that caricature does not have a mullet. This is a new development, it would seem.
A new, entirely welcome development.
Rate this retro uniform
It was probably a C- just a few years ago, but the ‘90s keep moving further and further away, don’t they? The more time that passes, the more likely we are to appreciate these stupid uniforms. I call this the Greater Astros Theory.
I have my limits, though. There is no amount of nostalgia that’s going to make that much black go with that much yellow. Not without a pair of Kent Tekulve glasses.
Yeah, these are rad. These are home run-record-setting uniforms, and they’ve aged surprisingly well. It’s hard to nail a red-white-and-blue uniform without looking like you’re trying too hard, but these nail it.
It probably says something that I can’t even picture the current Braves uniforms in my mind’s eye right now. If they wanted to make the transition permanently, I’ll sign whatever petition you put in front of me.
Chyron/picture combination of the
It’s funny even before you know the Phillie Phanatic and a hot-dog gun were involved. But what I want you to do at this point is look at the bruise and think about just how fast that hot dog was going. There couldn’t have been any arc on that wiener. The Phanatic locked, loaded, and aimed that wiener bazooka waaaaay too low.
Did he think, “Wait, wait, wait, nooooooo” as he fired?
Has he lowered his cannon like this before and just gotten lucky?
Or does every hot dog shot out of that cannon have 108-mph exit velocity with a 23º exit velocity, and there will be more incidents?
Questions, questions, questions. There’s almost certainly no video of this moment, or we would have seen it by now. We’ll have to update our rankings.
BASEBALL VIDEOS THAT ABSOLUTELY SHOULD EXIST, RANKED
- Dock Ellis’ entire no-hitter
- The Phillie Phanatic causing a danged hematoma with a hot-dog gun
- Babe Ruth calling his shot or whatever
Still, Mrs. McVay kept her sense of humor about this, and for that we salute her.
“It gives people a good laugh, and if that makes somebody chuckle, then that’s fine,” she said.
Ha ha, and I thought that wearing Armour was supposed to make you safer. Am I right about that, or am I right about that? Anyway, let’s see what else is in the news today.
This week in McGwire/Sosa
253 AB for the season
36 HR for the season
.308/.357/.654 this week
.312/.478/.783 for the season
31 AB this week
314 AB for the season
2 HR this week
32 HR for the season
.226/.226/.452 this week
.328/.387/.672 for the season
Here is where the baseball cynic/stat nerd in me wanted to check out with Sosa, if I’m remembering correctly. His low-OBP, high-SLG line for the week was much more expected than his season to date, and I probably yelled “sample size” over and over again and missed a whole bunch of cool stuff.
Don’t do that if you get another chance.
Mostly, let’s use this weekly update to remind ourselves of just how bonkers it would be to have two hitters over 30 homers at this point in the season.
Imagine Jose Ramirez with 12 more home runs. It’s hard to put into words what it’s like to watch a hitter on a 50-homer pace. There’s a sense of expectation every time he comes to the plate, and you feel validated an awful lot.
This is like that, just more so.
Spoonerism of the week
I’m sorry. I don’t have a spoonerism this week. I have nothing for you.
Nothing except for one of the greatest onomastic discoveries of our time.
I have a spreadsheet of every player in baseball history that I pilfered from Diane over at Value Over Replacement Grit years ago, and the names happen to be listed alphabetically by first name. This seemed like an unremarkable feature of the spreadsheet.
Then I got to Simon Pond. There’s nothing important about Mr. Pond, other than his role as a gatekeeper. Here is the full list of names between Pond and Sol Carter.
Sixto Lezcano Skeeter Barnes Skeeter Kell Skeeter Newsome Skeeter Scalzi Skeeter Shelton Skeeter Webb Skel Roach Ski Melillo Skinny Graham Skinny O’Neal Skip Dowd Skip Guinn Skip James Skip Jutze Skip Lockwood Skip Pitlock Skip Schumaker Skipper Friday Skipper Roberts Skippy Roberge Skyrocket Smith Slats Jordan Sled Allen Sleeper Sullivan Slick Castleman Slick Coffman Slicker Parks Slim Embrey Slim Emmerich Slim Harrell Slim Harriss Slim Love Slim McGrew Slim Sallee Sloppy Thurston Slow Joe Doyle Smead Jolley Smoky Burgess Snake Deal Snake Henry Snake Wiltse Snapper Kennedy Snipe Conley Snipe Hansen Snooks Dowd Snuffy Stirnweiss So Taguchi Socks Seibold Socks Seybold
Your eyes dart back and forth, finding a new revelation every second. Slow Joe Doyle? Snapper Kennedy? Sled Allen? Skipper Friday? Sure, I already knew about Skip Pitlock, but what about Slats Jordan? Or Skeeter Scalzi?
There were two different Sockses Sei(y)bold, and they’re either hanging out on a beach in heaven together right now, or they’re in decade eight of an ethereal sky war that we can feel but not see.
This brings us to an irrefutable truism about first names, and we must share this knowledge with future generations.
There ain’t a lot of normal names that start with Sk, Sl, Sm, Sn, or Sp.
There’s no Speter, no Slolomon. If your name is in the card catalog under SK-SP, guess what? Your name is probably awesome.
So I’m going to pass on the spoonerisms this week. The real names are just too beautiful.
- Thoppy Slurston
- Lip Skockwood
- Sheeter Skelton
- Picker Slarks
- Fipper Skiday)
Enjoy your week, and I’ll see you next Skipper Tuesday. I’ll be gone Skipper Friday, Skipper Saturday, and Skipper Sunday, so I’ll need Skipper Monday to work on this next week. Thanks for understanding.