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. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
Remember when Manny Ramirez spent four years hugging David Ortiz?
Beyond the fact that the Boston Red Sox had spun a 10-game losing streak into a 3-game winning streak, there was some unbelievable stuff taking place at Fenway Park last night.
Plenty about it was certainly within belief. The team honored the 2004 World Series champions, so there were some old idiots welcomed home. Kevin Millar’s unhinged stream-of-conscious commentary during one inning of play was delightfully manic. Pedro Martinez danced through the outfield. David Ortiz hugged everyone. And Manny Ramirez showing up with a mohawk wasn’t the most ridiculous haircut he could’ve sported.
But the contrite Ramirez that apologized for the inglorious ending and burned bridges wasn’t something that ever felt possible. Peter Gammons, famously, reported that manager Terry Francona told him, “Manny Ramirez is the worst human being I’ve ever met.” He knocked down 64-year-old traveling secretary Jack McCormick towards the end of his stint in Boston in 2008. There were numerous run-ins with management and other players beyond that — I vividly remember him and Kevin Youkilis getting into it in the dugout during one game — and the bizarre path of his career after Boston, through Hollywood and Chicago and North Korea, spaced out by suspensions and retirement, made it seem as though Ramirez was lost in the woods forever. The man who, with Ortiz, formed half of the most terrifying 3-4 in baseball since Ruth and Gehrig, arguably, was a punchline and a fading memory. Continue reading