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John Means Finds Ways & Introducing YIBBA + TCM Tips

For those of us who get irritated if not downright incensed by the prevalence of new-fangled statistics in baseball today - launch angles, exit velocities, spin rates - the game itself still nourishes us.  

 

John Means' no-hitter against the Mariners last week is a case in point. Oriole fans like yours truly are looking for any rays of light these days. 

 

Means' 113-pitch gem against the Mariners last Wed afternoon May 5 sure provided it.  It was not a fluke even if the Mariners are not a good offensive team. 

 

Means has been pitching very well since the end of last season.  But he had never gone beyond the seventh inning in his career or thrown more than 101 pitches.  He even said after the game that getting into the eighth inning was a big thrill. 

 

Means makes his first start against the resurgent Mets at CitiField this coming Tues May 11.  I'll be there with an in-person report next time around.

 

Am crossing fingers that Means doesn't think he has to pitch a gem every time out.  So boo to Oriole broadcaster Hall of Famer Jim Palmer, the last Bird to throw a no-hitter back in 1969.

 

Palmer has been talking too much about how Means' life will be changed and he'll know that anytime he's out on the mound he can do it again.

 

Happily, Means seems like a refreshingly grounded young man. Raised in Olathe, Kansas near Kansas City, he was an eleventh-round draft choice out of West Viriginia U. He never expected this kind of success but I think he can handle it with firm humility.

 

Everything he has said publicly indicates he knows baseball is a game by game, batter by batter, and pitch by pitch operation.  Never get caught up in the big picture of the forest or else the trees will crash around you. 

 

Tyler Kepner had a lovely lede in discussing Means' achievement in the Friday May 7 New York Times. "Throwing a no-hitter, one could say, is like lassoing the moon."        

 

The thought stayed with me when watching "The Right Stuff" on TV on Saturday night.

"Punch a hole in the sky!" Barbara Hershey tells Sam Shepard just before he goes out to break the sound barrier.  

 

Hershey was playing the wife of Chuck Yaeger, played by Shepard. The film holds up well - Philip Kaufman's 1983 adaptation of Tom Wolfe's classic book about the first bunch of astronauts. Clips of Bill Dana as Jose Jiminez, the first Hispanic astronaut, are shown from Ed Sullivan's show.  

 

(I remember Dana from the Steve Allen Show. "What are you going to do in outer space all by yourself?"

"I plan to cry a lot.")

 

Tyler Kepner is on a roll.  When Albert Pujols was suddenly released by the Angels last week, he remembered what Pujols told him four years ago:  "You don't retire. The game retires you."

 

He is at least 41 years old and a shadow of his former self. I realize it is very hard for an athlete to admit when it is time to hang up one's spikes. But how many more record-breaking GIDPs does Pujols need to get the message?  

 

I also wish Miguel Cabrera of the lowly Tigers would also decide to retire. He seems likely to fall short of his goal of 3000 hits, being 124 shy after the rainout on May 9.

 

Unfortunately, neither Angels owner Arte Moreno nor Detroit's Ilitch family worked out a deal where each player could have retired gracefully by the end of the year. And feted for their undoubtedly Hall of Fame careers.

 

Meanwhile, the Yankees have righted their ship with improved starting pitching and just enough hitting.  They are two over .500 after games of May 9.  

 

For those wondering how their longtime starter Masahiro Tanaka is doing in Japan, he pitched seven innings in his latest effort even if it was a loss. Tanaka is back pitching for the Rakuten Eagles, his first pro team that he joined as a teenager before he signed with the Yankees in 2014.  

 

The last stats I saw had his record at 2-2 with 3 walks, 20 strikeouts and a 3.00 ERA. Amazingly, he is not yet 34 so he obviously feels he has a lot more left in the tank.  

 

Jun Ogawa, a devoted fan and student of Japanese baseball, reported the news to me about Tanaka's last outing.  You will hear more from Jun in the weeks ahead.  

