With the Ottawa Senators essentially playing for their playoff lives this afternoon at the same time as the Mariners game, my choice was pretty easy. I would watch the Sens and, were I in a good enough mood, follow that by watching MLB.com's archived footage of the M's.
I'd never had much success trying this kind of thing before. Being a man with limited willpower, every time I've tried to save a game for later I've wound up spoiling it by checking the score. It's just the natural impulse. You want to know. But today I was determined not to ruin anything, so I got home, instructed people not to talk to me, and shut every browser but the hockey game. And it worked. Three hours later, I was able to load the MLB.tv archived video and watch from the start without the slightest idea of what was going to happen.
This is one of the bigger regrets of my life.
Biggest Contribution: Adrian Beltre, +10.6%
Biggest Suckfest: Raul Ibanez, -16.9%
Most Important AB: Beltre homer, +19.2%
Most Important Pitch: Millar homer, -14.8%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): -27.1%
Total Contribution by Hitters: -23.2%
Total Contribution by Opposition: +0.3%
(What is this chart?)
I loathe Steve Trachsel. I absolutely loathe him. He seems like he's probably a pretty normal guy in person, but my opinion of a player is determined by what he does between the lines, and where at its heart baseball is meant to entertain, Steve Trachsel doesn't. I keep coming back to that line from Baseball Prospectus 2003:
Word to the wise: do NOT take a baseball-disinterested friend or date to a game where Steve Trachsel is scheduled to pitch.
Watching Trachsel warm up before the game, I timed his gap between pitches as only seven seconds. A good pace. When the game started, though, the gap went up to 16, and when Jose Lopez reached base it ballooned to a brain-stabbing 30. 30 seconds! It'd be one thing if Trachsel had to choose from a vast array of dominant weapons, but considering everything he throws is slow and bad, he just comes off as stubborn and reluctant, wandering around the mound and digging with his cleats to stall because he's afraid that his next pitch might finally tip people off that he's completely awful.
Trachsel - who drives a steamroller to work and puts molasses on everything - walked 20 more batters than he struck out last year. A good starting pitcher misses bats, throws strikes, and keeps the ball on the ground. Trachsel does none of these, and he does none of them in spades. He absolutely, positively sucks, but because he's kept around for his guile and veteran experience, every additional season he spends on a Major League roster makes him appear all the more valuable. His career is a virtual perpetual motion machine of bad pitching. It's both remarkable and unfair to arms in AA who could be bad for less.
Working in Trachsel's favor is that, according to a quick interview with the Orioles' pitching coach that aired in the first, he knows that he "needs to make pitches to get people out." That's veteran experience. Before Trachsel came to camp, the younger pitchers were just standing around in the infield waiting for the game to end. Between this and color guy Jim Palmer's observation that "(the Tigers) can't get 1000 runs unless they score," it seems like those guys in Baltimore have it figured out.
The thing I enjoyed most about the start of the game was getting to listen to Gary Thorne. I grew up with Thorne doing a lot of play-by-play for the NHL, and not only does he have the perfect broadcaster's voice, but he's also a pretty smart dude who's just good at what he does. He had a couple slip-ups tonight, like referring to Richie Sexson as Richie Sexton and calling this a "good crowd on hand" for a Friday night, but he won me back over with his smooth sexy baritone and his pimping of the Rays. He also made me laugh out loud in my room by myself like an idiot when, returning from a middle-inning commercial break, he said:
Well we talked about Steve Trachsel - the great regimen he has for getting ready for games. Broadcasters too have to have a regimen. (Cut to camera showing the inside of a bar.) Pickle's Pub right across the street from Camden Yards. You could put those two together if you want to. But I didn't. So there.
Oh, right, so there were teams playing. Not that anyone in Baltimore knew anything about it. Not only were the stands nearly empty, but I noticed that few of the people who showed up were wearing team apparel, suggesting that they probably sneaked out of the house and didn't want anyone to know where they were going out of embarrassment. I suppose those 14,000+ did end up getting their money's worth in the end, though, especially since they probably all caught at least one foul ball or home run.
After Richie Sexson struck out to end the top of the first, the feed appropriately cut to a camera showing cooked ribs on a grill. This observation would probably be a little funnier if Richie didn't go on to have himself a good game but it was still way too fitting to go without a mention.
