Earlier this season, in preparation for a trip to Tampa, I wrote an entry called “Ten Things I Hate About the Tampa Bay Rays”. And yet, a week or so ago, I realized–I just can’t hate these guys. Maybe it’s because we were catching them, and they were in a down stretch, but I just couldn’t get up the venom for them. Still can’t, even though they did their typical late-inning comeback thing again. Well, “comeback” might not be a great word, since it was a 2-1 game and the tying run came just one inning after the Sox took the 1-0 lead. Still another walkoff win. If they keep this up, the term “Metrodome special” will be replaced with “(insert name of Rays’ new stadium) special” when the Metrodome closes down. If things go south with the Red Sox, I think I will be rooting for the Rays, after all. Besides, how can you hate a team whose manager gets a mohawk as a sign of unity with his players? Joe Maddon is an interesting character, to say the least, but we’ve known that since we saw the shift he employed against Big Papi. Papi memorably responded to the exaggerated shift with a bunt base hit down the third base line. The funny thing is, if Papi had any speed to speak of, he’d be able to get a double by bunting on that shift. That’s how ridiculous the shift is.
Which two likely future Hall of Famers made their major league debuts
in the same game? The date was April 3, 1989 (literally a
lifetime ago for me, give or take a few days), and the Seattle Mariners
were starting their season off in Oakland. The visiting M’s had a pair
of rookies in the lineup that day: Ken Griffey Jr., slugger supreme, in
centerfield. and defensive whiz (and a fairly good singles hitter to
boot) Omar Vizquel at shortstop. Griffey hit his 600th career home run
in the first inning of yesterday’s 9-4 win over the Marlins, a game in
which the Reds had a homer in each of the first three innings. Paul
Bako, who homered in the second, added a second home run in the ninth.
He wasn’t the only player with two home runs on the day, as Evan
Longoria of the Tampa Bay Rays punctuated his return to Southern
California with a pair of jacks against the team he grew up rooting
California Anaheim Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Griffey became just the sixth player in major league history to hit 600
home runs. The one hit also temporarily broke a tie with the
aforementioned Vizquel for 68th on the all-time hits list. Like I said,
both of them are pretty good hitters. Did you know that Vizquel at one
point looked like he could tie the single-game hits record? August 31, 2004,
when the Indians visited the Yankees. As the visiting Tribe pounded the
host Yankees, Vizquel already had two singles, a double, three RBIs,
and two runs scored by the end of the third inning, and would add
another run scored and RBI as he started off the game 6-for-6, four
singles and two doubles. However, he flied out in the ninth inning, his
seventh at-bat, and had to settle for a 6-for-7–one hit shy of the
record for a nine-inning game.
(Cue up music: “Walk Like an Egyptian”) You know that a bad pun is coming, right? Yes, Miguel Cairo–incidentally,
the Yankees’ second baseman for all nine innings of that game mentioned
earlier–had the first bases-loaded extra-inning suicide squeeze by a
visiting player since 1976, providing the winning run in the tenth
inning for the Mariners at the Rogers Centre. (Statistics courtesy of
XM’s “Baseball This Morning”) Extra-inning bases-loaded squeeze plays
are rare in any event–when Melvin Mora sealed the Red Sox’ AL East
championship with a two-out 10th-inning bases-loaded bunt base hit to
beat the Yankees following a ninth-inning that saw the Yanks blow a
three-run lead when Mariano Rivera gave up a two-out, bases-loaded
triple to Jay Payton, on September 28th of last season, it was the first extra-innings bases-loaded bunt
in three years–but with the uncertainty that being a visiting team in
extra innings can produce, it’s even rarer for a visitor to squeeze.
An addition, courtesy of an article on ESPN.com about why “home field advantage” appears to be at an all-time high:
“I have always thought,” said White Sox GM Kenny Williams, “that
outside of Boston, New York and Minnesota — yes, Minnesota, due to the
House of Horror Dome — there are no great advantages for home teams in
Yes, “House of Horror Dome” is inside the quotation marks. Have the
White Sox ever been this entertaining? And so far, it’s just been
manager Ozzie Guillen and GM Kenny Williams. Imagine how much fun
they’ll be if A.J. Pierzynski makes a return to form.