Feats of Strength


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I’ve felt like I’ve been in a cloud all day.

I’ve had a little twitch in my left eye that’s come and gone to accompany the drifting headache and general exhaustion that comes with not going to bed until nearly 2 a.m. on a day where I was an hour busier than usual. So a thank you goes out to daylight savings time ending, to The Darkness for putting on one of the more ridiculous rock and roll shows I’ve ever witnessed, and for the Kansas City Royals for ending the 2015 World Series in only the most insane and suitable of fashions. (more…)

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At one point, this was Alex Gordon.

At one point, this was Alex Gordon.

I meant to write something — not quite this — before the start of what seems like a wholly improbable World Series, though any cold, rational look at it will show that it’s anything but that. These are two teams built to win in their own ways, one through young, powerful pitchers and the other on speed and opportunism. It’s only a surprise because we endlessly associate everything with the words and colors on their shirts and hats.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course. The laundry is what pulls everything together. It’s how we tell who’s who in the stadium, and those stadiums are usually coordinated to match. So it’s natural that we associate decades of losing and ineptitude with the uniforms of those who carried out those sullied legacies.

It’s the uniform that’s the reason for the card posted alongside this piece, mostly because I don’t have a lot of cards of the current members of these teams. As feverishly as my baseball card collecting came back around 2010, so too it went shortly after. So here’s Alex Gordon, back when he was a clean-shaven third baseman and thought to be a disappointment, not the lynchpin of a free-swinging group of relative youngsters. (more…)

Pedro Martinez, in the midst of doing what he did.

Pedro Martinez, in the midst of doing what he did.

If I glance to my left from my desk at work, I can see various things taped up: concert setlists, band photos, album covers, little trinkets to keep me motivated and feeling like I’m at home. One of them is a Pedro Martinez baseball card, circa 2003. He’s pumping his fist, probably after another strikeout.

Thanks to a quick decline in baseball card quality the past couple of seasons, the collecting bug that I rekindled around 2010 has flamed out again, leading me back to the occasional, nostalgic purchase. I still seek out individual Red Sox each year, and I pick up stray cards of players I like on the cheap. In terms of space and money spent, it’s a much more affordable existence.

This weekend, I was tooling around again for the first time in a few months, and sort of instinctively started looking for Pedro cards. Soon enough, I found a 10-card lot of ones I mostly didn’t have, priced around $3 total, and took the plunge. The entire exercise probably took around 10 minutes.

Tomorrow afternoon, there’s a very good chance that Pedro is going to be announced as a 2015 Hall of Fame inductee, along with Randy Johnson, Craig Biggio and maybe a couple of others (John Smoltz? Mike Piazza?). It’s a feather in the cap of an incredible career, and it feels nice to know that he’s being acknowledged for his work. But that’s not what I was thinking about when I went searching for those cards, because I don’t think much about the Hall of Fame anymore. (more…)

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I feel like I’ve been droning on about Madison Bumgarner in faux poetry for days now, but after racking my brain for all the other fantastic pitching performances I’ve seen in October and otherwise — Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez, Josh Beckett, C.C. Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Chris Carpenter — nothing compares to what this guy has pulled off.

What he accomplished in just this World Series is legendary, and just by the numbers. In three games, he threw 21 innings, gave up one run, one walk, struck out 17 and kept his ERA to 0.43 en route to two wins and his incredible five-inning save in Game 7. Factor in his entire World Series career, and the numbers get even more ridiculous: a 0.25 ERA, still only one run, five walks and 31 strikeouts over 36 high-intensity innings.

The numbers are for the historians and analysts, who will take into account the era in which Bumgarner pitched — one of pitch counts and controlled innings and proper rest between appearances — and place him among the greats like Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson and Sandy Koufax.

But we watched this in real time. We saw Bumgarner carry the Giants through the Wild Card game, control the Cardinals in the NLCS and then dominate the Kansas City Royals with ease in Game 1. He topped himself in front of a home crowd in Game 5, shutting them out and finishing what he started. And then, after a shaky start to his first batter, with just two days of rest after throwing those nine innings, he settled down, firing nails into the championship dreams of every Kansas City Royals player, coach and fan. (more…)

Madison Bumgarner made his mark immediately as a rookie.

Madison Bumgarner made his mark immediately as a rookie.

Why is the World Series such a great event? One reason is that, every year, without fail, someone seizes control of his own destiny and makes the most of the chance. Last night, that was Madison Bumgarner.

Watching Bumgarner meticulously pick apart the Royals for nine innings in his last start of the season was one of those coronation-type moments. The reality and depth of his October career have already been established — he beat the Rangers as a 21-year-old in the 2010 World Series and has just gotten better from there. But this season has cemented him in that higher plane of October warriors, starting with his dismantling of the Pirates in the Wild Card game and right through to last night’s Game 5, pushing the Giants to the brink of another World Series trophy. (more…)

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