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

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Five Calls We Would Like to Hear

This afternoon Yunel Escobar hit his first home run as a Toronto Blue Jay, and first in 424 plate appearances, prompting Jordan Bastian of MLB.com to tweet the following:

Esco-bomb! Genius. John Sterling would be proud.

We here (okay, me here) at Bottom of the Fourth are big fans of stupid puns and wish broadcasters would use them with a ridiculous amount of frequency. In fact, if broadcasters spoke only in puns, the world would be a better place. (This might actually be true with regards to certain broadcasters...)

Therefore, Bottom of the Fourth would like to present its list of five calls (not necessarily home run calls) that would give us (me) great pleasure to hear coming over the airwaves, and could feasibly happen, since they involve players in the game today.

  1. Roy Halladay strikes out any Detroit player, LSU alum, or superstar-golfer-frustrated-by-recent-tumult-in-their-personal-life-looking-to-shake-things-up-by-trying-a-new-sport-a-la-Michael-Jordan:
    "Who needs Siegfried! Roy tames the Tiger!"
  2. Atlanta Braves pitcher Kenshin Kawakami miraculously discovers his power stroke, driving one out for his first career home run. Chris Berman on the mic, finally completing his transition from human to rooster:
    "And it's back-back-back-back-back-buck-buck-buck-buck-bKAW! akami!!!"
  3. David Wright smacks a line drive right back towards Colorado Rockies rookie pitcher Jhoulys Chacin. Chacin, still in the follow-through of his motion, is unable to twist his body quickly enough to escape the rocket, and is struck in the one place that pitchers, fortunately, wear protection. However, the impact is still quite painful, like taking a bullet with a bulletproof vest on. The call:
    "Ooh! Wright in the family Jhoulys!"
    This, of course, could be followed by:
    "I've never Chacin anything like that!"
    In the follow-up commentary, the analyst might note:
    "It's the first time these two have Met, and let's just say it was a Rockie first encounter for the young pitcher."
    Later, while being attended to by the team doctor:
    "Well, there won't be any permanent damage, but you might want to reNew Yo(u)r Konsumption of painkillers; your testicles are a little bruised and disColor(e)do.
    Did we mention we love puns? (Sorry about that last one.)

  4. It's a tie game between the Mets and the Marlins. In the bottom of the ninth, the Mets get their lead-off runner on base via the walk. Pinch-hitter Jesus Feliciano comes to the dish, dreaming of smacking a double off the wall for his first career walk-off hit. Every rookie wants to prove himself by being the hero, and it isn't often that Feliciano is in this situation. But the moment passes, cooler heads prevail, and Feliciano bunts the runner to second.
    "Jesus unselfishly makes the sacrifice."
    Matthew Leach and Mark Bowman of MLB.com, Luke Adams of MLB Trade Rumors and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports, all covering the game for some reason, would later go into depth about this play, each offering their own take on Feliciano's motivations and execution, but ultimately coming to the same conclusion: his bunt was the turning point that dramatically altered the outcome of this game.

  5. Placido Polanco, after signing a contract with a new team, gets off to a hot but unsustainable start, fueled by an abnormally high Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP). He even throws in a couple walk-off hits, prompting his hometown fans to undeservedly canonize him as the team's newest superstar infielder who will prop the team up on his shoulders even as they suffer early-season injuries and ineffectiveness to star players. Fans of a divisional rival, having suffered a recent spate of good teams who just can't seem to break through and make the playoffs after an incredible run of success in the previous decade, start to worry that this year will be no different and that Polanco's new team, the two-time defending league champions, will pull off the hat trick, leaving their team as the bridesmaid once again.

    But the sabermetrically-inclined broadcaster of the aforementioned divisional rival sees through Polanco's BABIP magic (this is all very specific, isn't it? Almost as if it's based in fact...) and gives solace to his listeners:
    "No need to worry, fans. It's just the Placido Effect."

Well, hope you enjoyed BotF's Five Calls We Would Like to See. As the late, great Fire Joe Morgan showed us, broadcasters have the potential to provide some of the best laughs in baseball, so this is a feature we'll likely be returning to.

    Wednesday, July 14, 2010

    Blue Jays Contract Cancer

    On Wednesday, July 14, Bastille Day, the Toronto Blue Jays destroyed their franchise.

