If you want an understanding of what baseball purism is all about, check out Gunnar Henderson's second double of the game in yesterday's (Sun Aug 20) rout of the lowly Oakland A's. Seemingly all the broadcasters and even most of his teammates wanted him just to get a single to complete a cycle, having already gotten the triple, homer, and double.
Gunnar's baseball instincts, though, took over. His smash down the right field line "looked double," he said after the game almost sheepishly. He just couldn't turn off his highly competitive and wonderful-to-watch jets.
Now, listen, I am not against any change in baseball. I'm all for the pitch clock and the end of the infield shift that turned the right side of the baseball diamond into a grotesque facsimile of a football backfield.
But if purism means endorsing playing the game hard, smart, and well, running out every at-bat, and hitting the cutoff man on outfield relays, call me a purist. And after sweeping the lowly Oakland A's to finish a West Coast trip with a solid 6-3 record, the AL East-leading Orioles got to enjoy the Monday off-day, three games ahead of (and four games in lost column) Tampa Bay.
Tomorrow (Tu Aug 22) the Birds open at home their last series of the year with division rival Toronto. Although nine games out of first place with 38 to play, the Blue Jays still look formidable to me. They are coming off an impressive road series victory over the surprising Cincinnati Reds. Toronto's outstanding young shortstop Bo Bichette is back from a leg injury and he is always a bundle to deal with.
Because of the so-called "balanced schedule" that downplays intra-divisional play, the Orioles finished with the Yankees at the end of July and now Toronto before end of August. At least there are four left with Tampa Bay in Baltimore from Sep 14-17.
One thing the Orioles should be proud of is their consistency which, of course, is the most hallowed hallmark in any sport. As a wise sports psychologist once said, "If consistency were an island, it would be lightly populated.
The Birds have not been swept in any three- or four-game series since mid-May 2022, a record that is the fifth longest in MLB history. Not coincidentally, the streak started at almost the same time as the MLB arrival of deservedly-touted switch-hitting catcher Adley Rutschman.
I can here former Oriole manager Earl Weaver grousing from the Great Baseball Beyond, "What's the big deal? You are supposed to win most of your games if you are a good team." That is true, Earl, but the stat does speak to keeping one's focus on each and every game. And realizing that Nothing Is Guaranteed.
It looks like there will be plenty of drama throughout MLB in the final weeks of the season. It seemed likely that the runner-up in the AL West would be the second of the three wild cards, but this weekend both the Rangers and Astros were swept at home by the Brewers and Mariners, respectively.
Despite losing to suddenly potent Milwaukee, leaders of the NL Central, Texas still has a four game lead on defending World Series-champion Houston. But Seattle spanked the Astros and is on a roll to at least capture the third wild card over Toronto.
The Mariners came on strong last season and made the playoffs and certainly they look tough with possibly the best starting pitching in baseball and a red-hot young star in Julio Rodriguez. The Red Sox cannot be counted out after sweeping the reeling Yankees on the road.
The National League has quite a wild card race going on, too, with two surprising teams, the Cubs and the Reds, vying with defending NL champion Phlllies for post-season play. The Braves and Dodgers have sewed up their NL East and NL West titles and the Brewers with less breathing room seem to have at last the NL Central under control.
I'm not the biggest fan of the expanded wild cards but as long as the teams are somewhat over .500 I can reluctantly accept them. With Cleveland now 8 games under .500 and Minnesota four over, it looks like the AL Central is close to being settled.
I must remind myself that the calendar still says August. Yet there is that lack of dramatic intra-divisional matchups in September because of the so-called "balanced" schedule (sigh).
In closing, a tip of the cap to three Rutgers baseball players who led the Bourne Braves earlier this month to their second straight Cape Cod Baseball League championship. They are outfielders Josh Kuroda-Grauer, the championship series MVP; Pete Cuifffreda, an incoming graduate transfer; and catcher Hugh Pinkney.
It was the second consecutive year that 3 Scarlet Knights played for champion Bourne.
That's all for now. Always remember: Take it easy but take it, and stay positive test negative.