So the Cubs squeak out just enough runs to take a one-run lead to the ninth with their best reliever on the mound, one night after a heartbreaking marathon loss. He gives up a walk but has the Pirates down to their last strike before their best hitter lifts a long lazy fly ball to their superstar left fielder who camps under it. Cubs win and go home with the series win…
…except, the superstar can’t find it in the sun, the ball falls to the ground, the game is tied and Pittsburgh goes on to win in 11 innings. This blows.
The play, of course is very reminiscent of that fateful play 10 years ago where Brant Brown made himself infamous in a similar situation. Here’s some trivia for you guys out there: who hit the ball that Brown dropped? Who did the Cubs receive in the trade of Brown that occurred shortly after that play (hint: he figured prominently in today’s game)? And if you need something to make yourself smile after such an ugly loss, you can listen here to Ron Santo’s famous meltdown after the drop.
As if there is not enough talk about instant replay already, replays showed conclusively that Luis Rivas’ 1st-inning shot never actually left the park. The arguments against replay continue to baffle me. They amount to three different arguments really, only one of which means much to me. The need to preserve the “human element” in the form of judgment errors and the case that all reviews aren’t always conclusive – I just don’t get it. I’m all for preserving the human element – as in, I like to see the humans with gloves and bats decide the game by how well they play it. Call me old-fashioned. And the need to hold replay review to a standard of perfection is absurd. Now, the time issue is a real concern, but we have to realize it takes just as much (if not more) time for Sweet Lou to waddle out to the base umpires to argue these calls. In that time, the proper call would be made.
All the other sports leagues have instituted some sort of replay, with much success. Even in football, where the calls are much harder, even after replay. In fact I find the replay spectacles in both football and tennis very compelling as a spectator. Baseball should go beyond home runs (which is a given now, with all the talk about it) and institute it on base safe/out calls as well. The biggest problem that will arise is two-fold. First, would all plays be reviewable, or would there be a finite challenge system, just like tennis and football. Secondly, and probably more importantly, how do you deal with the problems with changed calls? For instance, in this game, Rivas was not taking anything for granted and running hard to third before he slowed up. Imagine a replay system was in place but the umpires had signaled home run, stopping both he runner and the fielders from continuing play. Then the replay overturns the home run – where do you put the runner. I am not arguing that this should stop replay’s implementation, only that there are many of these difficult questions to answer before it can be done well. (And I am not confident that the people running baseball will be able to answer them well enough to make this necessary improvement to the game – much the worse for baseball.)
– Having said all that, it does not really need to be said that a Luis Rivas at bat should never end with a home-run controversy, replay or no. This guy has a career OPS+ of 78, and Lilly could not retire him in 3 plate appearances and two home runs. For that reason alone, Lilly deserved to lose. Marmol and Lieber reminded us all that he is, indeed, Luis Rivas, by each striking him out on a pitch greater than a foot out of the zone.
– While Lilly probably deserved less luck than he got, Maholm pitched a very good game, and deserved a much better fate than he got. He was consistently ahead and really had just one bad inning. But his extended outing, while looking like it was heading for a loss in regulation, put the Bucs’ bullpen in good position heading into extra innings.
– I may be wrong on this one, but I think Xavier Nady’s name is pronounced like “Zavier”, not “Ex-zavier”. I find that annoying.
– I agree that Marmol got a tough earned run and a tough blown save, but in the 9th inning, he threw 30 pitches, and only 13 went for a strike. He wasn’t exactly dominant. What was Lou doing bringing him back out for a second inning?
– In fact his use of the bullpen is often questionable. You have a long game the night before, your bullpen is already short, and you need Eyre and Howry to go through the bottom of Pittsburgh’s order? Speaking of those two, I like how they seem to have their stuff together now – they will be valuable the rest of the season taking pressure off of Wood and Marmol.
– I’m to the point now where I was mad when Marmol walked Sanchez in the 9th, mostly because it meant that Nate McClouth would get a chance to tie it up. Here’s a trade that might make sense – Cubs offer Felix Pie and an advanced pitching prospect (Gallagher?) for McClouth. Would the Pirates do that?
– Here’s a note apropos of nothing – on MLB 2K8 for my Nintendo Wii, Fukudome’s name is Kazuhito Fortunado. What’s up with that?
– Some players are actually better than their statistics suggest, always doing little things and making the right plays when it matters. Their value is often over-rated by baseball management and sports commentators, but those skills have value nonetheless. Fukudome is possibly the prototype whose value exceeds what his stats would suggest. Well, behold Alfonso Soriano, the anti-Fukudome. Now, I like him as a player and am glad he is on the team. But, you just have to look only at his triple crown stats to see what he does for the team, especially now that he runs so gingerly. He is liability in the field, he does not get on base any other way, and he is not a good baserunner. What you see is what you get with him.
– It’s a little disconcerting that the Cubs have played so well, yet look at the possibiltiy of going into Memorial Day in second place (Go Dodgers! – today, anyway). They now look into a much more difficult part of the schedule over the next month, with nary a Pittsburgh series to be found. The pitching needs to step up, because the offense can’t be counted on to get 5 runs every single game.
– Have a great and safe holiday, everyone!