Friday

7-24-09: Perfection... and the DFTU

Hello again everybody...

We've reached the end of another week. That may sound repetitive to some of you, but I think it's an accomplishment that shouldn't be under-valued. Nothing's guaranteed in this life. So it seems to me that finding joy in simple things like the TGIF-ness of it all should be enjoyed and even celebrated!

One person who certainly isn't under-valuing life at the moment is White Sox Pitcher, Mark Buehrle. For only the 16th time in the modern era, a big-league pitcher performed perfectly.

It's one of my fondest hopes to one day be in attendance for a no-hitter. I came as close as I ever have this year when the Twins' Scott Baker threw 6 innings of no-hit baseball before he flamed out. But a perfect game? I dare not dream of it. Those are so rare, that I have to take some time to discuss Buehrle's history-making performance.

Then, of course, it's Friday, so that means the delayed, but never denied return of the DFTU!

So let's get after it!

"Machines take me by surprise with great frequency."
- Alan Turing (1912 - 1954), British mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst and computer scientist.


Anyone who's ever struggled with a computer knows what Mr. Turing means. But I'd like to tweak this quote just a touch. I've watched a lot of baseball. And yet the game continues to surprise me with great frequency.

Legendary Tigers broadcaster, Ernie Harwell, once said that even when Detroit was lousy, he looked forward to going to the ball park every day because there was a good chance you'd see something you'd never seen before.

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And that leads me to...

Perfection. 27 up, and 27 down. No runs, no hits, no walks and no errors.

Only 16 times since the turn of the 20th century has a pitcher accomplished that feat. Before Thursday, the last man to achieve perfection was Randy Johnson who perfecto'd the Braves while pitching for the Diamondbacks on May 18, 2004. Prior to that, you have to go back to July 18, 1999 when David Cone dropped a little perfection on the then Montreal Expos.

Not only is that 5 years between perfect games, but do the math: 30 teams in the league and 162 games per team. That's 4860 chances per season for a pitcher to be perfect, and 24,300 chances over the 5-year period we've seen between the last 2 perfecto's. It's a stunning stat if you break it down like that.

Thursday, it was the White Sox's Mark Buehrle's turn to be perfect.

(By the way, “Buehrle” is uncommonly difficult to type and I think it just melted down my spell-checker.)

Buehrle threw 116 pitches on the way to denying the Tampa Bay Rays a base-runner. Mark was the star of the show, but it took an incredible defensive play by a member of his supporting cast, CF Dewayne Wise, to save it.

Rays OF Gabe Kapler hit a shot to left-center in the top of the 9th that was ticketed for the bleachers. Dewayne Wise had other ideas. Inserted for defensive purposes that very inning, Wise got on his horse, climbed the wall and robbed Kapler of his perfect-game-busting home run. Not only did Wise manage to snare the ball, but as he came down, he managed to hang on to it as the ball fell out of his glove.

If you haven't seen the catch, take a second, click here and enjoy one of the more clutch plays you'll ever see.

That's one of the wonders of baseball. You can have individual historical events combined with incredible team performances. It's not unique per-se, but I think it's something you see in baseball more than most other sports.

So congratulations to Buehrle on his entry into the record books (technically it's his second entry, since he threw a no-hitter in 2007). As much as it pains me to pay homage to a member of the White Sox, I'm such a fan of baseball history that I'm more than willing to do it. Kudos Mark, well done!

(Aside: This leads to the inevitable question, what if it had been a Red Sox (whom I hate) pitcher? Yes, even a Boston (whom I hate) pitcher would receive kudos from me for a no-hitter/perfect game. My dis-taste for everything Red Sox (whom I hate) doesn't over-ride my appreciation for baseball history. Baseball's long, rich history is part of what separates it from all other sports. And I'll take any and all chances to celebrate it. Okay, maybe not if it was Josh Beckett... he's just too much of a tool.)

That was Thursday, and this is Friday. That means it's time... once again... for everybody's favorite segment. You've waited an extra week for it. The tension and anticipation is palpable. So I won't make you wait any longer. Here it is:

Dan's Favorite Teams Update

Minnesota Twins:
The Twins are 48-48, in third place in the AL Central and 2.5 games behind the Detroit Tigers and the Chicago White Sox.

Where do I even start?

