Bases empty, two outs, a 3-1 game, #8 hitter up. Nothing comes down to this.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Could Philadelphia Win Game 1 With 0 Runs?

In their respective National League Division Series, Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum each pitched the first playoff game of their career. Halladay, as you probably know, threw a no-hitter, the second in playoff history. The next day, Lincecum hurled a two-hit shutout while striking out 14 Atlanta Braves. His game score, a statistic designed as a fun way to compare individual games thrown by starting pitchers, was 96, and was actually slightly higher than Halladay's (95). Most years, a game score that high would rank somewhere in the top three games pitched all season, and it happened twice within two days in these 2010 playoffs.

Halladay and Lincecum are scheduled to face each other in game one of the National League Championship Series on Saturday, and ever since that match-up became a reality, fans have been salivating in anticipation. What might happen? Simultaneous no-hitters? 54 strikeouts combined? Will any hitter even make contact? The hyperbole has gotten out of hand.

(Note: the aforementioned out-of-hand hyperbole refers exclusively to that put forth on this blog.)

But here at Bottom of the Fourth, we think the hyperbole is completely justified - that's how good Halladay and Lincecum are. In fact, we believe it isn't yet out-of-hand enough.

So the question must be asked: could the Phillies get shut out and still win this game?

It seems like an impossible task, one that's never been done before. But just because something has never been done doesn't mean it will never happen. Neil Armstrong never said "well, nobody's ever walked on the moon, it must be impossible." No. He went out and walked on the fucking moon. Did the Wright brothers ever think "hey, maybe we shouldn't spend all this time building something that nobody's ever built before"? Of course not. They kept building and flew a fucking plane. And just because no-one had ever filmed a recorder version of My Heart Will Go On by candlelight, that didn't fucking stop Matt Mulholland.

So yeah, I believe the answer to the question is yes, the Phillies could get shut out and still win this game. Now, you may be wondering: why the Phillies and not the Giants? And it's a fair question - it certainly could happen both ways. I just think the Phillies superior offense will enable them to score fewer negative runs.

Which leads us to another question: negative runs? How does that work?

It's actually a little-known rule that has been in the book for many years. It hasn't been applied in recent memory because, well, who actually reads all the rules? That tome is thicker than Ken Griffey Jr.'s head in the Simpsons. Major league umpires simply aren't aware of the rule, so it never gets applied.

That doesn't explain how it works, though, so here is a short primer. Whenever a pitcher induces a batter to strike out in a manner so foolish that an umpire judges it to have been at least "ridiculous", and up to and including "absurd", the batter receives a Reverse Walk. He is sent to third base and is to advance backwards on the base-paths. He doesn't run on balls in play (at least he isn't required to, but he may if he wants, at great disadvantage to his team); he only advances whenever another Reverse Walk is issued, in which case the batter does not go to third base; only the current runner moves up. (i.e. there is only one Reverse Runner on the bases at any one time.)

An example of a strikeout that is at least "ridiculous"

When a Reverse Runner reaches home plate, his team scores a negative run. This run is taken away from the team's current score, and if that score is already zero, it dips below. Now, the best case scenario for a pitcher in one inning is to induce three strikeouts* greater than or equal to "ridiculous". In this case, the Reverse Runner first goes to third, then second, then first, and cannot reach home plate. However, unlike regular base-runners, Reverse Runners are carried over to the next inning, so a team would be gradually accumulating negative runs throughout the game, if the rule were applied properly.

*Note: like regular strikeouts, it is in fact possible to accumulate four Reverse Walks, and therefore a negative run, in the same inning; it simply requires one of the "ridiculous" strikeout victims to reach first base on a dropped ball by the catcher. This results in the unlikely scenario of runners going to first and third on the same strikeout. A pinch runner is used as the Reverse Runner.

