Piniella out-La Russas La Russa

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In case you missed it, there was some fun stuff in last night’s Cubs-Cardinals game:

Angel Guzman started the ninth, and the first two Cardinals batters
got on base via a hit and an error. Guzman was lifted for [Sean]
Marshall, who walked pinch-hitter Nick Stavinoha to load the bases.

Piniella then moved Marshall to left field and pulled outfielder
Alfonso Soriano from the game. Aaron Heilman came in to face
right-handed-hitting Brendan Ryan and struck him out.

Piniella then made another double-switch and put Marshall back as
pitcher, and Reed Johnson was inserted into left field. Marshall struck
out pinch-hitter Jarrett Hoffpauir. Colby Rasmus then lofted the ball
to left, and Johnson made a diving catch to end the inning.

I’ve seen that before — and here’s a great account of it happening with the fun old ’86 Mets — but it’s certainly not the kind of thing that happens too often. Some commenters over at my other blog
are suggesting that, if a manager was inclined to do this more often,
maybe it could become some radical new efficiency in that he could
forever go lefty-righty-lefty with only two pitchers if he wanted to,
although I believe that’s against the rules now as switcheroos like
that are limited. Even if they weren’t, however, I think such an
experiment would last until the exact moment a loogy misplayed a fly ball, and then it would never happen again, but it was fun while it lasted.

I think there were only two reasons for Piniella doing this last night.
First: it was just before the All-Star break and, like a classroom on
the last day of school before summer vacation, rules get bent and a
little zaniness is allowed. Second: the opposing manager was Tony La
Russa, who has never met a double switch, weird strategy, or pitching
change he doesn’t like, and Piniella simply decided to show him that he
cannot be out-crazied, even by Genius La Russa.

Kenny Lofton, Carlos Baerga to throw out first pitches in Games 1 and 2

CLEVELAND - OCTOBER 05:  Kenny Lofton #7 of the Cleveland Indians runs to first base against the New York Yankees during Game Two of the American League Divisional Series at Jacobs Field on October 5, 2007 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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Major League Baseball just announced the details for the ceremonial and off-field stuff in connection with Games 1 and 2 of the World Series. The one most people were wondering about was the ceremonial first pitch. Sorry, Charlie Sheen fans. Sorry fans of “Major League” in general. Two real baseball stars are handing first pitch duties: Kenny Lofton before Game 1, Carlos Baerga for Game 2.

Lofton needs no introduction. He should be a Hall of Famer but is criminally overlooked, perhaps because he bounced around to a lot of different clubs. He made his name in Cleveland, however, doing three separate tours with the Indians, leading the AL in stolen bases for five straight years early in his career and putting up a line of .300/.375/.426 in ten seasons on the shores of Lake Erie.

Baerga played for the Tribe between 1990 and 1996 and was, for a time, quite the superstar, even if people don’t talk about him much anymore. His career fell off pretty quickly in that way that often happens for second basemen and/or stars who end up on the Mets, but there was a time when he was perhaps the biggest star on some excellent Indians teams. People had “will Carlos Baerga be a Hall of Famer?” conversations and stuff. The mid-90s were a special time.

Beyond the first pitches, the National Anthem will be sung by Rachel Platten before Game 1 and by the group Locash before Game 2. As I am an old man out of touch with most things, I have no idea who they are, but I am sure their fans are passionate and their renditions of the Anthem will be fine and non-controversial. Fox, MLB and the folks at major record labels are pretty good about that sort of thing and everyone will be especially vigilant in light of what happened with that Canadian tenors group at the All-Star Game. If nothing else, I bet you pick up the check for the Anthem performance after the song, and not before these days.

I guess the White Sox don’t count

CHICAGO - APRIL 04: General Manager Ken Williams of the Chicago White Sox shows off his World Series Championship ring during ceremonies prior to the start of a game against the Cleveland Indians on April 4, 2006 at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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I realize everyone is super excited about the Cubs being in the World Series for the first time since 1945, with the chance to win it for the first time since 1908. But you’d think folks would remember that it’s just the Cubs — and not Chicago as a whole — who have been away from the Fall Classic for so long.

I know their recent struggles makes it seem like a long, long time ago, but the White Sox won the World Series in 2005. They were in the World Series in 1959 too. You wouldn’t know that, though, if you looked at some prominent media outlets:





I understand the impulse to tell the “a whole city is coming together!” story every time stuff like this happens, but there are a lot of White Sox fans in Chicago. A good number of them don’t give a crap about the Cubs. Many even resent them for being the glory franchise in the city in the eyes of many. They certainly don’t feel like there’s a championship drought afoot, and I imagine they’re somewhat cranky about having their team’s glory plastered over like this.