I was friends with a couple of Chris Woodwards growing up. I’m sure you knew the type. We’d be playing Stratego, and I’d capture the flag, and they’d say “Oh, the ‘2’ piece can’t capture the flag.” And I’d ask to see the rule book, and the rulebook would be conveniently missing from their 30-year-old copy of Stratego.
It wasn’t limited to Stratego. We’d play Tetherball, and they would inform me that I wasn’t allowed to hit the ball twice in a row. We’d be on opposite teams for Capture the Flag, and I’d suddenly learn that apparently it was “puppy guarding” if you tagged someone twice during a game. I’d do it anyway, and they’d cry, and the teacher would side with the crying child. Eventually, we just stopped playing games.
I’m here to tell you that all of this was actually fine. History should not judge my old friend too harshly. Was his rules-making extremely aggravating? Yes. Did it lead to the dissolution of one of my first-ever friendships? Absolutely. Was he being a big whiny crybaby? Again, absolutely. Looking back, though, we were six years old. I’m sure I was doing stupid stuff too. Six-year-olds do stupid stuff all the time.
You know who isn’t six? And who is actually forty-four years old? Chris Woodward. If you somehow missed Woodward’s temper tantrum six days ago, the long-and-short of it is that Fernando Tatís Jr. hit a grand slam against Woodward’s Rangers. Tatís’ Padres were up 10-3, and Tatís was in a 3-0 count, which apparently meant that he was supposed to stop trying, or something.
The Rangers’ Ian Gibaut immediately threw a pitch at Manny Machado, and Woodward said something after the game to the effect of “there are a lot of unwritten rules in the game that are being challenged,” and “I didn’t like it, personally.” If you want to be fair to Woodward, you could point out that he then said “just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s not right.” If you want to be less charitable, you could point out that the Rangers immediately threw a baseball at Manny Machado, an act for which Woodward and Gibaut were both suspended.
The reason I’m re-hashing all of this: I’m typically a skeptic, but I don’t think there’s been a bigger piece of evidence for the existence of Karmic justice than the events of the games since Tatís’ slam.
The Padres have caught fire. They swept their four-game series with the Rangers, hitting a grand slam in every single game. They then swept the Astros, hitting one more salami and at least one dinger in every game.
The Rangers, meanwhile, have played like garbage. After being swept by the Padres, they lost two games to the Mariners before today’s game. Since August 17, the day of Tatís’ blast, their pitching has been the worst in baseball. And staring at his dumpster fire of a team for all of it (except the one game for which he was suspended) was Chris Woodward.
There’s a reason there are entire communities on the internet devoted to acts of justice, no matter how petty or meaningful they might be. It just feels so damn cathartic. We all want for people to get what what we feel they deserve. We want it so badly, in fact, that there’s an entire psychological phenomenon describing how badly we want it. For the Mariners, on top of the feelings of catharsis, this series against the Rangers has done nothing to slow the tidal wave of good feelings about the rebuild process.
Kyle Lewis dingered in two games out of three. Evan White had a six-RBI game. Justus Sheffield continued his streak of games in which he was really good. Even Justin Dunn had a great outing today, tantalizing the more optimistic among us with the prospect that he might be able to turn things around.
Speaking of which: Dunn was outstanding today.
He pumped the zone from the beginning, racking up both strikeouts and instances of soft contact. He was so efficient that he managed to retire the first 11 Rangers he faced while using just 42 pitches. A walk in the fourth and a hit in the fifth ended any pressure Scott Servais might have felt to keep Dunn out there too long, which was just as well. Servais pulled him after six innings and eighty pitches, continuing to demonstrate his prioritization of his staff’s health.
In those six innings, Dunn racked up six strikeouts and allowed just the one walk and hit. Statcast classified just three balls in play against him as “hard hit”, and just one ball with a 50% chance or higher of being a hit. It’s hard to overstate how good he was today.
The Mariners, for their part, were quick and efficient. All four of their runs came via the dinger, including one from Kyle Lewis. Per betting sites, Lewis has surged into a tie with Luis Robert for Rookie of the Year odds. Here’s some of what he’s doing.
- Kyle Lewis leads the AL in OBP, and is third overall.
- Kyle Lewis is second in the AL in wRC+, and is fifth overall.
- Kyle Lewis leads the AL in offensive value added, per Fangraphs.
The Mariners ended up winning 4-1, and the infectious disease of Buy In seems to be spreading among the fandom. I’ve probably caught Buy In about ten times in the last nineteen years, but whatever. It’s one disease I’m happy to keep catching, over and over.