instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

From A to Z: The Tampa Bay Rays Are Making October Baseball Especially Rewarding

There is nothing like the drama of a close baseball game when all the chips are down.  

 

When undrafted, unheralded Tampa Bay infielder Mike Brosseau homered in the 8th inning off Yankee closer Aroldis Chapman this past Friday night Oct 9, it sent the Yankees towards another early October exit, their eleventh in a row since they last won the World Series in 2009.

 
There are some baseball laws that apply even to the outrageously entitled Yankees:  If you hit home runs and very little else and have a thin starting pitching rotation, you are bound to run into October trouble.  

 
The low-budget but multi-talented Rays will certainly be the sentimental favorite in their matchup against the unrepentant sign-stealing Houston Astros, the team everyone wants to hate (especially now that the Yankees are out).

 

They got off to a good start last night (Sunday Oct 11) with another come-from-behind nail-biting 2-1 victory. The RBIs came on a home run from sizzling Cuban defector Randy Arozarena and a rare single by catcher Mike Zunino.

 

From A to Z, the Rays are abundant with great baseball stories.  Arozarena, a mere 25, is in its first season as a Ray. He arrived in a trade with the St. Louis Cardinals for minor leaguers who have yet to reach the majors (though pitcher Matthew Liberatore is considered a good prospect). 

 

Zunino, 29, came two years ago in a trade with the Seattle Mariners who only have utility outfielder Mallex Smith to show for it so far.  Zunino was an All-American at the University of Florida and played on three College World Series teams.

 

In 2012 he ran the table of college baseball awards - winning the Golden Spikes and Dick Howser trophies and the Johnny Bench award. By 2013 he was in the majors.

 

Talk about having baseball in one's blood! His father Greg met his wife Paola in Italy when he was catching for a Bologna team and she was a catcher on the national softball team.  Greg has since become an area scout for the Marlins and more recently the Reds.

 

Yankee killer Mike Brosseau, 26, is another fascinating story about the vastness of the Rays' scouting net.

 

From Munster, indiana, Brosseau went undrafted out of Oakland University in Detroit, a weak team in the not-exactly-powerhouse Horizon League. He improved each season in the Rays farm system and also spent a winter playing in Perth, Australia. 

 

Kudos to Curtis Granderson, who working for TBS on a post-game panel after Brosseau's dramatic homer, noted Brosseau's lineage. Curtis, the former Tiger-Yankee-Met outfielder, played for the University of Illinois-Chicago Circle in the same conference.

 

Talk about the connection of baseball present to baseball past.  When I heard the name Brosseau, I immediately thought of Eddie Bressoud, the journeyman shortstop who played for my New York Giants after Alvin Dark left in the mid-1950s.  Last I checked, Bressoud

was still alive at 88.  Hope he felt a connection to Brosseau, too.  

 

There's still a lot of baseball left between dangerous and playoff-tested Houston and Tampa Bay. But let's give a salute to the gritty multi-talented Tampa Bay boys and their ability to make its whole far greater than the sum of its parts. 

 

More next time on the National League Championship Series featuring two unbeaten teams  in the playoffs:  Everyone's betting favorite, the Los Angeles Dodgers, winners of eight straight NL West titles but still no World Series victory since 1988. And the Atlanta Braves

who haven't won it all since 1995 and have endured their share of playoff agony.

  

For now, let's be glad we have a heaping helping of October baseball in front of us.  Almost seems like normal which of course it isn't.  But to watch baseball is to dream so here's to more of it. 

 

And always remember:  Take it easy but take it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Comments
Post a comment

"The Ball Always Finds The Weakest Defender": Reflections on the Mets' World Series Loss

I attended Game 4 of the World Series on Halloween night. It was the second of three must-win home games in a row, and in all of them the Mets held the lead for much of the action. However, this year's surprise entry in the World Series could win only the Friday matchup.

I only get emotionally involved with the Orioles, my passion for over 40 years, but I feel for those who lived and breathed and died with the Mets. The old saying in baseball, "The ball always finds the weakest defender," proved true in the final games of the Mets season.

