It seems blasphemous to admit this, as if I carry a Blue Jays fan badge which will be revoked at the mere suggestion that I didn’t see every single one of his starts. I saw none of them. Nothing until a year after he’d been traded to the Phillies, when I watched him start the All-Star Game and lose in the playoffs to Chris Carpenter. The trade itself, back in 2009, was one of the first baseball events I ever actually noticed— it was the talk of the town, obviously, and I had almost no idea who he was.
Sometime after the 2010 playoffs, I went to a party where someone lamented having lost Halladay. Feeling smart that I actually knew the name of a current and good Blue Jay (how far we come, I guess), I said “well, at least we have Jose Bautista,” vaguely aware that it wasn’t quite the same—uh, I think one of them hits the ball and one of them pitches it? “I guess.”
Roy Halladay retired yesterday. Even though I’ve only known him a few years, it feels exceedingly strange to say that. I just assumed we would have so many more chances to see him be Doc, even if he wasn’t who he once was. He came back in July 2011, only a few months after I dove into baseball; Jose Bautista hit a home run off him, and I was listening intently on the radio, remembering that party and imagining them playing side by side. I never saw him pitch in person.
All this seems particularly poignant because Jarome Iginla is playing against the Calgary Flames tonight, and for all the hero I never had in Roy Halladay, I had it—have it—in Jarome. I never knew the Calgary Flames without him. He arrived when I was six years old and I don’t remember that trade even a little—at the first game I went to, two years later, he was there. He was always there. For so many of us, there were no Flames without that creased-forehead smile and the hundreds and hundreds of goal celebrations, year after year after year.
Jarome meant everything to us. He was the beacon of hope that we still had a chance, that 2004 would end in joy instead of wrenching disappointment, that he could pull the team through its darkest days into a chance to hoist the Cup after fifteen, sixteen, seventeen years. And even though we could all feel it coming, letting him go was one of the most surreal moments of my sports life—seeing the press conference where they announced it for real, that first sad Flames game without him, and the afternoon when we turned on our TVs to see him in the Penguins blue thirds, skating with guys who weren’t ours.
I don’t have personal memories about Doc, but I imagine that if I did, they wouldn’t be so different. He, too, was one of the best his team had ever seen. He brought fans together and gave them hope. And he felt such a connection to the team that he signed a one-day contract in order to retire a Blue Jay, an acknowledgment of the consuming emotional ties of sports. Roy Halladay retired without ever pitching in a World Series, foiled by the luck of baseball and a mortal body—sometimes life is just not magic enough.
I don’t think it’s reaching too far to say that in some ways I project Iginla onto Halladay, and a little vice versa—if I’d known Halladay in his Toronto years, or even his first as a Phillie, I’d have loved him with every part of myself, in that way you love sports heroes that transcends all other boundaries. Blue Jays fans still rooted for him after he left, and Calgary picked up where they’d left off with Jarome in Pittsburgh. Both deserve piles of championships, and I’m truly sorry we’ll never see Halladay celebrate one on the mound. All I can do is hope that Jarome doesn’t end up that way, too. I don’t want to regret another thing I’ll never see.
“[Baseball] breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall all alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.”—A. Bartlett Giamatti (via sfgiantsgirl19)
Last night, Barry Zito pitched the last game of his $126-million San Francisco Giants career.
Tonight Tim Lincecum is on the mound, his Giants future uncertain.
I didn’t know either one in their stronger days. I never knew Lincecum as the two-time Cy Young winner, or as the touted prospect. I knew him as a struggling long-haired starter with flashes of his old brilliance, and sometimes with more than that. Nor did I know Zito with the A’s, or when he signed his huge contract; I knew him mostly as a tenuous starter at best, but also as the guy who pitched the game of his life in the NLCS, and the one who started Game 1 of the World Series. I loved them both, the unpredictable madness, the goofy personalities, the disastrous meltdowns, the storybook moments of perfection when they were most needed.
The 2012 playoff run was one of the most fun times I’ve ever had. I remember where I was for almost every game. I remember cursing at the grocery store when I saw the alerts for NLDS Game 4, when Zito surrendered a single and three walks in a row. I remember practically falling off my chair during the Jay Bruce vs. Sergio Romo marathon. I remember shouting in disbelief when Barry Zito came back out for the eighth inning in the NLCS throwing a strike to Carlos Beltran. I remember Long Reliever Tim Lincecum doing everything he could to push the team toward a championship.
