Eric Byrnes doubled to lead off the 7th inning!!! (Hmm, 7 seems to be his lucky number these days). This was off the Blue Jays southpaw starter Chacin.This is the extra-base hit I’ve been waiting for. I hereby declare that ol’ batting slump officially over!!!
AND HE SCORED! Yup. And Daryl, (of the MLBLog Daryl’s Place), I know you don’t like the idea of trading two outs for a run, but Byrnes moved to third on a sac bunt and scored on a sac fly, with the Baltimore TV announcers remarking all the way about his hustle, dedication, speed, running style and all the other things THEY said make Byrnesie easy to root for, and while someone in Oakland was getting very excited at the prospect and finally the accomplishment, of a Byrnes run scored! The Orioles were clicking on all cylinders tonight. Gibbons and Tejada homered earlier. Then Byrnes was driven in a la small ball.
AND THEN HE CAME UP IN THE 9TH AND PUT A BELT-HIGH CURVE BALL INTO THE SECOND DECK OF THE ROGERS CENTRE!!!! (A two-run jack, so here come the ribbies!!)
Byrnesie had flied to left and flied to center his first two times up. I thought there was too much twist in his body and uppercut in his follow through, as if Tiger Woods had been his hitting instructor, instead of Terry Crowley. But I could see the confidence. I could just tell when he was going to swing and he swung like he meant it. And a side view of the home run that I saw on a reply showed that there was less uppercut in the follow-through than had appeared in the earlier outs. So he can produce the fly ball with the more level swing; it just goes farther .
Pitchers who doubt me are more than welcome to conduct their own experiments on Byrnes. I especially recommend them trying out those belt-high pitches that are middle to outer part of the plate to test hypotheses on how far Byrnes’ relatively skinny arms can drive a ball if he gets fully extended. Curveball, change up, fastball, take your pick.
AND BTW, that jack in the 9th was against a RIGHTY reliever…Batista. I’m going to have to get around to writing an article about Byrnesie’s HARP. (Hits Against Right-Handed Pitchers). It’s music to my ears.
But now I have to quibble with managerial strategy. It’s 7-0. Bruce Chen has pitched lights out. You would think he was Barry Zito or something.
Why bring in Ray to close? Ray had a great 1-2-3 inning. But how about giving the bullpen a rest with a huge lead and let the starter try for a complete game shutout? If a run scores, then you pull him. But let him try. It’s a feather in his cap to do it, and overworked bullpens blow up.
But today was a great day when the Orioles played like a contender. And you know my new philosophy of life: Any time Eric Byrnes gets a hit, or makes a great defensive play, is cause to be of good cheer. He wasn’t called on for any outfield heroics today, but he went 2 for 4 with two extra-base hits, 2 RBI, 2 runs scored, and the power to keep me from crying all day about New Orleans.
Yes, sometimes things are just out of our hands and the best we can do is to do what we do the best we can. Off to teach news class with my 15 hat on my head and a big smile on my face.
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The Oakland A’s and the geographically-challenged Angels put on quite a show last night. It was an 11-inning, 2-1 barnburner made all the better by the fact that the team I was rooting for, the A’s, won it.
But thank you, Angels, for the fight you put up, because what made this such a great game was how close it was. So close, in fact, that the matchup of aces: Barry Zito of the A’s and Bartolo Colon of the Angels, ended up with both of them pitching through 3 outs in the 9th, but getting a "no-decision."
It was so close that it took only one pitch, a Zito fastball that wasn’t inside quite enough, to push the game into extra frames. Just who is Robb Quinlan and why is he homering off Barry Z? (I’m sure an Angels fan will tell me).
Slumping switch-hitter Bobby Kielty homering on his weak side off the devastating Angels’ closer Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez, followed by the A’s 22-year-old closer Huston Street getting defending AL MVP Vladimir Guererro to ground to second with two out and two on to end the game is the kind of stuff kids grow up dreaming of doing. Themes of redemption, of rising to the occasion, of proving to doubters that you are capable are major dramas of the human psyche that are played out, writ large, in sports.
