Some Thoughts On Day 5 Of The 2011 MLB Playoffs

What won't Adrian Beltre point at

I promise I'll get back to talking about the Mariners at some point. I just need some Mariners things to write about, and then some time to write them. The first round of the playoffs is kind of a shitshow. That's why you're getting these posts. The playoffs are what's on my mind, and so for the time being you get to read about the playoffs. It's not like we don't all need this break from the Mariners anyway. You read about the Mariners all season. You read about the Mariners all offseason. Enjoy this period of time! You never know when I might chime in with another Fun Fact on Anthony Vasquez and call you back from your vacation.

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Adrian Beltre hadn't been in the playoffs since 2004. It sounds surprising at first, although it makes sense given that he spent the next five years with Seattle. He probably wasn't expecting to miss out with the Red Sox in 2010, though. But, in 2011, he's made it back with the Rangers, and he's made it back as one of the very best players on his team.

Earlier today, Beltre made some history. In the top of the second inning, he hit the first postseason home run of his career. Two innings later, he hit the second postseason home run of his career. Three innings after that, he hit the third postseason home run of his career. It was just the seventh time in playoff history that a player has homered three times in a game, and even though that means Beltre gets to share a record with both Babe Ruth and Adam Kennedy now, it's a hell of an achievement, and Beltre's dingers were the main reason why the Rangers beat the Rays and advanced to the ALCS.

Watching Beltre swing and round the bases, I felt genuinely happy for him. When he made the playoffs before, he went 4-for-15, and the Dodgers lost in four games. Beltre's put in a lot of work to try to get back to this point, and I was thrilled to see him have some success. God knows he deserves it, with how much he did for a losing team, and how much he's done with a winning team. I'm fully aware that I like Adrian Beltre more than most Mariners fans do, but there are few players I find myself pulling for more.

So as Beltre rounded the bases, I felt great. Great about Beltre, and great about baseball. But then, each time, after he was done rounding the bases, he returned to the Rangers dugout. He exchanged regular high fives, he exchanged special high fives, he laughed, he joked, he got his head rubbed...he enjoyed having success as part of a team, part of another team, a team I very much do not like.

And that was a bummer. All three times, that was a bummer. Those were three televised reminders that Adrian Beltre is awesome, but that he had to go somewhere else to reach the next level. It's like...well this is shitty and cliche and I hate myself for writing it, but it's like running into an ex. An ex with whom you get along, and an ex for whom you still care. If you run into the ex, and the ex is by his or herself, you might have a great conversation. You might chat over coffee. But if you run into the ex and the ex's new partner, it sucks. It brings you down. In this hypothetical you are currently sad and alone. Maybe I should have led with that.

It's such a strange situation to be rooting for a player while rooting against his team. I would like it if Adrian Beltre played well and won a championship. I would not like it at all if the Texas Rangers won a championship. That would be one of the worst things. So now I'm left rooting against the Rangers, but rooting for Beltre, even though I know Beltre won't care if he hits three home runs every game if the Rangers still lose. It's dumb. Why do awesome players have to play for dumb teams?

I like Doug Fister too. I'd rather see the Tigers win than the Rangers. I like Cliff Lee. I'd rather see the Phillies win than the Rangers. It's not like every awesome player can win, since they're not all on the same team. As long as some awesome players win, that should be enough.

Or maybe it doesn't matter at all. Maybe I shouldn't look to derive happiness from the accomplishments of one-way strangers who don't know who I am. And in that - whoa, uh oh, sports fandom wormhole. I think I'm stuck.

  • Perhaps you're wondering what the deal is with that picture above. Here's the explanation. It is glorious. And Adrian Beltre points at more shit than Lewis and Clark.

