I Love Good, Bad Baseball
When I used to play summer ball during college, August was the time of year when we collectively picked our heads up and said, “Um, this is our third straight Saturday playing a doubleheader in 95-degree weather for no apparent reason—why are we still doing this?” Well, most of my teammates were speaking Spanish, but I think that’s what they were saying. And every August the quality of play got even lower than you’d think a game involving a Div. III third-string catcher could get.
It gives me faith in humanity, in an Us Weekly, “Stars Are Just Like Us” kind of way, that big leaguers have a similar mentality late in the summer, especially in extra innings. In 2013, the Mets alone have played 17 extra-inning games, five of which went at least 13 innings, and as the season has gone on the players have gotten progressively less enthusiastic. Take a look at this photo montage from Newsday; watch as the photos go from, “Hey, we just won! Hooray!” to “Hey, nice win, guys,” to “Seriously, sunflower seeds?” and finally, “Screw this, I’m getting myself tossed in the 10th.”
Last night, while the Dodgers and Red Sox were starting a relatively important, nationally televised game on ESPN, the Cubs and Padres, two not very good teams playing for not very clear reasons, were doing their very best to send everyone home in time to get on with their lives. They failed: neither team scored before the Cubs put up two runs in the 12th, but Kevin Gregg blew the save in the bottom half. The Padres ended up winning on a Nick Hundley walk-off single after five hours and 13 minutes, and I think a lot of us reacted the same way.
But again, none of that is important. What’s important is the journey, and the ensuing comedy when you realize it doesn’t matter how many millions of dollars these guys make, they’d still like to get the heck out of here, thank you very much. Throughout extra frames, both benches looked better suited for chaise lounges. Gregg, whose wild pitch scored Ronny Cedeno with the tying run in the 12th, had the look of a man who waited all afternoon at the DMV only to be told he was in the wrong line. I don’t blame him. Complaining about millionaire pro athletes has been de rigeur since time immemorial, but we all know what it’s like to want to head home after an especially long day at the office.
Halladay Wins in Return
What would you pay for Roy Halladay? After allowing a triple to lead off his comeback start against Arizona on Sunday, Halladay yielded just one more outfield hit in six innings. He struck out only two, walked two, and topped out at 87, but it was a nonetheless encouraging return in his first major-league outing since May. Halladay had rung up an 8.65 ERA before going on the 60-day disabled list, and his two rehab starts hadn’t been promising.
Halladay earns $20 million dollars this year, as he did in each of the last two seasons, and yet it’s not too extreme to say that he’s auditioning for a 2014 big-league rotation spot. His decline has been so precipitous—and his velocity along with it—that no team would make a significant commitment to him without some honest-to-goodness results. He could age gracefully a la Maddux, Glavine, and Moyer, or he could go from $20 million to NRI.
What to Watch for Monday
- The Dodgers aren’t playing quite well enough, so Matt Kemp is going to come back and make them the ’27 Yankees. Don Mattingly has said that when Kemp does return to a crowded Dodgers outfield, he’ll likely be the odd man out.
- In other Dodger news: “Seriously, take your time. We want you to be 100 percent. No, really, we’re good.”
- Keep an eye on Felix Doubront tomorrow night against the Orioles. After dominating the Giants last week, his performance will go a long way toward answering the question on every Boston fan’s lips: “Should I be concerned that Clay Buchholz blew up in his first rehab start, or absolutely terrified?” With the year Buchholz was having before his shoulder issues, why wouldn’t Sox fans welcome him back to the rotation with open arms? Because no Red Sox fan trusts Clay Buchholz. Not even a little. Don’t forget that.
- If I wrote this column every day, I’d end it with a daily reminder to always watch good pitching when you get the chance. Ten games to choose from this evening, and somehow Mets-Phillies is the best matchup of the bunch: Cliff Lee goes for the Phils, and Zack Wheeler for New York. (I’d have a laugh if Zack Wheeler finished the year with more wins than Matt Harvey, which is conceivable.) As they say in boxing (as well as in every sports documentary ever made), styles make fights. And this one should have a little bit of everything. Enjoy!