Monthly Archives: May 2012

When home runs are actually exciting

He’s Giancarlo now, and he’s awesome.

Without emotional investment, there is little in baseball quite as boring as a home run. Honestly.

Among the league leaders in home runs this season are Adam Dunn, Jay Bruce, Mike Napoli and Matt Holiday. What do they have in common, besides having between six and 10 home runs this season? They’re patient hitters, they walk a lot, the have their share of strikeouts and, for the most part, they’re boring.

They’re effective, and smart teams try to get as many of these players as they can. Players who can reach base that often and are that patient at the plate certainly have value. General managers love them, and many fans find them fascinating.

But beyond the spreadsheet, they don’t do much for me, mostly because they specialize in the three most boring aspects of the game, the “three true outcomes” of home runs, walks and strikeouts. Continue reading


Rajon Rondo, basketball’s answer to Pedro

In the face of logic and ravages of age, the Boston Celtics are in the midst of a revival and have a real shot at making a run in the NBA playoffs.

But in Game 1, the Celtics came out flat against the Atlanta Hawks. A bad call on a jump ball caused their point guard to lose his temper and bump a referee. They lost, and had to play the second game without him.

They did win, bringing the series back to Boston tied 1-1. After the game, that guard was apologetic and thankful to his teammates, but also surprisingly brash.

“I feel like we’ve already won the series,” he said.

Meet Rajon Rondo, basketball’s answer to the one and only Pedro Martinez. Continue reading

The greatest career, over?

The seemingly indestructible Mariano Rivera

As is very well known at this point, Mariano Rivera suffered a knee injury shagging fly balls in batting practice yesterday. He went back for a ball when his ACL snapped, sending him to the ground in a heap. Later, he tearfully addressed the New York media.

In a moment, one of the more remarkable careers in baseball history may have come to a crashing end. And its tragic, as much and more so as the tenure of a 42-year-old relief pitcher could possibly be.

It’s not just that a career may be over. It’s that the greatest career may be over. Rivera, from his switch to the bullpen until yesterday, was the fantastic constant in baseball. He was good for 30 to 50 saves a season, with a WHIP under 1.000 and the most miniscule of ERAs.

And the way he carried himself pulled it all together. He was quiet, professional and, without scowl or howl, completely terrifying. His cut fastball was a weapon that, despite losing a few miles per hour in velocity, continued to baffle batters on both sides of the plate. He was so well respected within the game, by his peers, the fans and the media, that he earned near universal praise. He was and is routinely cheered by Red Sox fans at Fenway Park, an honor unthinkable for another Yankee. Continue reading

Anatomy of a day in the Major Leagues

Baseball Reference tracks players with only one game in the Major Leagues in their “cup of coffee” database, a living monument to those who lived the dream for one day before sliding back down to the minors or leaving the game completely.

There are some memorable entries within. There’s Moonlight Graham, of course, the New York Giants right fielder made famous in Field of Dreams. The last player alphabetically, Charlie Zink, twirled his knuckleball for one start in Fenway Park in 2008, a frantic game the Boston Red Sox won 19-17 over the Texas Rangers.

I didn’t get to watch Zink’s start, but I was sitting in the center field bleachers when Che-Hsuan Lin made his major league debut earlier this season for the Red Sox against the Tampa Bay Rays. He came in as a defensive replacement for Cody Ross in center, then was sent back down to Pawtucket before getting a chance to bat. He should get another chance at some point, but, in baseball, little is guaranteed.

Not likely to be sent down so quickly is Will Middlebrooks, who, last night, made his major league debut, batting eighth and playing third base in place of an ailing Kevin Youkilis against the Oakland A’s. And right away, Middlebrooks looked like a Major Leaguer. Continue reading