  • And while we're having fun looking at .gifs, here's maybe the best pitcher reaction to allowing a home run of the year. The setting: it's 3-1 Diamondbacks with two outs in the bottom of the fifth. Shaun Marcum has just intentionally walked the lefty-hitting Miguel Montero to face the righty-hitting Paul Goldschmidt with the bases loaded. Paul Goldschmidt is a 24-year-old rookie and one of the strongest hitters in baseball. He slugged .626 with double-A Mobile and came straight to the Majors, where he slugged .474. Marcum got ahead of Goldschmidt 1-and-2, then he threw a fastball that maybe wasn't as low as he wanted it, and then ohhhh noooooo

    We've seen the cursing. We've seen the stomping around. We've seen the eye rolling. We've seen the shoe-gazing. We've seen the angry glove slamming. We hadn't, until tonight, seen the casual glove tossing. That casual glove toss says "yep, this game is over, guess that's a load off."

  • Tonight, the Diamondbacks crowd reminded me that dark pom-poms or towels in the stands are one of the biggest wastes. When I was a kid, I thought one of the coolest things ever was when Phoenix Coyotes fans had an arena-wide white out, where all the fans wore white t-shirts. I know a ton of teams have done that since, and I'm sure a ton of teams did it before, but I'll always associate it with the Coyotes myself.

    It's just the visual of seeing a uniform color around an entire stadium. It doesn't have to be white. The Philadelphia Flyers do orange. The St. Louis Cardinals do bright red. And it doesn't have to be t-shirts, either. It can be pom-poms, or it can be towels.

    But the key is that the color needs to pop. It needs to stand out. Tonight, the Diamondbacks fans in attendance were waving (waving? what's the verb associated with pom-poms?) pom-poms colored Sedona red. This is Sedona red. It is a dark red. So rather than pop, it kind of blends in. Looking around, you get the sense of motion and coordination, but the color isn't striking.

    I don't know. Maybe it was my TV. Maybe it's better in person. But I think if you're going to go to the trouble of handing out free whatsits for all the fans to shake around, you should make sure the color catches the eyes. It's half of the point.

  • Rookie Jeremy Hellickson posted a much lower ERA than rookie Michael Pineda this season, but rookie Jeremy Hellickson pitched much worse, so it was pretty delightful to see him allow three home runs in four innings. Your awesome team defense can't save you past the wall, Nostrils.

  • The Rays drew just over 28,000 fans today, in what turned out to be their final home game of the season. Six days ago, they completed one of the most improbable playoff race comebacks in history, and they did it on the most thrilling night of baseball many of us have ever watched. Now, I know this game was played at 2pm on a Tuesday afternoon. That's a terrible start time. But last October, the Rays played Games 1 and 2 of their ALDS against the Rangers at home at 1:30 on a Wednesday and 2:30 on a Thursday, and they sold out. Today, they didn't sell out. They didn't come close.

    It's just embarrassing. It's such an old, tired story that the Rays can't draw, but this is embarrassing. And, worse, I'm not sure there's much of anything the Rays can do about it.

  • A Google query for "Tampa Bay Rays" + "team of destiny" yields 22,900 results. The 2006 Detroit Tigers were hailed as a team of destiny, and they lost in the World Series. The 2007 Colorado Rockies were hailed as a team of destiny, and they lost in the World Series. I think we all understand that there's no such thing as a team of destiny. I think we all understand that there's no such thing as destiny, or at the very least that there's no such thing as destiny in baseball. So why do people still say this? Why do people still use this as a rallying cry? It means nothing. It's one of those things that says more about the speaker than about that of which the speaker is speaking.

    What's funny is that rooting for an actual team of destiny would be terrible. If I knew ahead of time that it was destiny that the Mariners would win the World Series in 2012, I wouldn't enjoy it. I wouldn't enjoy the run, because there wouldn't be any unpredictability in it. It's like recording a game and then accidentally finding out the final score before you watch. You know what you don't want to do at that point? Watch.

    If you're a sports fan, instead of saying "this is a team of destiny!", consider saying something more along the lines of "this team is good and could advance in the playoffs!"

  • This catch just might have saved the Yankees' season. And now, for Game 5, it's up to Doug Fister.
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