You could fill a book with the things I was wrong and deluded about in 1986, but one thing I was certain of was that Houston Astros pitcher Mike Scott was scuffing baseballs.
Yeah, people were all taken at the time with the notion that the splitter was some vexing form of sorcery, but it strained credulity that Scott — after an exceedingly pedestrian career to that point — suddenly figured out all of the secrets to pitching in 1986, doubling his strikeout rate on the back of some newfound hyper-command of his split-fingered fastball. Way more likely that he just figured out how to properly install an old nail or a thumbtack in his glove — perfect for scuffing purposes — so that it wouldn’t be detected.
Scott still hasn’t totally come clean on that, but in an interview he gave for MLB Network’s upcoming documentary about the 1986 postseason, he comes as close to a full confession as any crafty ball-doctorer ever will:
They can believe whatever they want to believe. Every ball that hits the ground has something on it. … I’ve thrown balls that were scuffed but I haven’t scuffed every ball that I’ve thrown.
I love that passive voice: “balls that were scuffed.” It’s OK, Mike. We all know. We’ve known for 25 years. You gave us a fun, improbable 300+ strikeout season that was nice to plug into our Lance Haffner sim baseball game for our Commodore 64s and your treachery, while almost impacting the results of the 1986 season, ultimately didn’t carry the day. We’re cool with it. Really, we are. Now give us a big hug.
(link via Mets Blog)
A brutal couple of updates on the night of Jose Fernandez’s death from Jeff Passan of Yahoo and from Andre Fernandez of the Miami Herald.
Passan reports on the leadup to the fateful boat trip. About how a friend of one of the other men killed on the boat had pleaded with him not to go out in the dark. Then there’s this:
After Saturday’s game, Fernandez had asked a number of teammates to join him on the boat. One by one, they declined.
Marcell Ozuna was one of them. Andre Fernandez of the Miami Herald reports:
Following Monday’s game, Ozuna said he turned down an invitation from Fernandez after Saturday night’s game to go out with him and join him for a spin on his boat . . . “That night I told him, ‘Don’t go out,’” Ozuna said. “Everybody knew he was crazy about that boat and loved being out on the water. I told him I couldn’t go out that night because I had the kids and my wife waiting for me.
Losing a friend and teammate under such circumstances is brutal enough. Adding on survivor’s guilt would be close to impossible to bear.
David Ortiz has used Derek Jeter’s Player’s Tribune as his personal podium all year as he says goodbye to the Major Leagues. He continues that today, on the eve of his final series against the Yankees.
In it Ortiz talks about what playing the Yankees meant to him over the course of his career. About how the fan hate was real but something he embraced. About how the series back in the days of Jeter and Pettitte and Mariano and Mussina were “wars.” He also talks about how the Yankees were basically everything when he was growing up in the Dominican Republic. The only caps and shirts you saw were Yankees shirts and how they were about the only team you could see on TV there. As such, coming to Boston and then playing against the Yankees was a big, big deal.
Ortiz says “[s]ome players are born to be Yankees, you know what I’m saying? I was born to play against the Yankees.”
And he’ll get to do it only three more times.