Saturday, April 7, 2012

And they’re off!

Before I get started on today’s topic, I have to say that I’m feeling pretty smug about my March 24 posting, “One up, one down”. Obviously the Jays were listening to my prognostications on the team, because almost immediately they sent Travis Snider down to Vegas, confirming Eric Thames as their starting left fielder. Then, Brett Cecil pretty well imploded on the final week of Spring Training (sooner than I thought) and the Jays penciled Kyle Drabek in as a starting pitcher. At this point he seems to be keeping McGowan’s seat warm while Joel Carreno has Cecil’s spot, but really, I believe when the fog of the first month clears, we’ll see McGowan back and Drabek up while Carreno is sent down again. But I’m still pretty happy with calling it correctly.

Now on to the main topic…

That was a hell of a first couple of days of the season, wasn’t it? Some exceptionally well-pitched games in both leagues. You have to feel for Justin Verlander and for Tigers’ closer José Valverde who blew his first save since 2010! (Way to get the pressure off early, though,) The Yankees got smoked by some timely hitting by Tampa Bay, but for sheer drama in baseball, it’s impossible to top the game in Cleveland on Thursday.

I listened to the entire opener between the Jays and Indians, and the state of my poor nails is a good indicator of how exciting that game was. It simply seemed to go on for days as both teams seemed to do their best to dangle the win in front of the other team only to snatch it away again with a stellar play. Not only was it the longest opening game in the history of the game, it featured a lot of other firsts or exceptionalities. The oldest – and one of the best – shortstop to ever play the game, Omar Vizquel (another call I made two weeks ago) came in to play…left field? Huh?

Technically he was playing as a fifth infielder in order to try to induce a double play so the Jays could hopefully get out of another jam (they did), and they yanked Thames to get him in, which made Vizquel the left fielder of record. Next inning, he moved to first base, as Farrell, the Jays manager, sent José Bautista back to right field. (Another first, since Bautista usually plays right field and is a fine third baseman – but he’s never played first for the Jays. He did a fine job, too.)

By the time they got to the 16th, both teams were pretty well out of players. For pitching, the Jays had only their closer left – who obviously would only come in if the team got the lead. Apparently, the plan was to run in their game 3 starter, Carreno, out for the 17th. It didn’t happen, thankfully, because the Jays catcher hit a long bomb to left field that plated 3.

The thing I found out later was that the Jays had only come back from a three-run deficit after the eighth inning ten other times in their 35-year history. That’s maybe the most amazing thing and makes Edwin Encarnacion the game’s real hero with a 2-run double in the top of the ninth to keep the team alive. They also had an 11-inning scoreless stretch pitched by the bullpen, also a team best.

So what are we going to do for the next 161 games?


JohnZ said...

Rick - it got even better -
Jays 3-0, Orioles 3-0 and the RedSox 0-3 with that football score game with Detroit 13-12!!
Excitement every inning in that one...they despartely need a closer. But then my Yankees with the best closer of All-Time blows his first opportunity and they are 0-3 as Girardi made some really DUMB decisions - intentionally walking guys to "get to" Carlos Pena who promptly delivers to win the games - Yanks will come around but they looked unprepared as they hit into the Rays shift that Madden used for several batters - when will Tex & others wake up and hit the "other way" some of the time?? Madden outcoached Girardi in my book. Let the games begin - i love it!

Will Braund said...

I thought Gerardi had a lousy weekend too. They're are too many things that can go wrong when you walk the bases loaded - infield infield hit, infield error, wild pitch, pass ball, walk - and sure enough it didn't work. And I know the formula involves their 7th, 8th, and 9th inning pitchers each doing one inning but why not leave Robertson in to at least start the ninth? He was throwing great.

Rick Blechta said...

John, I wish the Jays had won their third game yesterday but they came up a tad short, sadly. As for Madden, I think he could out-manage pretty well anyone in the game at the moment. Not only is he an astute student of the game, but he's creative. Best manager currently in the major leagues in my humble opinion.

On the other hand, I haven’t been impressed with Girardi at all. He understands what other managers do, but I don’t think he’s got the “why” part really down. It’s as Will said, don’t get fancy just because everyone else is doing it that way.

I think Madden's creative way of managing gets into other managers’ heads and causes them to screw up by over-thinking and being unnecessarily tricky.

JohnZ said...

Ooops i shoulda posted the Rays were 3-0 not the Jays..sorry i got carried away..Girardi overmanages, imo, like having Jeter DH to rest him in game 2 or 3?? Come on. Supposedly to get Nunez bat in the lineup - well then bat Nunez in DH spot..And why did they send Cervelli down and trade a good young pitcher for a career .200 hitting catcher for a backup?? Bizarro moves.