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Baseball Mid-June

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I’ve been baseball blogging at the end of each month, planning to continue this way, but considering recent events on the field I cannot wait another minute. There’ve been 2 no-hitters; a perfect game; a contested one-hit that might be upgraded; several shutouts; the breaking of the Grand Slam record—and that’s just among the teams to which I pay close attention! Let’s begin with the perfect game pitched by SF Giant Matt Cain on June 13th.

Cain’s achievement is exciting for me up close and personal, since it involves the team that has my # 2 home-town loyalties. More important to them and to baseball, however, this was only the 22nd perfect game in history, and a first for the Giants. Three days later, emotions and celebrations are still running high in San Francisco. Giants first baseman Brandon Belt said he was so nervous from 7th inning on that he thought he’d vomit. Like his teammates, he was terrified of making a mistake that might blow it for Cain. Late in the game he sat in Cain’s regular dugout spot, only realizing his error when manager Bruce Bochy stared at him in disbelief. The game of baseball is rife with superstitions, and this is how people behave during potential no-hitters and perfect games. Announcers trip all over their tongues to avoid direct mention of what’s at stake. Umpires prefer not to know what’s going on until it’s over. Cain’s perfection was a second for umpire  Ted Barrett at home plate: he’d previously worked David Cone’s, in 1999 (Yankees v. Montreal).

Cain himself can hardly believe he goes out to pitch again Tuesday, as if nothing’s happened, when, as he says, his life has been changed. The game was his 8th win of the season with another personal best: he struck out a career-high 14 batters.

For the final item of Giants news, Barry Zito, the pitcher who was once on top of the world as an Oakland A until the Giants bought him for an over-the-top sum of money, followed by the collapse of his arm, pitched 8 and 1/3+ shutout innings! Zito was already doing better this season than previously, but the shutout was unexpected.  I’m beyond happy for the guy. He must have a helluva talking tape in that pretty little head of his, and I hope this event tips him to an uplift. The shutout, against the  Chicago Cubs, was Zito’s 5th win of the season. He has 4 wins / 4 losses, with an ERA of 4.31

Let’s give Los Gigantes a great big round of applause!

Mets No-Hitter

A couple of weeks before Matt Cain’s perfection, Mets pitcher Johan Santana started June off with a no-hitter. Again, the accomplishment was notable for several reasons. For one thing, up ‘til now the Mets and the San Diego Padres were the only MLB teams to have never accomplished this feat; now San Diego stands alone. As sports blogger and Mets loyalist Daryl Hochheiser succinctly put it, “It took 8019 games but…A METS PITCHER THREW A NO-HITTER. The celebration was tremendous!”

Of Santana’s 134 pitches, 77 were strikes.  He walked 5 batters and struck out 8, shutting out none other than the St Louis Cardinals (8-0), the reigning World Champions.

As if this weren’t enough nachas for the frequently underdog Mets, 12 days later R.A. Dickey, one of a handful of knuckleball pitchers, did it again! This time, though, it was rated as a one-hit game; the Mets petitioned MLB to have it changed. What happened was this: In the first inning,  B.J. Uptown hit a high bouncer which David Wright tried but failed to catch barehanded.  The Mets want the hit classified as an error charged to Wright. A successful appeal would give them their second no-hitter in 12 days after going 50 years and 8000 games without one. (Note: MLB Decision rendered; see article highlighted below.)

As of today (Sat., June 16th) the Mets are in second place in their division, (National League East), 4 ½ games behind the first place DC Nationals. By the way, their rivals on the other side of a bridge or two are also in second place, in the American League East. Do I hear a Subway World Series barreling towards October?

The Sound of Subways Clacking

I’m not jumping the gun on the World Series here, but talking about last weekend’s Yankee/Mets 3-game series, which the Yanks swept. I’ll try to reign in my enthusiasm, since I watched it side by side with my co-blogger Mr. Hochheiser, and my joy came at his expense—not a great feeling for a mother! In fact, I kind of hoped the Mets would win the final game; after all, I’d already sealed the deal on our Frappuccino bet, which is a 2-out-of-3 games won. (When we’re really flush we sometimes bet merch, like team jackets and other MLB gear.)

As for the Yankees, they didn’t crawl, they flew, out of a string of bad games, and are now on a 7-game winning streak. Batters are still freezing when the bases are loaded, or even with two runners on, what I call The Curse of the RISP, but they’re compensating for that in other ways, primarily home runs. The most exciting hit of the season was A-Rod’s Grand Slam on June 12th, when a loss loomed inevitably; not only did the GS win the game for the Yanks, but it tied A-Rod with Lou Gehrig for most Grand Slams in history.

The Return of Andy Pettite. I cannot say enough about how wonderful it is to have Andy back on the mound. Andy Pettitte, Good Ole’ Reliable, with that face, that form; that steady, reliable, excellent craft master. Truly a blessing, no disguise.

Department of Sports Racism Inc.

During Interleague games the Yanks played, and swept, the Atlanta Braves, which made a lot of people happy, particularly those of us who cringe at the Braves’ incessant, idiotic, monotonous, insulting-to-Native Americans, Tomahawk Chop.” Ugh!

Most cringe-worthy is watching little kids younger than a year making the move like tiny robots-in-training, with no idea what they’re doing; they’re just imitating, or following instructions from the so-called grownups around them. As they say in the musical South Pacific, “You’ve got to be carefully taught how to hate.”

Players and fans love the chop, and don’t seem to think it has any deep significance. It originated in 1991 when Deion Sanders, a former football player, joined the Braves. Sanders had played for Florida State, whose team did the chop—so when he came to bat the first time, fans spontaneously began to chant. Team bigwigs encouraged it by having the organist play chanting music.

But while they make it sound perfectly innocent, those of us without sentimental associations hear only a mocking call and can’t help being offended. Says critic David Churchill on Sports Critics At Large:

This chant is a parody of the supposed Native American war dance song from thousands of Hollywood western movies…This drone is actually quite ignorant, if not outright racist, towards Native American peoples. The ‘savage’ warrior message contained within the drone and the cartoon red tomahawk is unseemly… Do they not have any clue how this is being perceived throughout the rest of the baseball-watching fans in North America? Or do they really just don’t give a flying fig what the rest of the US and Canada thinks?

Oakland Athletics

Update on Manny Ramirez, June 17th: Manny has asked for and been granted release by the A’s. Apparently they feel he’s still not up to par, and they’re getting what they need from outfielder Collin Cowgill. Not wanting to wait any longer to play, Manny will try to get placed elsewhere. Unlike the usual blame-and-rant Manny, he expressed only love and gratitude for the A’s. “Oakland is a great place,” he said. “They gave me a chance. I was proud to get an opportunity there.”

In 17 games for Triple-A Sacramento, Ramirez hit not a single homer, and scouts for the As say he doesn’t resemble his former self anymore. It’s too bad–I for one was looking forward to watching Manny and his dreads fly around  Oracle Field. His would-be teammates said they had a great time with him in spring training, and are sorry to see him go.

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