Ken Griffey Jr. picked the wrong night to retire. On any other night, his retirement would be a huge story, but it got overshadowed by the drama in Detroit. Give Jim Joyce credit, however–he handled himself gracefully, admitted that he messed up when he saw the replay, and didn’t throw anyone out of the game (I was really thinking that Miguel Cabrera was going to get ejected after the botched play with the way he was jawing at Joyce.) Credit Armando Galarraga as well–he didn’t get angry once, even though he had a perfect game stolen from him. It’s unfortunate what happened, but it’s also a shining example of good sportsmanship on all fronts. Joyce is behind the plate for this afternoon’s Tigers-Indians game, although he was offered the chance to take the game off, and Galarraga came out to give him the lineup card. Wouldn’t you know it, the first out of the game was a close play at first.
Also, about that close play…my first instinct, even before seeing the safe call, was “oh no, I think he (Galarraga) missed the bag!” They’re considering overturning the call and awarding him the perfect game, but I can’t help but wonder if, failing an intervention by Commissioner Selig, the official scorer might not be willing to reclassify the play as an E-1, resulting in a non-perfect no-hitter. I really think it would be justifiable.
On a more positive (?) note, Joycegate or Perfectgate or whatever they’re going to call this may be the impetus needed to get the use of instant replay in Major League Baseball expanded. This morning on SportsCenter, a call for this was made by someone who knows from bad calls first-hand–Don Denkinger, the infamous first-base umpire in Game 6 of the 1985 World Series, whose blown call leading off the bottom of the ninth sparked a two-run rally as the Royals came back to win the game and the Series in 7 games. Joyce, who has been umpiring since 1989 and was named the second-best umpire in MLB in Sports Illustrated polls in 2003 and 2006, worked with Denkinger. Joyce was…well, his postgame speech was as profane as an Ozzie Guillen tirade, but it was all self-loathing, and he admitted his mistake. He knew as soon as he saw the replay that he blew it. Finally, when he went to apologize to Galarraga personally, Galarraga replied, without a hint of irony, “Nobody’s perfect.” That was perfect.
UPDATE: WABC’s Warner Wolf brought up another point regarding the play. Umpires are trained to watch for the foot and listen for the ball. In addition to the overwhelming crowd noise at what appeared to be the 27th out of a perfect game, Galarraga snowconed it. If Joyce was doing his job right, he’d have never actually seen the glove–and thus, would have had reason to believe that Donald beat the ball, especially since Galarraga supposedly adjusted the ball after making the play. If Joyce looked up and saw Galarraga adjust the ball and mistook it for the ball just arriving, it’s only natural that he’d make the wrong call. This is why instant replay is needed.
Even with two perfect games in the same calendar month, I never thought I’d get to see the record for least time between perfect games–5 days, between the first and second, back in 1880–broken. And so far, I haven’t. But I should have.
At first, I thought Armando Galarraga missed the bag, but upon seeing the replays, I’m pretty sure he got there, and did so before Jason Donald did. One out away, one measly out…it’s only been four days since Halladay’s perfect game. It would’ve been a new record… Not to mention, three perfect games in one season. Another new record. Damnit…
Okay, let’s just put it out there: There was another perfect game on Saturday. That’s two in the same month–again, hasn’t happened since 1880–and three within a one-year span, which is unprecedented. Is 2010 going to be the next 1968?
So, about the pitcher who threw the perfect game: Roy Halladay. Not exactly a nobody. Anyway, Halladay’s Phillies were supposed to have a series at Toronto this year–Halladay’s old team. They’ll still be playing, but…the series has been moved to Philly due to the G20 Summit taking place in Toronto that weekend, not too far from the Rogers Centre. Only it’s still going to count as Toronto home games, with the Jays batting in the bottom of the innings and the DH will be used. That’s great and all, but…it’s still Philadelphia. You can call whoever you want the home team, but the fans are still going to be pro-Phillies, essentially giving them 84 home dates. That’s an unfair advantage, regardless of how you slice it. It’s not as severe as it would be in the NFL (where the brevity of the season magnifies every game) or the NBA (where it has been proven that home court is a larger advantage than in other sports), but every game counts in the end. Also, that means three extra chances to sell merchandise, concessions, etcetera. (By the way, that’s a nice ballpark they have there. I went to the first game of the Boston-Philly series, a 5-1 Philadelphia win. It was my second game of the week–I also attended the Yankee-Red Sox game the previous Tuesday. It was a miserable night, and with the prospect of an upcoming game at Citizens Bank Ballpark with “Hall of Fame Club” seats and my stomach starting to hurt, sticking around New Yankee Stadium on a cold, wet night while the Red Sox were being trampled was not so appealing,and we left in the bottom of the fifth inning, getting to our car right as Beckett was leaving with the injury. Wouldn’t you know it, they came back to win that one.)