I saw both of them pitch in person when I visited AT&T Park for the first time. The Giants and the Blue Jays split that series; Zito was okay, but thoroughly overmatched by R.A. Dickey. Lincecum was fantastic.
If this week is a Giants goodbye for both of them, I’m glad I got some of those golden moments, even if I missed so many. It’s been pretty cool.
I think that was the most fun I’ve had at a game all year, aside from the tenth win of the streak. Yes, even though the Blue Jays lost by six runs and Mark Buehrle couldn’t get out of the fifth. It’s liberating to go to a game with absolutely no expectations—for the season, the game, the players, anything.
Mike Trout was the DH, which was dumb.
Mark Trumbo went 5-5 with (wait for it) three doubles and a homer. He scored five runs. It was incredible and my mind was blown—when he hit his last double I yelled “Good God” really loud before realizing it—and I honestly don’t know why more people aren’t talking about it. It’s probably the best performance I’ve scored. (I originally wrote him down as having had four doubles, but in the eighth it was a single and a one-base error. Still amazing.)
The Blue Jays are 67-77 and playing out the string; nice things are few and far between, but that makes them feel just that much better when they appear. And there were a few pretty cool things:
Ricky Romero pitched two innings, and his first (two groundouts and a strikeout) was just perfect, exactly what he needed. He allowed a few hits and a run in the second, but it was really nice to see him pull it together, and the sparse Rogers Centre crowd was surprisingly supportive. It’s heartening to know that Blue Jays fans are still pulling for him, especially when there is nothing left.
Rajai Davis hit a homer! Luis Perez pitched! Things are still happening and some of them are good.
This is the last series against a non-AL East team, so we’d better sharpen our season-spoiling skills because there could be some chaos ahead. Ladies and gentlemen, let’s welcome Team Entropy back into our lives, shall we?
Russell Martin’s full name is Russell Nathan Jeanson Coltrane Martin, Jr.
Russell Martin’s father, Russell, was born and raised in Montreal. When his dreams of becoming a professional football player ended shortly after high school, the elder Martin worked renovating homes. But at 26 he picked up a friend’s flute, then a tenor saxophone, and a new vocation was born.
The elder Martin had natural musical ability and a willingness to work at it. He played in the Montreal Métro, especially at the Villa-Maria stop because of its grand acoustics.
So when his son was born, the elder Martin gave him the middle name Coltrane, an homage to John Coltrane; not solely for his music, but also for his free, independent spirit.
… “When I got back to Montreal in the summer, my dad couldn’t believe how much weight I had put on.”
Martin’s father concurred. “It broke my heart,” he said. “I took him out to the field to play ball, but he couldn’t move the way he had before.”
Playing his horn in the Métro, the elder Martin made enough money to take time off in the summer to play baseball with his son and get him back into shape. Eventually, he sent Russell to the prestigious Édouard Monpetit high school.
At the time, Russell was one of the most athletic kids in his corner of Montreal. And like most kids in Montreal, he played a little hockey. He mixed in, too, some fun with the saxophone and drums. But in baseball he stood apart.
My introduction to baseball was through the modern American League, where the pitcher never picks up a bat unless something very peculiar occurs. Interleague road trips are a rare chance to laugh at the strangeness of a DH-free lineup, where your starter does stuff like this and all of their at-bats are expected outs. American League pitchers: not typically the heartiest of offensive threats.
Of course, it hasn’t always been this way. The National League does not have a DH rule, and the American only adopted it around 1973, which means Major League Baseball has a long and storied history of pitchers taking cuts with the rest of their teammates.
Sometime last year, I was watching a San Francisco Giants game where Madison Bumgarner, pitching incredibly well, was receiving no run support whatsoever. When Bumgarner took his turn at bat he hit a double, scoring a runner and giving the Giants the lead; he then proceeded to take the mound again and defend that lead for the rest of his time in the game.