The A’s are now on top of the AL West, two games ahead of the Angels. There’s still plenty of baseball left in this season so we don’t know how things are going to end up. During the game, the A’s radio announcers said they were hoping for an A’s-Angel’s ALCS. Right now, that sounds like an exciting idea.
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"Right now, I don’t know my role. I don’t know nothing about nothing. So right now, I just stay in the bullpen ready for pitching. Last year, I knew my role. I’m ready to go. I’m ready to go for my role. My role was closing. This year, I don’t know my role."
–Jorge Julio, relief pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles, after giving up 5 runs on two homers to the Oakland Athletics in the 12th inning of a really ugly 10-5 loss by the Orioles on August 29.
It’s really very straightforward, Jorge. You are a pitcher. When you are in a game your role is 1) to throw strikes, 2) to induce outs, and 3) not to give up homers. It does not matter what inning it is. It does not matter who the opposition is. It does not matter whether you’re home or away. It does not matter whether or not they call you a closer. Whenever and wherever you are brought into a game, you are expected 1) to throw strikes, 2) to induce outs, and 3) not to give up homers.
Nothing to be confused about. It really is very straightforward.
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Has "The Closer" ruined pitching?
The Oakland A’s retired Dennis Eckersley’s No. 43 on August 13. The pre-game ceremony included the Hall of Famer riding onto the field in a yellow Corvette, a videotaped tribute by his former A’s and Cardinals manager, Tony La Russa, and a gift from the current A’s team, presented by their closer, the 22-year-old rookie, Huston Street.
There is no doubt that "Eck" deserves all the kudos he gets. He was a decent starter in his day, compiling a winning record of 197-171, including a 20-win season with the Boston Red Sox in 1978. He confronted his demons and won back his sobriety. And he transformed relief pitching. There were great relievers before and during his time. But "Eck" defined the position of closer. Eric Gagne and Mariano Rivera have became superstars, and Huston Street came up to the A’s as a closer, because Dennis Eckersley showed the world that the bullpen wasn’t where faded starters went to die.
During his prime as a reliever, "Eck" was so dominating that it’s ironic that the one thing that stands out about his career is a time when he did not dominate. It was Game 1 in the 1988 World Series against the Dodgers, when he gave up that home run to a gimpy, pinch-hitting Kirk Gibson. "Eck" also gave us the term for what Gibson did by suddenly ending the game. It was a "walk-off."
After Eckersley, every team had to have a closer. Not just a good bullpen, but a "closer." So now the starter is not expected to complete the game. I grew up watching some really great starters, guys such as Koufax, Drysdale, Marichal, Carlton, Palmer, Cuellar, Tiant, Lonborg, Lolich, Tom Seaver, the Hall of Fame pitcher who shares our blog space, and the incomparable Bob Gibson, just to name a few. These guys took the mound expecting to go 9 innings. They didn’t always do so, but that was their expectation. And a good percentage of complete games was something they could point to come contract-negotiation time.
The description of the pitchers who are on the ballot for Greatest Latino Starter shows that Juan Marichal finished 244 of his 451 starts and that Fernando Valenzuela opened the 1981 season with 8 consecutive complete game wins. Will we ever see the likes of that again, regardless of the ethnicity of the pitcher?
Starting, and even closing, have changed since Eckersley’s heyday. He would often be brought in to pitch the 8th as well as the 9th. Oakland’s opponents knew they had better be leading by the 7th if they wanted to win, because, after that, "Eck" would be brought in to shut ‘em down. But now there are pitch counts, pitchers who come in for only one or two batters because they specialize in facing only lefties or righties, and setup men to get to the closer. A "quality start" is now defined as a pitcher giving up three or fewer runs in six or seven innings. A complete game is a welcome break for the relief crew. Rarely are the starters around in the late innings to complete a pitchers’ duel, like the one on August 12th, when Oakland’s Danny Haren and Minnesota’s Cy Young Winner Johan Santana, each pitched 9 innings in a game won by Minnesota 1-0.