And amidst the perfect game, Saturday was also a day for…injuries. Rough day at the Stadium, where Indians starter David Huff took a line drive to the head and a Yankee reliever also left with an injury, and both bullpens collapsed in a game that ended 13-11 Tribe, each team with an inning of at least 6 runs, but that was nothing compared to the carnage in Anaheim. Torii Hunter left the game after taking a pitch to the hand, and Kendry Morales broke his leg celebrating a walkoff grand slam in the Angels’ 5-1 10-inning victory over Seattle. Yes, celebrating. Jumped on home plate to end his trot and, well…yeah, let’s just forget this ever happened. I know the Angels are wishing they could…
Even when the races are dull, they’re interesting. This year marks the third straight year that a one-game playoff will be required after 7 straight years without one. While the first half of the decade had a few tight races as well–the 2003 NL wild card was a multi-team scrum, IIRC, that the eventual World Champion Marlins were considered a long shot to come out of on top, and if I remember correctly, the Cubs, who ended up winning their division, were leading that race for much of the final weeks; no division in the NL was won by more than 2 games in 2001, with the wild card having the same record as their division’s champion–but the second half of the decade has produced some real memorable ones. There’s 2005, where with three days remaining, the White Sox clinched their division in the strangest way possible, holding a 3-game lead over Cleveland, who they were to play in the final three, while Cleveland was merely tied for the wild card lead; the White Sox were assured a playoff spot because the team Cleveland was tied with, Boston, was also playing their division leader, the Yankees, and were only one game back, so were they to sweep, they’d be outright division champions and Chicago and Cleveland would still both be in the playoffs were Cleveland to sweep. The NL wild card also came down to the final day that year. Then there was 2006, and the Twins’ unlikely division championship. Prior to the final weekend of the season, the Twins had led the division for all of about maybe six hours, when Detroit lost a day game to drop into a virtual tie, percentage points behind; Minnesota lost that night. By the time the Twins tied it up with three days remaining, both teams had already clinched playoff spots, so the Twins, lacking the tiebreaker, still weren’t really in first place. Minnesota lost the first two and won the third; Detroit got swept in rather painstaking fashion, by the last-place Royals, who incidentally lost the #1 pick in the draft as a result, finishing 1 game better than the Devil Rays. Over on the National League side, 2006 was the year of Houston’s mad dash that came up short. With 12 days remaining, the Cardinals seemed to have the NL Central locked up, holding a 7 game lead over second place Cincinnati. They then went on a 7-game losing streak that included a sweep at the hands of the Astros, and so 9 days later, the Reds were still in it, 2.5 back, but now in third place, with the Astros a mere half game behind the Cardinals. Had that run been completed, all of this other “history-making”, with the Mets-Phillies in ’07 and Twins-Tigers this year, would have been moot–8.5 games in 12 days. Alas, it was not meant to be. (Another division was decided by a tiebreaker that year, the Padres over the wild-card Dodgers). 2007, of course, saw the Mets cough up the NL East and the Rockies win 13 of 14 to force a one-game tiebreaker for the wild-card, but what was forgotten in all of that was that had the Rockies won the one game they lost in that span, there would still have been a tiebreaker–between the Diamondbacks, the team that beat them and that won the division, and the Padres. The race was that close. Compared to all of that, the past two years have been relatively mundane. Hell, this year, almost every race was decided with nearly a week to spare–and yet, we still have a one-game playoff.
The title, by the way, was Detroit manager Jim Leyland’s response when asked if he was concerned about Rick Porcello starting such an important game at such a young age.
