“No morning access since it was media training for the Orioles players. There goes all my good quotes for the season.”
— MLB.com beat writer Brittany Ghiroli from Orioles camp this morning.
Brittany is being funny here, but there’s a lot of truth to that. We live in an age now where controlling the message and sanding off all the rough edges is part of doing business for ballplayers and the teams that employ them. As the legendary Pat Jordan wrote in his outrageously good essay on the subject a couple of years ago:
Writers and fans alike no longer get to know the object of their
affections in a way they did years ago. Athletes see us as their
adversaries, not as allies in their achievements. They are as much
celebrities as rock stars and Hollywood actors are. They live insular
lives behind a wall of publicists, agents, and lawyers. They don’t
interact with fans or writers. They mingle only with other celebrities
at Vegas boxing matches, South Beach nightclubs, and celebrity golf
events, all behind red-velvet VIP ropes. We can only gawk at them as if
at an exotic, endangered species at a zoo.
Not that I don’t understand why athletes approach things this way these days. Our media culture has become insatiable. Whereas once upon a time people might be content to accept a handful of good Jordan-esque player profiles a year we want so much more now. We’re obsessed on who’s dating who, who’s wearing what, who’s drinking what and that’s just the beginning. If I was a ballplayer I’d protect my privacy with extreme vigilance.
Still, it saddens me that we’re very, very unlikely to read a story about, say, Jon Lester, like the one Jordan tells about Tom Seaver:
Then I drove him to Shea Stadium in a rainstorm in my old Corvette with
the T-top that leaked. Water dripped on Tom’s forehead. He looked up
and said, “Why don’t you buy a Porsche?” I said, “Because I’m not Tom
Seaver.” Water dripped on his head. He laughed. “That’s a f***ing
Nowadays two publicists and a lawyer would call Jordan and ask him to scrub that prior to publication. So it goes.
Lost in the nifty base running by Dustin Pedroia that won Sunday’s game against the Rays, the Red Sox set a new major league record by striking out 11 batters in a row, per Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe. Starter Eduardo Rodriguez struck out the final six Rays he faced and reliever Heath Hembree struck out five Rays in a row after that. Tom Seaver had the previous consecutive strikeout streak of 10, set on April 22, 1970 against the Padres.
The Red Sox also set a team record with 23 strikeouts in total: 13 by Rodriguez, five by Hembree, one by Matt Barnes, and four by Joe Kelly. Per Abraham, that’s the most strikeouts in a 10-inning game since at least 1913 and the most in a game of any length since 2004.
For Rodriguez, Sunday marked the first double-digit strikeout game of his career. He has pitched quite well since returning to the rotation at the start of the second half. Over 13 starts, the lefty has a 3.10 ERA with a 70/23 K/BB ratio in 72 2/3 innings.
Dodgers second baseman Charlie Culberson delivered a walk-off solo home run in the bottom of the 10th inning, clinching the NL West for the Dodgers on Sunday afternoon. What a way to celebrate Vin Scully’s final home game behind the microphone.
The Dodgers were trailing 2-1 in the seventh inning, but shortstop Corey Seager tripled in a run to tie the game. Rockies outfielder David Dahl untied the game in the top of the ninth with a two-out solo home run off of Kenley Jansen. But Seager once again rose to the occasion, blasting a game-tying solo shot in the bottom half of the ninth against Adam Ottavino. That would set the stage for Culberson in the next frame.
Culberson, a former Rockie, came into the afternoon with a .591 OPS and zero home runs in 53 plate appearances. He finished the afternoon 3-for-5 with the homer.
It’s the fourth consecutive season in which the Dodgers have won the NL West. The Cubs have clinched the best record, which means they’ll play the winner of the Wild Card game. The Dodgers will play the Nationals in the NLDS. The Nationals have a 1.5-game lead over the Dodgers for home-field advantage, so both teams are still playing for something of importance in the regular season’s final week.