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 . . .

Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell, Ivan Rodriguez to be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday

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This Sunday three players will be honored in Cooperstown as Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez become the 313th, 314th and 315th members inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Executives Bud Selig and John Schuerholz will be inducted as well, making it 316 and 317.

Raines was quite possibly the NL’s best player in a five-year span from 1983-87.  WAR thinks so, placing him ahead of Mike Schmidt, Tony Gwynn and Dale Murphy, all of whom got more plaudits at the time. Raines hit .318/.406/.467 during that period and averaged 114 runs scored and 71 steals per year. During those five years, only Rickey Henderson scored more runs (572-568) and only Wade Boggs had a better OBP (.443 to .406). That Raines had to wait until his last year of eligibility was in large part due to him being a very similar player to Henderson. Which is kind of an unfair comparison — Henderson is one of the best players of all time — but that’s how the voters operate sometimes.

Bagwell likewise had to wait a bit longer than he should’ve, mostly due to thus far evidence-free beliefs that he used PEDs. On the merits, Bagwell was one of the best first basemen of all time, with a career line of .297/.408/.540, 449 homers and 1,529 RBI. Between 1994 and 2001, he averaged — averaged! — a line of .306/.428/.589, 37 homers and 120 RBI while playing in perhaps the worst hitters park in history in the Astrodome.

People whispered about Rodriguez and PEDs just as much as they did Bagwell, but he got in on the first ballot, suggesting that the BBWAA is getting over its hangups. He is also clearly deserving of induction. Rodriguez, the 1999 AL MVP, was named to 14 All-Star teams and he won 13 Gold Gloves. He finished his career with a .296/.334/.464 line, 311 homers and 1,332 RBI. His 2,427 games caught is a major league record. He was, without question, the best defensive catcher of his era and many believe he was the best of all time. If he’s not, he’s in the top two or three.

As for the executives: we’re long on record as believing that Bud Selig’s induction is a disgrace. It was nonetheless a foregone conclusion, as the Hall of Fame has tended to view induction as part of retiring commissioners’ severance package. If there was any remaining doubt about him getting in, the fact that the committee which elected Selig was, more or less, hand-picked by people loyal to Selig and/or Major League Baseball put it to rest.  John Schuerholz is clearly deserving as he was one of the top executives of the past half century, starting out with the Orioles and then building winners in both Kansas City and Atlanta, sustaining those organizations’ success for far longer periods than most teams experience it.

Beyond those two, ESPN’s Claire Smith will be on the stage to accept the 2017 J. G. Taylor Spink Award, given to baseball writers. She is the first woman to be given baseball writing’s highest honor.  Athletics broadcaster will be honored as the Ford C. Frick Award winner for broadcasting. Smith passed away in 2005.

The ceremony will be held on a big lawn a mile south of the Hall of Fame. If you’re in the neighborhood, admission is free and lawn chairs and blankets and things are welcome. If you’re not in the neighborhood, the festivities will be broadcast live on MLB Network and will be shown via webcast at http://www.baseballhall.org.

Aaron Judge broke a tooth celebrating the Yankees walkoff win

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Brett Gardner hit a walkoff homer last night, giving the Yankees a dramatic 11-inning win. A grand celebration ensued. And then a trip to the dentist presumably ensured for Aaron Judge.

Seems that Judge broke a tooth during the scrum, as Gardner’s helmet — which was bouncing around, not on Gardner’s head — bounced up and smacked Judge in the mouth. Judge quickly went to the clubhouse and wasn’t available for comment afterward. If he was, he likely would’ve said “Thith wath a great win. Gardner juth looked for hith pitch and put a good thwing on it.”

Judge is expected to make the start tonight for the Yankees.