We’re coming into the final stages. The Yankees are on the edge of locking up a playoff spot, which could happen as early as today should they win and the Rangers lose. Also almost ready: the first “partial position lock”, a condition where a team cannot catch the team immediately in front of them in the division standings. A full position lock, of course, is when a team knows exactly where they will place in the division. Wait…actually, there’s already been a partial position lock, over in the NL East, between the third-place Braves and the fourth-place Mets. That appears to have happened…after the Mets lost to the Braves on Thursday, actually, which was the Mets’ 84th loss, while the Marlins and Braves both had 78 wins and the season series against the Mets already in hand. There is a possible full position lock today (two, actually)–if the Mets beat the Nats, it will lock the Nats into 5th place and the Mets into 4th. Other potential partial position locks: A Giants win or a Padres loss will drive a lock between them (SF wins + SD losses currently totals 162, but the Padres lead the season series 9-6), and, amazingly, a Red Sox win and a Rays loss knocks the Rays out of the wild card race and guarantees the Red Sox at least second place in the AL East. (Chicago can’t lock up third or better yet, even with a win and a Cleveland loss, because their lead in the season series is only 8-7.)
At the beginning of the month, the Tigers looked like a hot team, someone you wouldn’t want to face in the playoffs. Now? They’re looking like they might not even make it! It’s starting to look like it will be 2004 redux in the American League–Yankees over Twins, Red Sox over Angels, Red Sox over Yankees. (I may be a tad biased on that ALCS prediction, but the Red Sox do hold the advantage in the season series, 9-6.) The Tigers have gone ice cold and are just 2 games ahead of the Twins. It looks like an interesting postseason is coming up.
Perhaps the most fun part of tracking the mathematical eliminations (Baltimore was the first, by the way, ahead of Washington by a few hours) is the little weird things, like when a team goes nearly a week on the brink of elimination without falling off. Last year, it was Washington that pulled one of those weird runs, going on an inexplicable 7-game winning streak while the Mets and Phillies (who were close enough to one another that either one probably could’ve provided the finishing blow) seemed unable to win on the same night. (Okay, I think they played each other for part of that stretch). This year, it was the Royals. They entered Tuesday night’s games with 85 losses and the number of head-to-head games between the Tigers, White Sox and Twins ensuring that at least one would reach 77 wins, leaving them with an elimination number of 1–one loss or a total of three wins against outside competition by the top 3 would knock them out.
They lasted four days on the brink, sweeping Detroit in a three-game series while the White Sox and Twins could only manage to go 2-4, then winning again on Friday while the top three went 0-3. As a result, they only managed to last one day less than the Tampa Bay Rays, who were still considered somewhat of a playoff contender as of a week ago. Yes, that’s right: the Rays’ two losses today, combined with the Yankees avoiding the sweep by Baltimore, means they will officially not repeat as AL East champions–and that they were outlasted by such titans as the Cleveland Indians (61-81) and, at least by a few hours, the New York Mets (63-80). It might just be only another hour or so before the Mets hit the deck for good–Colorado’s already got 82 wins, and if Philly wins the ongoing game, it will be their 82nd win combined with the Mets’ 81st loss, so that’s a simultaneous elimination. Of Sports Illustrated‘s preseason pick for World Champions. While 24 teams would still have at least one avenue open to them.
Let that sink in. One of the most respected sports magazines in the country went with a team that may end up as just the sixth team to be eliminated from the playoffs completely (Washington, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Kansas City and Arizona were the first five, more or less in that order; Tampa Bay, Toronto, Oakland, Cincinnati, and San Diego are down to only the wild card as an option, while Cleveland only has the division.)
Yes, this game is nuts. But not as nuts as picking the Mets to win the World Series.
