As Craig noted in his morning roundup, last night Andre Ethier hit a game-winning grand slam against the Brewers for his 11th walk-off hit since 2008.
Thanks to Baseball-Reference.com’s amazing Play Index, here’s the walk-off leaderboard during that time:
Andre Ethier 11
Kurt Suzuki 5
Miguel Tejada 5
Alfonso Soriano 4
Jorge Cantu 4
Jose Lopez 4
Kevin Youkilis 4
Mark Ellis 4
Prince Fielder 4
Robinson Cano 4
That’s pretty stunning. Ethier has more walk-off hits than any other two players combined since 2008. He had six last season alone, which is more than anyone else has from 2008-2010, and also had three in 2008 with two already this year.
Ethier is a very good player and off to a spectacular start this season, but obviously much of that walk-off success is due to opportunity. Last night, for instance, Ethier came up in the bottom of the ninth inning with the bases loaded and one out in a tie game. He basically had a walk-off hit served to him on a silver platter and, to his credit, took advantage with a grand slam to dead center.
“I don’t know what it is, for some damn reason I keep getting up there in that situation,” Ethier told the Los Angeles Times. “I can’t figure it out. I don’t know who else has that many opportunities to win games like that. The hairs stand up on your neck a little because you can feel the energy, you can feel the excitement in those situations.”
However, he hasn’t been particularly great in “close and late” situations in general since 2008, hitting .279 with a .486 slugging percentage compared to .294 with a .526 slugging percentage overall. All of which, in a way, makes what Ethier has done even more amazing. “I’ve managed some pretty good players, but the opportunities he’s had and as many times as he’s done it, I don’t remember anybody being as heroic as he’s been,” manager Joe Torre said.
Veteran hurler Jake Peavy has not signed with a team. It’s not because he’s not still capable of being a useful pitcher — he’s well-regarded and someone would likely take a late-career chance on him — and it’s not because he no longer wishes to play. Rather, it’s because a bunch of bad things have happened in his personal life lately.
As Jerry Crasnick of ESPN reports, last year Peavy lost millions in an investment scam and spent much of the 2016 season distracted, dealing with investigations and depositions and all of the awfulness that accompanied it. Then, when the season ended, Peavy went home and was greeted with divorce papers. He has spent the offseason trying to find a new normal for himself and for his four sons.
Pitching is taking a backseat now, but Peavy plans to pitch again. Here’s hoping that things get sorted to the point where he can carry through with those plans.
This is fun: The San Francisco Giants recently made their last payment on the $170 million, 20-year loan they obtained to finance the construction of AT&T Park. The joint is now officially paid for.
The Giants, unlike most other teams which moved into new stadiums in the past 25 years or so, did not rely on direct public financing. They tried to get it for years, of course, but when the voters, the city of San Francisco and the State of California said no, they decided to pay for it themselves. They ended up with one of baseball’s best-loved and most beautiful parks and, contrary to what the owners who desperately seek public funds will have you believe, they were not harmed competitively speaking. Indeed, rumor has it that they have won three World Series, four pennants and have made the playoffs seven times since moving into the place in 2000. They sell out routinely now too and the Giants are one of the richest teams in the sport.
Now, to be clear, the Giants are not — contrary to what some people will tell you — some Randian example of self-reliance. They did not receive direct public money to build the park, but they did get a lot of breaks. The park sits on city-owned property in what has become some of the most valuable real estate in the country. If the city had held on to that land and realized its appreciation, they could flip it to developers for far more than the revenue generated by baseball. Or, heaven forfend, use it for some other public good. The Giants likewise received some heavy tax abatements, got some extraordinarily beneficial infrastructure upgrades and require some heavy city services to operate their business. All sports stadiums, even the ones privately constructed, represent tradeoffs for the public.
Still, AT&T Park represents a better model than most sports facilities do. I mean, ask how St. Louis feels about still paying for the place the Rams used to call home before taking off for California. Ask how taxpayers in Atlanta and Arlington, Texas feel about paying for their second stadium in roughly the same time the Giants have paid off their first.