Mark Buehrle had “definitely no more than three” beers before saving Game 3 of the ’05 World Series

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David Ortiz is not the only Sox player who will see his number retired this week. In Chicago, retired White Sox starter Mark Buehrle will have his 56 retired as well.

He definitely earned it. He won 161 games in 12 seasons with the White Sox, defining what it meant to be a workhorse starter in the 21st century, tossing 200+ innings in every full season he pitched on the South Side. And, of course, he helped lead the White Sox to a World Series victory in 2005, starting the Chisox’ Game 2 victory, tossing seven innings.

He also got a save in that series. That came in Game 3, which went 14 innings, thus necessitating Buehrle’s services after Ozzie Guillen went through eight other pitchers. Buehrle only had to toss three pitches in a third of an inning to get that save, but he got it.

And, as he writes in The Players’ Tribune today, he did it with a slight handicap:

The thing a lot of people talk about with that one is this rumor that I drank a few beers before I got the save in our Game 3 victory.

There’s been some stuff that’s come out on that topic, but I feel like you all should really hear it straight from the horse’s mouth. So, here goes….

In short: Yeah, sure, O.K. fine, so I had a few. I can admit to that.

But you gotta let me explain.

He explains that he didn’t think he’d be pitching that night, which was a fair guess at the time. And that he got his drinking done pretty early, checking in with the coaches a lot. So, fine. But how many beers did he have?

And it was just like one or two beers . . .

. . . It was only like three beers….

Max.

Definitely no more than three, though.

I swear.

Mmhmm.

All of this, of course, makes one think about the whole Chicken and Beer incident in Boston. And how that became so overblown that it cost people their jobs and stuff. The only difference there is that (a) the guys drinking the beer were in no way coming into any games; and (b) the Red Sox lost. Change (b) and Josh Beckett and company become legends.

Anyway, congratulations on your honor, Mark. You earned it. Have a beer on us.

MLB report blames seam height, not juiced balls, for 2019 home run surge

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SAN DIEGO — This morning Major League Baseball released a report from a committee of scientists tasked with studying baseballs and the home run surge from 2019. Their verdict: that manufacturing variation leading to inconsistent seam height — not any intentional act taken to “juice” baseballs — is the reason for last year’s power explosion.

There were 6,776 home runs hit during the regular season, which shattered the previous record, set in 2017, by nearly 11 percent. Numerous players around the league suspected or assumed that the league, which owns the ball manufacturer, Rawlings, had intentionally juiced the baseball to promote offense. The committee concluded in the report that “no evidence was found that changes in baseball performance were due to anything intentional on the part of Rawlings or MLB and were likely due to manufacturing variability.”

That conclusion would appear to only be partially accurate.

Dr. Meredith Wills, an astrophysicist who has been conducting her own research on baseballs and the home run explosion, published her own work on all of this in The Athletic last June. Wills concluded that, based on her examination of baseball seams and seam height, a key part of the manufacturing process — the drying of damp, finished baseballs after assembly is complete — likely did change.

Specifically, she concluded that seam height and decreased bulging of baseballs which led to less aerodynamic drag and farther ball flight was likely the result of Rawlings using heaters to dry balls, as opposed to the traditional air-drying, allowing them to produce more balls in a shorter period of time. Wills told NBC Sports this morning that she suspects Rawlings did this because many more balls were needed due to Major League Baseball mandating that Triple-A adopt the major league ball for the 2019 season.

As such, the key word in this morning’s report is “intentional.” Wills:

“The decrease in drag was very likely unintentional, but the change in the drying process would be intentional. No, they didn’t intend to juice the ball, but yes, they did make an intentional change to the manufacturing process. It was not ‘manufacturing variability’ it was deliberate process improvement to accommodate higher demand. ‘Variability’ makes it sound like it’s random or a mistake. It was not.”

There is also the matter of the decrease in ball flight and home runs observed — and confirmed by today’s report — in the 2019 postseason.

MLB’s expert panel basically punts on any explanations for the variation, noting small sample size and no other apparent explanation. As such, the matter for the immediate change in the home run rate and fly ball distance the moment we moved from September to October baseball is not clear. Wills is continuing her research on 2019 postseason game balls — a matter about which there has already been no small amount of controversy of late — and expects to publish her results soon.

There will be a press conference regarding the study here at the Winter Meetings at 1PM Eastern time today. NBC Sports will be at that press conference. NBC Sports has a good number of followup questions.