Previous “Baseball Bloopers” posts

It’s a Safe Bet That the Rangers Weren’t Stealing Signs 

Friday, June 17th, 2022

As most folks know, in baseball, it’s one, two, three strikes and you’re out. A strikeout is a fairly common way for an at bat to end, occurring many times each game. Striking out the side is a rarer event, wherein a pitcher strikes out all three batters they face in an inning.1 Much, much rarer still is an “immaculate inning”, which occurs when a pitcher throws nine straight strikes and strikes out all three batters. In Major League Baseball’s history of millions of innings, just over 100 of them have been immaculate.

Earlier this week, the Houston Astros managed not one, but two, immaculate innings in one game. Hapless Texas Rangers Nathaniel Lowe, Ezequiel Duran, and Brad Miller went down on nine straight strikes in the second inning, for the 107th immaculate inning of all time. Then, incredibly, the very same batters did the same in the seventh for the 108th, and most recent, immaculate inning.

They say that every time you go to the ballpark, you’re going to see something you’ve never seen before. If you were a Rangers fan at the game on June 15, 2022, you saw something no one’s ever seen before, and it wasn’t great for you.


Footnotes:

  1. Wikipedia states: “There is a disagreement as to the exact definition of striking out the side. Some feel a pitcher should be credited with striking out the side when all three outs in the inning were obtained via the strikeout, regardless of what other hitters that the pitcher has faced have done.” Those people are wrong.↩︎

Here Comes the Ceremonial First Pitch 

Tuesday, May 17th, 2022

Last night, before the Red Sox defeated the Houston Astros, heir to the Benihana fortune (and also some sort of musician, apparently) Steve Aoki threw out a ceremonial first pitch. It was…not great. In fact, it was so airmailed that If not for the netting above the stands behind home plate, the ball would’ve landed quite deep in the crowd.

If only was Max Scherzer had been there when Steve Aoki needed him.

Introducing PitchCom 

Monday, April 11th, 2022

Baseball is back, and this season, a whole lot has changed. From a universal designated hitter to mic’ed up umpires, it’s a brave new world. Perhaps the most intriguing change is the addition of a new system called PitchCom, which uses wireless transmitters to allow pitchers and catchers to determine what pitch will be thrown. Technology is finally being used to prevent sign-stealing, rather than just enabling it.

USA Today has a story on the new system, which offers several intriguing details, including this origin story:

ProMystic, a company that creates and designs similar technologies for performing magicians and mentalists, developed PitchCom. Company co-founder John Hankins said he was inspired by the fallout of the Houston Astros’ electronic sign-stealing scandal, which used an instantaneous video-replay system to decode catchers’ finger signs in real time, to create a technology that protected the game’s integrity.

Hankins, an attorney in addition to his credentials as a technical engineer, filed the patent paperwork within a week of his idea in late 2019. He challenged Craig Filicetti, his fellow co-founder, to develop a prototype that they tested one month later in the early part of 2020.

For years, I idly suggested that baseball ought to use technology to allow pitchers and catchers to communicate. Frankly, I envisioned something pretty much exactly like this. The only problem, of course, is that I didn’t actually do anything with that idea.

This Hat Should Not Exist

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2021

Recently, I saw someone wearing this hat:

An MLB hat, with the logos of all 30 MLB teams strewn about

In a word: Why? I’m fairly certain that the wearer was not Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, the only person I can think of for whom this awful hat might make sense.

I’m also completely certain it was not another Rob, Rob Lowe, who is rather infamous for once wearing a ridiculous “NFL” hat:

Rob Lowe wearing a hat that just says “NFL”
Sports!

No, this was a common man, wearing a thankfully uncommon hat for reasons I can’t comprehend. It would be strange to simply be a fan of baseball, without some allegiance to a particular team. But even in that weird case, the MLB has a fantastic logo, one which has influenced the logos of many other American sports leagues:

A much more attractive hat with just the MLB logo”

That’s a good looking hat! There is simply no reason to junk it up by festooning 30 disparate logos on it all willy-nilly.

