It was going to happen eventually

No part of me accepted the fact that he would go the entire season without blowing a single save situation.  In a way, it’s almost incredible that he’s gone this long before it actually happened, considering how often he’s been used, the quality of batters he’s been brought in to face, and the scenarios of inherited base runners he’s been entrusted with.  But I really, really hoped that he would have at least made it through the entire “month” of March/April without blowing a save, but I guess I got a little ahead of myself there, and for that reason alone, I have apparently angered the mythical baseball gods, and they brought down, the other shoe.

Jonny Venters blew a save today, when he allowed two inherited Brandon Beachy base runners to plate, in what would ultimately be a come-from-behind defeat to the hands of the visiting St. Louis Cardinals.  After dispatching of two pinch hitters in Nick Punto and Lance Berkman, he apparently fell asleep on the unsuspecting David Freese, who doubled with two outs to allow the tying runs to come home.  They weren’t his base runners, so his ERA doesn’t take a hit, but the blown save is still credited, and that’s life as a relief pitcher.

The bigger underlying issue is that the team touted for its bulletproof tandem in the bullpen of Venters and Craig Kimbrel have blown consecutive saves in as many days.  To rub salt into the wound, after Venters had blown the save, Kimbrel eventually got tagged for yet another game-losing triple, and was credited for the loss.  I hate to even give it any thought, but a part of me is curious to know just how much any of this has to do with the administrative leave of controversial pitching coach, Roger McDowell, or if this is just the kind of coincidence that pretty much every team goes through at some point every season, where the bullpen just goes through a funk?

Unremarkable Men doing Remarkable Things or Jason Marquis and the Ghost of Pedro Astacio

There are few things in this world I enjoy as much as a night at a ballpark. Most of those nights are only remarkable for how unremarkable they are. Most games I attend fall somewhere between forgotten and unremembered. There are those few though that will never be forgotten and last night was one of those. Remarkably unremarkable sinker ball pitcher Jason Marquis went nine innings and didn’t allow a run, a complete game shutout, and a night at the ballpark I am not likely to forget.

It isn’t the first such night though, and while Marquis performance was good it wasn’t dominating. He pitched like a drunken hobo standing on the edge of a moving boxcar, but only by luck and chance never happened to fall off. That is how it always appears with a pitcher like Jason Marquis. He doesn’t have the stuff to miss bats, nor is that his goal. He is a sinker ball pitcher that thrives on groundballs, but sometimes those groundballs get through, and that seeing eye hit can be followed by a long homerun. It is the danger of a contact pitcher. Too many base runners is never a good thing. It is an obvious statement, but more runs can be scored with runners on base than without.

While Jason Marquis always appears to be a pitcher pitching on the edge by the time Pedro Astacio got to the Nationals he appeared to be a pitcher that fell off a cliff and got run over by a horse. His 2006 season with the Nationals was the last he ever pitched in the majors, and years removed from the four complete game shutouts in 1992 that looked to have been thrown by another more famous Pedro, but on one night in DC Astacio relived those glory days.

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Carlos Beltran Doesn’t Dive

There are players out there that baseball fans can’t help but get pleasure from watching, and there are players on hated teams that earn a baseball fan’s respect and admiration. Carlos Beltran used to be one of those players, and watching him in right field last night reminded me of what it used to be like to watch him patrol center. I never saw Carlos Beltran make a diving catch in center field. That doesn’t mean he didn’t get to a lot of balls or was a bad defender. It just means he didn’t have to dive for the balls he got to. The numbers prove out this fact as in both 2006 and 2008 Beltran had a UZR over 10.0. He was truly a world class defender and combine that with his power at the plate and speed on the bases and he was one of the best players in baseball.

So, many heartbreaking homers were hit by Carlos Beltran that I can’t remember many, but there is one. There was an odd stretch in 2007 where Jason Bergmann was the best pitcher on the planet, and to make it weirder so was John Maine. In an April 29 match-up they both pitched well enough to win, but the only blemish in Jason Bergmann’s seven innings pitched was a Carlos Beltran solo homer that caused the Nats to fall 1-0 on the afternoon. Jason Bergmann only gave up two hits on the afternoon and one of them happened to be that homer, and that is really the only Beltran homer I remember.

What I remember more about Beltran is his defense. He never appeared to run. He would glide over the grass so effortlessly the ground appeared to be moving beneath him. A ball would be hit to a gap that sounded and looked like a sure double, but out of the corner of my eye I would see Beltran. My only thought would be there is no way he can catch this, and then not only would he catch it, but he would do so standing up. It was like he teleported to the ball.

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All you can really do is laugh

As I’m sure most Braves fans and those who pay attention to general baseball news have probably heard, this has more or less been a pretty lousy week for the Atlanta Braves.  And the ironic part is that none of these things have anything to do with the performance on the field; quite the contrary, the Braves completed a successful 6-4 west coast road trip, capped off with some excellent pitching as well as hitting performances.