Teams would of course need to be aware of which runners are which. Regular rules don't allow two runners to be at the same base, but that scenario is sometimes unavoidable when Reverse Runners come into play. A team may have two runners at the same base, as long as they're traveling in different directions, but need to be extra cognizant of the situation to ensure that no runner travels in the wrong direction, resulting in the runner being called automatically out. Runners may also not make contact, including anything from incidental base-running-related contact to high-fiving and other celebratory gestures. This temptation can be difficult to avoid in a case such as a walk-off home run because of the finality of the play; however, in this case, a flagrant high-five or pat on the butt by the Reverse Runner results in a reversal of the home run and a penalty out, possibly enough to turn a win immediately into a loss through a simple union of palms.

Both teams in the NLCS have their fair share of Ridiculous Strikers Out (RSOs). Pat Burrell (145), Aaron Rowand (129) and Andres Torres (128) of the Giants were each in the top 10 in the NL in RSO+, a statistic designed to compare the rate of Ridiculous Strikeouts (average is 100). But Philadelphia has a secret weapon. Ryan Howard, while merely very bad as measured by RSO+ (135), is the most prolific Preposterous Striker Out in the history of the game.

Preposterous Strikeouts (PSOs) are a notch above Ridiculous on the Ridiculous-Absurd scale, and statisticians have found that PSOs are much more predictive of future ridiculosity than RSOs. Ryan Howard has led the majors in PSOs each of the last five years, and even holds the major league record for PSOs in a season (63 in 2008) So despite San Francisco's incredibly Ridiculous 2010 outfield, if there's one player who will make a (negative) difference with his bat in this series, it's Howard.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Don't Worry, C.J.!

C.J. Wilson is nervous. Because Cliff Lee just pitched game five against Tampa Bay to put the Rangers into the second round of the playoffs, the Rangers' ace isn't ready to start the next series. So game one duties fall to Wilson. Texas has faced the Yankees in four different playoff series in their history, and never won. And Wilson has the unenviable task of facing Yankees ace and Cy Young contender CC Sabathia. It shouldn't come as a surprise that C.J. Wilson is nervous.

But he doesn't need to be. As his lone playoff start showed, his teammates will pick him up when he opens the series on Friday night at home. Don't worry, C.J.!

Josh Hamilton has been saving the Rangers' pitchers all year with his bat and his defense, and that's why he's the frontrunner for the AL MVP award. But it hasn't just been Hamilton flashing the leather...

Even with superb defense, though, a pitcher still needs some run support every now and then...

Don't worry, Ceej. It'll all work out.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Playoff Preview: Yankees vs. Twins

This series already has one game in the books, with the Yankees winning 6-4 yesterday, but it's still worth looking at what might happen for the rest of the series.

The first question that pops into my mind when thinking about this match-up is: what kind of twins are we dealing with here? If they're identical, that could be a huge advantage for the Minnesotans. 25 pairs of identical people would provide Minnesota with all kinds of possibilities for deception. Think about running the bases: one twin could bait the Yankees into making a play at third base, only to discover he was the decoy twin, distracting the opposition while his likeness moves from first to second. An extra base might not seem like much in some cases, but over the course of a game it can really add up.

Fraternal twins, on the other hand, wouldn't provide as much of an advantage, aside from the simple fact of having double the number of players as New York, but as non-identical twins, these extra players might not even be major league caliber players. In this case, Minnesota's best strategy would probably be to pester the provoke the Yankees until things boil over and a brawl ensues, in which case Minnesota's superior numbers may be able to put several key Yankees out of commission before the umpires break things up.

Two Franciscos Liriano would dramatically improve the Twins' chances

Of course, the third possibility that we haven't mentioned yet is the rarest of all twins: siamese. It's not at all clear how things would go down if Minnesota was comprised of conjoined players; it could be a huge benefit, if each two-man conglomerate had the strength and speed of two men, but it's not entirely clear that that's how siamese twins work. They could also be awkward, unable to coordinate, and totally useless in a batter's box or on a pitcher's mound.

Given that one game has already been played, we can make some inferences. We didn't see any siamese twins last night, so that is unlikely to be the case. However, it didn't appear that Minnesota used any of its twins in Wednesday's game, so it's impossible to tell whether we're dealing with the identical or fraternal variety.

We know what we're getting from the Yankees. A group of dedicated, down-home Americans. They'll scratch and claw if they have to, but they don't have any special advantages. They're constant underdogs in this way, but they're already up a game in this series. But things could change quickly if Minnesota starts to make its duplicity work.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Playoff Preview: Reds vs. Phillies

It's hard to get a handle on how this match-up will go down, since it isn't entirely clear who these teams really are. The Philadelphia Phillies are named after the city in which they play; they were formerly known as the "Philadelphias", and this was later shortened to just the "Phillies". This is an odd identity for a team; if the team is composed of an entire city, what part of it faces its opponents? The people? The buildings? The city as a collective whole, looming menacingly but moving glacially?

Cincinnati is equally confusing. The Reds were originally named as such in reference to their foot-related attire (they were once known as the Cincinnati Red Stockings), but the name is ambiguous enough that it may have taken on different meanings over the years. Philadelphia goes into this series blind, not knowing whether they'll be facing a squad full of high-socked men, communists, or hyper-intelligent shades of the colour red. Or perhaps all three.

So in a world of sports in which we're accustomed to 1-on-1 duels between fierce battle-tested men and/or creatures such as Giants, Bears, Cavaliers and Sharks, this National League Division Series figures to play out more like a siege. Cincinnati will gather all the socks, commies, and hues it can muster in an attempt to lay waste to the sprawling city of Philadelphia. We know they'll have plenty of firepower: NL MVP candidate Joey Votto led the Reds to scoring 790 runs, more than any other team in the National League.

Communists, high-red-socked men, and hyper-intelligent shades of the colour red will march on Philadelphia

On the other side, Philadelphia will barricade the streets, reinforce its strategic centers, and put out a call to arms to every last citizen. The city is a little bruised and battered after 162 games of regular-season assault, but has held up admirably, largely thanks to the terrific three of Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt, who have commanded the city's defensive forces brilliantly. Much like soccer teams often do, the Phillies will retreat into their shell, relying on their superior defensive game in an attempt to expose flaws in the Reds' plans. Look for Cincinnati to tire of their full-on attack by the fourth or fifth contest, and for Philadelphia's turtle-like strategy to win out in the end.

Playoff Preview: Rangers vs. Rays

MLB's post-season begins on Wednesday, and over the course of the next couple days, Bottom of the Fourth will be previewing each of the four series' to be played. First up: the Texas Rangers square off against the Tampa Bay Rays, first pitch Wednesday at 1:30 PM ET.

The Tampa Bay Rays are a very different team than they were several years ago. Before 2008, teams trembled at the thought of playing in Tampa, as the Devil Rays' mastery of the water made them a formidable opponent. In the American League, only the Seattle Mariners stood a chance of beating the D-Rays at home, but even they are not water creatures, strictly speaking; they just have a little more experience asea than teams like the Detroit Tigers or Baltimore Orioles. The Florida Marlins and especially Pittsburgh Pirates had success against Tampa during this time, but being in the National League, rarely had the opportunity.

On the other hand, from the Devil Rays' inception in 1998 until 2007, Tampa Bay was an atrocious team on the road. Opposing teams, wishing to gain a competitive advantage, never provided tanks ample enough to house the Rays, and they ended up just flopping around, not doing much of anything, for the entirety of the two, three or four game series.

That all changed in 2008, when the Rays dropped the "Devil" from their name and changed their logo to a different kind of ray: a sunbeam. Now, the Rays are very hard to beat, whether at home or on the road; they're all around, always on the offensive, and when one gets stifled, it isn't long before his teammates poke their heads out so fast and from so many different directions it's impossible to stop them all at once.

The best defense against the new-look Rays is a broad, all-encompassing cloud cover. Unfortunately, Texas doesn't see too many of those, so the series will be a difficult one for the Arlington boys.

That isn't to say Texas doesn't have a prayer. Far from it, in fact. The Rangers have plenty of firepower of their own. Each one carries a Sig Sauer .357 at all times, and knows how to use it. The question of how to fire at a sunbeam is a tricky one, but Texas has figured out ways to do it all season long against equally tough opponents: Blue Jays, Twins, even Angels.