    Allow me to explain. The Jays traded their starting shortstop Alex Gonzalez, along with prospects Tim Collins and Tyler Pastornicky, to the Atlanta Braves for Cuban shortstop Yunel Escobar and pitcher Jo-Jo Reyes. On the surface, it looks like a good move by the Jays; they cashed in an aging rental player and a couple of B-prospects for a young player with a solid track record at a key defensive position. However, Escobar had fallen out of favour with the Braves because of his attitude and abrasive personality, and this factor will prove to be the undoing of Canada's only major league baseball team.

    There's no doubt that Yunel Escobar is a clubhouse cancer. Just look at these testimonials:
    "He's been known for perceived arrogant mannerisms on the field and has carried a me-against-the-world mentality" - Alden Gonzalez, MLB.com 
    "There's no doubt that Escobar's flamboyant approach to the game has continued to infuriate some members of the Braves organization" - Mark Bowman and Chris Hempson, MLB.com
    "It's about the attitude and being a clubhouse cancer." - PrinceWimbley
    "not an Atlanta Braves type of player" - a veteran Braves scout 
    "The guy is a clubhouse cancer." - kalmamd, forum.bodybuilding.com
    "a club house cancer" - bigstack19
    And if that weren't enough, picture those quotes in a rapid-fire video montage set to a foreboding yet driving soundtrack which crescendos as the lengths of the clips shorten, climaxing as the words Clubhouse Cancer are fiercely spoken directly into the camera, and hollowly fades out while the text rattles around the deteriorating, congealing images.

    Yeah, I know. Powerful. 

    And thoroughly convincing. How can you not believe the guy is nothing short of a ticking time-bomb when so many individual opinions support that claim?

    According to Wikipedia, cancer is a "a class of diseases in which a group of cells display uncontrolled growth (division beyond the normal limits), invasion (intrusion on and destruction of adjacent tissues), and sometimes metastasis (spread to other locations in the body via lymph or blood)."

    I'm sure I don't need to spell it out for you, but this is not a good thing. Let's follow the cancer analogy to its logical conclusion by examining what its three properties mean for the Toronto Blue Jays.

    • Uncontrolled Growth - Yunel Escobar is listed by ESPN.com at 6'2" and 200 lbs., traditionally a good baseball body. He's lean and fast, but strong enough to drive the ball. Unfortunately, given his carcinogenic nature, his size will not level out as it does for most players. At first, the effects will be subtle. He'll lose a step on the base paths and in the field, but he may actually gain power at the plate, prompting coaches and scouts to disregard other negative effects. But just like cancer, Escobar's growth will become faster as time goes on, and soon he'll balloon to unbelievable proportions, necessitating custom-made gloves to fit his gargantuan hands, eventually followed by his own clubhouse adjacent to the stadium, until finally he won't be able to even fit in the Skydome on those chilly September nights when the roof is closed.

    • Invasion - Invasion is the process by which the cancerous party deeply infects those parties closest to it. As a shortstop, Escobar will be exposed most frequently to the infielder on either side of him: Aaron Hill at second will be the first to go, while Edwin Encarnación and José Bautista, who share time at third for the Jays, will follow closely behind. It could be that by spring training next year, Hill, Bautista and Encarnación will have contracted the disease, and as early as one year from now could be showing early symptoms.
    • Metastasis - Of course, Escobar's cancerous influence will not be limited to his immediate neighbours on the diamond. A somewhat dilute version of the disease will be passed to any teammate who plays catch, works out, or is involved in the same in-game play with Escobar, even if said play is a complex, multi-step sequence (i.e. a rundown). In most cases the metastasized cancer will manifest itself simply as a benign tumor, never to spread and affect the player in any way. However, the success rate of the disease is likely high enough that the few positive instances will cause a chain reaction that will destroy the entire team within 15 years. Of course, baseball teams have high turnover rates and new, cancer-free players will constantly be brought in to combat the affliction, but if Escobar is allowed even two years with the Blue Jays, it will be too late. Given that he has three and a half seasons remaining under team control, that seems all but certain to come to pass.
    The Blue Jays may see immediate gains from this trade, since of the two major league shortstops moved, Escobar is younger, cheaper, and projected by most as the better player. But it's a short-term move by the Jays, and it's never a good idea for a major league franchise to turn a blind eye to the future. The Atlanta Braves, on the other hand, avoided that temptation, and chose to build for years to come by ridding themselves of a liability that likely would have ensured the destruction of their entire franchise. 

    Instead, that will be a fate only suffered by Toronto.