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.
The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.
Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).
A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.
The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:
A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.
Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.
The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.
Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.