June 27th: Jose Lopez blasts a walk-off double in the eleventh inning to sweep the Red Sox.
There isn't a single reader of this website to whom I need to explain why it feels so good to beat the Red Sox. But to sweep them? Thanks to a walk-off double against Joel Pineiro? In a game that put Ryan Feierabend up against Daisuke freaking Matsuzaka? That felt better than good. My neighborhood's electricity was shut off that day, but I got to a friend's house and loaded MLB.tv in time for the 11th inning, and I remember standing there watching Lopez's ball hit the wall and jumping up and down and shouting like a moron in front of my friend's parents, who were beginning to regret allowing me entrance. That was a spectacular afternoon, well worthy of such high placement in the list.
Because the awesomeness of this moment requires no further commentary, I'm going to talk about something else (albeit something closely related) that caught my eye in reading the AP game recap:
"Manny's such a good hitter that people overlook what he does in the field," said Mike Hargrove, Ramirez's former manager in Cleveland.
"I'm not sure there's another left fielder--outside of somebody who can just fly--that gets that ball."
This piqued my interest. Just how good of a play did Manny make in even getting close to the ball?
Ever curious, I examined the evidence. The first thing I had to do was figure out where Manny's route began, and where it ended. Thanks to some screenshots...
...and this picture of Safeco Field, I was able to come up with the following approximation of Manny's path:
Now that I had the approximate path, I needed to collect two more pieces of information: the length of the path, and the amount of time spent covering it. I could then use these numbers to calculate Manny's running speed during the flight of the ball.
I took the ballpark image and blew it up to 200% size. The right field foul pole - 327 feet from home plate - was 7cm long, while Manny's path measured in at 1.5cm. Simple division and multiplication gave me a distance of ~70 feet. This was the approximate amount of ground Manny covered while the ball was in the air.
The next thing I needed was time. Watching the replay, the ball spent about six seconds in the air before hitting the wall. Assuming a virtually immediate reaction, this meant that Manny covered ~70 feet while running for ~6 seconds.
That's the hard part. The rest is easy.
70ft / 6s * 60s / 1min * 60min / 1hr * 1mi / 5280ft = 7.95mph
Manny Ramirez ran his route with an average speed of 7.95 miles per hour. This absolutely blew Mike Hargrove away.
Of course, one guy's measured footspeed doesn't mean anything to us in isolation. How does it compare to other people? Other athletes? That's what we really want to know. According to Mike Hargrove, Manny got to the wall faster than almost any other left fielder in baseball would've been able to. If true, that would be remarkable. This was the kind of thing that just begged for confirmation.
I went to the video, eager to learn. Eric Byrnes? Faster. Okay, maybe he's one of those guys who can "just fly". So he's not a fair comparison. How about Jason Bay? Faster. Hmm. Geoff Jenkins? Nope, he's faster too. Same with Jay Payton. And Pat Burrell. And Matt Holliday. And even Adam Dunn.
I was getting frustrated. Mike Hargrove's been around baseball for how long? Surely he must know what he's talking about. I persevered.
Carl Crawford? Faster. Obviously. Josh Willingham, too. Shannon Stewart...Alfonso Soriano...Carlos Lee? Faster? Huh.
I was running out of options. Maybe Hargrove wasn't just referring to Major League left fielders. Maybe he meant all left fielders. After all, the Majors would probably select for guys who can "just fly", right? Makes sense. So I set about researching the minors.
Dead end after dead end. Maybe Hargrove was using "left fielders" as a metaphor. My expectations were sinking. There had to at least be someone out there who Manny could outrun. I couldn't stand to live in a world in which a respected veteran manager could be so completely and utterly wrong about a simple evaluation. There had to be someone. There had to be.
Hours upon hours of tedium. Until - at last. Vindication.
North County Conference 3200 Meters Full Results
38. Devon McCann 15:18.5 So CA Carlsbad
Two miles in 15:18.5 equals an average running speed of 7.84mph. Slower! Slower than Manny!
In making a terrific effort towards attempting to catch a fly ball - an effort that, according to Hargrove, could be exceeded only by someone who can "just fly" - Manny Ramirez ran slightly faster than the slowest runner in a 3200-meter race at a small California track meet for local high schools. Who wasn't sprinting.
This is the level to which Raul Ibanez's defense managed to reduce Mike Hargrove's standards.
Mike Hargrove says he lost his passion for the game's daily grind. I think Raul Ibanez destroyed it.