Previously in terrible MLB hats: Those Are Some Bad Hats, New Era

Rest In Peace and Pizza, RemDawg

Monday, November 1st, 2021

Yesterday, news came of the death of Boston Red Sox fan favorite Jerry Remy. Remy played 10 years in the bigs, including 7 years with Boston in the ’70s and ’80s. However, he’s much better known for his 34 years calling Red Sox broadcasts on TV. A tremendous announcer, he became the voice of the team as they won four World Series since 2004. He will be dearly missed.

The Boston Globe posted a wonderful overview of his life, as well as collection of fond reactions from those who knew him. Though Remy was first diagnosed with cancer way back in 2008, he managed to work for much of the next 13 years. It’s worth appreciating all that additional time we got to share with him.

Back in 2011, I had the good fortune of meeting Jerry and his then-broadcast partner Don Orsillo before a flight to Cleveland. Somehow their travel had gotten rearranged such that they weren’t flying on the team’s plane, and I wound up on the same commercial flight.1 The pair was gracious enough to pose for a picture, one that’s brought a smile to my face since I heard this news.

Jerry Remy, your truly, and Don Orsillo
[Photo courtesy of P. Kafasis]

Around that time, I made a special note to myself to appreciate that I was in the midst of the good old days when it came to Red Sox broadcasts. Jerry was terrific, and hearing him each night was a special treat. The pairing of Remy and Orsillo in particular was tremendous. The duo was so beloved that they even got their own bobblehead:

Jerry Remy and Don Orsillo as bobbleheads
You can also enjoy a video of them acting as real-life bobbleheads.

After the 2015 season, management made the regrettable decision not to renew Don’s contract. Nevertheless, the duo can still be seen in many, many hilarious clips on YouTube.2 And of course, Jerry continued to do stellar work working alongside play-by-play announcer Dave O’Brien, as well as with his former teammate Dennis Eckersley and other colormen.

He had a long tenure in the broadcast booth, but around these parts, Jerry’s single most notable call is the wonderful “Here Comes the Pizza”. When I first heard it live in 2007, I knew it was something special, and I’ve done my best to keep it alive in the memories of Red Sox fans. Since news of Remy’s passing broke, the video I posted to YouTube has been viewed tens of thousands of times. I’m gratified to know that people can find a bit of joy in the face of this sad news. I think Jerry, with his sense of humor, would appreciate it too.

Jerry made his final public appearance at Fenway Park on October 5. He threw out the first pitch ahead of Boston’s win-or-go-home playoff game against the Yankees, a contest that echoed one he’d played in 43 years earlier. Unlike in 1978, however, the Red Sox were victorious in 2021. It was a fitting farewell for a Red Sox legend. Jerry, you will be missed.


Footnotes:

  1. As I recall, Jerry was in first class, while Don was not. I chatted with Don for a few minutes, and we joked that they make the play-by-play guy ride back in coach with the rest of us plebes. ↩︎

  2. Jerry had countless great moments on air, but “Jerry loses a tooth” has to be near the top of any ranked list. Look, at 162 games, the baseball season is long. There are bound to be at least a few stinkers, games that are blowouts, or just plain boring. Jerry always made it fun. ↩︎

The Brockstar Continues to Set Records 

Wednesday, August 11th, 2021

When Brock Holt (BROCK HOLT!) played with the Red Sox, he was a super-utility player who played a part in two World Series championships in 2013 and 2018. In the run up to that second title, he set a record as the only player to hit for the cycle in a postseason game.

Last week, he set a record of a different sort:

According to MLB.com’s Sarah Langs, Holt’s opening 31.3 mph called strike was the slowest pitch to be called a strike since MLB started pitch [tracking] in 2008. The previous slowest pitch had been a 41.3 mph beauty from Willians Astudillo in June earlier this year.

It’s really something to see.1 And now, almost everyone can say they can throw faster than a Major League pitcher.


Footnotes:

  1. The video is archived here, ↩︎

The Guardians of Traffic and Now Baseball 

Friday, July 23rd, 2021

As promised back in December, the Cleveland Baseball Club has announced their new name: The Guardians. They recruited renowned Cleveland actor Tom Hanks to narrate their introduction, and I think it’s great. I also like how much of the old name can be found in the new name. But best of all is the way this new name connects to the city and the Hope Memorial Bridge, which features incredible art deco “Guardians of Traffic”.

In related news, Washington, it’s time to quit faffing around.

