The David Ortiz home run through the eyes of a Tigers fan: a play in one act

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The scene: the Calcaterra fortified compound during last night’s Tigers-Red Sox game. The lady of the house is a Tigers fan. She is enjoying some bourbon. She is also enjoying the Tigers’ 5-1 lead over the Red Sox.

But she is only enjoying it so much. For the bottom of the eighth inning is beginning and the bullpen is coming on. She has watched over 100 Tigers games from her current position on the couch this year. Approximately zero of them which involved the bullpen in anything approaching a stressful situation were truly enjoyable.

I, as a person who doesn’t have a deep rooting interest in this game and as a person who skews optimistic, make a mostly dispassionate observation about how, whatever the bullpen’s shortcomings, a 5-1 lead with two innings to go against a team who has looked lost at the plate seems at least moderately safe. It is met with a more-than-moderate sigh. I mistake this for pessimism. It turns out to be cold, hard realism.

Snapshots as the evening wears on:

[Eighth inning starts, Jose Veras comes in for Max Scherzer]

“Here we go.”

[Will Middlebrooks doubles]

“Can you get me a refill?”

[Alleged lefty specialist Drew Smyly walks left Jacoby Ellsbury]

“You had ONE JOB!” [takes drink].

At this point Al Alburquerque comes in and strikes out Shane Victorino. I look to my right to see if this has encouraged her. There is no sign of encouragement.

At this point Al Alburquerque allows a single to Dustin Pedroia to load the bases. I look to my right. I expect anger and/or anxiety and/or distress on her part. But there is none. She has already skipped over three or four stages of grief and seems to be in full acceptance mode already. Acceptance of some disaster which hasn’t even happened yet and, hey, may not actually happen. But acceptance is unmistakeable. It lasts throughout the entire pitching change.

[David Ortiz steps to the plate to face Joaquin Benoit]

“Just walk him,” she says. “He should just walk in a run and pitch to the next guy.”

[David Ortiz hits a grand slam]

She calmly picks up her iPad, hands me the remainder of her drink to finish and walks upstairs. I don’t ask why she is walking away from a tie game. She has traveled into the future already. She has done so by remembering the past and knowing full well this Tigers team she follows. And knowing this Boston team pretty well too.  She is as certain of the outcome of this game as she is her name, her address and her social security number.

I hear her washing her face and getting ready for bed. A few minutes later Jarrod Saltalamacchia singles in the winning run. I call upstairs to let her know what happened and that the game is over. I may as well be telling her what she had for breakfast today. She knows. 

I go upstairs, brush my teeth and get into bed, thinking how amazing baseball can be and how, as has happened so many times in my life, I just witnessed something that some people will remember for the rest of theirs.

“Baseball is stupid,” she says.

Remember for better or for worse.

Bryce Harper to Little League players: “No participation trophies, first place only”

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Nationals’ star outfielder Bryce Harper had some words of advice for a local Little League team on Saturday, telling a crowd of young players and their parents that winning matters far more than any participation trophies they might receive for their efforts on the field.

“As much as they might tell you, ‘Oh, it’s okay, you guys lost…’ No, Johnny, no,” Harper explained. “No participation trophies, okay? First place only. Come on.”

The panic over participation trophy culture has swelled over the last few years as studies continue to suggest that children are happier when they’re praised for their accomplishments, rather than rewarded for simply trying their best. The general idea is that kids aren’t motivated to succeed when they know they’ll receive a ribbon or medal celebrating their efforts at the end of the day — regardless of whether they win or lose. (Granted, it stands to reason that every kid can feel the difference between winning a championship trophy and receiving a participation ribbon.) Some have taken the idea to an extreme, claiming that when a child receives too many accolades for mediocre or poor performances, it can warp the way they view the world by generating a sense of undeserved entitlement.

Harper kept his tone light during the Q&A session, however, drawing cheers and applause from the majority of parents and a few of the kids. The 2015 NL MVP has routinely taken his own advice over the years, earning Rookie of the Year honors, four All-Star nominations and a Silver Slugger award since he broke into the major leagues in 2012. Next on his list? A World Series championship.

Indians to move Danny Salazar to the bullpen

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MLB.com’s William Kosileski reports that Indians starter Danny Salazar is being moved to the bullpen and will be available as soon as Wednesday or Thursday. The Indians will go on a five-game road strip starting on June 2, and manager Terry Francona said that Salazar could get a start during that trip.

Salazar, 27, has struggled to a 5.50 ERA over his first 10 starts this season. While none of those starts were absolute disasters, he failed to finish the sixth inning in seven of those 10 starts. It’s a far cry from his performance over the last two seasons, when he finished with a 3.45 ERA and 3.87 ERA.

Salazar’s walk rate is up to a career-high 11.9 percent, per FanGraphs, and he’s allowing many more line drives at the expense of ground balls. Compared to 2016, his line drive rate is up 8.9 percent and his ground ball rate is down 10.4 percent. All of that could explain Salazar’s struggles to some extent.