It is far too early in the baseball season to make any sensible projections but there have been a few happenings that are worthy of attention. Last weekend, Mets’ starter Jacob deGrom threw 8 innings in his start and gave up 1 run and 5 hits. He struck out 10 batters and walked no one. And the Mets lost that game. deGrom has started twice this year and here are his stats from those two starts:
- 14 innings pitched, 1 run allowed, ERA = 0.64, 2 walks, 21 strikeouts
- And the Mets lost both of those games!
deGrom is a two-time Cy Young Award winner, and the Mets have a history of providing him with meager run support. In 2018, he won the Cy Young Award with a season-long ERA of 1.70 over 32 starts and 214 innings. Not too shabby, I should say but deGrom’s record for 2018 was only 10-9. The baseball gods must be intervening in deGrom’s games because there is no apparent logical explanation there.
Last week, Ken Rosenthal reported in The Athletic that umpires collected “multiple balls” thrown by Dodgers’ starter, Trevor Bauer in a start against the A’s. According to Rosenthal, the balls had visible markings and a sticky substance. Those balls were forwarded to MLB for inspection/analysis.
During Spring Training, MLB announced that it would be focusing more attention on doctoring baseballs by pitchers to increase pitch movement. This shipment of balls to the MLB analysts appears to be the first step along a road of increased enforcement – – if something comes of the analysis. As you may imagine, Trevor Bauer is not particularly happy with Ken Rosenthal’s report and Bauer took to Twitter with this comment:
“Lol always fun reading desperate and misleading clickbait headlines from national gossip bloggers. To translate fake journalist speak for y’all, ‘It’s unclear whether’ = ‘I can’t be bothered to look into this cuz it doesn’t fit my narrative.’”
I do not have any narrative here. What I do see is that MLB declared enhanced vigilance for the season on pitchers’ doctoring baseballs; MLB did that on its own initiative. Now, it is up to MLB to perform said enhanced vigilance and report the findings of any such investigations as publicly as it announced the initiative in the first place. When they do that, there will be no narrative for anyone to try to carry forward.
Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times summarized this investigation succinctly:
“In other words, they’re going to check for GPA — Gaylord Perry Additives.”
The Atlanta Braves lost a game to the Phillies on a hugely incorrect call by the home plate umpire. According to the call, the winning run scored on a play where the runner never touched home plate. The play went to review, and the call stood. Given that the game took place in Atlanta, you can imagine the negative reaction for the fans there. In fact, that fan reaction went over the top as fans proceeded to throw trash out of the stands and on to the field.
Braves’ shortstop, Dansby Swanson, went to the post-game press conference to put his feelings on the record. Obviously, he was not happy with the call at home plate and its validation by the review process. However, he was also very upset by the fan reaction. Here is what he had to say:
“What happened after [the call] … I love this city. I love our fans. They’re passionate. They care. But what happened after they announced that call, that’s the most embarrassing part of the whole night. Not the call, but the reaction and the throwing of things on the field. Because No. 1, it’s disrespectful to the people who put in so much work to have the field ready for us every day to make sure it’s in the best shape possible. No. 2, endangering players. That’s incredibly disrespectful. It’s an embarrassing representation of our city because I know, being from here, that’s not how we act.
“And then the worst part of it all, I don’t think people realize that we have families here. There are kids here. There are kids sitting in the front row and you have bottles whizzing by their heads. Just endangering kids who can’t protect themselves is downright embarrassing and it should never happen again.
“It just can’t happen. It never needs to happen again.”
I have always liked Dansby Swanson as a player; now, I like him as a person. Notwithstanding the emotion of the moment having lost a game in a seemingly unjust manner, he had the presence to address a situation beyond the loss that is bigger than the loss of a single baseball game. Kudos to Dansby Swanson.
There is a language phenomenon that has always amused my long-suffering wife and me; we call it the “Qualified Superlative”. The use of the superlative should not have modifiers; something is either the biggest or the best whatever – – or it is not. However, the “Qualified Superlative” has become a language staple. If you visit a small art museum in Beaglebreath, NE, you may learn that it houses the largest collection of paintings by Joe Flabeetz outside of North Dakota in a museum open to the public. Obviously, this “largest collection” exists in a universe where there are in fact other collections that are larger.
Dwight Perry had this item in the Seattle Times over the weekend demonstrating that he too finds the “Qualified Superlative” an interesting language construct:
“Further evidence that stat geeks have too much time on their hands: It was revealed that Tigers rookie Akil Baddoo just became the first player in MLB history to hit home runs in his first two career games while batting out of the ninth spot in the batting order.
“Somehow overlooked: by a left-handed hitter, at home, on natural turf, in day games.”
Finally, since today has been a baseball day, let me close with a comment from Scott Ostler in the SF Chronicle. I am in full agreement with Professor Ostler here:
“New idea nominated for instant oblivion: Farhan Zaidi’s support for the concept of making all MLB games seven innings. The Giants’ president of baseball operations pitched the idea in an interview on KNBR. That’s the worst solution to a problem since the bleach ‘cure’ for coronavirus.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………