No, but instead, everyone’s talking about pitching coach Roger McDowell’s altercation with fans in San Francisco, where there were allegedly homophobic slurs and graphic interpretations, which were then swallowed up by a notorious fame-seeker lawyer, TMZ, and then the shit exploded all over the fan.  Not good press for the Braves, indeed.

And then to add insult to injury, just last night, Derek Lowe was arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence.  The arresting officer claims to have smelled alcohol from within Lowe’s Porsche, and to make things worse better, Lowe was pulled over in the first place because he was racing with another car, down Peachtree Road, which is the penultimate vein of traffic through the entire city of Atlanta.

Instead of getting involved with the numerous outlets of Braves fans arguing morals, standards, beliefs, and then vendettas and agendas, I’ve decided to absolve from addressing other fans altogether.  As a whole, it’s sad to see two negative incidents stemming from my preferred team so close to one another, but bad things and mistakes happen.  It’s human nature.  I respectfully choose to reserve any sort of judgment and premature condemning until all the facts are out and available for both accounts.  So until then, the only real alternative I have, is to step back and laugh at the whole situation.

Two things are going to happen as a result of this though, I’m certain of.  With the Cardinals coming into town, it doesn’t matter if it’s the radio, local television broadcast, or ESPN.  If the Braves win any game(s), it will be applauded as an act of courageous heroism of overcoming the mammoth distractions of McDowell/Lowe, and that is what team unity and chemistry is all about.

Or, what I think is the more likely outcome, the Cardinals take tonight’s game or outright sweep the Braves, and it’s widely spread that the actions caused by McDowell/Lowe were far too distracting and poisoning, and the players couldn’t get in sync with one another, and that the sky is falling, and Bob Wickman is coming back to eat our souls as well as all the food on the planet.

Hard to Imagine Much Worse

I am not the type of person to question a person’s fan hood, but for the life of me I can’t figure out why the guy that sat beyond me, screaming in my ear last night was even at the game. I could understand it better if he were actually sitting with his daughter that he took to the game, but she was in the lower bowl and he was in the upper deck. From about the middle of the 4th inning until he mercifully left he was on his phone yelling at her to come to his section. This was yelling so loud I could hear his jowls shaking. Neither I nor my wife understood the point of making his daughter walk up to the upper deck to leave the park when all the exits are located in the lower bowl.

Leaving a game early is one of the big no-no’s of watching live baseball. The most dedicated fans will wait out all rain delays and stay for every out of a blowout loss, but even I am not that good of a fan. I have to admit I left the tail end of the double header against Milwaukee a couple weeks back because of a migraine. I think people would give me that one though. A ballpark is not a good place to try and nurse a headache. What really got me about this guy though was he wanted the entire section to know he was leaving, and when he got up after the bottom of the 6th to leave he said, “I have seen enough of this crap.”

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Baseball’s Magic Bean Arguments

I wanted to write about what makes someone a bad manager, and while I likely could do that I am too upset. Writing out of anger while fun and does get the frustration out it isn’t the best idea. Thoughts clouded by emotion are no longer at their best. Instead I am going to write about what I have come to call Magic Bean Arguments, or those arguments that people make that can’t be proven right or wrong, but make the point that the team would be better off if they did something different in the past.

Baseball is a sport that lends itself to arguments. Every fan of a baseball team is a second guesser. It is the nature of the sport. Every day is a new game and every game is a new situation to criticize. Most of these arguments aren’t leveled at individual moves in a game though. Most of them are aimed at the General Manager or general philosophy of the team. Every fan can easily play arm chair GM. It is easy to make moves in hindsight, and complain about what should have been done. A GM’s job isn’t that simple. There are complex issues beyond just throwing a lot of money at a player or waiting for prospects to develop. If you have spent any time at all on the internet then you might have seen some of these arguments.

If the team would have just spent a little more money they would have a much better record.

This is a classic payroll argument. It sounds good and it sounds right. Better players cost more money. So, it stands to reason that if a team did spend a little more money they would have better players. Of course this doesn’t factor in a lot of the little things. First and most importantly is the make-up of the team. If the team is made up of a bunch of pre-arb eligibles then there really isn’t any smart way to just raise payroll. If it were all about the money being spent then the team could just sign a young unproven player or two to a long term deal raise the payroll by fifteen million and call it a day, but that is stupid business.

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What do these three pitchers have in common?

They’re all winners!

Yesterday was one of those nights that vilified the existence of this little statistical study.  I was beginning to think that relief pitchers were getting into their grooves, breaking off that early-season rust, and starting to lock down innings.  Twice already, there have been days when only one reliever blew a save, to keep the string of consecutive days with at least blown save alive.  I began to wonder just how paltry the numbers on the leaderboards would look by the time October rolled around.  Just as that doubt began to creep forward, yesterday happened.

Brian Fuentes, Koji Uehara, and Cody Eppley all blew save situations for their respective clubs yesterday, but managed to hang around long enough, and/or just be lucky enough that their clubs swiftly regained the lead while they were still on record.  Their comeuppance for the unnecessary anxiety they put on their teammates and fans?  Wins of course!