Look for Texas pitchers to blow blazing fastballs past Rays hitters. After all, how do you stop a speeding bullet? The Rays will try to throw Texas off their game with their multi-directional deception, but if the Rangers can maintain focus there isn't much that can stop them. Plus, Texas has a secret weapon, a hotshot prospect called up just two days ago in preparation for the post-season. Nobody knows exactly what he's capable of, because the hazy, third-hand stories floating up from the minor leagues range from fantastic to simply unbelievable. But if he's even half as good as they say, the Rays don't stand a chance.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Giants Win to Avoid Bizarre Three-Way Game

The 2010 season of Major League Baseball wrapped up yesterday in dramatic fashion. The NL West and Wildcard crowns came down to the last day, with the Atlanta Braves, San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres fighting for the two spots.

Early in the day, Atlanta put themselves in a good position by holding off the Phillies 8-7. That set up the battle of the Sans in the afternoon. A San Francisco win meant San Francisco would advance, leaving the Padres, one of the biggest surprises of 2010, a game short of the playoffs.

A Padres win, on the other hand, would lead to one of the most fascinating scenarios in baseball history: a three-way tie for two playoff spots. This result would invoke a rarely-used, little-known rule from the depths of baseball's tome of laws: the three-way game, known officially as the "Ti3br3ak3r".

Though San Francisco did in fact win Sunday's contest, allowing the Giants and Braves to advance to the playoffs while forcing the Padres to an earlier-than-expected golf season, the Ti3br3ak3r has been on people's lips every since it became clear that it might happen. However, being so rarely used, the average fan knows very little about this phenomenon. Bottom of the Fourth has dug into baseball's intricate maze of rules and regulations and today presents what can only be described as an educational feature, a profile of the mysterious Ti3br3ak3r.


The Ti3br3ak3r's roots go back to 1948 and the American League pennant race. It was a very close race that is famous for featuring the first ever one-game playoff in the American League, between the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox. What is often forgotten is that the New York Yankees were very much in that race, ending the season only two games back. Sensing the possibility of a three-way tie, baseball scrambled to implement a fail-safe in case this situation occurred.

The original Threesome, as it was called then, was to be a simple rotation on a regular field. Team A would pitch to team B, who would pitch to team C, who would pitch to team A. The standard nine innings would be played, with a top, middle and bottom. The team with the most runs won, and if two or all three teams were tied after nine innings, extra innings would proceed normally. In the case of a two-way tie, the non-tied team would drop out after nine innings.

However, the game was never played in this incarnation, and has been modified many times as the game changed. The Ti3br3ak3r is now much more complicated, and features a modified field, among other strange alterations.

The basic premise of the current Ti3br3ak3r stems from its modified field, as shown in the diagram below.

A diagram of the modified field used for the Ti3br3ak3r

In this setup, team A patrols the field while teams B and C bat simultaneously from opposite diamonds. The pitching team uses two pitchers, catchers, and sets of infielders, because of the two infields. The average major league team generally doesn't carry two complete infields, but recall that the Ti3br3ak3r would only take place as a September tiebreaker, when rosters have been expanded.

The defending team may only use three outfielders - a right/left fielder, a left/right fielder, and a center fielder - who must pay attention to both batters simultaneously. It's entirely possible that an outfielder would have two balls hit in their direction at the same time, and in the extremely rare circumstance, might even be able to make a Doublecatch. If an umpire judges the two balls to have been caught in the same instant by the same fielder, the defending team is awarded two extra outs (one per offensive side) that they may apply at any point later in the game.

It should be noted that home runs would become rarer in the Ti3br3ak3r, because the home run fence only exists along the flat sides connecting the two fields, requiring hitters to pull the ball at exactly the right angle, or give the ball a large amount of spin, just to hit one over the fence. However, triples and inside-the-park home runs would be much more common given the possibility of a ball rolling all the way to the opposite infield.