There Was Also a Hot Dog Tasting Review 

Tuesday, July 20th, 2021

Just as 10 cent beers were a bad idea back in 1974, $1 “Thirsty Thursday” are a bad idea in 2021. When a beer costs just a buck, it should not be a surprise it becomes a projectile.

A Hot Mic at the All-Star Game

Thursday, July 15th, 2021

During the 2021 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, broadcaster Fox had players wear microphones and headsets during the game. With this technology, they actually conducted live, in-game interviews, including while players were batting. The hardest thing in sports used to be hitting a baseball. Now, it’s hitting a baseball while Fox announcer Joe Buck is nattering in your ear.

Nevertheless, the in-game interviews with players in the field were interesting, if a bit clunky at times. I don’t want to see this come to real games, but the All-Star Game is an exhibition with no real meaning, and it’s a fine place for such gimmickry. However, in addition to not bothering hitters at the plate, broadcasters might want to consider additional modifications. The need for one such adjustment became quite clear thanks to the foul mouth closer Liam Hendriks.

Hendriks came in to pitch the bottom of the ninth inning, looking to protect a lead and give the American League their eighth straight victory. If you know anything about baseball, or have even just seen the movie “Major League”, you know pitchers are often emotional. That goes double for closers, who are tasked with preventing runs in the most pressure-packed situations.

When Hendriks came to the mound, Buck attempted to talk to him. Though Hendriks gave no direct response, the audience could hear audio from him. When he began pitching, this became something of a problem. First came a very loud and very clear “Goddammit” after Hendriks threw a ball to Milwaukee Brewers catcher Omar Narváez.1 If the potential for danger wasn’t obvious before, that expletive certainly should’ve led producers to make some changes.

However, they didn’t cut the mic, or even put it on a delay. As a result, not long after we got an even worse string of expletives.2 It was quite something. After giving up a hit following that F-bomb, catcher Mike Zunino came out to talk to Hendriks.

“You’re giving what the people want—you’re miked up,” Zunino said.

“No, it’s not working,” Hendriks replied. “I haven’t heard a thing all inning.”

Whoops! We all certainly had heard some things, because though the headset may not have been working for Hendriks, the mic certainly was. A piece of advice for anyone ever wearing a microphone: just assume it’s on.

“I would have been a little more conscious of (my word choice) if I had heard them back,” Hendriks said. “And it all turned out the volume was too low. Probably my fault. Probably user error. Makes for some interesting TV, I’m sure. Hopefully the bleeping guy was on point.”

Alas, the bleeping guy was not on point, or even present at all.

I don’t know who thought it was a good idea to mic up a closing pitcher, nor who opted not to put that mic on a delay. However, despite the rather disastrous outcome, they might still count themselves fortunate. That’s because Hendriks hails from the nation of Australian, where cursing is often as basic as breathing. Fox is lucky the man didn’t drop the non-cancer C-word on live television.


Footnotes:

  1. That swear is archived here. ↩︎

  2. And that even worse swear is archived here. ↩︎

Happy Bobby Bonilla Day! 

Thursday, July 1st, 2021

Many, many years ago, Bobby Bonilla was an All-Star baseball player. He played for many teams and earned some of the richest contracts of the time. Though Bonilla retired way back in 2001, the New York Mets have just paid him nearly $1.2 million, just as they do every July 1st. “Why?”, you ask. A ridiculous deferred contract, that’s why. Wikipedia provides a succinct summary:

After his subpar 1999 season, the Mets released Bonilla, but still owed him $5.9 million. Bonilla and his agent offered the Mets a deal: Bonilla would defer payment for a decade, and the Mets would pay him an annual paycheck of $1.19 million starting in 2011 and ending in 2035, adding up to a total payout of $29.8 million. Mets owner Fred Wilpon accepted the deal mostly because he was heavily invested with Ponzi scheme operator Bernie Madoff, and the 10 percent returns he thought he was getting on his investments with Madoff outweighed the eight percent interest the Mets would be paying on Bonilla’s initial $5.9 million.

I can’t imagine how former Mets owner Fred Wilpon got so rich, because he’s clearly an idiot. If you were regularly getting 10% returns, you should have 1) been at least somewhat suspicious and 2) still, not given away a guaranteed 8%, just to try and get more of that supposed 10%!