Scenes from Spring Training: A day with the Twins, Part 3

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Twins Win.jpgThe game itself was your standard spring training affair (I decided to go with a more inspiring pic).  Shaky pitching, shaky defense and a lot of guys you’ve never heard of in the late innings. Unlike the Mets-Nats game on Sunday, there weren’t a ton of exciting prospects on either team to look forward to, so I just sort of let the game wash over me.  Random observations:

  • Because veterans like Albert Pujols don’t hump it across Florida for spring training road games — especially when they have a bad back — Joe Mather got the start at first base. I had a really, really strong urge to go up to him in the clubhouse afterwards, pull a Borat and ask him (in a foreign accent) if he thought he had a good shot at winning the starting job to break camp;
  • Colby Rasmus started the game with three strikeouts and a homer and came to bat late with a chance to make a full house. Sadly, he grounded out 6-3, robbing us of a truly fantastic batting line;
  • The National Anthem singer was out sick with laryngitis (seriously) so they played a tape of an instrumental version of the song and had the crowd sing it.  At first I was impressed. You don’t hear that everyday and, really, when you get 8,000+ people singing in unison it kind of works out.  By the time we got to the “Oh say does that Star Spangled” windup I was starting to get creeped out by the “Triumph of Will” vibe to it;
  • Heading into the top of the third, Orlando Hudson and
    Justin Morneau run out to the field together. Hudson avoided the chalk line, hopping over it. Morneau stepped right on it.  I can only assume that Morneau will be crushed by a falling anvil at some point this season for taunting the Baseball Gods;

  • Tony La Russa (a) held a really long mound meeting; and (b) made a pitching change in the middle of the inning. I know the guy can’t help himself, but maybe someone should tell him that he chairs a committee designed to do away with such game-lengthening conduct;

  • They announced that yesterday’s crowd — 8,228 souls — was the largest in Twins spring training history.  Worth noting, however, that there were tons of Cards’ fans at the game. So much so that when the crowd sang “Take me out to the ballgame,” the words “root, root, root for the Cardinals were unmistakable.  Twins fans: you got pwned in your own park;

  • Great moments in pinch running history: Delmon Young hit
    a triple and was replaced at third by Nimitz-class first baseman Brock
    Peterson. I’m guessing Peterson — the kind of guy who I’m guessing has been described as “hulking”
    at some point in his life — doesn’t get much pinch running duty;

  • The next inning someone — I think it was Matt Tolbert; I probably need to start keeping better score — pinch ran for Nick Punto, and scored a run while executing a wholly unnecessary slide into home plate (the ball was somewhere north of Orlando at the time). It was like he was screaming “look
    how great a pinch runner I am!”

  • In the sixth inning the PA played “YMCA.” In the seventh — in addition to “Take me out to the ballgame,” they played “Sweet Caroline.”  Between that and the Jimmy Buffet and James Blunt songs they played before the game I was thinking of taking a hostage;

  • At some point late in the game La Russa lost his
    DH when he moved him to second base. Query: was it a mistake, was it simply one of those things you don’t care about in spring training or — and this is my guess — was Tony “the genius” La Russa trying out a bold new strategy for interleague games? Stupid? Stupid, you say?  This is Tony. La. Russa. 
    He
    saw you at the paddock before the second race outside the men’s room
    before he placed his bet. He saw you before you got up this morning.

  • The game ended on a pickoff at first base. 7-6 Minnesota, though it’s hard to care about the results of a spring training game.

If you read Monday’s installments you know what came next. That’s right, babies: gangbang.

It’s the tenth anniversary of the biggest rout in baseball history

Associated Press
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Ten years ago today the Rangers and the Orioles squared off at Camden Yards. The Orioles built a 3-0 lead after three innings and then all hell broke loose.

The Rangers scored thirty (30!) unanswered runs via a five-spot in the fourth, a nine-spot in the sixth, a ten-spot in the eighth and a six-spot in the ninth. That was . . . a lot of spots.

Two Rangers players — Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ramon Vazquez — hit two homers and drove in seven runs a piece. The best part: they were the eighth and ninth hitters in the lineup. There was plenty of offense to go around, however as David Murphy went 5-for-7 and scored five times. Travis Metcalf hit a pinch-hit grand slam. Marlon Byrd drove in four. It was a bloodbath, with Texas rattling out 29 hits and walking eight times.

On the Orioles side of things, Daniel Cabrera took the loss, giving up six runs on nine hits in five innings. That’s not a terribly unusual line for a bad day at the office for a pitcher — someone will probably get beat up like that in the next week or so — but the Orioles’ relievers really added to the party. Brian Burres was the first victim, allowing eight runs on eight hits in only two-thirds of an inning. Rob Bell gave up seven in an inning and a third. Paul Shuey wore the rest of it, allowing nine runs on seven hits over the final two.

The best part of the insanely busy box score, however, was not from any of the Orioles pitchers or any of the Rangers hitters. Nope, it was from a Rangers relief pitcher named Wes Littleton. You probably don’t remember him, as he only pitched in 80 games and never appeared in the big leagues after 2008. But on this day — the day of the biggest blowout in baseball history — Wes Littleton notched a save. From Baseball-Reference.com:

Three innings and 43 pitches is a lot of work for a reliever and, per the rules, it’s a save, regardless of the margin when he entered the game. Still, this was not exactly a game that was ever in jeopardy.

When it went down, way back on August 22, 2007, it inspired me to write a post at my old, defunct independent baseball blog, Shysterball, arguing about how to change the save rule. Read it if you want, but know that (1) no one has ever paid attention to such proposals in baseball, even if such proposals are frequently offered; and (2) the hypothetical examples I use to illustrate the point involve an effective Joba Chamberlain and Joe Torre’s said use of him, which tells you just how long ago this really was.

Oh, one final bit: this massacre — the kind of game that the Orioles likely wanted to leave, go back home and go to sleep afterward — was only the first game of a doubleheader. Yep, they had to strap it on and play again, with the game starting at 9PM Eastern time. Baltimore lost that one too, 9-7, concluding what must have been one of the longest days any of the players involved had ever had at the office, both figuratively and literally.

Hall of Fame baseball announcer Rafael ‘Felo’ Ramirez dies

Associated Press
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MIAMI (AP) Rafael “Felo” Ramirez, a Hall of Fame baseball radio broadcaster who was the signature voice for millions of Spanish-speaking sports fans over three decades, has died. He was 94.

The Miami Marlins announced Ramirez’ death Tuesday.

Ramirez, who died Monday night, began his broadcasting career in Cuba in 1945 before calling 31 All-Star games and World Series in Spanish. He was the Marlins Spanish-language announcer since their inaugural season in 1993 and was inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame in 2001.

He was known for an expressive, yet low-key style and his signature strike call of “Essstrike.”

Several Spanish-language broadcasters, including Amury Pi-Gonzanez of the Seattle Mariners and San Francisco Giants, have admitted to emulating his style.