In such a case, if a batter hits a fly ball over the outfielders' heads, it may be tempting for the opposite infielders to catch the ball. However, this is strictly prohibited - the outfielders are the only defenders allowed to participate in both sides of the game. Any contact by an infielder with the wrong ball results in a two-base error. This can be particularly confusing in the case when both balls end up in play in the same infield, forcing fielders to pay close attention to which ball is which.

The potential for complicated strategical decisions exists in the Ti3br3ak3r, especially if it took place in the National League. The "Double Double Switch" could occur if a manager simultaneously replaced both his pitchers, and at the same time modified his extended 15-man batting order by replacing two fielders, not necessarily from opposite infields, with players off the bench. Because of the possible complexity of this type of situation, the Ti3br3ak3r calls for a special lineup-only umpire, to be seated at a desk in the exact middle of center field between the two diamonds. The center fielder must be acutely aware of this hazard in order to avoid injury when going back on a fly ball.

However, this isn't the only obstacle the outfielders must face. Because of the lack of a home run fence, the rulebook calls for bullpen pitchers to "just hang out" somewhere in the outfield. When it comes time to warm up, this must also be done at a spot of their choosing in the outfield.


Of course, the question naturally arises: where would such a game be played, given that no major league ballparks are equipped for an expanded layout such as this? As it turns out, one Double Stadium already exists: in Las Vegas. Sin City has been trying to get a professional sports team for years, and as a show of faith to MLB in hopes of returned goodwill, built this insurance-policy stadium more than 15 years ago. When not in use for the Ti3br3ak3r (as it never has been), the "Las Vegas Bipark" doubles as the city's primary poker chip storage facility, and recent estimates put the stadium at 80% full with stacks of the small disks, meaning any Ti3br3ak3r would require a tremendous amount of work on the part of the stadium crew. Luckily, they've survived another year without having to deal with this problem.

The Ti3br3ak3r may have found inspiration in 4-way chess

The Ti3br3ak3r follows in the footsteps of other modified versions of games, such as four-player chess, 3-D hockey (in which a gravitationally modified cube allows players to skate on the inside of each face), and Duelling Darts. Here's hoping that one day we'll actually see the game played.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Jays' Managerial Search

Cito Gaston managed his last home game as a Blue Jay two nights ago, and was sent off in style; who was the last manager to receive a portrait of themselves painted by Vernon Wells' dad as a parting gift? But soon Cito's final season will be officially over and it will be time for the Blue Jays to start looking for their next manager.

According to a September 1 report by ESPN's Jerry Crasnick, Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos put together an initial list of some 200 odd names as candidates to replace Gaston next year. This isn't much of a surprise; if we've learned anything during AA's first year as GM, it's that he is an absolute workaholic. The guy was talking trades while on his honeymoon, for god's sake.

The list has been culled to a much more reasonable size by now, of course, and the organization will only interview a handful of top candidates in the search for their Manager of the Future, but that doesn't stop us from profiling some of those initial candidates who didn't make the first cut. Today, Bottom of the Fourth brings you three stories of people who caught Alex Anthopoulos' eye enough to be filed away in his Rolodex.


Yoslan González has apparently been managing in Cuba for more than 30 years. Nothing about his supposed managerial career can be confirmed, however, because of the tedious relationship between Cuba and the United States. Cuban baseball players wishing to play in the major leagues face the ominous task of defecting from their home country, a complicated endeavour that often leaves them penniless and lost when they finally make it out, only to discover, in many cases, they're not good enough for the major leagues.

So it's not surprising that what little is known about González tends to sound a little exaggerated.

"I heard he once managed 60 straight hours," said one scout, "the government ordered a 60 hour baseball game in honour of Castro's 60th birthday (placing the game in 1986). They kept bringing in replacement players every couple hours, but Yoslan stuck it out for the whole game. Some say he made more than 100 pitching changes, and more than half of them were double switches. If that isn't a testament to his managerial abilities, I don't know what is."

