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 . . .

Oakland A’s officials taking a tour of a possible waterfront ballpark site

OAKLAND, CA - FEBRUARY 19:  A Maersk Line container ship sits docked in a berth  at the Port of Oakland on February 19, 2015 in Oakland, California. International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) longshoremen at the Port of Oakland took the day shift off today to attend a union meeting amidst ongoing contract negotiations between dockworkers and terminal operators at west coast ports. The port closure, the seventh one this month, has left 12 container ships stuck at the dock with no workers to load and unload them. The ILWU members at 29 West Coast ports have been without a contract for 9 months. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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The Oakland Athletics’ ballpark saga has gone on for years now, with false starts in Fremont and San Jose, lawsuits and seemingly interminable talks with the City of Oakland over a new place on the current Coliseum site. That’s all complicated, of course, by the presence of the Raiders, on whose address — be it Oakland, Las Vegas or someplace else — the A’s future is still largely contingent.

The city has tried to get the A’s interested in a waterfront site for several years now. There are a lot of problems with that due mostly to zoning and regulatory matters, as well as proximity to transit and other practical concerns. The artist’s renderings are often pretty, but it takes more than artist’s renderings to make a good ballpark plan.

But no one is giving up on that and, it seems, even the A’s are willing to at least listen to such proposals now:

Oakland A’s co-owner John Fisher is expected to join officials Thursday for a hush-hush tour of the Port of Oakland’s Howard Terminal, a cargo-loading area near Jack London Square that Mayor Libby Schaaf tirelessly promotes as “a fantastic site for a ballpark.”

Guess it ain’t so “hush-hush” anymore. As with all Oakland ballpark stories, however, feel free to continue snoozing until someone gives us a real reason to wake up.

Note: The above photo is from the Port of Oakland. I have no idea what the proximity of the working part of the city’s port is to where they’d build a ballpark, but I used this picture because I love the story about how George Lucas spotted those things from an airplane as he was leaving Oakland or San Francisco or whatever and used them as inspiration for the AT-AT Imperial Walkers in “Empire Strikes Back.” Which may be a totally aprocyphal story, but one I love so much that I told it to my kids when we flew in to Oakland back in June and will choose to believe despite whatever evidence you provide.

Wade Davis? Greg Holland? Who needs ’em?

KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 21: Joakim Soria #48 of the Kansas City Royals throws in the eighth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Kauffman Stadium on August 21, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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The story of the two-time defending AL champion and current defending World Series champ Kansas City Royals cannot be told without talking at length about their bullpen.

In 2014, Wade Davis, Greg Holland and Kelvin Herrera formed a shutdown brigade that not only made it next to impossible for the opposition to mount late rallies, but managed something which seemed utterly impossible before 2014: they turned Ned Yost into a tactical genius. Indeed, the only time Yost got criticism at all that fall was when he messed with the autopilot formula that had that three-headed monster handling the 7th, 8th and 9th innings.

Much the same happened in 2015, of course, despite Holland’s sharp decline and eventual injury. Davis and Herrera continued their dominance. They were joined by Ryan Madson and a cast of other effective relievers who, along with timely hitting, great defense and good health, helped propel the Royals to the title.

This year had not been quite the same story. Holland has been out all year and Davis, while effective when he’s pitched, has missed time due to injury. As has longtime contributor and presumptive next-man-up Luke Hochevar. Herrera is basically still Herrera, but Ned Yost has been presented with a decidedly different set of choices. Lots of choices and Ned Yost don’t always go together well, but lately that hasn’t mattered.

Last night the Royals’ bullpen came in to a close game and tossed three scoreless innings. That set a franchise record with 32 straight scoreless frames, besting the previous record set back in the club’s inaugural season in 1969. The streak is a huge part of why the Royals have won nine games in a row.

Unlike the success of 2014-15, the streak is not a three-man show. As Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star notes, eight different relievers have appeared for Kansas City during the streak, with Joakim Soria and Matt Strahm leading the crew with five and a third innings pitched. Herrera has tossed five scoreless. Otherwise it’s been a group effort with even Peter Moylan offering a couple of scoreless frames. And here you thought Moylan was, I dunno, gearing up for the upcoming Brisbane Bandits season. Nope.

The Royals are still not, in my view anyway, a lock to make the postseason. It’s a a crowded field right now. They’re seven and a half back in the AL Central and four back in the Wild Card with a bunch of teams in front of them. But they’re certainly playing themselves back into the conversation. They’re interesting. And they’re doing it in much the same way they’ve done it the past two years. Only with different dudes doing the do.