Despite the obvious strategic benefits, teams never tactically surrender. Why that should give you faith in the game.
The first season of the Toronto Blue Jays’ existence was 1977. It didn’t go particularly well, as is true of most first seasons, and they began play on September 15 with a 48–96 record. Baltimore was their opponent that evening, owners of an 87–58 record, second-best in the American League. The Orioles had won seven straight games and 15 of their previous 18, and were looking to narrow the gap between themselves and New York in the pennant race and leave Canada with a four-game sweep of the Blue Jays behind them.
By the third inning of that night’s game, a steady drizzle had begun to fall over Exhibition Stadium. The temperature that day was in the 50s, so drizzle probably wasn’t the end of the world, but Exhibition was not a pleasant place to play. Originally built for football, the Blue Jays would spend their first 12 years in the park as it became renowned for dismal seating, bad weather, and seagulls. On this day, however, Exhibition’s important feature was its on-field bullpens, squeezed tightly into the sparse foul territory of the oddly shaped stadium’s outfield.
As the rain continued, the grounds crew placed tarps over the bullpen mounds, and weighed them down with bricks. Presumably, this had happened before, but perhaps never against the Orioles, and more importantly, never against Earl Weaver. The famously combative Hall of Famer was in the 10th year of his hugely successful tenure as manager of the Orioles, and he protested the deployment of the tarps vociferously, citing the risk of slipping and injury to his players. Crew chief Marty Springstead ordered the removal of the bricks, but wouldn’t order the tarps removed or declare them out of play, as Weaver wanted. In response, the Baltimore manager removed his players from the field, and refused to have them return while the tarps remained. As a result, midway through the fifth inning, with the Blue Jays leading 4–0, Weaver’s Orioles performed the first, last, and, to date, only voluntary forfeit since integration.
Examining players who might pique your interest in deeper formats.
The Deep League Report featured a lot of big names over the last two weeks as high-end players switched leagues at the trade deadline. This week’s edition is a return to normal: minor leaguers who didn’t make any prospect lists prior to their promotions, middle relievers, and back-end starters. Let’s dive in.
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How many future MLBers would you guess are in a short-season series?
Inspired by a couple of Tucker Blair’s posts last year, I decided to try my hand at scouting a series in the Northwest League this summer. I am not a scout, of course, but I watch a lot of minor league baseball and figured that writing about prospects for a few years had prepared me well for the challenge.
Notes on prospects who stood out over the weekend, including Alec Hansen, Mike Soroka, Josh Hader, and Jaycob Brugman.
Prospect of the Weekend:
Alec Hansen, RHP, Chicago White Sox (Short-Season Great Falls): 6 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 13 K. Yes it’s in Short-Season ball, but my goodness has Hansen been impressive. Keep in mind this was one of the favorites to be the first pick of the 2016 draft coming into February, and he’s finally starting to show that stuff. There are reasons to be concerned about the command, but Hansen has legit swing-and-miss stuff, and the upside here is massive. Also, imagine this guy, Chris Sale, Carlos Rodon, and Carson Fulmer in a rotation. Unlikely? Perhaps. Scary for the AL Central? Yer gosh damn right.
In The Summer Game, Roger Angell described the relationship between baseball time and the out by saying, "Since baseball time is measured only in outs, all you have to do is succeed utterly; keep hitting, keep the rally alive, and you have defeated time. You remain forever young." Baseball time is largely unregulated and free from a clock, and even with recent interventions to put a bit of countdown heft behind existing rules, what dictates the pace of play is mostly those playing. What we see of it is determined by our interest. Outfield walls may be bedecked with corporate logos, and grand slams might now bear an odd connection to pizza, but the thing that has long distinguished baseball from other sports, its pacing, is still largely unruffled, for better or worse. We still have time.
Ryan Flaherty masquerades as a major league pitcher, Felix Hernandez stages a comeback, and more from the weekend.
The Weekend Takeaway
The first time Ryan Flaherty stood on the pitcher’s mound, he played for the Deering High School Rams in Portland, Maine. The second time, he played for the Baltimore Orioles in Saturday’s 12-2 loss to the Astros.
Shortly after the Pirates sold at the trade deadline, they got hot. Regrets?
Neal Huntington and company awoke on the morning of the trade deadline four games back of the second Wild Card spot, with three teams (the Marlins, Cardinals, and Mets, respectively) ahead of them, and three upcoming series against some of the worst teams in baseball (the Braves, Reds, and Padres, respectively). While the three teams ahead of them were buying aggressively (Miami), redundantly (New York), and standing pat (St. Louis), the Pirates opted to sell: They dealt star closer Mark Melancon and his impending free agency for multiple years of control over Felipe Rivero and a lottery ticket in Taylor Hearn, as well as Francisco Liriano and his (apparently) onerous contract, along with two prospects to Toronto for the crumbling remains of Drew Hutchison. Oh, and they also rid themselves of Jonathan Niese and received Antonio Bastardo in return.