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Must-click link: the pitcher who could not swing but got a hit

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Almost everything Sam Miller of ESPN writes is entertaining and enlightening but this thing he wrote today about Mets pitcher Robert Gsellman is one of my favorites in a while.

Gsellman, you may or may not know, tore the labrum in his non-pitching shoulder last year. He could still pitch, but he could not swing a bat. Except he still went up to the plate 17 times in 2016, most of them before the world at large knew that he had a torn labrum and could not swing. Miller takes us through each and every one of his plate appearances like a forensic detective, trying to determine whether or not the opposition knew — or should have known — that Gsellman literally could not swing a bat.

The results are somewhat sobering. Not from a substantive baseball perspective, as even a healthy Gsellman was not likely to do much damage to the opposition or, frankly, to the Mets, no matter how wonderfully or poorly he hit. It’s more sobering with respect to just how cautious and observant the average human being is in this thing we call life.

Miller brings this point home after Gsellman combined with Jake Thompson and Ryan Howard of the Phillies in a play that led to Gsellman — the man who could not swing — getting his only hit of the year. It happened when each of them failed to do the most very basic things possible under the circumstances: (a) to take a pitch when you can’t swing a bat; (b) to throw a 3-0 strike to a guy who can’t swing; and (c) to field a bunt from a guy who was 100% likely to lay down a bunt:

Look. You have expectations when you walk out the door every morning. You expect basic competency: The chef at the restaurant knows the difference between cooking oil and bleach. You expect basic self-preservation: The guy driving in the opposite direction as you isn’t suicidal. You expect that cause and effect will follow predictable rules: The cashier will give you a handful of change, not a raccoon

You expect to turn on a baseball game and see two capable, self-interested teams. And you end up with a batter who can’t (and shouldn’t) swing a bat, a pitcher who can’t throw a strike and Ryan Howard standing 15 feet behind the bag. Mathematically speaking, all three of these men are better at their job than your doctor is. Cheers.

Hope your checkup went well today and the MRI was read properly.

Young Blue Jays say they aren’t intimidated by top seed Rays

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) When the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays opened the pandemic-delayed season a little over two months ago, there was little to indicate the AL East rivals might meet again to begin the playoffs.

While the Rays launched the truncated 60-game schedule with expectations of making a strong bid for their first division title in a decade, the Blue Jays generally were viewed as an immensely talented young team still years away from postseason contention.

Tampa Bay didn’t disappoint, shrugging off a slow start to go a league-best 40-20 and claim the No. 1 seed in the AL playoffs that begin Tuesday.

Lefty Blake Snell, who’ll start Game 1 of the best-of-three wild-card series against Toronto at Tropicana Field, also isn’t surprised that the eighth-seeded Blue Jays earned a spot, too.

The Rays won six of 10 games between the teams during the regular season, but were outscored 48-44 and outhomered 17-11.

And while Toronto (32-28) lacks the playoff experience Tampa Bay gained last season when the Rays beat Oakland in the AL wild-card game before falling to Houston in the divisional round, the Blue Jays are building with exciting young players such as Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

“They’ve got a lot of young guys who can ball over there,” Snell said. “It’s going to be fun to compete and see how we do.”

Rays defensive whiz Kevin Kiermaier said Tampa Bay, in the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the second time franchise history, will not take the Blue Jays lightly.

“We know we’re playing a real good team,” Kiermaier said. “It’s not going to be easy, regardless of what a team is seeded.”

The Blue Jays, who’ll start right-hander Matt Shoemaker, aren’t conceding anything.

Bichette said he and his teammates respect how good Tampa Bay is, but are not intimidated by facing the No. 1 seed.

“I would say that we didn’t care who we played. I would say that we didn’t mind playing Tampa, that’s for sure. We’re familiar with them. We’ve played them well,” Bichette said.

“I think we’re confident in our ability against them. Our talent matches up well,” Bichette added. “We think if we play well we’ve got a good chance.”

NO FANS

The stands at Tropicana Field will be empty, leaving players to wonder what the atmosphere will be like for the playoffs.

Tampa Bay routinely rank at or near the bottom of the majors in attendance, but usually pack the stands in the domed stadium during the postseason.

“It will be different,” Bichette said. “Normally when you think of your first postseason you think 40,000, you think about not being able to think it’s so loud, stuff like that.”

The Blue Jays open the playoffs near where they hold spring training in Dunedin, Florida. It’s been a winding road for Toronto, which played its home games in Buffalo, New York, at the site of its Triple-A affiliate after the Canadian government barred the Blue Jays from hosting games at their own stadium because of coronavirus concerns.

CONFIDENT RAYS

Tampa Bay’s five-game loss to Houston in last year’s divisional round was a source of motivation during the regular season.

“It definitely lit a fire under everybody. It really showed us we belong. … We gave them a tough series,” second baseman Brandon Lowe said.

“We won the wild-card game. We belong in the postseason. I think that did a lot for us to understand that we should be in the postseason and we can go a lot farther. We know what to expect this time around. I think everyone in our clubhouse expects to be playing until the end of October,” he said.

CLOSE FRIENDS

Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash has the Rays in the playoffs for the second time. His close friend and former Rays third base and bench coach Charlie Montoyo is in his second year as manager of the Blue Jays, who last made the playoffs in 2016.

“Pretty special,” Cash said of his relationship with Montoyo.

“I really learned a lot from him being around him. The way he carried himself. His hand print is throughout this organization,” Cash added. “A pretty big impact and a positive one. … When they clinched I talked to him, we face-timed at 1:30 in the morning. I’m so happy for him.”