Sunday, June 05, 2011

When a Series Gets Absurd

Perhaps WWE and TNA now stand for Washington's Whirling Emoters and the Throwing at Nationals Arizonians. What a ridiculous series. Jayson Werth was hit with three pitches in the series between the Nationals and the Diamondbacks and Justin Upton was hit four times. Tell this writer that isn't ridiculous (suddenly craving a Dairy Queen). And they weren't the only ones hit. Was this a tit for tat kind of affair or were the pitchers simply incapable of pitching where they were supposed to pitch?

The series obviously has been contentious. You can only speculate about intention. Would Jason Marquis, currently pitching a shutout, intend to hit Justin Upton with a pitch in the sixth inning after warnings had already been given? That seems unlikely. But who knows. The pitch looked pretty purposeful. If he did it on purpose with a runner already on and the score currently sitting at 1-0, it was a stupid decision. In the meantime, Ian Kennedy was allowed to hit two guys even though one of them was after the warning. The ump in that case thought Kennedy's pitch was an accident. How does he know? You don't throw beanballs on two-seam fastballs? Is that the rule? Who knows.

Oh yes, there was a game to be decided along the way. The Nationals won it in extra innings on a Rick Ankiel walk and a Mike Morse grand slam in the eleventh inning (Morse had been hit earlier too). The Nationals' win split the four-game series and slowed the Diamondbacks locomotive down a bit. Perhaps this is the new Nationals. Perhaps they will win by intimidation. They have little else besides a talented but overworked bullpen. But you can't just blame the Nationals for this series. The Diamondbacks wouldn't back down either and the umpires seemed bewildered throughout on how to handle the tragic comedy that was swirling around them.

And then there was the Wilson Ramos home run trot. It could barely be called a trot at all. It took him 28 seconds to round the bases, clearly an in-your-face move directed back at the Diamondbacks. The homer broke open the game at the time to push the score to 4-0. What the announcers didn't catch was that it wasn't just Ramos doing the dead stroll. Danny Espinosa, who had been hit twice himself, ran just as slowly in front of Ramos. Diamondback's coach, Matt Williams, could be seen screaming in the D-backs' dugout in response to the obvious in-your-face quality of the home run stroll.

By the way, how did Matt Williams get a pass on coaching without the confession like Mark McGwire had to endure? Just asking.

Anyway, there was one other bit of childishness in this game. In the bottom of the ninth, the Nats were leading 4-1 and had their closer, Drew Storen, in the game. Storen was awful. And after Storen gave up two hits and two walks while not recording an out, acting manager, John McLaren (Riggleman had been tossed from the game), came to take Storen out in favor of Todd Coffey for an out and then Sean Burnett. Storen was in disbelief. He pointed to himself and seemed to be saying, "You're taking ME out of this game?" McLaren was not kidding, however, and did just that. Coffey might have allowed a runner to score to tie the game and send the game into extras, but at least he threw strikes, got an out and eventually gave his team a chance to win. Sean Burnett did the same thing. He allowed a runner to score (which tied the game), but kept the Nationals in the game.

This Fan loves what McLaren did. Perhaps he should get a manager's gig somewhere. Why is there this unwritten rule in baseball that the team's ship will either sink or swim with the closer? You see this all the time. The closer doesn't have anything, the base runners are piling up and the manager just stands in the dugout wringing his hands. Obviously, Storen has come to believe this right of passage that only he is allowed to determine the outcome of a save situation. Kudos to McLaren for bucking the system and giving his team a win.

The result of Storen's meltdown in the ninth leads to one last discussion here. As long as we are talking about the silliness of all the retaliations and all the posturing and shouting that went on in this series, why not also talk about the silliness of the rules when it comes to holds and blown saves. This blown save was totally on the thick neck of Drew Storen. And yet, since he left with the bases loaded and his team still ahead, he is given a Hold. Whuh? Coffey, who allowed the third run to score on a sacrifice fly (on a ball that was drilled too) and he too got a hold. Sean Burnett gave up a run on a fielder's choice and then got the final out of the inning. But he got the blown save. Isn't that stupid? Eventually, Burnett got the win because he pitched the tenth. But getting a win and a blown save is the salary negotiation equivalent of kissing your sister.

The funniest bit about this whole series was Diamondbacks' color man, Mark Grace. Grace has been panned a lot for he color work, but he seems pretty good to this writer. His calling out of Wilson Ramos setting up with his target outside the strike zone on a 3-0 count was brilliant. Anyway, his funny moments were twice mentioning that stuff like what happened in this series happened because it was a four-game series. Come again, Mark? So every four-game series leads to beanballs and slower-than-death home run strolls? That seems a bit of a stretch.

But those comments were fittingly absurd for a very absurd series.


Charles Simone said...

Nice post, as usual.

Of the many absurdities covered here, the one I'll comment on is that I believe it's possible to get a hold and a loss in the same game, right?

William Tasker - Caribou, ME said...

Thanks for the comment on the post.

I think it is statistically impossible to get a hold and a loss in the same game. Could be wrong, but after wracking the brain, couldn't come up with a scenario where it could happen.

Charles Simone said...

Here's the scenario:

Relief pitcher A comes into the game in a save situation, puts the potential tying and go-ahead runs on base before being removed from the game (i.e. leaves with his team still in the lead). Relief pitcher B then blows the lead by allowing Relief pitcher A's runners to score.

The team goes on to lose the game without any more lead-changes.

Relief pitcher A gets a hold because he left the game with the lead still intact, and the loss because the runners charged to him are the ones that gave the opponent the lead for good.

William Tasker - Caribou, ME said...

Oh dear. That is absurd.