More details were provided by Cuban pitcher Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez, a nine-year veteran of the major leagues. "My little brother played for Yos. They never lost a game. The other teams pulled all these crazy stunts, because you know in Cuba there no rules man. They put 6 guys in the outfield. They pitched from 45 feet. One time, they steal all the bats from my brother's team 30 minutes before the game. They had to use sticks they found around the ballpark. So Yos get up and he make this speech, man, and he motivate the players so much they hit 8 home runs and won 15-1. But it wasn't the players who hit those home runs with those sticks. It was Yos' speech, man."

Research into the life of this allegedly famous Cuban turned up nothing. No news stories, no birth records. Nada. It's not entirely clear the man even exists. Neither Hernandez nor the aforementioned scout have ever seen him in person. But that doesn't dissuade El Duque of his existence. "Sure, maybe I never seen him. But we have a saying in Cuba. In English it's something like "if someone say something happened, it happened."

"The very fact that so little is known about him is what makes him intriguing," said Anthopoulos. "He could be the Aroldis Chapman of managing. He could come over here and suddenly be managing at 105 MPH. It's always a risk banking on unknown quantities, but it's often a very profitable risk."


Erika Thompson is a partner at a distinguished law firm in downtown Toronto. Erika is a self-made woman; she paid her way through a political science degree, then got a free ride through Osgoode Hall Law School (York University's law school) by virtue of being consistently at the top of her class. She got one of the more prestigious articling positions while a student, and has stayed with the same firm ever since, working her way up the ladder until finally making partner.

In court, Thompson is something to behold. She oozes confidence. She commands a courtroom. When she speaks, people listen. Her name has been brought up numerous times as one of the "rising stars of Canadian law", and she's been mentioned as a possible future Attorney-General.

So it's no surprise that when Alex Anthopoulos encountered Erika Thompson in a Quizno's, he was floored. "She ordered a Pesto Turkey Toasty Torpedo," he said slowly, his eyes glazed over, clearly reminiscing about the incident. "First of all, great sandwich. But the way she said it..." Anthopoulos trailed off and paused for ten seconds before starting again. "Anyone who can order a sandwich like that can manage a baseball team. I don't care what experience she has. She's got it."

When contacted, Thompson was bewildered. "I have no interest in baseball," she said. "I've been to two games in my life, and those were to entertain clients. I hardly play sports. I play squash twice a week, that's it. Growing up, I played piano and went to geography competitions. I didn't play sports. And I've never heard of Alex Anthem... what? Anthopoulos, yeah."

Anthopoulos brushed these comments aside. "She didn't make our first cut for a number of reasons, but if she had, she would have wanted the job like nothing she's ever wanted before. Not even a Pesto Turkey Toasty Torpedo. I would have made her. I'm Alex Anthopoulos, bitch."


When Matt Chapman was a boy, he always wanted a dog. While other kids played on the swings and slides and see-saws, Matt would sit in the grass and watch the dogs frolic about, playing frisbee, chasing other dogs, and barking so exuberantly Matt thought they were laughing, laughing with joy. The joy of the carefree life of being a dog.

When Matt was nine years old he came home from a particularly difficult day of school and immediately burst into tears. "Matt, sweetie, what happened?" cried his mother. Matt told her about scraping his knee at recess while playing baseball, about the other kids teasing him for crying even though it was purely instinctual, he couldn't help it, about how he kept thinking about it in class to the point that he got in trouble for not paying attention and missed afternoon recess, which only made it worse because the other kids thought he was hiding and being a coward and crying more. His mother comforted him as only as a mother can. She dropped everything and made Matt his favourite food, Kraft Dinner with chopped-up hot dogs, purple Kool-aid, and chocolate ice cream for dessert. Matt's mother tried to keep a healthy diet in the house, but she also understood that there was a time and a place to throw all that out the window. Matt loved his mom.

Matt was cheered so much by the delicious dinner that he forgot all about what happened at school. He also didn't even notice that his father hadn't made it home for dinner, which he usually did. So when he heard the familiar sound of the blue Volvo wagon pulling into the driveway around 8 o'clock, he ran out to the front porch to greet his father.

