Craig Calcaterra

Kauffman Stadium

Playoff Reset: The ALDS will end . . . TONIGHT!

33 Comments

Two Game Fives in two five-game series. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Well, unless they were Game Sevens. Or, rather, it was one Game Seven and it was the World Series. And the pitchers were reanimated Lefty Grove vs. a cyborg creation we’ll call “RoboMaddux” and the game was being played at old Tiger Stadium that had, in reality, been given a loving, historical renovation and now stood as a jewel among ballparks. And someone gave me free tickets behind home plate and, what’s this? They replaced my stadium seat with a vintage Eames Lounge Chair and it’s flanked on either side by (a) Carla Guigino, who suddenly realized how attracted she was to bald, fortysomething bloggers; and (b) a D&D-style everfull mug except, instead of mead or whatever, it perpetually replenishes with bourbon.

But the Game Fives will be nice too.

The Game: Texas Rangers vs. Toronto Blue Jays
The Time: 4:07 p.m. ET
The Place: Rogers Centre
The Channel: FS1
The Starters: Cole Hamels vs. Marcus Stroman
The Upshot: The best part of Marcus Stroman’s season is that he spent a good chunk of it in rehab and taking college classes down in North Carolina. Why is that good? Because if he wins today and the Jays go on to win the World Series with the help of a guy who is, essentially, a transfer student, no one will be able to offer those “we’ve battled together since March” cliches. And, late joiner or not, Stroman has been key for the Jays down the stretch, going 4-0 with a 1.67 ERA since rejoining the team in September. His last start in this series wasn’t so hot — he allowed four runs, three earned, over seven innings in Game 2, which the Jays went on to lose — but with David Price and R.A. Dickey having been burned on Monday, he’s the man now, dog.

For Texas it’s Cole Hamels, who allowed four runs himself, two earned, in last Friday’s Game 2. He has to face a Jays offense that rediscovered itself in Games 3 and 4 on Sunday and Monday and now goes home to Rogers Centre where the ball flies out like crazy. If you’re one of those people who think playoff experience matters, know this: Hamels has pitched in clinch-games four times in his career. His teams have won all four times.

 

The Game: Houston Astros vs. Kansas City Royals
The Time: 8:07 p.m. ET
The Place: Kauffman Stadium
The Channel: FS1
The Starters: Collin McHugh vs. Johnny Cueto
The Upshot: Man, that Astros charter flight from Houston to KC must’ve been morose. They had Game 4 in the friggin’ bag but blew it. Or did they really blow it as much as they got exposed for their lack of bullpen depth? Or are the Royals simply a team that has a super annoying but highly effective habit of putting the ball in play and when you do that good things happen? Whatever the case, the would really, really love Collin McHugh to go deep in this game, at least giving them the six innings of quality work he gave them in Game 1. And if he can’t? Well, there’s an off chance Dallas Keuchel could pitch in relief for them today. Though if that’s happening they may be in trouble, so Astros fans might wanna hope it isn’t necessary.

For Kansas City it’s referendum day. Referendum, specifically, on the trade that sent three prospects to Cincinnati for Johnny Cueto who was acquired specifically for games like this. He’s a hired gun whose sole mission for the Royals is the attainment of playoff glory. I’ll rarely say that one game, especially one playoff game, means everything. But in this case, if Cueto does not deliver, the Royals have to consider their season and their strategy a failure, at least in result, if not in plan.

Rob Manfred wants a new, unnecessary rule to protect middle infielders

utley
30 Comments

Commissioner Rob Manfred is at the Cards-Cubs game this afternoon and the sporting press just spoke with him about the fallout from the Chase Utley/Ruben Tejada play from the other night. Not surprising.

Also not surprising? Manfred’s desire to implement a new rule in an effort to prevent such a play from happening again. Or, at the very least, to allow for clear-cut punishment for someone who breaks it:

Which is ridiculous, as we already have Rule 6.05(m) on the books. That rule — which is as clear as Crystal Pepsi — says a baserunner is out when . . .

