David Ortiz adds to postseason legend

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With a laser beam of a grand slam in the eighth inning on Sunday night, David Ortiz essentially saved the Red Sox’s World Series hopes and further his cause as the greatest clutch hitter of his generation. But no matter how you feel about “clutch,” there’s no denying the numbers.

The homer was Ortiz’s 15th in the postseason, tying him with Babe Ruth for ninth place on the all-time list. Two of those were walkoff shots. It gave him 54 RBI in 72 games, moving him past Albert Pujols for fifth place there:

Most postseason RBI
80 – Bernie Williams (.850 OPS in 121 games)
78 – Manny Ramirez (.937 OPS in 111 games)
63 – David Justice (.717 OPS in 112 games)
61 – Derek Jeter (.838 OPS in 158 games)
54 – David Ortiz (.933 OPS in 72 games)
52 – Albert Pujols (1.046 OPS in 74 games)
48 – Reggie Jackson (.885 OPS in 77 games)
47 – Chipper Jones (.864 OPS in 93 games)
42 – Jim Edmonds (.874 OPS in 64 games)
42 – Jorge Posada (.745 OPS in 123 games)

Ortiz’s rebirth as a force after it looked like he was done as a major asset in 2009 has added to what would have been a very tough sell as a Hall of Fame case. He had an exquisite run from 2003-07, finishing in the top five in the AL in the MVP balloting every year, but because he’s a DH, he did little before age 27 and he’s still lacking in black ink (one home run title, two RBI titles), it was going to take that clutch rep to put him over the top. Now, after three more seasons as one of the AL’s elite hitters, he has much more solid career numbers to add to his case and he’d seem to be a likely choice if not for the steroid allegations that will always hang over his head. Even with the leaked positive test — for what, we’ll apparently never know — he may garner enough support once the doors are eventually opened for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.

Yoenis Cespedes should be ready for Tuesday’s game

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The Mets are off today, and that day off may be just enough to get outfielder Yoenis Cespedes ready to start their next game, on Tuesday, against the Braves. At least that’s what he’s telling Mets manager Terry Collins.

Cespedes did not play in the weekend series against the Nationals, but was available as a pinch hitter yesterday. He was even on the on-deck circle at the end of last night’s game.

Cespedes, who tweaked his hammy running to second base on Thursday, is hitting .255/.364/.636 with six homers and 10 RBI in 15 games on the young season.

Marcus Stroman was called for an illegal quick pitch for some reason

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A “quick pitch” is an illegal action in which the pitcher pitches the ball before the batter is prepared. What makes a quick pitch a quick pitch? According to Rule 6.02(a)(5), it’s this:

 . . . Umpires will judge a quick pitch as one delivered before the batter is reasonably set in the batter’s box. With runners on base the penalty is a balk; with no runners on base, it is a ball. The quick pitch is dangerous and should not be permitted.

There are a couple of reasons why you don’t want quick pitches in baseball. In one respect, it’s about safety, as mentioned specifically in the rule. You don’t want a pitcher throwing a 90 m.p.h. fastball in the batter’s general direction if he’s not ready for it, because if it goes off course the batter will have no ability to defend himself and bail. But there’s also a spirit-of-the-game reason for it. The essence of baseball is the face-off between batter and pitcher. While everyone wants the game to move along promptly, the game isn’t really the game if the batter isn’t ready.

There is more art than science to all of this, of course, as all batters and pitchers have different pre-pitch routines, but when you watch a game, there’s a rhythm to all of that. You know the batter is gonna take a couple of practice swings and settle in. The pitcher tends to respect that. The quick pitch rule is rarely invoked for this reason.

It was used in yesterday’s Angels-Blue Jays game, however. And used badly in my view. Watch Marcus Stroman pitch to Kole Calhoun. The ump is Ramon DeJesus. The count was 3-1, so the automatic ball resulted in Calhoun being awarded first base:

Calhoun was obviously upset about something, calling time after Stroman is into his motion (which is not allowed) throwing his hands up and stuff after the pitch. But tell me, in what way was he not “reasonably ready” for that pitch, to use the language of the rule? He’s facing Stroman, looking at him. He’s done with his warmup swings, his bat is up and cocked and he’s standing in hitting position. I understand that it’s a judgment call by the umpire, but it seems to me like the umpire just called time too late because Calhoun didn’t feel ideally comfortable or something.

Either way, it set off Stroman and manager John Gibbons. Gibbons was ejected arguing the call. Stroman, who was otherwise excellent yesterday, was rattled for a bit, giving up a couple of hits and a run afterward. It was Calhoun who scored, natch.

It didn’t affect the outcome, but it certainly seemed like a bad call. And possibly a bad precedent, as batters may now try to lobby harder for quick pitch calls, given its success yesterday. Or, if umpires tend to think that was a bad call too, maybe they’ll overcompensate for it and be less likely to call quick pitches? You never know how this stuff will play out.

Whatever happens, I’ve been against Major League Baseball’s habit of increasingly taking judgment calls away from umpires, trying to make the subjective objective and making a flawed instant replay system the Supreme Court of Baseball Calls. But jeez, it’s hard to argue for allowing umps to hold on to judgment calls when they blow ’em like this.