Thursday, June 3, 2010

Playing Along

In the last week of the 2008 regular season, the Twins faced the White Sox in a three game series at the Dome. The Twins were 1.5 games behind the division leading White Sox. It was an important series. I’m sure you remember it.

Ken Griffey Jr. had been traded to the White Sox earlier that season. In that late September series, he hit two homeruns and I saw both. I remember the second one particularly. It was in the 4th inning. Griffey nailed the ball and it sailed into the upper deck in right field. Some kid caught it.

And he threw the ball back.

There was a collective gasp. Did that kid really just throw back a Ken Griffey Jr. homerun ball? What the hell was he thinking? Doesn’t he realize what he just did? Everyone around me was shocked. They all understood. Even the next season I still heard people talking about it at the Dome. “Remember when that kid threw back Junior’s homerun ball?

Actually, I still hear about it. Probably every other time a fan throws back a home run. “Hey, remember when that kid threw back…

As a youngster, my capacity to recognize baseball players maxed out at three: Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, and Ken Griffey Jr. I don’t know when I finally did recognize some non-Twins player besides Ken Griffey Jr. I’m not sure why this was either. Ken Griffey Jr. was like Kirby Puckett. He was just cool.

For instance, behold my entire baseball card collection:

Yeah, so I’m not a serious collector. My Mom just gave me most of these cards a few months ago after I professed my love for Junior. I had some baseball cards when I was little, but they all ended up taped to the spokes of my bike wheels or something like that.

I was hoping I’d get to see Griffey at Target Field. I wouldn’t even have cared if all I saw was him sleeping in the dugout. Actually, that would have been awesome.

When I saw the Press Release last night, I felt like the Last Great Baseball Player was gone. He was the last of the players I remember watching back when I couldn’t even understand how a player with two strikes could foul off a ball and not be out. Back when it was more fun to try and run down and tag every base-runner than actually play Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball. It didn’t make sense, but it was fun. Kind of like throwing back a Griffey homerun ball. It was just a game.

Thank you for playing, Ken Griffey Jr.

I am Soooo Sick of Perfect Games

I used to get excited about these things, but I just can’t anymore. I feel like I could go pitch a perfect game myself. That’s why I’m so glad Jim Joyce blew that call last night and robbed Armando Galarraga of a perfecto.

Apparently, a lot of people aren’t so glad. Now everyone wants instant replay. Even Jim Joyce wants it. Personally, I find anything that makes baseball any bit more like football revolting. When Gardy goes out to challenge a close call, do I want to see all the umpires run off to a little room where they will huddle around, watch a video tape, and decide what to do? Heck no. I want Gardy to be ejected, everyone to throw their hats on the field, and then be able to blame all of the Twins’ misgivings on the umpires. After all, it wasn't all those missed chances that lost the game for the Twins last night, it was that one blown call.

Doesn’t MLB already think there is some ‘pace of the game’ issue anyway? I don’t have any scientific statistical data to back this up, but I feel like the rash of perfect games and crazy low ERAs is just a by-product of MLB pushing umpires to speed things up. The strike zone seems to be widening by the minute. And I don’t get it. Who wants baseball games to hurry up and be over? Football fans?

One of the reasons I love baseball is because the games could theoretically go on forever. The only thing better than a five hour long game is a six hour long game. Screw getting up for work. I feel like the games are already going too fast. Pretty soon every at-bat is going to feel like the one by Michael Cuddyer last Sunday, where ESPN completely fast-forwarded through the whole thing. Players are just magically going to be out or be on base, umpires are going to be running in and out of some tiny replay room, and before I can even finish a Summit, someone will be declared the winner.

I vote for no instant replays, a return to the regular strike zone, and no more perfect games for at least ten years. Bad calls are a part of this pass-time. Play along.

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