It’s so easy, when you read and write a lot about baseball as opposed to merely watch it from time to time, to get caught up in the business of baseball. The trade and free agency dynamics. The artificial or semi-artificial storylines that are created about what happens on and off the field. To think in terms of trend lines, streaks, marketability, clubhouse dynamics, rebuilding plans, contracts, statistics, playoff possibilities and all manner of things future and past that are not the game itself.
What gets discussed so little is the moment. The moment when the batter makes the split decision to take that extra base. The moment when an outfielder breaks to his left because he ascertained its trajectory before anyone else in the park did. The moment when pitcher and catcher silently agreed that there is no way in hell that the batter can either expect or adjust to this particular pitch in this particular spot.
We see these moments as we watch the game and they give us a thrill. But there’s not much to say about them afterward other than “wow! did you see that?” And because post-facto description and analysis tends to serve only to diminish the moment — no sports writer, however skilled he is, can write as beautifully as a ballplayer at the height of his powers can perform — those moments tend to recede in the 21 hours a day when the baseball game is not actually occurring.
Yesterday Ted Berg, using Jose Reyes as his example, made a powerful argument in favor of savoring these moments and allowing them to stand on their own without any of the buzz and chatter that surrounds them. I’ll say no more about it, but I will implore you, if you have a few moments, to read it.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 18 years since Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa captivated the nation with their epic chase of Roger Maris’ home run record. But it has been, and after years of reaction, counter-reaction and, of course, baseball’s reckoning with the performance-enhancing drugs which helped fuel the chase, it’s probably finally time to do our best to contextualize it historically.
Today one of my favorite news outlets does that with an oral history. All of the key figures weigh-in on it, from McGwire and Sosa to Bud Selig to Tony La Russa. Randy Johnson makes an appearance as well, reminding us that it wasn’t just the sluggers who had an amazing year in 1998. Indeed, his story, including his being traded to Houston and going on an amazing second-half run, has almost been lost to history.
This is bookmark material, my friends. For savoring later if you can’t read it now. And for revisiting at another time given the depths to the drama which justifies multiple readings. I’ll just warn you that there is some adult language in the story, but that’s to be expected given the passion the 1998 baseball season inspired.
Go check it out.
UPDATE: Cabrera was removed from the game due to back spasms.
1:21PM: This is not good: Asdrubal Cabrera was removed from today’s game against the Nationals with an apparent injury.
It’s unclear what the injury was, as Cabrera had yet to even play in the game. Matt Reynolds came on to play shortstop in the bottom of the first inning, but Cabrera didn’t bat in the top of the first. It could be an illness. Or some freak occurrence.
We’ll update when we hear more.
Last night’s Cardinals-Cubs game was a blowout, with the Cubs beating the Cards 12-3. Apparently, however, in the ninth inning of the game, Reynoldsburg, Ohio’s own Mike Matheny played the Cardinals infield in, which is a move you never see in a blowout. Why did he do that?
He hasn’t said yet, but Cubs manager Joe Maddon just spoke to the media before today’s game and he’s speculating that Matheny did it as a form of protest:
God, I hope that’s true. I hope that manager replay challenges, which are already dumb enough inasmuch as they turn what should be an officiating correction device into a strategic tool, are now turning into another front in the Great Unwritten Rules Wars. I hope that we now have a bunch of people talking about how there’s a right way and a wrong way to use the replay system and that one can disrespect the other side if they do it the wrong way. The way the replay system has been implemented often resembles tragedy. Why not make it farce?
Oh well, I guess it beats throwing at someone for doing that wrong. And I guess it’s just a reminder that no matter what we do, baseball is always gonna give us an opportunity for petty bits of silliness.
The St. Louis Cardinals just announced that they have acquired minor league outfielder Jose Martinez from the Royals in exchange for cash considerations.
Martinez was the 2015 Pacific Coast League batting champ, hitting .384 in 98 games. This year he’s hitting .298/.356/.433 in 37 games. He doesn’t have a ton of power — he’s more of a doubles guy — and turns 28 this year so he’s not a prospect but he’s not chopped liver.
Meanwhile, Cash Considerations continues to be well-traveled. It must be hard for him to be dealt so many times a season. So much uncertainty and time away from his family. Feel for the guy.