Aroldis Chapman and the Louisville Bats rolled into beautiful downtown Columbus, Ohio last night. I couldn’t miss that so I called my friend Mark — a big Reds fan — and headed on down to the park to catch the game. We got through the gate and, being consummate professionals, used every trick in the book to move up from our assigned seats to a choice location right behind home plate.
After his last outing in which he was clocked at 103 m.p.h. I fully expected to be dazzled by Chapman’s fastball. I was in for a bit of a surprise.
Not that he disappointed in the early going. Chapman had some serious heat in the first couple of innings, hitting 99 and 98 a few times in the first and uncorking one pitch at 100 m.p.h. in the second. It was a crazy atmosphere in the park too, with almost no one actually watching the ball being caught after it crossed the plate — all eyes were on the radar readouts down the first and third base lines. When he hit 100 the crowd let out a collective “whoa!”
But then a funny thing happened: Chapman slowed down. Indeed, for the rest of the game he was consistently at 93-94 m.p.h., only rarely ticking it up any higher. When his velocity first declined Mark and I wondered if something was wrong with him. But then it became apparent: Chapman wasn’t throwing. He was pitching.
Starting in the third inning Chapman went to work with his offspeed stuff. And it worked. Clippers’ batters were obviously amped for the gas, and I can’t recall seeing guys so far out in front of pitches as these guys were. Chapman occasionally got too enamored with his changeup — at one point he threw a few too many in a row which, thankfully for him, only led to loud outs — but overall he was masterful.
When it was all said and done Chapman had thrown seven innings, allowing two runs and four hits. He walked three and struck out five on 88 pitches. The bullpen blew the game for him so he didn’t get the win, but it was a strong performance.
The biggest question I had leaving the park was how much of last night’s outing was a function of Chapman making a conscious effort to mix it up and to be efficient and how much of it was a function of him just not having his best gas? That’s not my problem, I suppose. For my part I’ll just note that it was nice to see Chapman — who some Reds fans are clamoring to come up and help plug holes in the bullpen — come out and give a mature and complete performance.
A few more of those and he’ll be doing it in Cincinnati.
Cubs starter Jake Arrieta, the defending National League Cy Young Award winner and author of two no-hitters, considered quitting baseball a few years ago when he was bounced up and down between the major leagues and the Orioles’ Triple-A affiliate in Norfolk, Virginia.
At the time, Arrieta was having trouble living up to his potential as one of the Orioles’ top pitching prospects. He started on Opening Day in 2012, but finished the season with a 6.20 ERA and was very quickly moved back to Norfolk after four mediocre starts to begin the 2013 season.
As CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney reports, Arrieta was considering quitting baseball so that his family could have a regular life.
We were at a point where I had other things that I could segue into and establish a career elsewhere. Not that I wanted that to happen, but I didn’t want to continue to go through the things we were going through and moving from place to place in the minor leagues at 25, 26 years old.
Baseball is something that I’ve loved to do since I was a little kid, but it’s not everything. I had to reevaluate some things. I knew I could always pitch this way, but there were times where it seemed like maybe I wasn’t going to get to that point.
It’s just part of life that we had to deal with.
Mooney also points out that Arrieta had a business background having gone to Texas Christian University and would have done something in that field if he had hung up the spikes.
This has been brought up because Arrieta’s teammate Tommy La Stella considered quitting baseball as well recently, as the Cubs demoted him to Triple-A. Though La Stella received a lot of criticism, Arrieta can relate to La Stella. The right-hander said, “I know that there were things that he was going through and dealing with (that) we may not agree with and understand.”
There’s an interesting article over that the New York Times in the wake of the Colin Kaepernick stuff. This one is about the history of the National Anthem at sporting events.
The anthem is a fixture for as long as those of us reading this blog have been attending games and it’d be weird if it wasn’t there. But it hasn’t always been there, the Times notes. Indeed, it was not a regular fixture until 1942 when it was added for the obvious reason that we were at war. The other major sports leagues all adopted the anthem soon after. The NBA at the inception of the league in 1946 and the NHL in the same year. The NFL’s spokesman doesn’t mention a year, but notes that it’s a non-negotiable part of the game experience. The non-negotiability of it is underscored by the comment from the MLS spokesman who notes that they felt that they had no choice but to play the anthem when that league began play in the 1990s.
I like the anthem at ballgames. It just seems like part of the experience. I like it for its own sake, at least if the performance isn’t too over the top, and I like it because it serves as a nice demarcation between all of the pregame b.s. and the actual game starting.
But this article reminds us that there is no immutable structural reason for the anthem at games. Other countries don’t play their own anthems at their sporting events. We don’t play it before movies or plays or other non-sports performances. It’s a thing that we do which, however much of a tradition it has become, is somewhat odd when you think about it for a moment. And which has to seem pretty rote to the actual ballplayers who hear it maybe 180 times a year.