But the moment he stepped outside, Matt once again forgot all about his father, for right there, hanging its head out the passenger window was a beautiful golden retriever. Matt was so excited he froze. He didn't know what to do or say. He just stood there staring, a blank expression on his face.

Matt's father brought the dog up the front walk and knelt down. "Now Matt, I've been thinking for a while about this," he said, "and I think you're old enough to take on the responsibility of caring for this dog. Do you think so?" Matt could hardly contain his enthusiasm. "Of course!" he almost-screamed, and he gave the dog a big hug, which the dog received by slopping a wet tongue all over Matt's face. Matt didn't mind.

Matt and his new best friend were inseparable. They went for a long walk every day, greeting old Mrs. Whitney on her front porch each time they passed. "Why hello there, young Mr. Matthew," Mrs. Whitney would reply, "and say hello to your friend for me too!" Matt always passed her greeting along.

Matt loved to play firefighter. He would pretend he was the hero, saving entire families from their burning house, one body tucked under each arm. And of course he could never save everyone without the help of his trusty firedog.

But Matt's favourite thing was to play catch. He would throw the tennis ball as far as he could, and the dog would run and get it. And they would repeat, over and over. It was impossible to tell who tired of this game first, because it never happened. That was how Matt's dog got the name Fetch. Sometimes Matt wished he could be the one fetching; he longed for that boundless joy he had first seen as a small boy watching other people's dogs at the playground.

As is always the case, Matt and Fetch grew apart as Matt got older. It wasn't for lack of love; Matt just didn't have as much time as he once did. Fetch died when Matt was in his second year away at university. Matt was sad, but he got over it.

But some part of Fetch always stayed inside Matt, and perhaps unconsciously, his life started to emulate the time spent with his dog. First he worked as a tennis ball-boy at small, local tournaments. His superiors noticed his determination and he began to get offers at bigger and bigger tournaments. Eventually he was hired as an official ATP ball-boy, traveling with the tour. He worked tournaments in Toronto, Cincinnati, Dubai, and all four majors. He had made it; he was a professional fetcher. He couldn't bring his dog back, but this was as close as he could get.

However, Matt got sick of traveling. He wanted to go home to Toronto and settle down. Unfortunately, there isn't enough tennis ball-boy work in Toronto to sustain oneself. At some point, a close friend, aware of Matt's situation, mentioned baseball. 81 games a year, plus the occasional freelance tennis work, that would be enough, right? Matt applied for the Blue Jays' 2010 season and easily got the job; he was overqualified, to say the least.

Matt's eagerness and positive attitude made him a favourite among Rogers Centre staff, and as the season went on, word spread higher and wider, until Alex Anthopoulos got wind of the ball-boy who everybody loved. Anthopoulos spent an entire three-day series against the Red Sox sitting in the front row by Matt's post, paying zero attention to the game, just watching Matt.

"He's tireless," said Anthopoulos. "He wants to fetch every foul ball so badly. He's dogged." Anthopoulos said that Matt's determination reminds him of himself, "and that's the kind of person I want managing a baseball team. One who never gives up, no matter what. That kind of attitude rubs off on the players. The best managers lead by example; they don't pressure or threaten their players into playing their hardest every day. They inspire them. Matt has that quality."


None of these people got beyond the initial list of 200 candidates. Various factors can be blamed for this; mostly, though, baseball teams are conservative, and don't like to venture outside the comfort zone of what's normal. While Alex Anthopoulos is a creative and hard-working general manager, his large team of consultants generally vetoes anything a little too creative. So Yoslan González, Erika Thompson and Matt Chapman will have to wait at least a little longer for their first big league managing job.

Sometimes this kind of baseball news can be tiring. The stories are often nothing but reports of teams wining and dining potential managers, reporters trying to enumerate all the possible candidates, maybe assigning scores of likeliness-to-be-hired as a gimmick. Delving into the life of the candidates and really telling their story, on the other hand, humanizes the candidates and brings a spark of interest to this otherwise-tedious search. We hope that these profiles have brought you closer to the game and its people.