Games » Baltimore OriolesAug1
Whenever you get a bunch of new players it’s like getting a new jigsaw puzzle: how do these pieces fit together? The picture becomes slightly clearer with every game. So what part of the picture got slightly clearer after this game?
Outstanding defensive plays…
It doesn’t work this way in a rotisserie league, but in real life it doesn’t matter if you put runs on the board or keep them off. Jason Kendall made a tough block to keep a runner on first and had four more blocks with a runner on third. That’s eight one-run wins in which Jason Kendall has kept a runner from scoring by blocking a pitch in the dirt. (Jason, have your agent call me.)
Mitch Maier showed why fundamentals matter by backing up second on a wild throw from third in the 9th inning. Wilson Betemit launched a Sidewinder missile and Mitch did his job: going to a spot just in case he was needed. (There’s a rule of thumb on defense: if you’re standing still, you’re in the wrong place.) Because Maier did his job, the runners were still at second and third, which allowed Joakim Soria to turn a 1-6-3 double play on the next pitch.
Billy Butler grabbed a shot down the line to start a double play, Yuniesky Betancourt caught a tough pop fly while heading away from the infield and Chris Getz saved the game with a diving stop for the last out of the 9th inning.
Tim Bogar (the Red Sox third base coach) once told me defense was all about feet: a good first step, getting into good fielding and then good throwing position. If you watched Getz’s game-saver again in slow motion (c’mon, it was a Sunday afternoon and had nothing better to do) you would’ve seen how quickly Chris got to his feet and into proper throwing position.
If you watched Wilson Betemit’s wild throw or Bruce Chen’s high one, you would’ve seen they didn’t get their feet in good throwing position (draw a line between you and your target and the toes of both feet should be on that line).
Here’s another useless fact: you throw at your target’s head. The arms can cover about a six-foot circle and the head is in the middle of that circle. Ask someone who makes an errant throw what they were aiming at and most of the time they’ll say, “Nothing” which is just what they hit.
Betancourt lost a fly ball in the sun, strange not because he missed it, but because he never attempted to block the sun by holding up his glove (the USDA approved sun ball method). Yuniesky also made a wild throw up the line that pulled Butler off the bag. Frank White thought Betancourt had more time and could’ve set himself, which only adds to his reputation for erratic play.
Here’s another thing you can watch for when the first baseman gets pulled off the bag to his left: the correct play is to catch the ball, stick the glove into the baseline for the tag and rotate counter-clockwise. This allows the first baseman to give with the tag and prevents a wrist injury.
And just little more information you can’t use in an emergency: the runner headed for first is supposed to watch the first baseman’s feet. That allows the runner to read where the throw is going and whether he should slide (and the only time he should do that is to avoid a tag play…when you see sprinters in the Olympics slide across the finish line on their stomachs, that’s when you’ll know it’s faster to slide into first.)
(You know, if we were stuck on a desert island, I couldn’t tell you how to start a fire or catch a fish, but I’d pretty useful if you needed to know the correct way to play a line drive off a coconut tree.)
Heads-up base running…
Mitch Maier broke for home on a ‘contact play’. The runner breaks for home if the ball comes off the bat on a ‘down angle’. It’s a gamble that looks great when the ball is hit anywhere but back at the pitcher. Unfortunately, that’s just where Gregor Blanco hit it. Mitch did a great job of staying in a rundown long enough for Gregor to get all the way to second. That way the Royals still had a runner in scoring position with two outs, pretty much the same situation they’d be in if Mitch hadn’t taken off for home.
Chris Getz has come up with a novel theory (at least for some ballplayers): run hard even if it looks like you’re going to be out. A pop fly that appeared to be an out dropped between short and left and Chris wound up with a double. Good for him.
Why this matters…
Over the next two months the future of these players will be decided. Most of them are not stars. They’re playing to stay in this organization or on a big league field or, in some cases, in this country and that’s pretty compelling drama.
It’s worth watching.