Images of 2012: Won’t be too long…

Okay, so this is an Instagram image. But it’s a good one. It is of Opening Day in San Francisco this season. And, by the way, only about a month and a half until pitchers and catchers report, about two months until the WBC and about three months until we see stuff like this again:

Photo by Shaketini, used under a Creative Commons license.

 

Happy New Year!

 

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Images of 2012: Perfection

Images from 2012…

There were three perfect games this season, a record, but perhaps the most unexpected was the first one, by Phil Humber. He no-hit the Mariners in April. He’s somewhere underneath his teammates in the picture below.

(Photo by Blake Handley, used under a Creative Commons license.)

What’s amazing about this, despite the fact that every perfect game is unexpected, was that both before this game and after it, Humber had been unexceptional. In fact, by the end of the season, he was an afterthought with a 6.44 ERA who was let go by the White Sox at season’s end. Sports Illustrated noted that this made him the pitcher with the worst ERA in the league with at least 100 IP this season.
He’ll try to resurrect his career next season in Houston. But no matter what happens, he will always have that April day against Seattle, where he saw 27 come up, and sent all 27 down.

The Hidden Beauty of the World Baseball Classic

One of the complaints about the World Baseball Classic- alongside ones such as worries about injuries and the fact that it takes place during a time of year that already has an A-level sporting event (March Madness)- is that it’s nothing that couldn’t already be seen. After all, all of the world’s greatest baseball players (save for a few in Japan and Cuba) are already playing in Major League Baseball, or so the argument goes, so the novelty of seeing a top Mexican pitcher going against a top American hitter isn’t that amazing.

And that, perhaps, may be true. But it forgets the fact that not everyone is a superstar. To to say that the WBC is a tournament between stars is like saying that March Madness is simply the Final Four. And to do that would be to sell it short.
Take the day game between Brazil and Colombia. Brazil, as I noted earlier, is a country that only recently has begun to develop a baseball tradition, and most of it’s players are either of Japanese or Cuban descent. Only one of them, Yan Gomes, has played in the Major Leagues, and he didn’t have a permanent spot this year, shuttling between AAA and the big club. Some of them have had action in Japan’s top leagues, and there are even a few guys who might one day join Gomes in the majors, but they are, overall, a band of underdogs, bound together only by their country and their love of the game. And yet, they had already defeated the far more talented-on-paper Panama team, and were now a win away from going to the qualifying round’s finals.

By contrast, Colombia had numerous either current or former Major Leaguers, including Edgar Renteria. They’d already demolished Nicaragua’s team, one that also had more professionals with better pedigrees than the Brazilians.

And yet, a funny thing happened: Brazil won. And they did it in the most amazing of ways, showing timely hitting, good defense, and a pitching staff that houdini’d it’s way out of numerous jams. If one were to just look at the characters involved in this drama, you would think it would end a different way.

Take Gabriel Asakura, for example. Japanese-Brazilian who plays collegiate baseball at Cal State Los Angeles. He came in in the top of the sixth with Brazil holding a perilous 2-1 lead… and he got a 1-2-3 inning against ballplayers who are getting game-checks during the season. Then he comes back out in the seventh, and he strikes out former Red Sox farmhand Reynaldo Rodriguez and then does the same (looking) to Edgar Renteria. The same Edgar Renteria who was an All-Star five times. After two men reached (due to a single and then a HBP), Asakura finished the inning by striking out Luis Martinez, who had gotten some time with the Rangers this season.

And this kid was a Collegiate. And not even a Division I collegiate, he pitches in Division II of the NCAA.

And yet, he wasn’t the most improbable pitcher who went against the professionals. No, that title goes to Daniel Missaki, a 16-year-old from Brazil’s amateur leagues. And it wasn’t like he came in for garbage time. He came in to get the final two outs of the game, with the bases loaded, and former big-leaguer Jolbert Cabrera and the aforementioned Luis Martinez due up.

And, would you believe it? He got them both.

So, sure, you can see the best-of-the-best go against each other every day of the MLB season… but to see young Davids face professional Goliaths? That type of stuff you can only see in the World Baseball Classic.

Humorous musings: Things from the first half that prove the Mayans are right (and wrong)

As we near the All-Star Break, it is time to remember that, according to the Mayans, this is the last MLB season we will see, as the world as we know it is due to end this December. After all, the Mayans are well-known for their predicting knowledge. As noted comedian-newsman Jon Stewart once pointed out: They have never been wrong in predicting civilization-ending events.

Well, except once. They totally didn’t see Cortez coming.

Now, never mind that technically the change in the Mayan calendar is not that different from the change of how we move from December 31 to January 1, or that there is little to no evidence that they were predicting anything other than the end of one cycle of their calendar happening. Clearly, by looking at what has happened in the first half of the baseball season, we can see that, truly, the end is near. We’re talking real Old Testament stuff: fire and brimstone, 40 years of darkness, earthquakes, volcanoes, the dead rising from the grave, and cats and dogs living together. As the esteemed Dr. Peter Venkman points out, that is what can be classified as MASS HYSTERIA!

(after the jump)

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