The Mets seemed in control of the Halloween game once standout rookie left fielder Michael Conforto hit the second of his two solo homers to give the Mets a 3-1 lead after 5 innings. Rookie southpaw Steven Matz, from nearby Stony Brook, showed great poise in
his first Series start (incidentally the only one by a left-hander).

However, the Royals narrowed the deficit to 3-2 entering the 8th inning. Inconsistent Tyler Clippard walked two Royals with one out. Jeurys Familia was called upon for a five-out save. In moments a defining moment of the Series arose.

The ball found the weakest defender as Eric Hosmer hit a spinning grounder towards second baseman Daniel Murphy. It went under his glove for an error that tied the game.

It felt almost inevitable when singles by Mike Moustaka and Salvador Perez gave the Royals a 5-3 lead that shutdown closer Wade Davis cemented with a two-inning save.

Yet there was more pain ahead for the Mets. It seemed unnecessarily cruel when the baseball gods determined that the game would end with Yoenis Cespedes doubled off first base on a weak liner by Lucas Duda to third baseman Moustakas.

A cardinal rule of baseball is: Never be doubled off first base on a ball hit in front of you. Of course, Cuban defector Cespedes listens to the sound of his own drummer. And that gaffe was yet another sharp blow to the Mets' chances.

In Game 5, the Mets held the lead even longer than in Game 4. Curtis Granderson, the Mets' most consistent player all season including the playoffs, gave Matt Harvey a 1-0 lead with a leadoff-home run in the bottom of the first inning.

You can never overestimate the importance of grabbing the lead in any game, especially a season-saving game.

Harvey protected the lead for eight shutout innings and the Mets' disappearing offense did scratch out a second run in the 6th on a sacrifice fly by Lucas Duda.

Yet as we look back in hindsight, the Royals had the Mets where they wanted them. This year's deserving Kansas City champions broke all kinds of records for scoring runs in the late innings.

And sure enough after Harvey talked manager Terry Collins into letting him pitch the 9th inning, Lorenzo Cain led off with a full count walk. Collins left Harvey in and Eric Hosmer followed with a run-scoring opposite field double.

It was now 2-1 with the tying run on second with no one out. Hosmer was pumped because his error had contributed to the Mets' second run.

Collins brought in closer Jeurys Familia. He did get ground balls from the three batters he faced. But with Hosmer on third and one out, the final defining moment of this Series came.

Catcher Salvador Perez, the unanimous MVP for his solid hitting and handling of the pitching staff, hit a grounder between third and short. Either David Wright or shortstop Wilmer Flores could have handled the tricky hop.

Wright fielded it cleanly but turned his back on Hosmer, no speed merchant but a clever baserunner. Wright threw out Perez at first base, but Hosmer broke for home and Lucas Duda's throw was way off the mark. The game was now tied 2-2.

After leading since the first inning, it was a tremendous blow to the Mets. You could almost see the body language sag, maybe most in team captain Wright.

To quote Yogi Berra, it was deja vu all over again. The memory of Halloween night's loss had to be fresh.

They were two outs from victory in Game 1 in Kansas City when Alex Gordon homered off Familia. The pattern was becoming very apparent. Great teams have great mental toughness as well as great talent and the Mets were exposed as having neither.

Once the Royals tied Sunday night's game it seemed inevitable that they would win. And sure enough, they pushed 5 runs across in the 12th. The lead-gaining single was a pinch-hit by reserve infielder Christian Colon who hadn't swung a bat in a game for over 40 days.

Redemption came to the Royals and it was richly earned. They left the tying run on third base in Game 7 last year against Madison Bumgarner and the SF Giants. They dedicated this year to changing the Series outcome and they sure fulfilled their dream.

Now winter has come for those of us who dearly baseball. The Mets provided many great thrills for their fans. Their great young starting pitchers all performed well under the brightest lights. That should augur very well for their future.

But the Mets obviously need better defense and more consistent offense. Murphy and Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes were thoroughly held in check by the Royals. Both may leave as free agents.

Much too early to handicap next season. Every year is always different.

For 2015 let us hail the Kansas City Royals who richly deserved their title.

That's all for now. Always remember: Take it easy but take it!
 Read More 
Be the first to comment