I was a little bit in awe of this. Until that point, I hadn’t even considered the possibility of pitchers shouldering the offensive burden as well, giving their team a chance to win on both sides of the equation. It’s admittedly a silly omission, since they’re in the batting order just like the rest, but it’s a little bit cooler when a pitcher is already steamrolling the other team from the mound.
There are plenty of games where pitchers have batted in runs while picking up the win—Yovani Gallardo did it more than once this season alone, and Carlos Zambrano must have done it a million times, most recently here, to name a few. I thought about trying to find a list of pitchers who had batted in the winning run while picking up the win, which would still be a fairly long list.
But what about something even more ridiculous? What about a pitcher throwing a no-hitter and batting in the winning run himself? Has that ever happened? I’d wager it’s the closest you could get to one guy destroying a baseball game all by himself.
It’s not often I’m this sad about the result of a baseball game. But then, it’s not often your team comes into a season with colossal expectations, falls unbelievably flat, picks themself up with a franchise-record-tying winning streak, and then finds new and creative ways to dig that hole once again.
The Dodgers were down to their last strike tonight. Those are five of my least favourite words in all of baseball. Down to their last strike. They factor into some of the most heart-wrenching games I’ve seen (or best, if you’re a Cardinals fan)—the Rangers in the World Series, the Nationals in the NLDS. The Blue Jays have some happy ones, like the two-out, two-strike home run by Jose Bautista in Chicago to start the winning streak, but tonight … this one stung.
It’s the kind of game that makes me not want to talk about baseball. I don’t want to analyze the injuries or mediocre performances. I don’t want to talk about the bullpen construction. I don’t want to talk about what the hell Colby Rasmus did in center field to blow the save and force an absolutely gut-wrenching tenth inning. I don’t care what you think. Everything just hurts, like i’ve fallen down three sets of stairs and am lying in a daze on the floor.
Earlier this evening, the Blue Jays were getting merrily no-hit by Ricky Nolasco for almost five innings until Brett Lawrie doubled in the tying runs (Nolasco issued a few free passes before allowing a hit). Then, with a one-run lead, Casey Janssen came in for the ninth to try for the save. It didn’t go as planned.
What else is there to say? Everything sucks. The Jays haven’t won since the All-Star Break. That’s six games, plus one loss before the break, too. Everyone has their scapegoat, founded or otherwise, but the whole team is underperforming together, everyone pitching in to snap each bit of hope. The close losses are the worst ones—so many games where the winning run’s in scoring position, or a blooper could tie it, or (in this case) one last strike would do it. Down to their last strike. One swing. Toast.
I scored a game from the comfort of my couch for the first time today. Cliff Lee faced Matt Harvey at Citi Field; every Harvey start is incredible and Cliff Lee is Cliff Lee, so it seemed like a good time to start.
I like scoring games I attend because it allows me to stay in the game more, to understand details and keep track of what’s really happening instead of skimming the surface. This guy’s been out three times but two of them were hard-hit liners. That one, well, three strikeouts … he’s had better days. When I don’t score, I still know what’s happened but not always how. Little details are lost. When I do, I feel like I’ve experienced more—like the same events happened, but I was deeper in them.
Scoring while commentators are also talking is a weird, almost higher level of it. Things I don’t understand suddenly become visual. At-bats I didn’t quite catch the end of are replayed or discussed. When someone mentions that that guy had struck out three times, I can look down and see that they were all swinging. It feels like a hyper-aware state of the game (that is, if your commentators are good ones, I suppose).
Hyper-aware was a good place to be today, as Matt Harvey pitched seven shutout innings, walking none—he hit a batter in the first—and striking out ten. I’ve started planning my time around being able to watch Harvey, thanks mostly to Joel, obviously—I love watching the opposing team fooled into swinging at things they have no chance of even making contact with (hi, R.A. Dickey!) and Harvey delivers a shocking amount of that every time.
I had to leave the apartment sometime after the seventh inning, though, just after both starters exited—Lee gave up five runs, all on homers—and I watch partial baseball games all the time, but since I was so involved in this one it feels like there’s something still hanging unfinished. I guess tomorrow I might fire up the old MLB.TV and get the rest of that game in the books, just so I can get a good night’s sleep.
Stirrup socks. They provide us with color, with style, with a reason to get out of bed in the morning. They’re the fashion accessory for the man or woman on the go in the 21st century. No time to bathe or hit the laundromat? Put on a pair of stirrups and no one will notice the difference.
