By his own profession, the best moment in Adrian Beltre’s life wasn’t the hard line drive he smashed past third base for hit number 3,000 Sunday afternoon. And it would have been moment enough for a Hall of Famer in waiting on the day they inducted Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, and Ivan Rodriguez—himself a longtime Ranger—into the Hall.
Nothing worked against Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez but innuendo and, in Bagwell’s case, one or two overcrowded ballots. They step into the Hall of Fame today, hand in hand with Tim Raines, two representing the triumph of evidence over innuendo and one representing the triumph of analysis over emotion.
Neither Bagwell nor Rodriguez were ever proven to have used actual or alleged performance-enhancing substances. Bagwell chose not to address the issue in any form, at any level, until after his playing career ended; Rodriguez slapped Jose Canseco back down convincingly in his own book, They Call Me Pudge.
The highest profile moment of Lucas Duda’s career happened not when he was hitting one of his home runs but when he helped throw the Mets’ World Series survival hopes away in Game Five, 2015.
Top of the ninth. Matt Harvey pleaded to stay in and finish what he started on a night he had his A game, a 2-0 shutout. Except that he walked Lorenzo Cain and fed Eric Hosmer an RBI double. Then manager Terry Collins lifted him for closer Jeurys Familia, who’d already blown two Series saves through no fault of his own.
If one thing above and beyond his pitching ability marked Dennis Eckersley’s career, it was accountability. Surrender a game-ending bomb to a Dodger batter who was lucky he didn’t need to swing from a wheelchair in the first game of a World Series? Eckersley didn’t shrink. Nobody said baseball was simple. Dennis the Menace would have called that person a liar.
Michael Morse has more than a few reasons for pride in his baseball career. And a few reasons to look back in amusement. Now he may have a reason to look back in dismay, at least to Memorial Day, when a teammate launched a brawl that may cost him his career.
Nobody including Morse says its anyone’s fault but his, when he poured in from first base to join his mates and collided with pitcher Jeff Samardzija, a pregnant pause after Hunter Strickland was stupid enough to drill Bryce Harper on the right hip with malice aforethought, over a two-and-a-half-year-old home run.
Has any fall from grace in the past two or three years been as profound and sad as Pablo Sandoval’s? Maybe this year’s collapse of his former Giants qualifies. Maybe.
The Red Sox have designated Kung Fu Panda for assignment—while he was already down on the farm at Pawtucket rehabbing after an inner ear infection sidelined him earlier this month. The team activated him, then designated him.
So. Aaron Judge lived up to his notices in the Home Run Derby Monday, inspiring speculation on whether he’ll take Max Scherzer over the fence in the All-Star Game tonight. (My call: Don’t bet against it too heavily.) At long last the All-Star Game isn’t going to determine World Series home field advantage. But I find myself transfixed on a remarkable article at FiveThirtyEight whose sub-headline is more arresting than the main one: “Cal Ripken made too many All-Star teams, Keith Hernandez not enough.”
At the current rate, the Cubs may spend the final half of this season hearing one after another whisper, sometimes elevated to a shout, saying, “Ahhhh, wait till last year!” Team president Theo Epstein isn’t willing, however. And Sunday afternoon may have made him even more resolute.
If you predicted entering spring training that the Houston Astros would be a) the team to beat, and b) next to impossible to beat, they would have wrapped you in a straitjacket and sent you on a one-way trip to the Delta Quadrant. But when not rubbing its eyes over the Astros’ 1986 Mets-like ownership of the game thus far, baseball spent the first half of 2017 wondering about certain rule changes actual or to be, wondering whether the baseballs themselves were given shots of rocket fuel (total Show home runs in May and June: 2,161; or, one homer plus per game of Lou Gehrig’s former consecutive-games played streak), and wondering whether the unwritten rules needed to be overthrown post haste.