Games » Texas RangersMay25
Gil Meche gave up a couple of home runs that were longer than a Leo Tolstoy novel. People on the Hall of Fame patio had to dodge one. I think they stopped traffic on I-70 every time Vladimir Guerrero came to bat, just to make sure no windshields got broken.
(By the way, anyone who has to pitch to Vlad Guerrero has my sympathy. The game was won on a double he lined off a pitch about a foot inside. I turned to Steve Palermo and said, “How do you pitch this guy, bounce it up there?” Steve said, “I’ve seen him hit that, too.”)
Even though the Texas Rangers put on a Fireworks Tuesday (four home runs off Meche that had more total yardage than Walter Payton), what caught my attention were a walk and an error.
Ron Polk’s system forces you to pay attention to the bases your team gives away. In the sixth, I told Steve Palermo it was amazing how often the walks and errors that scored were the margin of victory. Sure enough, a walk scored in front of the first Guerrero home run, and an E6 scored in front of the second…and the Royals lost by one.
In the fifth, Yuniesky Betancourt once again showed why people are so divided on him. He let a fairly routine ball roll up his arm and then, one batter later, made a spectacular leap and stabbed a line drive out of the air. It makes you wonder about focus. He’s shown he’s got the physical skill to make the plays he misses, so it makes you question the other parts of his game.
Five outstanding plays…
Five outstanding defensive plays is a record for the system, and I’ve been recording more of them lately. I don’t know if it’s catching (get it? That’s professional-grade humor), but the Royals are on a run of outstanding defensive plays.
Let’s break one down: Smoak is on second, Murphy singles to Willie Bloomquist in right. Willie charges the ball and gets off a good throw.
Jason Kendall is standing nonchalantly at home, like nothing much interesting is going to happen. This is a decoy. He told me earlier that when there’s going to be a play at the plate, he generally keeps his mask on. Some catchers like to toss it in the baseline just to give the runner one more thing to deal with, but Jason says you never know when you might need the protection, so his stays on.
Catchers generally put their left foot on the third baseline, with the toe pointed toward third. If the runner slides into the front of the leg, it’ll get knocked straight back and the shin guard will provide protection. If the catcher were to point his toe more toward the mound and the runner took out the leg from the side: no protection and a chance to have the ankle rolled and broken.
Putting the foot on the line also splits the plate in half and sets up the play: the catcher is taking the front half and receiving the ball, the runner gets the back half and has a place to slide. The catcher tries to receive the ball, and then collapses back toward the back half and the runner. Jason does that perfectly and blocks Smoak off the plate, saving a run.
“So they let you in here with that little paper press pass?” I haven’t seen Clint Hurdle in two years and this is how he greets me. (Real reporters have laminated plastic press passes; itinerant day workers get paper.)
Well, what should I expect from a guy who once told a 78-year-old fantasy camper he shouldn’t have bought a new glove because he’d never get it broken in? Baseball humor is brutally honest and personal, so naturally, I dig it.
Once you get attacked like that, you have to decide how to respond: a return insult, blow for blow, Western style? As in, “That’s rich coming from a hitting coach who has managed to get Guerrero’s strike zone down to whatever area code he’s currently in.”
Or do you flow with your opponent’s force, use judo-humor, Eastern style? I went all David Carradine on him and used one of the best jiu-jitsu moves ever: whenever you get accused of something, admit to something worse. As in, “Have I been drinking? Whew, for a second there I was afraid you were going to ask me about the cocaine and hookers!”
(See? The drinking issue has magically disappeared.)
After I not only admitted that the best I could do was a paper media pass, but the regular reporters made me sit at a little table, like it was Thanksgiving and I was 9 years old, Clint gave up the attack. We caught up on each other’s activities and families, a warm and sentimental reunion…and then his hitters went out and put dents in the Hall of Fame, a sign in the visitor’s bullpen and I believe a ’93 Toyota Camry in one of the parking lots.