Sunday, 15 July 2012

1-3-6-2 Double Play, and Go Ahead Run- SB, E1

The New York Yankees are...

If I start a sentence with those words, and you are a baseball fan, there is some automatic filler you will end it with. It depends what kind of fan you are. If you are a Yankee fan, it likely ends with "...baseball's greatest team.", or something else overly self congratulatory. Even if you are not a Yankee fan, there is still, I am sure, a way you end that sentence, almost automatically. Why? Because the Yankees are an indelible part of baseball history. You can't be a baseball fan and not have thought about the Yankees, a lot. You have surely imagined your team beating them, because, except for a couple of seemingly brief periods in their history, they have always been the team to beat. If you have ever imagined your team winning it all, at some point, the New York Yankees were the team they had to go through to get there.

I am not a Yankee fan, not by a long shot, but I, too, have an automatic ending to that sentence. When I hear "The New York Yankees are...." my brain finishes "too good at baseball." That's all, if they were just like other teams, we could all laugh off the 200 million dollar payroll and the pinstripes. Sadly, we can't laugh at them, not in the long run, because they win.



They don't win every game, though. Baseball is a game a failure, and because of that that Yankees lose dozens of games every year. In the course of losing some of those, they make mistakes that we can all laugh at. Here is a clip of the Los Angeles Angels defense, making the Yankees pay for having runners on base.

I cannot embed this, so please click to see it at MLB.com.

A few observations. First, with runners on the corners, Weaver does the old fake-to-third-turn to first pickoff play. This may be the least successful pickoff move in the history of the game. It's so annoying that the rules committee voted to outlaw it. Weaver uses this move, this useless pump fake and spin, and it works.

He fools Robinson Cano, a man with 1140 regular season games under his belt. He has seen the first-to-third move before. I'm sure it did not impress him as a deceptive move. This time, though, he is deceived. While Cano is in the rundown, Alex Rodriguez is debating about coming home from third. After 2486 games, and 315 stolen bases, A-Rod hesitates. Aybar turns to charge the runner, and then does a huge pump-fake of his own. The pump fake buys A-Rod another half second to decide what to do. A-Rod still hasn't committed in time, as the subsequent throw home nails him at the plate.

First and third, one out is turns into a big zero by one of the best teams in baseball, before even one pitch is thrown.

So, there, on the one hand, we have a little laugh at the Yankee's expense.

Now, on the other hand, we have the San Diego Padres. I have trouble remembering anybody who played for the Padres in the last five years. I'm sorry, that's just the way the Padres are fixed in my brain. They used to wear a lot of brown and yellow, the colour of excitement. Or excrement, whichever. I can name a lot of former Padres, they always seem to end up doing wonderful things for other teams.

The Padres are not any good this year either, making them even less memorable. They have won 35 games and lost 54. Their best home run hitter is Chase Headley. He has 9 dingers this year. The all star break is over, and Headley leads his tema with 9 home runs. I cannot emphasize this enough. None of the five starting pitchers has a better than league average ERA.

Which, is naturally why the New York Yankees need to learn a lesson from the San Diego Padres. This is a game of failure, and when one team fails, another succeeds. below is a clip from the 9th inning of the Dodgers-Padres game on July 14th. Note the very, very aggressive baserunning by Everth Cabrera, no hesitation at all.




Now, that's how you make the trip from third to home! (As an aside, Everth Cabrera has been in the majors on and off since 2009. I have never heard his name before. Ever.) A few things to note: The umpire. Clearly, same umpire as the A-Rod play. Why? Because he calls the runner out. He does so in the absence of the ball, it is bouncing around near the backstop. It was a good, enthusiastic call anyway, Mr. Umpire, take a bow!

Second, Cabrera is a leader. You can see how he leads his teammates in this clip. Even though he has only a .650 career OPS in part time play, he has the team following his every move. Specifically, Will Venable follows him all the way around the bases into the dugout. You can't put a price on that kind of leadership. That play puts the Padres up 7-6 in the top of the ninth, and is perfectly executed with two outs.

Just the way they drew it up in practice.

So, there you have it, the New York Yankees, who are (insert praise or curse here), take a lesson from the sad sack Padres.

Proof that in any moment, baseball can make us forget the big picture, and be swept up by the magic of the unusual and amazing.

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