When Branch Rickey signed Jackie Robinson as the first black player to join a major league baseball organisation, he assigned Robinson to the Montreal Royals, where his manager Clay Hopper struggled to come to terms with the only such player on his club. One of the outfielders on those Royals was a Slovakian immigrant’s son who batted behind Robinson in the lineup.
“You gotta hand it to the A’s,” you can hear their fans and perhaps everyone who clung stubbornly to the myth of their 2014 long-term superiority. “Chips down, they overcome, right?” If you call “chips down overcoming” settling for the American League’s second wild card after owning baseball’s best record entering play on 10 August, then yes the A’s overcome with the chips down.
In microcosm, Derek Jeter’s final at-bat Tuesday night slammed home both the point of what he’s no longer able to do and that the Yankees can’t afford even a single loss in their final five games if they want to get to the postseason even through the back door. For in a moment that once might have meant a final bell miracle, Jeter was hopelessly, almost embarrassingly overmatched.
Jacob deGrom wanted to make one more start before the regular season closes. The Mets want to think about 2015, when they might—maybe—be a contending team again at last. So the likely National League Rookie of the Year has been shut down for the rest of the season, meaning it won’t be deGrom going against the Astros come Saturday. No, this isn’t exactly the Strasburg Plan, but the Mets are actually thinking smart here.
Apparently, the Braves’ administration decided Frank Wren had a little too much splainin’ to do after the team’s punchless collapse climaxed Sunday with a shove out of the postseason picture entirely at the hands of the Mets, or more specifically at the end of Jacob deGrom’s right arm. The Braves strapped Wren to the guillotine Monday, when the finish was barely twenty-four hours behind them.
When any rookie pitcher has your lineup measured for an absolute kill, even a rookie as high impact as Jacob deGrom has been for the otherwise modest New York Mets, you’re going to be in for more than any afternoon to forget. The Atlanta Braves were reminded of that in the worst possible way Sunday afternoon, and in their own ballpark, yet.
The Oakland Athletics have fashioned a rather monumental collapse in the wake of early season calls to just hand them the World Series. The Kansas City Royals, a feel-good story until some time in the previous fortnight, are dogfighting with the Detroit Tigers in their division with the Tigers treating them like neighbourhood raiders this weekend thus far. The Seattle Mariners are trying their damnedest to shove the A’s back into the nether and into a tireless vortex of wha-happened? discussions.
And the net result of all this could prove to be an unprecedented four-way tiebreaker to settle that part of the American League’s postseason array not occupied by the Baltimore Orioles or the Los Angeles Angels.
You have to hand it to the Los Angeles Angels. And they’ve had nothing handed to them this year, except maybe a badly-needed bullpen fortification and a general manager sharp enough to produce it. And that was before the All-Star break and the non-waiver trade deadline.
About the only thing anyone was handing the Angels to that point was the Oakland Athletics handing them just enough reasons to think, perhaps, that they’d have to settle for getting into the postseason by way of the wild card. Unless you counted the Seattle Mariners handing their fourth bullpen-start game a shellacking that only began after Cory Rasmus was lifted after four stout innings Tuesday.
In June 1983, Joe Torre was the Atlanta Braves’ manager, Joe West was a veteran of six seasons’ umpiring in the National League, and Bob Watson—who has held the baseball government post Torre now holds—was a Brave who’d been fined $100 for arguing over a game-ending third strike when the game was over. And all Torre wanted was to question West as to whether Watson deserved such a hit after a game.
Adam Jones got a few Camden Yards fans a little pie-eyed—cream pied, that is. Bryce Harper plopped a personalised Washington, D.C. Fire Department helmet on his head and took selfies with teammates. Neither man had to be told otherwise that a possible Beltway World Series loomed ahead, depending upon how the Baltimore Orioles and the Washington Nationals handle themselves when the postseason launches.