This emphasis on relief pitching has changed starting, and maybe the whole game of baseball, for the worse. Starters come up through college and the minors only expecting to go 6 or 7 innings. (Should ERA be calculated on the basis of 6 innings instead of 9?) That means they often lack the mental or physical stamina to go 9, even when they’re going well, or they lack the stamina to work their way through the middle innings if they get into an early jam.
One thing I really like about Oakland’s ace, Barry Zito: he can throw 120 pitches regularly. I’ve seen him throw 125. We all know how the 2003 Boston Red Sox paid dearly in October for the fact that Pedro Martinez often transforms from Dr. Jekyll into Mr. Hyde after 100 pitches. A pitch count is a good idea if a team knows a guy is like that. Pitch counts and a lot of relievers waiting in the bullpen are also good ideas for bringing back injured starters carefully or nursing very young arms. But for the game in general, modern relief pitching raises a chicken-or-egg question: Do starters lose their stuff after 100 pitches because they run out of gas, or do they run out of gas around 100 pitches because they are generally expected only to go that far? In fact, it affects the entire game because managers have to consider whether they’ll carry an extra pitcher in the bullpen or an extra bat on the bench. Pitching has changed, but the size of the roster has not.
Is it just me, or have we really seen an unusually large number of high-scoring games this year? Games in which the starters didn’t last very long or tired, overused bullpens blew up? Just as an example, I have listed below the games in which teams combined for 10 runs or more during the weekend of August 5-7. Not all the high scores reflect balanced scoring with narrow margins of victory, i.e. there are a few strong good pitching staffs around, like the Oakland A’s, who won 16-1 and 11-0 that weekend. Still, doesn’t this level of scoring seem a little, well, extreme?
CLE/DET 15; LAD/PIT 18; SD/WSH 11; BAL/TEX 15; CHC/NYM 14; BOS/MIN 12; ATL/SLT 14; COL/ARI 10;
BAL/TEX 13; NYY/TOR 13; LAD/PIT 13; MIL/PHI 10; OAK/KC 17; TB/LAA 10
CLE/DET 11; LAD/PIT 10; BAL/TEX 12; BOS/MIN 18; OAK/KC 11;
On August 6, Colorado and Arizona combined for 21 runs in a game that ended Colorado 14, Arizona 7. I like offense in baseball, but shouldn’t that score have been in a game between the Broncos and the Cardinals, rather than the Rockies and the Diamondbacks?
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August 28, 2005–Hurricane Katrina is bearing down on New Orleans and will hit the city as a Category 5 or high Category 4 storm. Five is the highest category. Fives are rare and catastrophic. But the difference between a five and a high four is about the difference between being run over by an 18-wheeler or an Army tank. It’s been hard to focus on things today. Here is the disaster New Orleans has feared and narrowly escaped for years.
New Orleans is a beautiful city. There really is a streetcar named Desire. I was there in 1989 as part of the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir. We sang at the Jazz Festival that year. A serious thunderstorm passed through as several of us headed to the French Quarter to try our first alligator sausages. We took shelter in the doorway of a department store until the storm passed. Then we proceeded to the Quarter as if nothing much had happened. Later we found out that the storm had done so much damage that the Zoo and the Jazz Festival’s outdoor venues would be closed the next day. That was just a thunderstorm. Tonight, 8 to 9, 000 people have taken shelter in the Superdome.
The baseball connection is that in 1989, as my roommate, Dee, and I got ready for our performance, I turned on the TV and saw a familiar face. My childhood favorite, Ron Swoboda, was giving the sports news. After his playing days in New York were done, he made New Orleans his home, becoming a sports reporter and later sports director for a TV station down there. It was a total "blast from the past" to see him.
