New York Yankees' Colon follows through on a pitch to Chicago White Sox during their MLB baseball game in New York

And That Happened: Wednesday’s Scores and Highlights


Yankees 3, White Sox 1: Bartolo Colon is pitching like it’s 2002 again or something (8 IP, 7 H, 1 ER). Quick! Bartlo! Send an email to 2002-era Craig and tell him not to put off that trip to Paris he planned with the missus and then cancelled. Contrary to what they each said, the trip would not wait another year because in another year they had a Mookie in the oven and then another one 19 months later that effectively punted European travel for a decade or more. Dear God, 2002 Craig was too stupid to live.

In other news, I’m leaving my fortified compound and I’m travelling to New York this morning. Among the many things I will do there between today and Sunday is to catch tonight’s Yankees-White Sox game. The weather forecast looks iffy, however. I sure hope it doesn’t get cancelled. Because God knows that there’s nothing else to do in New York.

Mets 6, Nationals 3: The Mets just will not lose. A pinch-hit homer in the eighth from Daniel Murphy tied it up and a two-run double from Murphy sealed the deal in the ninth. Six in a row for New York.

Phillies 8, Diamondbacks 4: Some more offense for the Phillies, who bombarded Joe Saunders and avoided the sweep. Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and Ryan Howard go yard. After the game Charlie Manuel said “Anytime you hit, you feel good about yourself.”  Then — and here is where the video of the interview with Manuel got a bit jumpy, so I could have it wrong — he said “You know, with some offense you got that vim! That vigor! That pep! That get-up-and-go that makes a fella feel swell. We hit the long balls, bury the Braves, get Roy some hardware, Burma Shave!”

Pirates 2, Giants 0: James McDonald and a quartet of relievers shut out the Giants. A strong outing for Madison Bumgarner, but it was for naught. The fifth loss in six games for the Giants.

Mariners 10, Tigers 1: Where in the heck did this come from? Doesn’t matter to Erik Bedard. He’ll take the runs, because they helped him get his first win since 2009. Justin Smoak had a three-run homer and a two-run double. That’s two homers and seven RBI for Smoak in the two games since he returned after missing time due to his father’s death. Not exactly repeatable motivation, but hey, whatever gets him through the dark days right now.

Braves 7, Padres 0: Tommy Hanson dominated the Padres, striking out 10 over the course of seven shutout innings. Chipper Jones had a triple and three RBI, passing Mickey Mantle on the all-time RBI list. He now stands second all-time for pinch switch hitters behind Eddie Murray, whom he’ll never catch. Mat Latos has now lost nine straight starts stretching to last season.

Indians 7, Royals 2: Cleveland jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first on an Orlando Cabrera bases-clearing double and never looked back. The Indians now have the second biggest division lead in baseball. For their part, the Royals have lost eight of ten, pretty much ending all of that “are the Royals for real” talk which no one in their right mind ever should have answered in the affirmative.

Orioles 5, Red Sox 4: It was a tough day for Luke Scott but he rebounded nicely with a homer in the fourth. Overall the O’s jumped out to a 4-0 lead, frittered it away in the eighth inning, but then had their bacon saved by a Vlad Guerrero RBI single in the bottom of the eighth to pull it out. Vlad was put in position to score, it should be noted, when Jason Varitek let not one, but two balls get by him, with he and fellow base runner Nick Markakis advancing to second and third, respectively, on the first one and Vlad advancing to third — with Markakis getting tagged out — on the second.

Reds 7, Brewers 6: Cincy squandered leads of 4-0 and 6-4, but pulled it out via some nifty relief work from Aroldis Chapman to get out of an eighth inning jam and a 10th inning bomb from Drew Stubbs. For the Brewers,  Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and Casey McGehee finished a combined 0-for-12.

Rangers 7, Blue Jays 6: Both teams got awful performances from their starters — Jo-Jo Reyes for Toronto and Derek Holland for Texas — but the Rangers pulled it out with a Mitch Moreland homer to center in the seventh.

Athletics 2, Angels 1: Both teams got great performances from their starters — Tyson Ross for Oakland and Dan Haren for Anaheim — but the Athletics pulled it out with a Connor Jackson RBI groundout in the tenth.

Dodgers 5, Marlins 4: Between this post and this post you have all you need to know. Andre Ethier is a beast and Vicente Padilla, at least for now, is a closer.

Cardinals 6, Astros 5: It’s a win, but the Cardinal bullpen woes continue. Kyle Lohse shut out the Astros for seven innings, only to have to bite his nails as the pen — particularly old closer Ryan Franklin and flavor of the month Eduardo Sanchez — almost cough it up a 6-0 lead in the eighth and ninth. They had help from Fernando Salas too.

