It’s a pitching duel between a 23-year-old rookie and a 30-year-old veteran in Game 2 of the ALDS between the Athletics and Tigers. A’s rookie Sonny Gray has shut out the Tigers through four innings, using a mid-90’s fastball and a knee-bending curve to keep Tiger hitters at bay. Thus far, he has struck out five while surrendering just two hits: one to Miguel Cabrera in the first, and an infield single to Don Kelly in the second. As of this posting, he has retired seven consecutive Tigers in a row. One thing to keep an eye on: he has thrown 63 pitches thus far.
Verlander, however, has been even better. He ended the regular season on a high note and appears to have brought it with him into the post-season. Through four frames, he has allowed just one hit — a two-out single up the middle by Josh Donaldson. Prior to that hit, Verlander retired the first 11 Athletics he faced. Overall, Verlander has struck out seven (and six of the seven A’s to have struck out have gone down looking). He is at 69 pitches through four innings.
The Miami Marlins, despite not having technically fired Dan Jennings, are actively interviewing for a new manager. Their latest target is a familiar name: Larry Bowa.
Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reports on the coaching staff shakeup with the Phillies and, in the course of it, notes that the Marlins have asked and have been granted permission to interview Bowa, who is currently the Phillies’ bench coach. He has been offered a contract for 2016 by the Phillies, but he has never made a secret of his desire to manage again and has interviewed a few times over the years. Bowa, of course, managed the Padres in 1987 and 1988 and managed the Phillies from 2001 into the 2004 season.
As recently as a year ago it seemed unlikely that Bowa would get another look for a top job anyplace, what with baseball’s seeming eschewing of the crusty and feisty old managerial types in favor of young, inexperienced managers who had just recently retired from playing. But given how poorly that’s gone for most clubs — the Marlins included with Mike Redmond — this could be a winter in which we see a bunch of those old salty types returning.
There was some hockey person last week arguing about how it was silly or untoward for baseball teams to celebrate clinching wild cards or other, less-than-championship-level accomplishments. Calling it bush league or lacking in act-like-you’ve-been-thereness or what have you. I can only imagine what he’d say about the Astros celebrating with champagne following (a) winning a wild card; and (b) losing the game which immediately preceded the celebration.
But screw him. Seriously.
I used to think that way. Indeed, if you search the HBT archives I’m sure there’s a post or two in which I disapprove of teams engaging in multiple champagne celebrations. But I was wrong about that and I’ve changed my mind on the matter over the past year or too. And on some other matters as well, all for the same reason: athletes are people just like us, not some avatars for our machismo and our fantasies. They’re people who have spent their entire lives devoted to their calling and do it under a lot of pressure and in the face of a lot of criticism and expectations from others. Why on Earth would anyone deny them their happiness upon the realization of an accomplishment?
This is even more true if you’re one of those misguided souls who erroneously believe that sports actually is separate from real life and believe them to be supremely and impossibly important. Even if you’re right — and you’re not — wouldn’t that give the athletes an even greater incentive to celebrate accomplishments? Funny how those people who who act as if sports is life and death would deny athletes their joy for defying death, as it were.
My view on the matter now is that if a guy hits a homer he should be able to celebrate it. If a pitcher strikes a guy out, he should be able to celebrate it. If a team makes the playoffs, no matter how low their seed and no matter the manner in which the accomplishment is achieved short of their competitors going down in a plane crash, they should be able to celebrate if they so choose.
So enjoy your hangovers this morning, Houston Astros.