Dee and I had four days to eat our way through the city. In one small restaurant near our motel we were offered free cups of gumbo. Dee has a shellfish allergy so she had to be careful about ingredients. I had no such worries. I tried jumbalaya, beignets (the fried dough confection of the city), alligator sausages, and the muffaletto, the famous sandwich of the city. I remember Dee and I sitting in a park in the French Quarter, overlooking the calm Gulf of Mexico; we were munching on our muffalettos and trying to figure out what was missing. We finally decided that the sandwich should be made with San Francisco style sourdough bread, no doubt a heresy to anyone from New Orleans.
One night I ordered a plate of crawfish to go. The locals call them mudbugs. They look like tiny lobsters. A fresh fish stand at my local farmer’s market here in Oakland has been offering crawfish for several weeks. Every time I walk by, I think of the two other places I have seen them: Bloomington, Indiana, where an occasional crawfish would end up in a creek on the Indiana University campus, and New Orleans, where they are a staple of any real "Nawlins" restaurant.
New Orleans is a beautiful city. It’s the one city in the hot, muggy Deep South in which I would consider living. But last year, I read an article about how difficult it would be to evacuate the city in the event of a direct hit by a major hurricane. The article stated that about one hundred thousand of the city’s residents don’t have cars and could not leave if an evacuation were ordered. Those who can leave might find themselves stuck on the road as even the main artery in and out of the city, Interstate 10, has areas that flood in heavy rains. And to be safe, it would take far more than just leaving the city limits. It might mean leaving the state, and hoping that there would be something of your home and workplace still standing when you got back.
Tonight New Orleans is a beautiful, if boarded up, city. But things are about to get very hard for the Big Easy. Tonight, it’s not about the jazz or the food, or the minor league baseball team whose game against Iowa was postponed earlier today. It’s about taking a direct hit from a one-eyed giant named Katrina that could leave a million people in the region homeless. It’s about an ugly reality for this beautiful city: the worst-case scenario is about to happen.
Byrnes’ stats for the week and more ball talk in a couple of days. Right now, it’s sleep, school, work, and prayers for the City of New Orleans.
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News Item: August 27, 2005 (AP) Sidney Ponson was arrested early Thursday on a drunken driving charge, the latest legal problem for the pitcher considered the ace of the Baltimore Orioles staff a year ago.
During today’s broadcast of the Orioles-A’s game, the announcers said that you had told manager Sam Perlozzo that you were going to seek help. I hope this is true and that you get help quickly.
Being a major league baseball player is a glorious pursuit. But sometimes we fans forget that playing in the major leagues isn’t always a bed of roses. This year you’ve been hurt. (How many pitchers have gotten hit by a batted ball this year?!) You went on the DL with that calf strain and it’s still bothering you. You have a losing record and a high ERA. You know that Baltimore wanted to trade you. It can’t be any fun to know that your organization doesn’t want you anymore, and that you are still with them only because the other guy had a no-trade clause and nixed the deal. You come from a tiny country that’s been in the spotlight lately for all the wrong reasons. Maybe you feel pressure to represent Aruba to the larger world. That’s a big and unfair burden to place on any one person. Don’t place it on yourself.
The bottle is not the answer to your pain. You could kill or maim an innocent person. You could kill or maim yourself. And then there are the attendant embarrassing and expensive legal issues. Too much booze is bad for your health and your general life, as well as your career. Ask Dennis Eckersley, who tried to battle his inner demons with the bottle. It didn’t work. But then he reclaimed his sobriety and went on to define the position of closer. Now he’s a Hall of Famer and we just retired his number here in Oakland a few weeks ago. Sobriety does not guarantee a Hall of Fame career. But The Eck would tell you that it guarantees a happier, healthier life full of self-respect, family and friends. And if it also helps you become a star, well, that’s just icing on the cake.
