Tag Archives: Buster Posey

Madison Bumgarner’s blinding, historic greatness

giants-bumgarner-worldseries

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

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The Giants cap a run to remember

There was Marco Scutaro, standing on second base, having just hit a double that drove in what would ultimately be a World Series winning run. He looked stern, but content. On the other side of the diamond, Ryan Theriot was popping back up from a slide across home plate, and sprung up screaming. The dugout was engulfed in anarchy.

The San Francisco Giants were now three outs away from winning a World Series. And the feeling was immediately one of inevitability. This was going to happen. Propelled by an incredible rotation, timely hitting, an MVP catcher and a rolodex of role players like Scutaro, the Giants were just minutes from capping a legendary year.

Continue reading

The brutal art of blocking the plate

Jason Varitek, ready and waiting.

This is the look of a determined catcher.

One knee down, the other leg planted, waiting for a throw to cut down the would-be run screaming down the third base line. And if it’s in time, that runner is dead.

For a catcher with pop but no consistent stroke, with a computerized brain data bank of every hitter and pitcher tendency in the majors, but without the durability to catch 140 games a season, being able to block the plate like no other becomes a valuable skill. So valuable, in fact, that it can bring to light all of the reasons a team still carries a player to begin with.

Jason Varitek, captain of the Boston Red Sox, has been splitting time behind the plate with the young Jarrod Saltalamacchia. He’s found his swing of late, tallying five home runs and bringing his average up to .250 in 124 at bats, and he’s been as instrumental in handling the pitching staff as ever. Josh Beckett’s great season, for example, can’t be mentioned without noting a small bit of credit belongs to his longtime battery mate.

And on Tuesday night, one of Varitek’s other skills, blocking the plate, was highlighted in dramatic fashion. Continue reading

Through three, the MLB playoffs

 

Is this the end for Rocco?

 

Here, a collection of random thoughts on the Major League Baseball playoffs for your enjoyment:

• Roy Halladay is a cold, cold dude

In the first playoff start of his career, he threw a no-hitter, needing only 104 pitches over two hours and 34 minutes to destroy the Cincinnati Reds. And the next night, the battled back from a 4-0 deficit for a 7-4 win over flame-throwing Aroldis Chapman and the Reds bullpen, via hit batsmen, walks and errors. Ugly, but effective.

Earlier this season, I waxed poetic on just how good Halladay was. And in this game, it was pretty obvious early that the Reds were done. He had his fastball, his changeup and his curve working to ridiculous extremes. Old friend Orlando Cabrera complained that the umps were giving him the corners; I didn’t see that. I saw Halladay clicking on all cylinders, and when that’s the case, there’s basically no hope. One walk where he nibbled a bit was all that kept him from sending all 27 batters back to the bench unsatisfied. Eight strikeouts, all dominance.

So much for playoff jitters.

I love Dennis Eckersley

I do believe Eck needs his own show. Red Sox fans are spoiled by his presence in studio all season, so it’s nice to see his talents on display for a national audience.

I caught this gem after Halladay’s no-hitter. I hope you did, too:

Matt Winer: “Can you imagine having his control, with his stuff?”

Eckersley: “Yeah, ’cause I did.”

I love Dennis Eckersley.

The Freak, the Giants, and the betrayal of the Atlanta Braves

I feel legitimately guilty here. I promised the mighty Matt Berry that, in lieu of a postseason appearance by the Red Sox, I would root for the Atlanta Braves.

I’m sorry I’ve deserted you, Bobby Cox and Derek Lowe so quickly.

It happened about halfway through Tim Lincecum’s gem in Game 1: 14 strikeouts, one walk, no runs.

And to follow that up, the Giants came out in Game 2 (currently underway) in their orange uniforms, which just makes me think of Jack Clark. And for some reason, I’ve always loved Jack Clark.

I may truly have left my heart in San Francisco. I love that city, I love the Bay, I love their record stores and I think I’ve fallen in love with the Giants this October.

Sorry, Matt.

• Is this the end for Rocco Baldelli?

Rocco Baldelli has always been a favorite of mine. Rhode Island’s native son, I’ve rooted for him since he came up with Tampa Bay in 2003. My former editor referred to him as look like a big dog galloping out in center field, racking up hits and wheeling around the bases.

Of course, injuries and a rare mitochondrial disorder have derailed his career. Just look at the baseball card I posted, his 2008 Topps issue: he looks labored. Every at-bat since that diagnosis has been precious. After signing with the Red Sox last season, he was valuable when he was in the lineup, but injuries kept him from making a meaningful contribution, even in a reserve role.

He signed on as a special assistant with Tampa this season, played his way back onto the team by Sept. 1, and made the postseason roster, serving as Tampa’s designated hitter in Game 1. It made for a nice little comeback story.

But the comeback is over. Baldelli was dropped from the roster with another injury related to his disorder. Willy Aybar took his place, and the Rays are down two games to the Texas Rangers. Whether or not they move on, this might be it for Rocco.

• The Twins, the Twins…

Alex Rodriguez likened a Yankee defeat of the Twins to David beating Goliath. Alex Rodriguez needs to learn to keep his mouth shut, because whenever he opens it, he removes all doubt that he’s a complete and hopeless idiot.

But the bigger point here is that the Twins, a longtime second love of mine as the jersey in my closet will attest, are on the verge of being knocked out by the Yankees again. Even if they were the victim of horrible officiating, this is pretty depressing.

Speaking of the umpires…

What the hell is wrong with the umpires?

Honestly, I never remember them being as bad as they are in the regular season as they’ve been in the playoffs. This is the second year of this. It’s as if their brains power down in October.

Greg Golson’s catch being called a non-catch. Buster Posey called safe in a steal of second when he was clearly out. Hunter Wendelstedt’s seizure-inducing strike zone. Chase Utley likely not actually being hit by Aroldis Chapman. On and on and on…

After his game, Buster Posey mused that it’s a good thing, for him, that baseball doesn’t have instant replay. I love that. I love that Posey, baseball’s newest darling, is already, albeit indirectly, needling Bud Selig, who must be the last man on Earth to believe that baseball doesn’t need more instant replay.

Baseball absolutely needs this. They need to protect themselves, and these umps clearly need someone to save them.

In the meantime, at least these games have been pretty incredible. And we’re only three days deep…