Damon's double steal was cool, but it was not a first, and was not "the greatest"

Leave a comment

My hyperbole this morning aside, it seems that Johnny Damon’s double steal as a result of the overshift is not a first.  From reader Jonathan Fellows:

Willie Mays on September 30, 1971 — a game the Giants had to win to avoid a playoff — stole 2nd and 3rd on the same pitch.  Willie McCovey was up and the Padres were playing the shift.  The 3rd baseman covered second on the steal and Mays got up and took off for third after beating the throw to second.

That was this game here. It’s hard to tell all of the nuances from the box score of course, but it appears to be what happened. UPDATE: Many readers recall Brandon Phillips doing this for the Reds a couple of years ago while the shift was on for either Dunn or Griffey. UPDATE #2: Another reader notes that Jeter apparently did it on opening day 2003, in the play in which he separated his shoulder running into catcher Rod Barajas. My memory of that was that there was an error or something that allowed Jeter to advance, but I haven’t had time to check it this morning. 

And while we’re still on the subject, let’s be 100% clear about something:  Damon’s play was very, very cool. It was totally exciting. It was probably a game changer inasmuch as others have noted in the comments today, it very well may have led to Lidge not wanting to throw his best pitch — hard slider — to A-Rod for fear of uncorking a wild pitch.

But it was not — as some Yankees boosters have suggested in comments, in emails to me, and around the blogosphere this morning — “one of the greatest moments in World Series history.”  I can think of a half dozen — Joe Carter in 1993, Jack Morris in 1991, Reggie in 1977, Fisk in 1975, Mazeroski in 1960 and Larsen in 1956 — just off the top of my head. There are no doubt many others.

Uniqueness and coolness does not necessarily make for greatness.  I was totally stoked by Damon’s play, and I’m sure Yankees fans were too.  Hopefully, however, it can just be appreciated for what it is, rather than have it be pitted against truly “great” moments. Because to do so (a) diminishes those great moments by forcing them to endure a comparison that is beneath them; and (b) actually diminishes Damon’s play, because it makes it suffer by comparison. 

Marcus Stroman named World Baseball Classic MVP

Denis Poroy/Getty Images
8 Comments

United States starter Marcus Stroman was named Most Valuable Player of the World Baseball Classic after helping lead the U.S. to its first ever WBC title on Wednesday night in an 8-0 victory over Puerto Rico. Stroman flirted with a no-hitter through six innings, but gave up a double to lead off the seventh before being relieved by Sam Dyson.

Stroman also pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings against the Dominican Republic in Pool C play on March 11. He struggled in Pool F play against Puerto Rico last Friday, surrendering four runs in 4 2/3 innings.

The WBC MVP award understandably goes to a player of the winning team. However, Wladimir Balentien of the Netherlands deserves special mention. In 26 at-bats during the WBC, he hit a double and had a WBC-high four home runs, 12 RBI, and 12 runs scored while putting up a .615/.677/.1.115 batting line. That’s MVP-esque as far as this tournament is concerned.

U.S. blanks Puerto Rico 8-0 to win first World Baseball Classic title

Harry How/Getty Images
10 Comments

The United States handed Puerto Rico its first loss in the World Baseball Classic, winning 8-0 for its first title in the fourth iteration of the tournament.

Puerto Rico starter Seth Lugo was matching Marcus Stroman zero-for-zero through the first two innings, but the U.S. broke out for a pair of runs when Ian Kinsler deposited a two-run home run just beyond the fence in left-center at Dodger Stadium. The U.S. tacked on two more in the fifth on RBI singles from Christian Yelich and Andrew McCutchen, pushing the lead to 4-0.

Meanwhile, Stroman was dealing. The right-hander, normally seen in a Blue Jays uniform, held Puerto Rico hitless through his first six innings, giving up just a lone walk. The U.S. put together a long rally in the top of the seventh, scoring three runs on three hits, two walks, and a hit batter. Stroman came back out for the seventh but immediately served up a double down the left field line to Angel Pagan. U.S. manager Jim Leyland immediately lifted Stroman from the game, bringing in Sam Dyson who escaped the inning without any further damage.

Pat Neshek allowed a leadoff single to Yadier Molina to begin the eighth, but induced a double-play, then worked around a two-out walk by striking out Kenny Vargas to end the frame.

In the ninth, David Robertson took over. He induced an infield pop-up from Enrique Hernandez. After Pagan singled up the middle, Francisco Lindor sharply grounded out to Eric Hosmer at first base for the second out. Finally, Robertson closed it out, inducing Carlos Correa to ground out to third base, making the U.S. 8-0 victors over Puerto Rico to win the World Baseball Classic.

Puerto Rico had an admirable run, defeating Venezuela, Mexico, and Italy to get out of Pool D undefeated. Then, in Pool F, it beat Venezuela again as well as the U.S. and the Dominican Republic to move to the semifinals. It narrowly edged Netherlands 4-3 in the semifinals to get into the finals.

The U.S. lost to the D.R. but beat Canada and Colombia to get out of Pool C. In Pool F, the U.S. lost to Puerto Rico and defeated the D.R again as well as Venezuela. The U.S. took down Japan in the semifinals to advance to the finals to play Puerto Rico.

The U.S. joins Japan (twice, 2006 and ’09) and the Dominican Republic (2013) as countries to win the World Baseball Classic. The 2017 tournament was a rousing success, setting attendance records, drawing over one million fans to ballparks to take in the games. It will hopefully encourage commissioner Rob Manfred and others to make a concerted effort to make the 2021 tournament bigger and better.