 

While working in the computer field in LA in the late 20th century, Jun became a devoted fan of the Dodgers. Like most Dodger followers, he is concerned about their current slump.

 

They started 13-2 but astonishingly, the defending world champions have not won back-to-back games since Apr 16-17.  They are barely above .500 as I post.

 

Blake Treinen is currently the only reliable reliver. The loss of young phenom Dustin May to TJ surgery and the extended absence of former MVP Cody Bellinger have not helped. The Dodger individual offensive stats don't look bad but the elixir of winning has certainly been missing.

 

Still a long way to go and no team is running away with anything anywhere in this MLB season. So sit back and enjoy the unpredictable drama of baseball.  So I say YIBBA (Yours In Baseball Before Analytics).  

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A follower of YIBBA believes that starting pitchers should want to go deep into games - it doesn't have to be a possible no-hitter for a pitcher to expect to reach the 100-pitch mark.  Why not make 120 the outer edge?  Why not enforce penalties against pitchers and hitters who dawdle before each pitch?

 

What is today doesn't have to be tomorrow. So I say loud and clear, YIBBA, YIBBA, YIBBA!

 

Before I go, what would be this blog without a few TCM reminders:

M May 10 10p Norma Shearer in "Marie Antoinette" 1938

 

W May 12 915a Katherine Hepburn documentary

 

Sa May 15 12N "The Set-Up" great boxing movie with Robert Ryan 1949

  8p "The Big Heat" 1953 Fritz Lang directs Glenn Ford-Gloria Grahame, odd allies fighting gangsters 

 12M The return of Noir Alley with "Touch of Evil" 1953 Orson Welles directs, stars w. Janet Leigh/Charlton Heston

 

Coming Tues May 18 8p "Fatso" 1980  Anne Bancroft directs and stars with Dom DeLuise in dieting spoof

 

Wed May 19 6p "They Live By Night" 1948  Nicholas Ray's gripping tale of young Farley Granger and Cathy O'Donnell on the run from the law

 

8p "Judgment at Nuremberg" 1961  Stanley Kramer's 3-hour drama with Spencer Tracy/Richard Widmark/Marlene Dietrich

 

Th May 20 8:15a  "Fireman's Ball" 1967 one of Milos Forman's last films before he fled Czechosloakia

  930a "Operation Madball" 1957 with Jack Lemmon and Ernie Kovacs

 

Fri May 21 1030p Samuel Fuller's "Crimson Kimono" 1959 with James Shigeta/Victoria Shaw

 

And always remember:  Take it easy but take it!   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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O's Make It To The Wild Card Game As Regular Season Ends

Baseball’s exciting, wildly unpredictable season came down to Game 162 with a real possibility that there would be play-in games before the wild-card Winner Take All playoffs. It didn’t happen because the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles won their final series on the road at Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium, respectively.

After taking advantage of Macy's "greatest sale of the year," I strolled the big blocks from 7th Avenue and 34th Street to Foley's bar not far from the Empire State Building where I took in the proceedings I knew that on a football Sunday there would be many TVs tuned to baseball.

Amazingly, Foley's is a big St Louis Cardinals outpost and many Redbird-clad fans gathered hoping against hope that the Giants would lose and the Cards would get in.
After the umpires on Thursday night shockingly didn't enforce a rule that a ball was a ground-rule double allowing the Cards to beat the Reds, I was glad the Cards were locked out of the 2016 playoffs. Like the Yankees, they are in there too much (but at least their manager Mike Matheny doesn't wear a number like Joe Girardi's 28 to tell the world about the inevitable next world championship.)

I was pleased when there was a family of Oriole fans from Towson, Maryland, where I started my teaching career way back then. We made appropriate noise when the O's took and kept the lead.