Enter a contest to win some great stirrup socks? Well, OBVIOUSLY.
I’m currently loving this 1930 Wichita Falls Spudders cap at Ebbets Field Flannels. It just looks so perfectly, wonderfully old-time, and I love all kinds of textured colour like that. If I had one I’d probably wear it everywhere.
I looked up the Spudders, and this incarnation (there were a few) was an affiliate of the St. Louis Browns—a Major League franchise which began as the Milwaukee Brewers (not the current ones), became the Browns, and later ended up as the Baltimore Orioles. And they had the best name. Spudders!
May 1st was my second ‘baseballiversary,’ or more comprehensibly, the second anniversary of the day I inexplicably sat down and started watching this strange and beautiful game. It seems like a weird thing to commemorate, but I’ve realized that’s partially because nobody really knows when they started watching a sport; It’s just something that’s always there. I guess if I wanted to I could theoretically come up with the date I started watching hockey—if my parents told me the date they brought me home from the hospital, and I found the date of the Calgary Flames’ first game after that. You know?
So it’s fascinating to be able to pinpoint the exact date and time and say “This is where it started.” For me, it started with the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium, Litsch vs Nova, a 5-2 loss for the visitors but nevertheless remarkably thrilling for someone who had no idea what was going on. The first Blue Jays home run I ever saw was off the bat of Adam Lind. So it goes.
This is especially interesting to me this month, because merely days before that odd milestone I visited Yankee Stadium for the first time—to see the Blue Jays. The Jays lost that one, too; still, the coincidence of the date was not lost on me.
I was faced with the world’s most wonderful scoring conundrum in the first inning when the Blue Jays sent eleven batters to the plate against floundering Barry Zito, scoring six runs—Melky Cabrera and Jose Bautista had two at-bats each in the frame, which had me frantically scrambling to figure out what to do. No one at the ballpark could quite believe what was happening. Six! Runs! In the first! (Yelling!)
In the end I used the boxes in the second inning—sure feels nice to be on the happy side of a card like this for once.
When Zito finally got Bautista to line out to Sandoval for the third out of the inning, the Rogers Centre was on their feet applauding the team’s ridiculous first (or perhaps standing for Zito?), something I don’t think I’ve ever seen. In the end, the Blue Jays scored ten runs for a second game in a row but without hitting a single home run, which is easily the weirdest part of this whole wild night. Ten runs on eighteen hits, all in the ballpark!
Maybe things are getting better.
Dickey: 6.0 IP 6H 2ER 2BB 10K!
Zito: 5.2 IP 12H 8R/5ER 2BB 2K
Dickey, might I add, got Buster Posey to strike out swinging twice.
And first star Melky Cabrera went 4 for 5 with a double, scoring twice and reaching base the fifth time on an error by Pablo Sandoval. Can he get a ring every day?
Guys, I forgot what winning decisively was like and the Blue Jays have done it twice in a row against teams doing much better than they are. This is actually fun. I haven’t been so relaxed at a Blue Jays game in ages.
Tomorrow, Ramon Ortiz vs Ryan Vogelsong … a duel for the ages.
(Well, a year and a few days—true to form, I forgot to write a post on the actual day. Of course.)
I started writing here on April 19th, 2012 on a total whim, after having watched baseball for just shy of a year. It’s been fun collecting all my longer baseball thoughts in one place, supplemented by Twitter, and I’m pretty happy you have stuck around to read them. So thank you.
Here’s some of my favourites from the past twelve months:
It was a rough day at the yard. R.A. Dickey had none of his usual mystifying stuff, instead allowing five earned runs before the first Red Sox out. (I can imagine some jovial Jays fans walked in with their beers in the middle of the first inning, laughed at the scoreboard error, and then realized with horror what was actually happening.) Dickey ended up lasting 4.2 innings, surrendering eight runs (seven earned) on 10 hits and a pair of walks. He struck out five. Lester, on the other hand, gave up only five hits while striking out six, and neither he nor Clayton Mortensen gave up a run. The Blue Jays didn’t put up much of a fight in trying to bail out their starter, and the crowd started chanting “Go Leafs Go” in late innings … it was a mess.