Rays 8, Twins 2: Tampa Bay scored four in the first off Francisco “Dead Man Walking” Liriano and won it going away. Liriano is now 1-3 with a 9.13 ERA. In 23.2 innings he has walked 18 and struck out 18. What in the hell happened to him? Sam Fuld reached base four times in five plate appearances and Ben Zobrist drove in three.

Rockies vs. Cubs: POSTPONED: Bake those biscuits good and brown, it ain’t gonna rain no more. Swing your partner round and round, it ain’t gonna rain no more. Bullfrog sitting on a lily pad, he looked up at the sky. The lily pad broke and the frog fell in, he got water all in his eye.  Oh, it ain’t gonna rain no more, no more, it ain’t gonna rain no more. How do you suppose the Old Man knows it ain’t gonna rain no more?

Leave Steve Bartman Alone

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 16: A general view on June 16,  2015 at Wrigley Field during the fifth inning of a game between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
Getty Images

The Cubs are up 3-2 in the NLCS and are heading back to Wrigley Field in an effort to punch their first World Series ticket since 1945. For Cubs fans it’s a dream come true. For Dodgers fans it’s nail-biting time. For most of the players involved it’s the biggest test of their professional lives.

For many in the baseball media, however, it’ll be an opportunity to throw gleeful, thoughtless punches at a man who doesn’t want or deserve the attention:

We all know the story of Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS which, yes, began with the Cubs leading the series 3-2 and needing only one win in two games at home to go to the World Series. Bartman, like many other fans in his section that night and like countless other fans at countless other baseball games before and since, went for a foul ball coming his way. The fielder — Moises Alou — probably had a chance to catch it (I say “probably” because Alou himself has changed his stance at that on numerous occasions over the past 13 years). Either way, the ball was not caught, the Florida Marlins mounted a huge eighth inning rally, went on to win Game 7 and, eventually, the World Series.

The game was played on a Tuesday night. It became known forever as “the Steve Bartman Game” before the sun rose on Wednesday morning. It could’ve been called “The Mike Everitt Game” after the umpire who didn’t call fan interference on the play. It could’ve been called “The Alex Gonzalez Game” after the would-be inning-ending double play the Cubs shortstop booted, prolonging the Marlins’ rally. Or “The Mark Prior Game” for Prior’s subsequent walk of Luis Castillo or “The Dusty Baker Game” for Baker leaving Prior in too long. When a team blows a huge lead in fantastic fashion they NEVER blame it on one single player or one single play, but the entire 2003 NLCS and the Cubs’ subsequent struggles after that have always, to greater or lesser degrees, been hung on Bartman.

This despite the fact that, the next morning, he apologized. In doing so, he noted that he was already feeling the heat of an entire fan base’s blowback:

To Moises Alou, the Chicago Cubs organization, Ron Santo, Ernie Banks, and Cub fans everywhere I am so truly sorry from the bottom of this Cubs fan’s broken heart. I ask that Cub fans everywhere redirect the negative energy that has been vented towards my family, my friends, and myself into the usual positive support for our beloved team on their way to being National League champs.

That didn’t happen, of course. The blowback continued and continues to this day. Just this week ESPN did a segment lumping Bartman in with fans who have thrown beer cans at players or who have otherwise interfered with games with malice.

For the most part, though, it’s less rancorous now than it used to be. It’s occasionally tinged with humor. As demonstrated in those tweets above it’s often just rote. When the Cubs are on the brink of anything one is apparently obligated to mention it, just like one mentions Billy Goats or the Curse of the Bambino or any number of other bits of baseball lore. Bartman references are, at turns, laments of futility or signaling of one’s grasp of baseball history. Before those tweets were composed, the author’s synapses fired: “hey, this is like that one time that thing happened so I am obligated to mention that thing.” Joe Buck and John Smoltz will likely have a discussion about it on Saturday night. Fox’s production team is likely splicing together the video as we speak. Some deep-thinking longform writer is probably composing yet another turgid “Searching for Bartman” piece, the sort of which we get every few years.

But there’s a difference between Steve Bartman on the one hand and Billy Goats and curses on the other. Steve Bartman is a human being. One who was jeered and who had his friends and family attacked. One who, apparently, has felt it necessary to disappear from public view in order to protect his privacy and identity so as to not be scapegoated anew every time the Cubs threaten to do anything in the postseason. In this day and age even the justifiably infamous will make great efforts to capitalize on their infamy. They’ll give interviews or print up t-shirts or write a quickie book or any number of other things to prolong their 15 minutes of fame. Then we, as a society, tend to leave them alone. Bartman has done everything he can to be left alone, but we simply cannot do that, apparently. No one wants to leave him alone, his wishes to be left alone be damned.