So now the O’s and Blue Jays will meet on Tuesday Oct 4 at 8:08 on TBS in Toronto for the right to play the Texas Rangers in the best-of-five AL Division Series. Boston, the AL East winner whose closer Craig Kimbrel is in a slump at the worst time, lost home field advantage to the Cleveland Indians who will host them in the other ALDS.

The Detroit Tigers, given up for dead a couple of months ago, made a valiant run at crashing the playoff party. But playing the role of spoiler to the utmost, the Atlanta Braves beat the Bengals on Sat. and Sun. to eliminate Detroit. The Braves in September also swept the Mets at Citi Field but the New Yorkers rebounded to win the first wild card.

It was unfortunate for Detroit that they couldn’t use their designated hitter Victor Martinez in the National League park but they had their chances to win each game. Just couldn’t come up with the big hit, a lament that is often heard when teams just miss out on the post-season.

A fascinating sidelight in the Tiger losses is that two former Oriole castoff relievers got huge outs for the Braves. Coming in with bases loaded and nobody out in the 8th on Sat night, Chaz Roe kept Atlanta's 5-2 lead by striking out fearsome Miguel Cabrera and getting stellar J.D.Martinez to hit into a double play. Former Oriole closer Jim Johnson got saves in each game.

Meanwhile the much-maligned Oriole starting pitching came up big in the last weeks of the season. Who would have thought that Ubaldo Jimenez would emerge as a consistent contributor?

Ramon Martinez, Pedro’s older brother and a special adviser to Oriole gm Dan Duquette, has become a confidant with fellow Dominican Ubaldo. Ramon has evidently helped to eliminate some extraneous movement from Ubaldo’s complicated delivery.

Things are going well in Ubaldo’s outside life that certainly hasn't hurt his performance.
**He recently became father for the first time.
**In early September he flew to Miami in between starts to attend a swearing-in ceremony to become an American citizen.

At a time when the national media is making such a big deal about journeyman quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the national anthem, most of the country doesn’t know about Ubaldo Jimenez’s unabashed affirmation of his adopted land.

He also has become the new spokesperson for the Cardboard to Leather philanthropic project of the Oriole Advocates, a longtime baseball-loving community service organization in Baltimore. Cardboard to Leather makes annual trips to Latin America bringing baseball equipment to the needy.

If the Orioles manage to beat Toronto in the wild card game, Jimenez will certainly get a start in the division series. The Orioles young veteran Chris Tillman is likely to get the wild card start with the finally healthy Dylan Bundy ready to aid in relief.

The Birds’ other young hard-throwing right-hander Kevin Gausman beat the Yankees in Game 162 to clinch the wild card bid. All of a sudden, with Bundy, Gausman, and Tillman, and one more year of revived Jimenez and maybe Yovani Gallardo and Wade Miley, Oriole pitching doesn't look so foreboding.

One of the interesting sidebars in the upcoming Toronto-Baltimore wild card tussle is that two sluggers on each team might be playing their last game for their current franchises. Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion of the Blue Jays and Mark Trumbo and Matt Wieters of the Orioles are all free agents at the end of the post-season.

All year on this blog I have refused to speculate on where these run-producers might go and I’m not gonna start now. Wieters, a switch-hitter and an excellent defensive catcher, probably has the most value. It certainly went up when he smashed for the first time in his career home runs from both sides of the plate in the O's Game 162 5-2 victory over the Yanks.

We’ll cross that bridge of free agency speculation after the World Series.
For now I’m just glad that we have at least this extra game to look forward to.

Ditto the National League Wild Card game that will pit the defending NL champion Mets against the Giants who swept the Dodgers in San Francisco to earn a chance to go for their third straight even-year World Series title. The Wednesday matchup between the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard and the Giants’ World Series hero Madison Bumgarner should be a beauty.

But it’s baseball - it could be a rout or a slugfest. We don’t know and neither do the stat heads. That’s why they play the games.

That’s all for now but always remember: Take it easy but take it.
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