(m)A preceding runner shall, in the umpire’s judgment, intentionally interfere with a fielder who is attempting to catch a thrown ball or to throw a ball in an attempt to complete any play:

Rule 6.05(m) Comment: The objective of this rule is to penalize the offensive team for deliberate, unwarranted, unsportsmanlike action by the runner in leaving the baseline for the obvious purpose of crashing the pivot man on a double play, rather than trying to reach the base. Obviously this is an umpire’s judgment play.

That rule totally and completely covers the Utley-Tejada situation. The umpires were wrong for not enforcing it both then and in the past, but that’s the rule, just as good as any other rule in that book and in no way in need of replacement.

Why not just enforce that rule? What rule would “better protect” infielders than that one? What would do so in a more straightforward a manner? What could baseball possibly add to it which would make plays at second base less confusing rather than more so?

I suspect what Manfred is interested in here is some means to change this from a judgment call to a clear-cut rule. It was that impulse that led to the implementation of clocks for pitchers and batters and innings breaks rather than giving umpires the discretion to enforce existing pace-of-play rules. It was that impulse which led to a tripartite (or is it quadpartite?) means of determining whether a catcher impermissibly blocks the plate or a runner barrels him over rather than simply enforce existing base-blocking rules.

But taking rules out of the subjective realm and into the objective is difficult or downright impossible in many cases, both in law and in baseball. It’s almost totally impossible when intent is an element of the thing, as it is here. It’s likewise the case that, were there a clear and easy bright line to be established in service of a judgment-free rule on this matter, someone may have stumbled upon it once in the past, oh, 150 years. And maybe even tried to implement it. They haven’t, of course. Probably because there was no need, what with Rule 6.05(m) sitting up there all nice and tidy and an army of judgment-armed umpires standing ready to enforce it should they be asked to.

Unfortunately, Major League Baseball has decided that eschewing set rules in favor of new ones is better. Rules about the time batters and pitchers should take. Rules about blocking bases. Rules about how long someone should be suspended for a first time drug offense. Late Selig and Manfred-era Major League Baseball has decided, it seems, that anything 150 years of baseball can do, it can do better. Or at least newer and without the input of people in the judgment-passing business like umpires and arbitrators and the like.

Why can’t baseball send a memo to the umpires and the players over the winter saying the following:

Listen up:

That rule about running into fielders that you all have already agreed to abide by in your respective Collective Bargaining Agreements? We’re serious about it now and WILL be enforcing it. If you break it, players, you’re going to be in trouble. If you refuse to enforce it, umpires, you’re going to be in trouble. Understood? Good.

Sincerely

Bobby M.

If players complain, they complain. They don’t have a say about established rules. If, on the other hand, your process of making new rules is easier than your process of simply enforcing rules you already have, your system is messed up and we should be having a whole other conversation.

Anti-Chase Utley signs at Citi Field were brutal and hilarious

Chase Utley sign
17 Comments

Obviously Chase Utley was not the most popular figure in Citi Field last night. The fans booed him like crazy and chanted for him to make an appearance after the game got underway.

They made signs too. Lots and lots of signs. The one at the top of this article is the only one the Associated Press saw fit to grab a photo of, it seems. But there were more and, unlike that one, they were less than tame.

My favorite one was this one, held by a girl about my daughter’s age. It’s direct. It’s totally unequivocal. It gets the point across:

There’s no arguing with that. Utley could show up with a team of lawyers and after five minutes in front of this girl he’d be forced to admit, both orally and in writing, that, yes, he Buttley.

The New York Post categorizes many more of them here. Including one that didn’t make it into the park which said “Chase Utley [hearts] ISIS.” It was confiscated by Citi Field personnel. Why?

The sign, which actually used a “heart” drawing for loves, was confiscated by Citi Field security after she got inside Monday night. Culpepper was annoyed but gave a frank explanation.

“My guess is Isis doesn’t want to be associated with Chase Utley,” she said, calling him, “my least favorite player ever.”

Somebody call the burn unit.