In today’s San Francisco Chronicle, on the page opposite the one on which the story of your latest arrest was reported, there was another Associated Press story. It was about Dwight Gooden turning himself in to a county jail in Tampa, FL on Thursday, after fleeing the police on Monday, when they pulled him over on a DUI traffic stop. Gooden, who is now facing a felony charge of fleeing the police, as well as other charges, is now 40. We barely remember the fireballing "Doc." What we see now are the troubles with cops and the allegations of drunk driving and domestic violence.
Sidney, you can travel Gooden’s path, or you can travel Eckersley’s path. I hope you will make the right choice.
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August 27, 2005–Chronicle News Services reported today that an unnamed Florida Marlins batboy was suspended by the Marlins for accepting a dare from LA Dodgers pitcher Brad Penny. The dare was to drink a gallon of milk within an hour without vomiting. Penny offered him $500 to do it.
According to the article, Penny told the Miami Herald, "It’s kind of ridiculous that you get a 10-game suspension for steroids and a six-game suspension for milk."
Perhaps it was really a 6-game suspension for willingness to perform an act some people might consider to be gambling. When you consider steroids in sports, or the dangerous alcoholic beverage games involved in some college fraternity pledge rituals, drinking milk is rather a tame dare, especially to this inveterate milk drinker.
If there was to be a sanction, perhaps it should have been on Penny for offering a minor money to perform a dare, even though it involved no illegal substance.
But Penny’s point should be well-taken. When I went to the third game of the Orioles-A’s series at the Coliseum, someone further down in my section had a cardboard sign that read "Sosa and Palmeiro cheated. Boo!" That started the steroids conversation among three guys behind me. They decided that somebody caught using steroids should get a 100-game suspension on the first offense, and a lifetime ban on the second.
Ten days for steroids, six days for milk. How serious is professional baseball about stamping out the use of performance-enhancing drugs? You make the call.
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It was one of those days where everything seemed to be just a little bit off. Here I was, going to a Wednesday game, having also gone on Monday. I had to keep reminding myself it was Wednesday, not Sunday. On the way to the train stations, I stopped at a drug store to buy a single-use camera. I didn’t realize until I was on the train headed to the Coliseum that I had purchased an indoor flash camera. Oh, well, I thought to myself, it will be foggy before the game. Maybe the flash will help.
Here on the Left Coast, we call the fog Nature’s Air Conditioner. If it’s sunny early in the morning, you know it’s going to be a broiler. But that doesn’t mean it is necessarily cold because it’s foggy. By the time I bought my ticket and got on line to wait for the park to open—a record early appearance for me—I taken off my sweatshirt and tied it around my waist. That revealed my Byrnes 22 T-shirt. On Monday, someone was wearing one everywhere I looked. But today, I saw only one person wearing one: me. There were a lot of Crosbys and still some Tejadas. Later in the day, I would see someone wearing a beautiful Chad Bradford A’s jersey. Some folks might remember Mr. Chadwick Lee Bradford of Mississippi, a sidearmer shipped to Boston as soon as he had recovered from his back surgery, in exchange for Jay Payton, the new A’s left fielder, who, I acknowledge, has been doing a bang up job for his new team.
While waiting for the gates to open, I wrote a little poetry, some of which is already on this blog: "Young Girls with Gloves" and "Home." The latter dedicated to Byrnes.
It being a day game after a night game there was no practice. So you would think that the players could or would mingle with fans and sign stuff. But that was not the case. Some of the A’s were stretching and jogging by the left field bullpen where a few pitchers were warning up. But only one of the A’s, wearing his jacket over his number, so I don’t know who it was, signed a few things in front of the A’s dugout along the third base line. I waited with my clipboard just behind the visitors’ dugout hoping that Eric Byrnes would show up and sign my latest "Eric Byrnes Pitch Count Report." Next to me was a boy with an Eric Byrnes baseball card. I used to collect baseball cards as a kid, but I haven’t seen one in a long time. The photo appeared to capture Byrnesie in mid-swing, staring at the barrel of his bat with all the intensity we know he has. It was a great shot. Kudos to the photog.
