Random observations from ALCS Game 2

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Epic game.  Stuff worth discussing further:

Question to those who believe that ballplayers actually have some
inborn ability to perform (or not) in the clutch as opposed it simply
being a matter of chance:  when did A-Rod “learn” this ability?  Last
winter?  Some time over the course of the season?  Did he read the
Cliff’s Notes during the All-Star break? Inquiring minds want to know .
. .

Despite his heroics in the 11th, I’m sure some folks will still say
something snarky about his popup with the bases loaded in the 12th.  It
takes longer to give up irrational A-Rod hate than it does to learn to
be clutch.

First we heard over and over again about how fundamentally sound the
Twins were supposed to be and about how they do all of the little
things right.  Then we heard over and over again about how
fundamentally sound the Angels were supposed to be and about how they
do all of the little things right.  The Yankees may have won all five
of their postseason games so far anyway, but poor fundamentals on the
part of the Twins and Angels have made it a hell of a lot easier for them.

That said, if Chone Figgins comes up with the Izturis overthrow
cleanly, I think there’s a good chance Hairston would have been out at
home.  Not that it matters a bit.  Should have taken the out at first,
Macier.

As I sipped my beer and waited for the commercial break to end, I
wondered to myself: “is there a single person watching this game who
said ‘you know, I wasn’t going to get Direct TV, but now that the Black
Eyed Peas have weighed in on it, I’m going to take the plunge.'”

In case Angels fans are wondering, Fuentes is owed $9 million next
year, and has an option that vests for 2011 if he finishes 55 games. 
Yes, blown saves in the 9th count as “games finished.”  Enjoy next
season!

In contrast, Mariano Rivera, despite looking like he’s about 55 now, is
still basically unhittable.  Two and a third, and the Angels couldn’t
touch him.  I think even Angels fans have to agree that there’s never
been another relief pitcher like that guy, and that we’re all lucky to
have seen him in action.  Our grandkids will be talking about him.

I never thought I’d say this, but after a round and a half of Chip
Caray, Joe Buck is actually a sound for sore ears.  He’s still
basically terrible, but he’s less offensive than the other terrible announcer who only has his job because of nepotism.

I won’t dwell on it because the play ultimately didn’t have any impact
on the game’s outcome, but the safe call on Erick Aybar’s attempted
double play in the bottom of the 10th is the sort of thing that will
have people talking.  You know the deal: the old “neighborhood” play,
where they usually give the shortstop some leeway on actually touching
the bag with the ball in his hands when a runner is bearing down on
him.  I understand the reason for the leeway: we don’t want dudes
getting hurt down there if it can be avoided, but you at least have to
skip your feet across the bag a bit, right?  Aybar just straddled it.  Video here. I think it was the right call.

Like I said, epic game (at least for everyone who isn’t an Angels
fan).  I’m glad that, if they had to have a five-hour+, 13-inning
affair, that it happened on a Saturday night.  The Angels are in deep
trouble.  To win, they basically have to beat Sabathia twice now,
right? Good luck with that . . .

Major League Baseball orders balls stored in climate controlled rooms for some reason

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Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated reports that Major League Baseball will mandate that teams store baseballs in “an air-conditioned and enclosed room[s]” this season. He adds that the league will install climate sensors in each room to measure temperature and humidity during the 2018 season, with such data being used to determine if humidors — like the ones being used in Colorado and Arizona — are necessary for 2019.

This move comes a year after Major League Baseball’s single season, league-wide home run record was shattered, with 6,105 dingers being hit. It also comes after a year in which two different studies — one by Ben Lindbergh and Mitchel Lichtman for The Ringer, and another by FiveThirtyEight’s Rob Arthur — found evidence that baseballs were altered at some point around the middle of the 2015 season which coincided with home run numbers spiking in the middle of that year, quite suddenly.

Also coming last year: multiple player complaints about the baseball seeming different, with pitchers blaming a rash of blister problems stemming from what they believed to be lower seams on the baseballs currently in use than those in use in previous years. Players likewise complained about unusually smooth and/or juiced baseballs during the World Series, which some believe led to a spike of home runs in the Fall Classic.

To date, Major League Baseball has steadfastly denied that the balls are a problem, first issuing blatantly disingenuous denials,  and later using carefully chosen words to claim nothing was amiss. Specifically, Major League Baseball claimed that the balls were within league specifications but failed to acknowledge that league specifications are wide enough to encompass baseballs which could have radically different flight characteristics while still, technically, being within spec.

Based on Verducci’s report, it seems that MLB is at least past the denial stage and is attempting to understand and address the issues about which many players have complained and which have, without question, impacted offense in the game:

Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday that MLB commissioned a research project after last season to study the composition, storage and handling of the baseballs. He said that investigation is not yet completed. “I’m not at the point to jump that gun right now,” he said about the findings.

The investigation is not yet completed, but the fact that the league is now ordering changes in the manner in which balls are handled before use suggests to me that the league has learned that there is at least something amiss about the composition or manufacture of the baseballs.

Major League Baseball is a lot of things, but quick to impose costs and changes of process on its clubs like this is not one of them. There is likely a good reason for it.