September 17, 2012
Niese, Aoki, and the Bizarro Staring Contest
Okay, here’s one for the comedy department. On Friday night, for reasons that remain unclear, I found myself watching a bit of the Mets’ 7-3 win over the Brewers. I was flipping back and forth, only half paying attention. Then, in the bottom of the second, with one out and men at first and third, Norichika Aoki and Jon Niese revealed they were paying about as much attention as I was:
Aoki took the first pitch for a strike, then looked down at his third base coach without so much as a foot out of the batter’s box. Not to be outdone, Niese didn’t notice that the batter wasn’t ready to hit—quite an accomplishment, in this case, since Aoki is about seven inches shorter after he enters his crouch. But Niese, likely out of habit with a man at first, was staring the baserunner down like he was Carl Lewis, violating the cardinal pitching rule of paying more attention to a baserunner than the man at the plate. Instead of reading the hitter and pouring a four-seamer over the plate for an easy strike, Niese ran a cutter off the plate outside.
So, with the Brewers’ excellent team speed, which of their stolen base threats was holding Niese’s attention? Well, that’s the coup de grâce: it was the pitcher, Mike Fiers, who runs like a wounded giraffe. Niese had just allowed an RBI single to Fiers and may have been steaming a bit, but he didn’t adjust to the situation, and he lost a strike. Despite Aoki’s best efforts, of course.