Hamilton avoids alcohol in celebration of AL West clinching

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We’re all familiar with the scene after baseball teams clinch postseason spots.  Champagne everywhere.  Beer poured over heads that are guarded only by goggles.  Cigars lit and puffed frequently.  Laughter.  Cheering. 

It’s all very cool and all very innocent, but not to an addict.

So Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton, who spent his first couple years as a professional baseball player fighting battles with drugs and alcohol, sat on the sidelines as his club celebrated its first playoff berth since 1999 on Saturday in Oakland.

According to the Associated Press, Hamilton changed quickly into street clothes after the win and slipped into a training room as his teammates enjoyed the alcoholic beverage scene.

“It’s exciting,” Hamilton said about clinching the division. “It’s a
proud day in Texas. It was great to be on the field and with the guys
you’ve been in the trenches with.”

But he wasn’t going to put himself in a compromising situation.  He wasn’t going to tempt himself with beer and champagne, as exciting as winning the AL West might have been.

Hamilton has been out of the Rangers’ starting lineup since September 4 because of two small fractures in his rib cage.  He is making progress, though, and hoping to return for the final three games of the regular season.  The MVP candidate was batting an incredible .361/.414/.635 with 31 homers and 97 RBI before going down.

Matt Carpenter hit a standup bunt double

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The wave of defensive shifts we’ve seen over the past few years has led to a lot of armchair hitting coaches demanding that players bunt to beat it. This is easier said than done, however.

The shift happens because certain hitters tend to pull the ball. Certain hitters tend to pull the ball because pulling the ball is what happens when one gets a strong, quick swing on a pitch one identifies early and which one endeavors to send as far away from home plate as possible. Which is to say that pulling is a skill that is good to have and which is strongly selected for among hitters.

In light of that, “why not just bunt to beat the shift” takes are kind of lazy. Bunting is hard! And it is not a thing guys who get shifted a lot are good at. Most of the time asking a player to do a thing he is not well-equipped to do is a bad idea. Indeed, a hitter voluntarily going away from his strength is something the defense would much prefer.

Most of the time anyway.

Last night Matt Carpenter made those armchair hitting coaches happy by laying down a bunt to beat the shift. And he laid it down so well that he ended up with a standup double:

One batter later Carpenter scored on a Starlin Castro error.

The shift giveth and the shift taketh away.