But there would be no Eric Byrnes, Miguel Tejada, Sammy Sosa, or just about anyone else folks were lined up to see. Orioles reliever Jason Grimsley walked from the bullpen to the dugout and was asked to sign one thing when he reached the dugout corner nearest home plate. Starter Bruce Chen exchanged waves with us as he went to the outfield for a light game of catch with someone else wearing a jacket that covered his number. I was surprised to see Chen assume a catcher’s crouch to take some tosses from the other guy. Gee, isn’t that dangerous? What if he gets hit in the face? I thought. Fortunately, there was no need to worry about that. Chen signed a whole bunch of things when he got to the homeside corner of the dugout.
Former catcher and now Orioles coach Elrod Hendricks passed by. He would later become accidentally involved in a play. A foul fly was hit toward the Orioles bullpen. David Newhan, playing right field, went after it at full speed. Hendricks, on the bullpen bench, stood up and tried to get out of the way, but he and Newhan collided and Newhan missed the catch. It was a very mild collision, nothing like what happened to Mets’ outfielders Cameron and Beltran a few weeks ago. Still, Newhan was lucky. Hendricks may sport gray hair, but he’s still straight-backed, broad-shouldered and solid as the brick wall at Wrigley. Crashing into him, even slightly, is cruisin’ for a bruisin’.
The sky was clearing by the time the security personnel told us folks hanging out at the dugout to go to back to our seats. By the time I reached my seat, up in the next to the last row of a third deck section between first and home, it was time for the sunscreen. I thought of the Bud Light commercial that "paid tribute" to "Mr. SPF-80 Sun-block-wearer" and his "Coconut-Scented Force Field." I was wearing only SPF-45…unscented. Others were donning similar stuff. White goo was definitely the order of the day in the third deck at the Coliseum.
Candlestick Park, where the SF Giants used to play until the 2000 season, had the reputation of being windy and cold. One season they gave out the Croix de Candlestick, a commemorative button for anyone who stuck it out until the end of an extra inning night game. Years ago, someone visiting Candlestick for the first time—I’m sorry, I don’t remember who it was—was aghast at the wind conditions. And this was during the day, before the wind really kicked up. He is reported to have said that if Willie Mays had played anywhere else, "The Say Hey Kid" would have hit 800 homers.
The Coliseum in Oakland is near enough to San Francisco Bay to receive the wind coming off the water. Opening Night 2004, which marked the first time I ever went to an Opening Night, was football weather, and the veteran fans were dressed for such, blankets and all. But game three of the Orioles series was a day game, and it was great to have the sun on my back. I had gotten chilled at the Monday night game, and I think a little fluid built up in my lungs. The Wednesday afternoon sun baked that out during the game. And the wind kept the sun from being oppressively hot. But that alternation of hot and cold is weird and may have contributed to the tiredness I felt at the end of the game. But, then too, the tiredness may have come from the energy I expended in openly rooting for the Orioles to complete their sweep of the A’s. No sense trying the scholarly dispassion bit I did in Game 1, when the nearest people to me were new parents who spent more time taking digital photos of their baby than they did watching the game. On Wednesday afternoon, there were more people around—two dollar admission will do that for a team—these folks were into the game, and a few of them were also rooting for the O’s.
Byrnes’ name was still warmly greeted when the Orioles’ lineup was announced. The strange thing today was that Daniel Cabrera was announced as the Orioles’ starting pitcher, but then suddenly it was announced that Eric DuBose would start instead. This caused a number of changes to the announced A’s line up. The PA guy announced three changes and said we’d get caught up on the rest later. It turned out that Cabrera felt back stiffness while warming up and was pulled at the last minute. (I wouldn’t find that out until I visited KPFA after the game and one of the guys in the newsroom told me). Du Bose would go on to baffle the A’s, new lineup and all.