I guess we can go back to coming out of the All-Star break. The Twins went to Texas and took two out of three, and I was feeling pretty good. Sure they broke down late to lose out on a sweep, but they won another series on the road, so how could I complain?

Then came the trip to Oakland. The Monday Night Melt-Down was one of those games that could either be defining for a season, or just an odd foot-note. When you blow a 10-run lead, and then get screwed by an umpire as you try to score the tying run, it's going to be remembered in some form or fashion. At this point, I still have no idea whether that'll be a defining moment or an anomaly.

Based on the next night's game, I wanted to lean towards the latter. The Twins grinded-out an extra-inning victory and seemed to have put the MNMD behind them.

Then came Wednesday.

I don't know if it was a weird get-away day vibe, or if the clubhouse attendant spiked the Gatorade, but the Twins utterly failed to show up on Wednesday and got shelled.

So in total, they surrendered 32 runs to the second-worst team in the American League over a 3-game series. What on earth are Twins fans supposed to make of that? Is it just a fluke? The vagaries of playing baseball on the road? Or are they legitimately in trouble?

Then I look at last night. The Angels lead the AL West. They're a solid baseball team. Minnesota jumped out to a first-inning 3-0 lead, and extended it as the game went along. Then came the ninth inning. Joe Nathan had converted his last 20 save opportunities in a row. He's universally considered amongst the best closers in the game. Surely he'd come in and shut things down and get the Twins a psyche-improving win?

Not exactly.

Instead, Nathan gave up two runs allowing the Angels to tie the game before they ended up winning it off of Jesse Crain in the 10th.

That's three near-soul-crushing losses out of your last 4 games. That's tough to come back from.

Furthermore, the Twins' greatest weakness, relief pitching, has been laid bare for everyone to see.

What's most frustrating for me is the knowledge that simply saying, "they've got to make a trade", isn't going to fix it. The Twins aren't one player away. Hell, they're not even two players away. Realistically, they need three more solid arms in the bullpen, and probably another starting pitcher given the health troubles of Keven Slowey and Glen Perkins.

You don't just go out and get 4 guys off the trade market. Especially if you're the trade-averse Minnesota Twins.

I'm trying not to be despondent. A 5-game stretch (going back to game 3 in Texas) like that is still only approximately 1/32nd of your season. As the Hammer would famously say, "it's way too early to panic."

But I don't feel good. I don't feel good at all.

The Twins continue their 4-game series with the Angels tonight. Saturday's game is on Fox Network at 3:10pm central, so you out-of-market folks may have a chance to catch them. Trust me, they'll appreciate your support. Next week, they've back home with 3 against the White Sox and 3 more against LAAAGOCROCUSPE.

Arizona Diamondbacks: The D'backs are 41-55, in 4th place in the NL West and 20.5 games behind the LA Dodgers.

Is there any reason for me to keep counting how far back the D'backs are? I'm not sure.

As I've been saying for the last couple of weeks, the Snakes are in Fire-Sale mode. So far they've traded RP Tony Pena and 2B Filipe Lopez. RP Chad Qualls is supposedly on the block, as well as SP Doug Davis.

So the drama now for Arizona is how to keep trying to improve, not to mention keep the attention of your fan-base, while you're clearly trying to re-stock your organization with young talent?

I guess all you can do at this point is look for the small victories. They've already gotten out of the cellar, now holding a 4-game lead over the Padres.

Now it's a matter of trying to win series. They've got a win over Pittsburgh, now go get two more and win the series.

Then you try and win every game that Dan Haren pitches. Haren didn't have a good outing last night. His ERA ballooned up to a gaudy 2.14 (insert sarcasm here). But the D'backs came back and got him off the hook for the loss, and, in fact, won the game. If they can keep winning games for Haren, perhaps getting him within spitting distance of 20 wins, he's got a legitimate shot at a Cy Young award.

After that, all you can do is play out the string and hope the club is able to improve in the off-season. It's not much to root for, but sometimes it's the best you've got. Just ask the fine folks in Baltimore. They're well acquainted with the feeling.

Arizona continues their 4-gamer with the Pirates tonight. Next week it's 3 with the East-leading Phillies, and then 3 with the not-so-'mazin' Mets.

So there you have it. Not the most uplifting DFTU in history. But I do my damnedest to call it like it is.

Have a wonderful weekend, and I'll be back on Monday with thoughts on the weekend.

Until then, thanks for listening!

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