Monday, July 09, 2012

Oakland Oaks and Joe "Migraine" Magrane

Spending an afternoon watching the MLB Network's MLB Tonight (which just made this sentence an oxymoron) can make a viewer very restless. If Mitch Williams is one of the "analysts," then it is not watchable. Dan Plesac is slightly better. One of the worst but slightly above those two dudes just mentioned, is Joe "Migraine" Magrane, the former pitcher for the Cardinals and others. Magrane comes off as sort of a better-than-you kind of guy. He does have a pretty daughter that can sing though. But anyway, in the course of an hour, Magrane's Sunday performance was cheer-worthy and cringe-worthy all at the same time. And both happened during the same "Look in" during the late innings of a game between the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics.

First the cheer-worthy. The game featured throwback uniforms. And since the Mariners do not have any history to throw back to, they decided on wearing uniforms from notable Pacific Coast League minor league teams. The Oakland A's became the Oakland Oaks and the Mariners became the Washington Raniers. Frankly, throwback uniform days bring no joy from this long-time watcher of games. They often confuse the viewer until you can figure out which team is which and once that is navigated, you then have to figure out which player is which.

Again, this is less of a problem if the team has some actual history to it. And sometimes the ploy can be enjoyable such as seeing the Royals' powder-blue again. But when a team has no history, then the ploy is downright stupid. And this observer's opinion still stands. The entire goal of throwback uniforms is to increase the number of merchandising options there are in the MLB store.

So armed with those feelings in mind, Magrane became a hero of sorts because he called out the practice during the "Look in." He clearly showed his disdain for the practice and then covered himself slightly by saying his opinions were not those of the network he worked for. The moment was cheer-worthy.

But during the same "Look-in," Magrane undid all the positive. The Mariners and Athletics were locked in a 1-1 battle, which is all too typical in their match-ups. The Mariners wasted another great pitching performance from Felix Hernandez and the game went into extra innings. The "Look in" captured the drama of the bottom of the tenth inning.

In that half inning, Cliff Pennington started the inning with a single off of action-figure confab, Brandon League. Charlie Furbush was brought in to face Coco Crisp. Now there is a name- dropper's delight. Anyway, in almost predictable fashion, Crisp was asked to sacrifice the runner to second. MLB Tonight host, Ahmed Fareed, immediately said that he did not like the move. Magrane's rebuke of Fareed was immediate and pointed. He said something like, "You've got to get the runner to second and have two shots at bringing the run home."

This is the perfect opportunity to intimate that the sacrifice bunt is hated in this space. Absolutely hated. And thus articles like this, written by Dave Cameron are heroic in nature. So Fareed is this site's kind of guy. But Magrane used the moment to put on his "I-played-the-game-so-I-am- smarter-than-you" hat and used the occasion to scold Fareed. Boy did Magrane look stupid a moment later.

Crisp did get the bunt down, but it was too much to the pitcher, who threw a perfect strike to second to get the lead runner. Fareed even gloated a little. Magrane gargled something about execution. But anyway, the poor-hitting A's had just traded base runners and gave the Mariners a free out. Crisp complicated the move even further when he was picked off just seconds later.

The sacrifice attempt blunted what could have been a game-ending rally. And sure enough, after the failure of the sacrifice and the pick-off, Furbush walked two batters and threw a wild pitch. But with runners on second and third, the A's only had one out to play with and Jonny Gomes struck out.

The A's did win the game in the thirteenth inning. In that inning, the lead-off batter again singled. But this time,  Josh Reddick wasn't asked to sacrifice and hit a double to win the game.

For Magrane and the A's, the game was the best and worst of the analyst and the team. Magrane--always imperious--used that for good with the uniform comment but abused it with his rebuke and the old saws of baseball strategy. The A's almost worked themselves out of a chance to win but later were allowed to redeem themselves to win the game because the Mariners cannot hit to save themselves.

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