Ever feel like you are carrying just too much to the ballpark? I have a small black shoulder bag with too many compartments that I take to park because it’s the smallest bag I own, but it allows me to carry money, ID, ATM card, train ticket, tissues, sunscreen, pencils and a pencil sharpener. Turns out that it also fits my radio and ear buds and that indoor, single use camera I now had not a single use for at the Coliseum. But I also had my now unnecessary sweatshirt, my clipboard with the scoresheets and the Eric Byrnes Pitch Count Report. And a cardboard tray containing two "dollar dogs" and a cup of soda for which there was no straw or lid. The report suffered a couple of small mustard stains early on as I tried the wolf down the "dollar dogs" before Byrnesie’s first plate appearance. I managed to get the report cleaned up in time. The mustard stains are very small and barely noticeable now.
I thought Byrnesie’s hitting slump was going to end in his first AB, when he ripped a line drive down the left field line. But instead of a double, all he had was a foul ball. As they say: "Baseball is a game of inches." Byrnes struck out.
Danny Haren, the young A’s pitcher, had a rough 2nd inning, and a rough 4th inning. Two runs on 4 hits each time. But the indicator that this was not his day came in the third, when it cost him 25 pitches to get a 1-2-3 inning. Ten of those pitches went to Eric Byrnes. Yeah, Byrnesie struck out again, but it was a good AB that contributed to the earliest exit Haren had had in quite a while.
(Danny Haren trivia: he came to the A’s from the St. Louis Cardinals in the deal that sent pitcher Mark Mulder, one of the A’s "Big Three," to the Cards. I think former A’s manager Tony La Russa, who now manages the Cardinals, keeps an eye out for any old A’s he can use. (Eckersley and McGwire finished out their careers in St. Louis). Anyway, Haren’s father was concerned about his son’s ability to adjust socially to the new team. Seems Danny’s a bit shy. So Danny’s dad asked Cardinal player John Gall to let his cousin on the A’s know that Danny’s a good kid, it just takes him time to warm up to a new situation. Gall relayed the message and Danny Haren was welcomed by, and became fast friends with, Gall’s cousin—Eric Byrnes).
Throughout the game, a small girl was sitting directly in front of me. She was maybe about four or five and quite fidgety. In the 5th inning, she turned around and stared at me, clearly wanting some acknowledgement of her existence. I usually try to be nice to such small fry, but "not now!" I thought. I was too busy nibbling on my clipboard, muttering "Ribbies, Ribbies Ribbies," and staring at home plate. Eric Byrnes was up with the bases loaded.
Justin "The Duke" Duchsherer was pitching. Byrnes took a ball. Then he took a strike. Then he hit a grounder to second for a double play.
But hey, there still was a bright side…sort of. Unlike the time in the first game when Byrnesie popped foul to the catcher with the bases loaded, this DP scored a run. No official RBI for Byrnes, but that run counted just as much as a run scored by a sac fly would have. Except that now there were two out instead of the one a sac fly would have created. But when a player is in a horrible batting slump, fans and teammates alike have to be grateful for small things.
Ultimately, the Birds won 5-3, completing the sweep.. Byrnes went 0-4 with 2 strikeouts and that double play. He had a quiet day in the field, making one put-out in the first inning. And by the time he came to bat in the 8th, the announcement of his name drew no special reaction from the crowd. At the end of the day, Eric Byrnes had become just another player on the other team.
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Congratulations to Grady Sizemore of the Cleveland Indians who stole home (and made it look easy), during the Tribe’s 9-3 win over the Blue Jays yesterday. Stealing home, which is probably baseball’s riskiest and most exciting single play, is rarely attempted. Yet he did it, and with the Indians’ No. 4 hitter, Travis Haffner at the plate, a guy you figure could get Sizemore home by more conventional means.
The theft apparently rattled Blue Jays’ rookie pitcher Dustin McGowan. He gave up a gopher ball to Haffner, and then a double, a wild pitch, a walk and bloop single.
Cleveland is in a virtual tie with Oakland and New York for the AL Wild Card. If this keeps up, fans on both coasts might be unpleasantly surprised by the results at the end of the regular season.