We should let it go. Not because it’s not a genuinely interesting bit of baseball history — it is — but because there’s a human being at the center of it who had his life negatively altered as a result. He can’t go to the games of his favorite team anymore. If he still lives in or visits Chicago he likely worries about being recognized. His name is pretty distinct. How many job interviews or customer service telephone calls or exchanges of credit cards and checks at a restaurant have resulted in an awkward conversation in which he is immediately presumed to be infamous? Think of how bad you feel on those rare occasions when someone, rightly or wrongly, assumes the ethical high ground over you. Then realize that every single person with even a moderate knowledge of baseball does that, intentionally or otherwise, with Steve Bartman every time he ventures out into the world. The only way he could avoid that would be to change his name. Imagine if you were forced to change your name because people won’t stop reminding you of your unwarranted infamy.

I’ve seen some people suggest that, should the Cubs win one of the next two games, the club or someone representing it and/or its fans should make a public proclamation of forgiveness to Bartman. Maybe Bill Murray takes a microphone and says something Bill Murray-esque about how “Cubs Nation forgives you, ya knucklehead, come on home!” I wouldn’t be terribly impressed if that happened. Forgiveness, if any was even warranted in this case, should’ve come on October 15, 2003 when Bartman offered a sincere and heartfelt apology. Forgiveness should always be contingent on one’s sincere remorse. It should not be contingent on the Cubs finally getting their act together after long stretches of futility. To be honest, if there is any forgiveness to be granted here it’s Bartman forgiving everyone responsible for turning him into a punchline, not the other way around.

Let it go, baseball fans. Let it go, baseball media. Let’s try to spend today’s off day, tomorrow’s Game 6 and, if necessary, Sunday’s Game 7 without forcing the Steve Bartman narrative. Given the storylines of the 2016 NLCS — two interesting teams, several interesting players and the great starting pitchers the Cubs and Dodgers are going to feature in the next one or two games — it’d be superfluous as it is. But given that, at the heart of that narrative, is a man who has done nothing to deserve either the attention or the scorn he has received over the years, pushing it is even less justifiable than it would be if all things were equal.

Leave Steve Bartman alone. We’ve put him through enough already.

Concerns over Jon Lester’s throwing ability much ado about nothing

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 20: Jon Lester #34 of the Chicago Cubs pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers in game five of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium on October 20, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images)
Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images

Going into Thursday night’s NLCS Game 5, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts planned to have his team be annoying and distracting on the base paths for Cubs starter Jon Lester. Lester, you see, has a hard time making throws when he’s not pitching from the rubber, as seen here.

The Dodgers got an immediate opportunity to test their strategy, as Enrique Hernandez drew a four-pitch walk to start the game in the bottom of the first inning. Hernandez was taking leads between 15 and 25 feet, just taunting Lester to throw over to first base. Lester never did. And despite being given the luxury of such a large lead, Hernandez never attempted to steal second base.

It ended up costing the Dodgers a run. After Justin Turner struck out, Corey Seager lined a single to center field. Hernandez, large lead and all, should’ve been well on his way to third base, but he settled for staying at second base. Carlos Ruiz then flied out to right field on what should’ve been a sacrifice fly. Hernandez instead just advanced to third. Howie Kendrick grounded out to end the inning with the Dodgers having scored no runs.

In the bottom of the second inning with two outs, Joc Pederson dropped down a bunt, but Lester was able to field it and make a bounce-throw to Anthony Rizzo at first base to end the inning. Lester stared angrily into the Dodgers’ dugout as he walked off the field. If it were me, I’d have been glaring angrily not because the opposing team was attempting to exploit my weakness, but because the strategy is so poor.

The bunting would continue in the seventh inning as first baseman and noted power hitter Adrian Gonzalez tried to sneak a bunt past Lester on the right side of the infield. Second baseman Javier Baez was able to scoop it up and fire to first. Gonzalez was initially ruled safe, but the call was overturned upon replay review.

Lester countered the Dodgers’ bunting and greedy lead-taking by just pitching his game. He went seven innings, allowing just one run on five hits and a walk with six strikeouts on 108 pitches. The Cubs went on to win 8-4, taking a 3-2 lead in the NLCS. A worthy consideration for the National League Cy Young Award based on his regular season performance, Lester now has a 0.86 ERA in 21 innings spanning three starts this postseason. Turns out, the yips isn’t debilitating if you’re really good at your main job.