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Gary Armida's Blog
First One, Last DaysPosted on October 2, 2012 at 08:21 AM.
The last Monday of the regular season had so much to offer. The Yankees took on a bunch of triple-A players dressed in Red Sox uniforms while the Orioles had to face a Rays team that still believed they could get into the playoffs. The White Sox bludgeoned the Indians, while the Tigers sewed everything up with a win over the Royals. Felix Hernandez made his last start of the season, while the A’s and Rangers faced off for the West Division crown. The A’s victory over the Rangers clinched a playoff berth and eliminated both the Angels and Rays from the playoff chase.
Now, the American League is locked in with just a little intrigue left for the last two days. The Yankees and Orioles are separated by a game with just two to play. The A’s refuse to just let the Rangers have the West Division as they trail by just one game. In the National League, only the Cardinals and Dodgers have anything left to play for. A Cardinals’ victory today would give the defending champions the second wild card position.
All of that was tremendous, but the memory of the night was a simple single past a shortstop that scored the 10th run of a game. In the scheme of the game and the surrounding games, the hit was meaningless. But, that ground ball was the first hit of 25 year old Melky Mesa’s career. Mesa appeared in just one game for the Yankees since being called up at the beginning of September and that appearance nearly cost the Yankees a victory when Mesa, a fast runner, missed third base and had to go back. He would’ve been the winning run.
But, Mesa got a chance against the Boston Red Sox whose uniform numbers made it look more like a Spring Training game rather than a key game that had playoff implications. Mesa’s first Major League at bat turned out to be a pinch hit appearance in the bottom of the eighth inning. He replaced Alex Rodriguez, one of the legends. Mesa singled, clapped as he went down the line, and had the smile of a little leaguer who just made contact for the first time.
His happiness is just a reminder that this is a game, even if we take it so very seriously. The joy on Mesa’s face and the reaction of the Yankees’ bench illustrated that even the most battle-tested veteran never forgets his first one. It is one of the most special moments a baseball player can have.
Melky Mesa may never be a star, but he will remember October 1st 2012, the Boston Red Sox, and Andrew Bailey. You don’t forget the first one. Mesa just lived out a dream that all of us grew up having. And, most importantly, he enjoyed the moment. His exuberance allowed us to enjoy it too.
Everything seems to be breaking the Yankees way during the final days of the season. They are playing the Boston Red Sox for the final three games. The Red Sox may be the deadest team in the sport right now. The lineup they put out against CC Sabathia was, quite frankly, an embarrassment.
CC Sabathia has now strung together three consecutive starts where he has looked like the dominant ace. After spending much of the season looking like he was pitching hurt, Sabathia’s slider is once again sharp and his command has returned. The Yankees don’t have many reliable pitchers, but they do have enough to be competitive in the tournament. But, without Sabathia pitching like an ace, they have no chance. It looks like he doesn’t have to worry about that.
The Orioles did clinch a playoff berth, but they have the unfortunate circumstance of having to play the Rays for their final season. The Rays have won 9 of their last 10 games and continue to finish the season strong. The Rays beat the Orioles last night by the score of 5-3, but the Orioles showed why they are a playoff team. Down 5-1 heading into the ninth, the Orioles first four batters of the inning reached base. JJ Hardy led off with a single; Chris Davis followed with a two run home run. The Rays brought Fernando Rodney into the game, who wound up saving his 47th game. The Orioles fall one game behind the Yankees with just two to play. They’ve been resilient all season, but for the first time in a while, it seems like something is going against them. The Rays are a tough team; the Red Sox would have trouble in triple-A.
Fernando Rodney has a 0.61 ERA in 74.1 innings this season. He’s 47 for 49 in saves opportunities. He has struck out 76 batters, walked just 15, and has given up just two home runs. That’s not too bad for a $2 million investment. Dennis Eckersley didn’t win a Cy Young Award for his 1990 season when he had a 0.61 ERA in 73.1 innings and Rodney shouldn’t finish higher than fourth in any voting, but that doesn’t mean that the journeyman reliever hasn’t put together one of the most dominant relief seasons of all-time.
Miguel Cabrera now leads Major League Baseball in all three Triple Crown categories. The sophomoric debate between the saberists and the traditionalists is one that neither side gets. Yes, the RBI is passe and batting average isn’t the best measure of a player’s effectiveness, but the accomplishment shouldn’t be diminished. Cabrera’s season is historic on a number of levels. Does winning the Triple Crown make him an MVP? Not necessarily. It depends on your definition of the award. Mike Trout is also having an historic season and has been valuable in every sense of the word for the Angels. He also plays elite defense and is an above average base runner. Either player is an excellent choice for the award. Whoever doesn’t win is getting snubbed. Both have a legitimate case. My choice would be Trout and I would give Cabrera the Hank Aaron Award.
You can talk movies, talk about the overratedness of the man, but Billy Beane’s current reboot of the Oakland A’s is nothing short of amazing. Every move that Beane made this offseason has been a success. Now, the upstart A’s can actually win the division. Even if they don’t win the division, this team is a dangerous playoff team. With their all-rookie rotation being led by Jarrod Parker, the A’s have enough pitching to win a short series. Every season has “that team” that wins even though they aren’t supposed to. The Orioles are a surprise team as well, but it’s the A’s who are set up better for the playoffs. They have dominant pitching and enough power to compete against the American League’s elite teams.
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BORN: April 17, 1975 (38)
JOINED: Oct 26, 2003 (9 years, 238 days ago)
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