Brooks Conrad

And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

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Braves 4, Pirates 2: All Brooks Conrad does is hit pinch-hit game-winning homers. Well, that and play soul-killing defense and occupy a roster spot that gives his team minimal flexibility despite having a number of injuries which scream out for a super utility player who can handle both outfield and the infield corners. But hey, I’ll accept that latter stuff if it means a couple of pinch-hit game-winning homers every year!

Phillies 5, Reds 4:  So wild, crazy and long that a little blurb doesn’t do it justice, so check out our longer writeup here.  At this point, the biggest takeaway from all of this is “Hey! Someone finally found a use for Wilson Valdez!” Dude just knows how to win (1-0, 0.00 ERA).  And the best part: after a six-hour game that ended at 1:19 AM, these two teams get together today at 1:05!  Cliff Lee and Homer Bailey: be prepared to go long today.

Marlins 7, Giants 6: The loss of the game is bad but it pales compared to the loss of Buster Posey to a leg injury in the 12th inning. The play looked clean as far as those sorts of plays go, but it was awful all the same. Posey being gone for an extended period is absolutely the last thing the Giants need.

Red Sox 14, Indians 2: No team that has eveh started 2-10 has evah won teh Wurld Seriez!!!11one11!  Know why? Because most teams that start off poorly are actually bad teams. The Red Sox are a good team that just so happened to start poorly, and now they’re not playing poorly anymore.  The past, it seems, does not control the future. There is something besides destiny determining how events unfold. How liberating.

Padres 3, Cardinals 1: Mat Latos, who looked deader than vaudeville earlier this spring, turns in his best start of the year thus far, giving up one run on six hits over eight innings while striking out seven. This one just screamed getaway day: it lasted two hours and four minutes, with both Cardinals and Padres pitchers throwing a total of 105 pitches.

Brewers 6, Nationals 4: I hit this one up yesterday afternoon. Short version: Zack Greinke hit this one up yesterday afternoon.

Astros 2, Dodgers 1: J.R. Towles wins it with an RBI single in the ninth. The back of that Dodgers bullpen? Needs more Rubby.

Rangers 2, White Sox 1: C.J. Wilson was effective and Neftali Feliz bent but did not break in the ninth, giving the Rangers their third win in four games. There were no evacuations.

Mariners 3, Twins 0: And with that, the Twins’ offense becomes more firmly entrenched as the worst in the American League. They still need to be wary of a challenge from Oakland and even these Mariners, but seeing them step up strong like this yesterday gives me full confidence in their ability to be the worst. But just so we’re clear: Thome: that “reaching base twice in four plate appearances” stuff is you not being a team player, get me?

Yankees 7, Blue Jays 3: Two homers for Andruw Jones in Yankee Stadium. John Smoltz gets the win. Greg McMichael, Denny Neagle, Terrell Wade and Brad Clontz combine to close it out. Tomorrow: Greg Maddux vs. Jimmy Key.

Orioles 9, Royals 2: One gets the sense that the wheels have done come off the Kansas City bandwagon. That’s nine of the last 11 in the loss column thanks to this fourth inning implosion in which Luke Hochevar gave up eight runs yet still survived it to pitch on because, you know, you go with what you know and who else is more used to giving up eight runs than Luke Hochevar?  Adam Jones had two hits and two RBI that inning.

Mets 7, Cubs 4: The Cubs had a 4-1 lead in the second when things started skidding sideways. RBI from Josh Thole and Carlos Beltran tied it up against Casey Coleman, so Mike Quade went to Jason Berg, who threw twelve consecutive balls, walking in two runs.  New York tacked on one more with a sac fly in the fifth before the rains came — well, got worse — and they called this one early. Which Mike Quade wasn’t happy about, but hey, the game was official and no one had to refund anyone any money so whose to complain? I mean, other than Quade, the Cubs players and everyone else. Dreadful weather, though.

Diamondbacks 2, Rockies 1: Ian Kennedy was once again strong, allowing one run on seven hits over eight innings. I saw some people tweeting last night about how the Dbacks stole four bases, but none of those steals led to runs so who cares?

Angels 4, Athletics 1: Torii Hunter and Alberto Callaspo hit back-to-back homers in the fourth, and that’s about all the offense you need against this A’s team right now.

Rays vs. Tigers: POSTPONED:  It was a dark and stormy night. Oh, wait. That was daytime. Wow. Scary. I can see why they decided to scuttle this one.

Willie Mays gets a cable car named after him

Major League Baseball hall of famer  Willie Mays, who spent the majority of his career as a center fielder with the New York and San Francisco Giants, smiles as President Barack Obama honors the 2012 World Series Champion San Francisco Giants baseball team, Monday, July 29, 2013, during a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. The team beat the Detroit Tigers in the 2012 World Series, their second championship since the franchise moved to San Francisco from New York in 1958. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
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This is not exactly stunning news, but it’s Willie Mays’ 85th birthday today and any excuse to talk about Willie Mays is a good one. Happy Birthday, Willie!

The pretext is a story in the San Francisco Chronicle about how The Greatest Baseball Player of All Time (my view anyway) is getting an iconic cable car named after him. An icon named after an icon, I guess. The cable car is, appropriately, number 24.

