Yesterday, Texas catcher Taylor Teagarden and Cleveland truck Travis Hafner collided at home plate in a beautiful explosion of old school baseball. In the bottom of the sixth inning, with the score tied 2-2, Matt LaPorta singled up the middle with Hafner on second. Julio Borbon, the Rangers’ relatively rookie centerfielder, came up throwing with a terrific strike to the plate as Pronk lumbered towards home. Teagarden had the ball firmly in his glove a good second before the Indians designated hulk got there, and doing exactly what he should have done, Hafner smashed into Teagarden with a blow that only Mo Vaughn could withstand.
Teagarden held onto the ball. Hafner was out.
And it was glorious.
That’s not something you tend to see anymore. I remember the first time Ty Wigginton did it with the Mets in 2002 (at least I’m pretty sure it was 2002). The first time he did it, it worked. He knocked the ball loose and scored, which was sweet; he kept trying it after that, and I think every other attempt failed. This was probably because he made it obvious by stopping and setting himself before doing it, giving a catcher plenty of time to brace himself. Or at least he did that once.
Nowadays, the collision at home plate is not done nearly as much as it probably should. More often than not, a guy will try some ridiculous hook slide to try to avoid the tag, or just straight up give in and slide right into the catcher’s shin guard. If a guy does collide with a catcher and knock him flat, it starts a bench-clearing incident and sometimes ends in retaliation. And yeah, sure, Michael Barrett didn’t have the ball when A.J. pummeled into him, but it’s still better to be safe and look like an ******* than sorry and look like an idi
Speaking of baseball like it oughta be, the Mariners brought back Randy Johnson yesterday to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at their home opener. Watching the replay of him throwing out the first pitch to ex-batterymate Dan Wilson was more touching than I expected it to be, far more so than watching Tom Seaver throw out the first pitch, twice, to Mike Piazza (I still think the best option would have been Jesse Orosco to Gary Carter. Just saying, it would’ve brought tears to my eyes). Randy Johnson was without a doubt one of the greatest pitchers in the game, and even if he did at some points demonstrate unprofessionalism (when he pushed over that cameraman en route to get his physical for the Yanks), he had a terrific, inspiring career. Seeing Johnson with Wilson, and having Edgar Martinez, Jay Buhner and Ken Griffey, Jr. (but he had to be there) also in attendance was surely an incredible moment for Mariners fans everywhere as they remembered the glory days. Hopefully next year, the Big Unit will throw out the first pitch at the D-Backs’ home opener, perhaps to Curt Schilling or Luis Gonzalez, and those fans can relive the glory of ten years prior when they took down the dynasty.
The Atlanta Braves did their best Pittsburgh Pirates imitation last night, allowing ten runs to the Padres in the bottom of the fourth (the same inning the Pirates messed up Sunday) en route to a 17-2 San Diego reaming. Although it may not have made much of a difference because all runs were scored before two outs were recorded, Braves messiah Jason Heyward reminded me that he’s only a rookie by playing baseball like it ain’ta be. With one run already in off a bases loaded walk, San Diego pitcher Kevin Correia lofted a pop up down the right field line. Heyward, in a brilliant display of Victor Diaz-ness, clearly expected the ball to go foul and stopped sprinting after it, slowing his strides as the ball dropped unexpectedly fair. Two runs scored by the time Heyward got to the ball; I’m not sure if that second run would have scored had Heyward hustled all the way, but it at least would have made for a decent play at the plate.
The next few games for the Phillies just might show why they are better than the Mets, as much as it pains me to say it. Literally minutes before the Phils’ home opener began – between the pregame introductions and taking the field – Jimmy Rollins strained his right calf and had to exit, being replaced by Juan Castro. The Phillies still won with Castro in place of Rollins and Jayson Werth also exiting midway through the game; the real test will be if the Phils can keep up the winning henceforth with Rollins out (Werth said he’d be fine). If they do, clearly they have more fight than the Mets, who played horribly without Jose Reyes last year.
Short hops: The Pirates lost to Barry Zito and the Giants yesterday, officially dipping below .500 for the first time this season. Bets on whether or not it’s the last time they sniff that mark for the rest of the season? Feel free to voice up… Bernie Williams will throw out the first pitch at the Yankees’ home opener today. Williams is a class act, but perhaps the only outfielder with a worse arm than Johnny Damon… Joba Chamberlain’s mother was sentenced to four years probation after selling a gram of methamphetamine to an undercover cop last May. Yeah. That’s almost as good as when Ugueth Urbina was accused of kidnapping and attempted murder.
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