To tell the truth, not much happened early on, as each team did its best to squelch potential rallies. The only thing that I remember is a clip of Dave Trembley saying that he's "indebted" to Sam Perlozzo for getting him to the big leagues. This reminded me of a joke by Daniel Tosh:
I had a white lady scream at me once. She was like "What gives you the right to do jokes about Black people like that?" I was like, "Listen lady, my best friend is Cuban, and that's close enough."
Perlozzo didn't really get Trembley to the Majors, but he got him to Baltimore, which I guess is better than nothing. But boy will Trembley be in for a shock if he ever ends up somewhere else.
The Orioles took a 1-0 lead in the second inning on a sac fly by Luis Hernandez, a 23 year old shortstop with a career minor league OPS of .621. Brian Bocock is currently owned in more Yahoo! fantasy baseball leagues than Luis Hernandez. There were owners who had to make a choice between Brian Bocock and Luis Hernandez to play shortstop and decided that Bocock would be the more reasonable solution. So in case you ever find yourself wondering just how poorly the Orioles are currently constructed, keep in mind that the general consensus among Yahoo! fantasy baseball owners is that their regular shortstop is worse than Brian Bocock.
That slim lead wouldn't last too much longer, though, because in the top of the fourth, following a Sexson groundball double down the line, Adrian Beltre got a meatball changeup over the plate at the knees and punched a hole in the left field bleachers. So for those of you who were concerned about how he'd perform with the whole ligament issue: it doesn't seem to be much of a detriment. He slugged .482 after the injury last season and is off to a pretty hot start so far in 2008. He can play through it, and he can play through it well. A diving stop he made on a Melvin Mora groundball in the fifth made me think that he's almost certainly going to have to take a few extra days off every now and then when the pain gets to be too much, but between days on the bench, he should be the same old underrated Adrian Beltre.
That home run was the last point at which I felt good about my decision to watch this game. Baltimore tied it up in the bottom half on another sac fly by Luis Hernandez, and in the next inning Kevin Millar turned on an inside changeup to put the O's in the lead. There was hope for a Mariner rally in the sixth, but despite solid at bats by Sexson and Jose Lopez (who seems to be having an awful lot of those; he reached another two three-ball counts today), the team was done in by the poor discipline of two of its primary run producers. Raul Ibanez rolled over on an outside 2-1 changeup for a double play, and later on Adrian Beltre ended the inning by swinging at three consecutive outside fastballs.
Incidentally, the pitch that struck Beltre out is a pretty good example of how a pitching coach can be disappointed by a good result:
Yeah, Sarfate got the strikeout, but Ramon Hernandez was setting up for a high fastball, and Sarfate missed low and two feet outside. Rarely does a pitcher so badly miss his spot. Beltre wasn't the only guy who didn't know what he was doing on that pitch.
The bottom of the sixth brought us Cha Baek in relief, and all those people who expressed doubt over Baek's ability to adjust to bullpen work found their concerns immediately justified. Jay Payton nearly took him deep, then Ramon Hernandez did take him deep, doubling the lead. Baek had an extra 1-2 miles on his fastball, but it clearly wasn't making much of a difference, and the rest of his junk looked the same as always.
Baek would get out of the inning without any more damage, and Brad Wilkerson led off the seventh with a walk to get our motors running, but when an 11-pitch Jose Vidro at bat culminated in a strike-em-out-throw-em-out double play I about gave up. But for the record, it was Melvin Mora's two-run homer that officially made me crack and check the game's final score. As soon as that ball left the yard to make it 6-2 in the seventh, I just had to know if it was worth watching the game's remaining hour. It wasn't, so I shut it off. I may have made the bad decision to watch Steve Trachsel pitch on a Friday night, but I wasn't about to suffer the indignity of sitting through the entire thing.
The box score says that George Sherrill came in to finish us off in an uppity ninth that left us behind 7-4, but at this point, whatever, I'm long since over the trade. It felt like a break-up at the time, but I guess we just weren't that compatible with Sherrill and Jones, and Bedard put out on the first date, so it's time to move on. I wish everyone involved the best of success, but I wish it hardest for Bedard, because whether you like it or not he's the cart to which the team tied its horse. He's the one we need to work out.
Batista and Loewen tomorrow at 4:05pm PDT. I won't be catching this one live either, since I'll be down at Petco for a little Penny/Peavy action, but after tonight I'm not sure if I'll want to subject myself to another archived feed. The horror of one was more than enough.