Next month I’m taking my kids on vacation to California and we’re spending a few days in San Francisco. It’ll be a shame when I tell them we have to cancel half of a day’s plans while I make them wait for one particular cable car to come by so they can take my picture with it, but that’s just what they have to deal with given that I’m their dad.

Carlos Gomez calls out a hit piece-writing columnist

Houston Astros' Carlos Gomez (30) reacts after hitting a double in the second inning of a baseball game against the Minnesota Twins, Tuesday, May 3, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
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Yesterday I wrote about a column written by Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle. It was about Astros outfielder Carlos Gomez, who has had a poor start to the year.

The column, as I noted, was a hatchet job, blaming Gomez for the Astros’ problems despite the fact that Gomez is by far from the biggest of the Astros’ problems. It was particularly bad in that it presented an unedited bit of broken English from Gomez which seemed calculated to cast Gomez in a bad light. Many journalists were critical of Smith in this regard, noting that he could’ve used a translator, could have paraphrased or could’ve done some mild correction via brackets, as is often done with quotes from non-native English speakers.

Last night Gomez took to Twitter to call out Smith himself:

It’s possible to write a column about how a player hasn’t lived up to expectations without being an insensitive jackass. It’s possible to do so even in the sharpest of ways. Smith didn’t do that, however, and didn’t make an effort to try, it seems. Gomez is right to take issue with it. And I suspect that Gomez’s teammates and organization take issue with it too. Which likely doesn’t bode well for Smith getting cooperation from others in the Astros family.

Reminder: athletes are not heroes

Zack Greinke
Associated Press
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This is something of a “greatest hits” piece and it’s topic I’ve talked about here before, but I’m reminded of it again because of Facebook’s memories thing which tells me I wrote about it seven years ago today back when I was still doing stuff at my old Shysterball blog at the Hardball Times.

The topic: ballplayers as heroes. The subject of the 2009 post on the matter was Zack Greinke, who was then beginning his breakout year with the Kansas City Royals. A columnist talked about how uplifting Greinke’s story was, what with him having overcome some struggles with anxiety disorder which had caused him to leave the game for a brief period. In early 2009 he was back, baby, and better than ever and many wanted to turn him into something larger than just a ballplayer excelling at his craft.

In the post I wrote about how, while such an impulse was understandable, it was a dangerous one as athletes have been made into heroes for years and years and, so often, they end up disappointing. Because we built them up so high, however, we don’t see such instances as the mere exhibition of human fallibility. We see them as some greater failure or even a betrayal, which is both ridiculous and unfair to these men and women, even if they have failed in certain ways. They have worked hard all of their lives to be good at a particular sport. They did not promise us glory or inspiration, yet we assume that they owe us those things. Their failures, however they are manifested, are matched by our failures at expectation management.

But it’s even more pernicious than that. Because, as I wrote at the time, when we create heroes, we necessarily create the need for villains and we will go out of our way to find those too, justified or otherwise:

“Hero” is too strong and baggage-laden a word anyway. As [Bill] James notes, it places a heavy burden on young men, and these guys are under such scrutiny day-in and day-out that they really don’t need it. What’s more, the term hero it necessarily assumes its opposite — villain — and demands that we search them out too. You know, to restore balance to the universe and everything. Often — as in the case of A-Rod and Gooden and Bonds and all of the others — they’re the same people, just older . . . Hero creation, worship, and subsequently, destruction has long been a part of baseball. But it’s not an essential part, and in my mind not a desirable part.

Seven years later we’re still doing this. As Bill James noted in his “Historical Baseball Abstract,” “When a young player comes to the major leagues and has success right away, writers will almost always write about what a fine young man he is as well as a supreme talent.” Many of them, like Zack Greinke, will prove to continue to be fine older men, just as they were fine young men. Some will not. Would it not be better if we didn’t get so invested in how fine a young man any one of them is? Or, short of that, if we didn’t act so betrayed and victimized if they turn out not to be such a fine young man?

I like to hear a good story about a baseball player who, by all outward appearances, seems like a good person. But I’m content to give such a story a smile and leave it at that. If we require heroism, there are people who do truly heroic things in the world beyond throw baseballs.

Andrew McCutchen apologies to an official scorer he said should be fired

Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen (22) watches from the dugout during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday, April 13, 2016, in Pittsburgh. Detroit won 7-3.(AP Photo/Don Wright)
Associated Press
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Andrew McCutchen made an error on Wednesday night. He thought he shouldn’t have been charged with one on the play, however, and afterward said “whoever scored that an error should be fired. That’s unbelievable. I did everything I could to catch it.”

It was a dumb comment for two reasons. First, a player “doing everything he can” on a play doesn’t make a misplay not a misplay. The “e” ain’t about effort, man. I realize scoring has gotten somewhat lax in recent years and players are routinely not given errors if it looks like they really, really tried, but there is not an intent element to the crime of making errors on the playing field. If you muff one, you muff one.

It was a dumb comment for another reason, and that’s that it was just not very nice. As we noted when David Ortiz or some others have made publicly disparaging comments about official scorers, it’s the ultimate punching down. These are people who have other jobs, aren’t public figures, don’t get paid a lot and really, really don’t have it in for anyone. Publicly criticizing them is bad enough, publicly demanding their jobs is pretty low.

Thankfully, with a day’s worth of reflection, McCutchen realized that this was the case and apologized. There aren’t public words from McCutchen available, but the club said that he reached out to the scorer and personally apologized. As he should’ve.