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You would think I’d be a gregarious sort, what with the Sun, Jupiter and Mars conjunct in Leo and Gemini on the Midheaven. But really I’m not. I guess that Capricorn Moon, Virgo Ascendant, and Saturn in Scorpio squaring the Sun, Jupiter, Mars conjunction are indicators that I’m not the jolliest clown in the circus.
I was a policy wonk as a kid. While my elementary school classmates could tell you the Number One song in the Top 40, and some of them knew the whole Top 10, I could tell you the name of the US Ambassador to the UN. (I could tell you the name of the US Ambassador to the UN now, but I don’t want to waste space on him!)
I could even put my interest in baseball to serious purposes. In high school, Latin was a required course for all freshmen students; and we called them freshmen back then, even though it was an all-girls school. I just wasn’t getting those Latin declensions down. (Declension is a strange word. The verb form is "decline," which should mean, "I decline that noun. Show me what else ya got." But it doesn’t).
I suppose you could call declensions a way of conjugating nouns. And those declensions just weren’t sticking in my brain until I realized that the first declension nouns ended in "a," and so did Swoboda. I found Mets mnemonics for all the declensions. Word spread, and the school newspaper wrote, "Looks like Julius Ceasar has finally MET his match."
My workplace is in political turmoil. The larger world is wrapped in war, global warming, peak oil, and other things that may add up to a perfect storm making concerns about stats in the steriod era a tempest in teapot. (The issue of athletes taking steroids, per se, IS serious). There are only so many of these things I can put up with simultaneously and for so long, even though, as a journalist, I’m supposed to put up with all of them all the time in order to report them to my listeners. So I’ve decided to try to be a little bit more of a happy camper, at least during the baseball season. And I’ve found a method of being happier that’s way cheaper than therapy.
I’ve adopted a new philosophy of life: Any day Eric Byrnes gets a hit, or makes a great defensive play, is not a total loss. Any time Eric Byrnes get a hit, or makes a great defensive play, is an occasion to be of good cheer. Even if having to work during the game means that I see the two strikeouts and the two missed diving catches but not the base hit. (Byrnesie! Three missed diving catches in two days? What’s wrong?) Even if the computer won’t give me the replay. Even if the base hit doesn’t drive anyone home. Even if the base hit loads the bases with only one out but nobody scores–ACK! Even if the great defensive play comes in during a terrible batting slump. Even if after one class and one lab in video editing, I’m falling behind because I’m learning the basics of the MAC as well as the editing program, and reading tutorials has never been my cup of tea. Even though I am falling behind on everything, including this blog, because there’s just so much to do and not enough time in which to do it. And even because, while a alot of people complain about lack of time, I feel the time crunch because I think Neocons, Dominionists, bird flu, Peak Oil and climate change may get us all well before anyone has to vote on whether Raffy Palmeiro should get into the Hall of Fame.
ANY DAY ERIC BYRNES GETS A HIT, OR MAKES A GREAT DEFENSIVE PLAY, IS NOT A TOTAL LOSS. (I’ll remember that, too, if he plays winter ball this year). ANY TIME ERIC BYRNES GETS A HIT, OR MAKES A GREAT DEFENSIVE PLAY, IS AN OCCASION TO BE OF GOOD CHEER. (My blood pressure appreciates that, really).
He went one for three today. (And for an added bonus, and something I am sure made Byrnesie happy, the Orioles beat the geographically-challenged Angels 2-0. Meanwhile, back in the Southland, 700,000 Southern California Edison customers were experiencing rolling blackouts. In utility talk, a customer is the person or entity whose name is on the bill. So they figure one customer stands for three people affected by a blackout). Three times 700,000? You do the math, I’m having too good a time recalling the latest Eric Byrnes base hit.
The O’s play the A’s at home this weekend. Please, Byrnesie, not another 0 for Series. Hitting well is the best revenge. And it’ll make my days.
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