Willie Mays

Scenes from Spring Training: Hall of Famers out the wazoo

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The original plan was to head out for the Dodgers-Cubs tilt. But as I was considering it last night I decided that I just wasn’t in the mood. I didn’t want to go clear out to Glendale, I wanted to go to a park with character and not one of the new mega-complexes and I didn’t want to have to think too hard about McCourt stuff, because that’s just depressing. So I called the audible and decided to come to Scottsdale for the M’s-Giants.

It was a good call, because I got to meet Gaylord Perry, Willie Mays and Ernie Banks, all before 9AM. Holy Hall of Famers, Batman!

These legends were just sitting in the Giants clubhouse, reading newspapers and shooting the breeze. I talked to Perry for a while and then just listened to the others. You’ll note that Willie Mays had prime rib last night. It was “not bad.”

A few minutes later Giants announcer Jon Miller came in, and some actual baseball talk went down. Miller was a fountain of facts and figures, asking Perry and Mays if they remember such-and-such a game from 1960-something.  Perry was as sharp as a tack, remembering details like the 23-inning, seven-hour plus game in 1964 where Mays played three innings of shortstop against the Mets while Perry pitched ten innings of shutout ball in relief, getting the win.

I’m guessing that game stands out, so maybe remembering it wasn’t that big a deal. But standing right there while Perry talked about it, Mays added some details, and Ernie freakin’ Banks just nodded and enjoyed the story is one of the highlights of my baseball life.

Standing near me, also soaking it in, was Dave Dravecky. I walked over to him and joked about it just being another boring day in the clubhouse. He laughed, but then got serious and marveled at how awesome it is to have this sort of thing go down and how fortunate the younger players are to have resources like Mays and Perry just sitting there, drinking coffee and standing ready to talk baseball.

I’ll try to get a pic of those guys when they’re wandering around later, but I really wish there wasn’t a firm no-photos-in-the-clubhouse rule, because seeing them just sitting there was a sight to behold.  And one I’ll never, ever forget.

Angel Pagan body-slammed a fan on the field

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 13: Angel Pagan #16 of the San Francisco Giants argues with umpire Jerry Meals #41 after a called third strike during the first inning against the San Diego Padres at AT&T Park on September 13, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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Don’t interrupt Angel Pagan in the middle of a wild card race. Better yet, don’t interrupt him at all.

A fan learned that the hard way during Friday’s Giants-Dodgers game. In the fourth inning, a group of fans ran onto the field with white flowers in their hands, presumably to hand to Giants players. According to eyewitness accounts, one player was reprimanded by San Francisco starter Madison Bumgarner, while Buster Posey fended off another.

Angel Pagan, however, took more extreme and inventive measures.

On-field security started closing in on the fan as he approached Pagan, but didn’t appear to pick up the pace until the outfielder dropped him on the field.

Vin Scully, who was wrapping up the third-to-last game of his career, provided play-by-play of the incident.

A couple of kids, trying to steal a moment, slow down the game, running on the field and just taking a big moment on the big stage. They’ve got one of them in right field, and the other one is nailed down by Pagan in left field. And the crowd loved that! They went up to do something with Angel Pagan, but [Pagan] grabbed him and slammed him to the ground, and they’re taking him off the field. […] Doesn’t that bring you back to the ’60s, and the flower children? Oh what, you don’t remember the ’60s? Okay.

The next time you want to send a message to a player, maybe try a tweet (throw in a flower emoji or two if you feel so inclined). Just don’t make a showy display of affection in the middle of a game. It’s bound to go badly, at least where Angel Pagan is concerned.

The Rangers have home-field advantage through postseason

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 30:  Yu Darvish #11 of the Texas Rangers throws against the Tampa Bay Rays in the first inning at Globe Life Park in Arlington on September 30, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Thanks to Yu Darvish, the Rangers will enter the postseason as the No. 1 seed in the American League.

Darvish was outstanding on Friday night, pegging the Rays with a 3-1 loss on three hits, a run, and 12 strikeouts over six innings. It was the crown jewel of performances for the right-hander, who is carrying a 3.53 ERA and 2.3 fWARP in his first season since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2015.

The Rangers, who have gone 1-5 on days when they’ve offered Darvish fewer than four runs of support, eked out a two-run lead against Tampa Bay starter Matt Andriese. Adrian Beltre roped an RBI single in the first inning, followed by a pair of solo shots from Carlos Beltran and Rougned Odor in the third and sixth innings.

With the win, the Rangers clinched home-field advantage through the World Series, thanks to a 4-2 win in the All-Star Game back in July. Getting to the World Series will present another challenge entirely, though Darvish figures to stay in the mix with Cole Hamels as the Rangers build toward the Division Series on Thursday. If they advance against the wild card winner in the ALDS, they’ll face either the Indians or the Red Sox in the Championship Series.