Jered Weaver

And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights


Tigers 3, Angels 2: Wow, this was a wild one. Made all the more wild by the fact that (a) it was going on just as the trade deadline was approaching; and (b) since Justin Verlander had a no-hitter going, it seemed like everyone was watching it. At least everyone in my little corner of the Internet.  Read the game stories to get the full flavor, but any game that has home run poses (Carlos Guillen), headhunting (Jered Weaver on Alex Avila), a starting pitcher yelling eff you at an ump right after the ejection (Weaver again) and then eleventeen violations of the unwritten rules (Erik Aybar laying down a bunt to try to break up the no-no), all in the space of a about a half hour, you know it was an awesome game.

Reds 9, Giants 0: Just when you want to write the Reds off they go and sweep the reigning champs. Of course, Barry Zito started this one for San Francisco, and he wasn’t even on the roster when they won the World Series, so let’s not go too crazy.  Johnny Cueto was fantastic, pitching a three-hitter and lowering his ERA to 1.72.  Three-run homer for Joey Votto who had five RBI on the day.

Phillies 6, Pirates 5: Remember how I mentioned that the schedule was about to get tough for Pittsburgh and that the fairytale was about to end? This is what I was talking about. Philly sweeps.  New hire Hunter Pence doubled in the tenth inning and was then doubled in for the winning run by Raul Ibanez, who had himself a whale of a day, homering twice and hitting the game-winner.  Don’t worry, though, Pirates fans: Joel Hanrahan is well-rested, not having been bothered during the 10th inning. You’ll be happy to know that he will be available to “save” meaningless games against the Astros in August and September.

Yankees 4, Orioles 2: The big hit was Brett Gardner’s bases-loaded triple in the fourth, when the Yankees scored all of their runs. Freddy Garcia won his tenth, striking out six in six innings and allowing two runs on five hits.  The Yankees made no trade deadline moves. But really, there wasn’t a good move out there for them to make.

Brewers 5, Astros 4: The Astros get swept. Not surprising given that (a) they were on a 109-loss pace when the weekend began; and (b) they then traded their two best players over the weekend.  Good times in Houston!

Blue Jays 7, Rangers 3: Brandon Morrow struck out 11. Koji Uehara made his Rangers debut and, during the game, Texas traded for Mike Adams.  But as this game shows, your bullpen can’t do it all for you. C.J. Wilson got rocked.

Nationals 3, Mets 2: The Nats take two of three, winning this one on a Ian Desmond chopper in the bottom of the ninth.  There wouldn’t have been a bottom of the ninth if Drew Storen had protected the ninth inning lead.  But he won the game, so he must have been doing something valuable, right?

Marlins 3, Braves 1:  The 10,000th loss in Braves franchise history! Woo!  Who cares? Michael Bourn will join the team later today, and all will be right with the world. Or so I’m telling myself.

Royals 5, Indians 3: Homers from Jeff Francoeur and Alex Gordon and a solid outing from Danny Duffy.  Going forward, though, this will be a different Indians team thanks to the additions of Ubaldo Jimenez and Ryan Ludwick.

Red Sox 5, White Sox 3: Andrew Miller was eminently hittable — he gave up ten in five and two-thirds — but Dustin Pedroia bailed him out with a go-ahead two-run single in the seventh. Adrian Gonzalez had an RBI double in the ninth for some insurance.

Padres 8, Rockies 3: A six-run eighth wraps this one up for the Padres, averting a sweep. Three RBI for Jesus Guzman.

Athletics 7, Twins 3: I guess six-run innings are the new inefficiency, because the A’s pulled one off too. Three stolen bases for Coco Crisp. Home run 597 for Jim Thome.

Rays 8, Mariners 1: Ben Zobrist went 3 for 5 with 3 RBI and Jeremy Hellickson held the Mariners to basically bupkis.

Diamondbacks 6, Dodgers 3: Two homers for Gerardo Parra. And no, I’m not above hackey crap like thinking of this every time I hear his name.

Cubs 6, Cardinals 3: Jake Westbrook looked good until the sixth, when he gave up four runs. A three-run homer from Lance Berkman was all the Cards could muster.

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.