Interesting week in baseball; I think the “three-ring circus” metaphor applies. The third ring: Mark Buehrle. Coming off of a perfect game (and 28 consecutive batters retired dating back to the final one of his previous start), Buehrle retired the first 17 batters he faced to break the record of 41 straight shared by former San Francisco Giant Jim Barr and current Buehrle teammate Bobby Jenks before giving up a two-out walk. One batter later, he lost the no-hitter, and one batter after that, he lost the shutout and the Sox’ recently-earned 1-0 lead. He then proceeded to retire only one of the five batters he faced in the seventh inning and got charged with 5 runs, the last scoring as an inherited runner after he’d been relieved, and the loss. When it’s over, it’s really over. The second ring: trades. The Pirates continue to sell, sending Jack Wilson and Ian Snell to the Mariners for Ronny Cedeno, Jeff Clement, and three minor leaguers, then swapping Freddy Sanchez straight-up for a minor leaguer from the Giants, and finally shipping John Grabow and Tom Gorzelanny to the Cubs for three minor leaguers. Weirdest of all, they sent a Double-A pitcher to Toronto for future considerations. The Mariners, however, are not quite so sure they are buyers, sending Jarrod Washburn to Detroit for
two minor league pitchers a minor leaguer and a rookie pitcher–but then again, Washburn’s trade value is at its peak, as he’s having a career year. The Dodgers acquire George Sherrill from the O’s for two minor leaguers and send Claudio Vargas to the Brewers for one minor leaguer, while Oakland also continues to sell, sending Orlando Cabrera to the Twins for a minor leaguer. The big deal, of course, is Cliff Lee being sent to the Phillies along with Ben Francisco in exchange for four minor leaguers. And the center ring: PEDs. Two more of the 104 names from 2003 leak out–then-teammates Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz. Papi releases a statement that he was “blindsided” and that he’ll find out what it is he’s been accused of taking, and when he does, he’ll share it with the team and the public, saying he wants to be open and not make excuses. Um…right. Sounds kind of like an excuse to me. Other members of the 2003 Red Sox weighed in as well. Nomar Garciaparra, in Boston as a member of the visiting A’s, dropped the bombshell that because players were led to believe there would be no names attached to the tests, only numbers, some players opted to not take the test and just be put down as positive so as to drive up the number towards the mandatory 5% because they wanted testing. Excuse me for a moment, news just broke that Victor Martinez has been traded to the Boston Red Sox for Justin Masterson and two Single-A pitchers. Back to the PED issue, Garciaparra also said that one team, the Chicago White Sox, he thinks there were like 7 or 8 guys who did that. Meanwhile, completely unprompted, Bronson Arroyo said he “wouldn’t be surprised” if he was one of the 104, saying that he took the steroid precursor androstenedione (which wasn’t banned at the time) but stopped after he’d heard rumors that due to lax production standards, some of it might be laced with steroids, as well as taking amphetamines, which were not banned until 2006. This is what is generally known as “damage control”–preemptive action in case something unsavory comes out. Arroyo spent most of the 2003 season with the Red Sox’ Triple-A affiliate in Pawtucket (where he pitched a perfect game) rather than with the major league club, so this all definitely seems suspect, and introducing the idea of the then-legal andro that may have been tainted, well, it’s creating an excuse before there’s even anything to be making an excuse for! And yet, it’s still the first time I can remember a player admitting using anything without being prompted by a news story about their drug use breaking since Jose Canseco himself. Speaking of Canseco, he now says that a member of the Hall of Fame used, but refuses to say who it is. Trying to drum up publicity for a third book, perhaps?
Update: Red Sox making trade moves again! I had a feeling when the Red Sox got Adam LaRoche that he might not be staying in Boston long, and sure enough, rumor has it that he’ll be heading back to his former team, the Atlanta Braves, straight-up for Casey Kotchman.
Another Update: Scott Rolen from Blue Jays to Reds; no details yet. Wait, first detail is that Rolen has to waive a no-trade clause in order to make it happen.
Next update: Joe Beimel from Nats to Rockies for two minor leaguers; Jerry Hairston Jr. from Reds to Yankees for a minor leaguer. Also missed from previous days: Josh Anderson from Tigers to Royals for cash; Brian Anderson for Mark Kotsay straight-up; Ryan Garko from Indians to Giants for a minor leaguer.
Post-deadline news break number 1: Nick Johnson goes from Washington to Florida for a minor-league LHP.
Post-deadline news break number 2: Jake Peavy will be going to the White Sox, after all. Chicago tried to make this deal before and failed to convince Peavy to waive his no-trade clause, but this time, he apparently decided to relent. Clayton Richard, who was supposed to start for the White Sox tonight, was among the group that Chicago sent to San Diego, along with three minor leaguers, two of which have major league experience. Also, details are coming in on the Rolen deal, and Edwin Encarnacion is among the players Toronto will receive in return. Sounds like the trades have returned to the center ring, after all, even with Halladay still a Blue Jay.