Well, the Astros have gotten everything they wanted from Justin Verlander since dealing to bring him over from the incredible shrinking Tigers. Including, they dared to dream, the still-formidable righthander pitching and winning the American League West-clinching game, which he did Sunday in his first home start for his new club.
Ten years ago today, the Texas Rangers and the Baltimore Orioles played a game in Camden Yards. It was more like police brutality—the final score was the Rangers 30, the Orioles 3. Even the Rangers couldn’t believe what they’d just accomplished no matter how badly either team’s seasons were going at the time.
I wrote this essay the following day for a journal that no longer exists; I republish it here on the sad anniversary of the game about which Rangers reliever Wes Littleton—who got credited for a save despite protecting a 24-run lead, because he pitched the final three innings of the massacre—now remembers, “I got a lot of crap the next day. ‘Nice save, Wes.’ ‘Easiest save in the world’.”
The Hollywood Reporter, of all things, has Alex Rodriguez having “the secret to a successful second act,” which they quote him as giving: “You have to own your shit.” Which he’s done, little by little, from the moment he returned from his Biogenesis-related suspension from baseball.
Publishing a remarkable story about his transformation into a very respected baseball analyst on television and a mentor to fellow former athletes off, The Reporter seems dazed enough in tone to suggest what an objective reader might take away from reading it: A-Rod, we hardly knew ye.
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.
Those who were there swear even now that Sandy Koufax was close to tears when he announced his retirement at 30 in November 1966. Prince Fielder, forced to retirement fifty years later at 32 (yes, that was Koufax’s uniform number) because of two spinal fusions in his neck, was in tears when he announced it.
Whatever it is they say about karma, Rougned Odor is going to hear more about it than he probably cares to hear. At least until he and his Rangers return to another postseason, preferably unscathed by a throwing error to leave the current postseason, or a stupid brawl over reactions to last-minute paybacks for things months in the past.
Police brutality—by or against—is a horrible thing. Unless you’re the Toronto Blue Jays against the Texas Rangers in the first two American League division games. The set goes to Toronto with the Rangers very much in danger of losing not only their badges but their minds.
Name one Ranger who expected to get destroyed 15-3 over the course of the two games. Name one who expected Cole Hamels to get billyclubbed for seven runs (six earned) in three and a third in Game One, or possibly still-slightly-ailing Yu Darvish to get bludgeoned for as many home runs as he had strikeouts in Game Two.
It’s getting to where someone can’t even reach his 3,000th hit without being sandwiched tightly around less than happy news. You’d think Ichiro Suzuki could turn on Chris Rusin’s 2-0 service Sunday and rip it off the top of the right field wall for a triple without players bearing sadder news overshadowing him.
Not that the terminally modest Ichiro would complain, mind you. But he shared Sunday with Alex Rodriguez’s gracious announcement that he would give in to the Yankees essentially firing him as a player while planning to make him an advisor and field instructor.
It turns out that I was right in how I called at least two of the punishments handed down for the Texas-Toronto basebrawl game Sunday. Elsewhere, there were a few surprises.
Rougned Odor, whose roundhouse to Jose Bautista’s face exploded what Matt Bush’s drill of Bautista and Bautista’s hard but nowhere near dirty slide into Odor at second base merely ignited, got eight games and a $5,000 fine. Bautista got one game off. Thinking twice, he should have gotten none and Odor probably should have gotten more.
So who’s going to get what as a result of 25 Rangers and one riot Sunday? That’s only the number one question around the game before today’s activities begin. There are obvious prospects and a few vague ones alike. If you were Joe Garagiola, Jr., baseball government’s enforcer, as it were, how would you rule? Herewith my call: