Sunday afternoon, the Phillies came back from down 2-0 to beat the Reds. That’s not particularly newsworthy on its own — the Phillies aren’t a bad team, and in a game as unpredictable as baseball, comebacks like that are commonplace.
But dive a little deeper into what happened and you’ll start to appreciate exactly how unpredictable baseball was on Sunday afternoon.
For most of us, it happens gradually. You lose a step, start forgetting to file your TPS reports. The attaboys you got when you were young and hungry start to fade. Years and years of erosion, until one day, your boss calls you into his office. You're not fired, exactly. But here's a nice, early retirement package. Do the right thing and take it now. Your slow, inevitable march toward irrelevance has finally reached its end.
Baseball players don't always have that luxury. The end can be merciless, especially for pitchers. One day you toe the rubber and find you can't crack 90 anymore. You're throwing meatballs, and the other team is teeing off. Finally, mercifully, skipper takes the slow walk out to get you. You look back at the scoreboard and see a big, fat nine staring back. Your shoulder is shooting waves of pain through your body. Years and years at the top of your game, and the top of the league, all washed away with one excruciating beatdown.
Roy Halladay isn't necessarily done in the literal sense. He'll very likely pitch again. But watching the sad-sack Marlins batter Halladay for nine runs in 2⅓ innings Sunday, with their one dangerous hitter on the DL no less, reinforced what we've all been thinking for a while: The Doc we knew is gone. It took Juan Pierre, Marcell Ozuna, Greg Dobbs, and Adeiny Hechavarria to read him his last rites.
In case you were busy dusting off the old Maypole a few days early so you can really get your Maypole dancing where you want it in time for May Day, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
Denver kept its playoff hopes alive with a chippy 107-100 win over the Golden State Warriors. Both Warriors coach Mark Jackson and guard Stephen Curry complained about the Nuggets' physical play, and forward Kenneth Faried was singled out for a few illegal screens committed in the first quarter. "Is it illegal to commit an illegal screen?" Faried asked after the game. "Is jabbing a smaller man in the chest with your elbow, just to make him think all of a sudden, against the rules of basketball? Is it?" When told that it was, Faried responded, "Oh, it is? Really? Oh, man, I had no idea. I'll clean that up in the next one. My bad, Steph."
If the Los Angeles Kings are going to defend their Stanley Cup crown, they'll have to do better than their 2-1 opening-game defeat to the St. Louis Blues. Kings goalie and noted hockey satirist Jonathan Quick, whose careless giveaway led to the winning goal in overtime, said after the game, "I was caught in reverie, devising a modest proposal whereby the people of St. Louis might avoid the blues: They could eat their young. And then I thought maybe I could just let them score. And before the thought was even finished in my head, it had happened."
In case you were busy scaring little children by reciting Mariners hitting stats from the past decade, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
The Utah Jazz were eliminated from the NBA playoff picture after an 86-70 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. But don't worry, people of Salt Lake City, you still have a critically acclaimed production of the classic musical West Side Story playing through April 21 at the Capitol Theatre. The Salt Lake Tribune raves, "This touring production of the 2009 Broadway revival hits on most cylinders."
Who will be taking the last spot in the Western Conference playoffs? Why, it's the Los Angeles Lakers, who not only qualified, but in beating the Houston Rockets 99-95 in overtime, were able to snag the seventh seed in the West. "It's quite an achievement," said Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni after the game, "that a team no one believed in overcame all the odds to make the playoffs. If you had told me when I took over this team that was stuck in a mire that we would be seventh in the West " D'Antoni then drifted off and shook his head, before Lakers center Dwight Howard tiptoed up behind him and dumped a small cup of red Gatorade over his head.
Last year, Jason Motte was one of the best and most reliable closers in the game, racking up 42 saves, nearly 11 strikeouts per nine innings, and a 2.75 ERA. He signed a two-year, $12 million contract in January, and was widely expected to have another big year banking saves for a playoff-contending Cardinals team.
We'll let the excellent news and analysis site Rotowire.com take it from here:
MARCH 23: Motte has what the club is describing as a "mild strain" in his right elbow that will keep him off the mound for at least a week as the team explores the severity of the injury and potential treatments, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. General manager John Mozeliak said Motte will "likely" start the season on the disabled list with the flexor strain.
In case you were out demanding that Red Lobster serve you a never-ending pasta bowl, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
In a thrilling conclusion to the NCAA tournament, the Louisville Cardinals beat the Michigan Wolverines, 82-76, to win their first NCAA title in 27 years. Reserve forward Luke Hancock was named the Final Four's MOP after his 22-point performance in the title game. When asked if he saw his performance coming, Hancock responded, "I mean, how can you see a thing like this coming?" before Michigan's Trey Burke came up from behind to congratulate him on the win. Unfortunately, Burke's intentions were misinterpreted by a security guard, who immediately removed Burke from the stadium.
Louisville head coach Rick Pitino's good fortunes continued as he was named to the Basketball Hall of Fame's Class of 2013. Pitino, who'll be inducted alongside Gary Payton, Bernard King, and Jerry Tarkanian, among others, also saw his horse Goldencents win the Santa Anita Derby over the weekend. Pitino's great week didn't end there, as he was invited to two separate parties at the Louisville Discovery Zone this coming weekend, both of which are rumored to be supplied with both Pizza Factory pizza and Carvel ice-cream cake.
In case you were busy perpetually holding both thumbs up in a tribute to the late Roger Ebert, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday:
The Oklahoma City Thunder kept the pressure on the San Antonio Spurs in their race for the top seed in the Western Conference playoffs with a 100-88 win at home. The game was decided by the point guards, with Russell Westbrook besting Tony Parker on both ends of the court. "Can a man truly be bested?" Parker asked as he enjoyed a postgame Gauloises. "Or can a man merely throw himself headlong into the illusion of a game for a period of time? Of course the game I am referring to is not basketball, but it is life, and the illusion I am referring to is that we are alive at all, and the period of time I am referring to is forever for a child such as Russell." Parker then allowed himself a grin, before realizing that his smile betrayed his own hypocrisy, and that he was also smoking the lit end of his Gauloises.
The Chicago Bulls went to Brooklyn and came away with a tight 92-90 win over the Nets. When told of the team's travel plans, Bulls forward Carlos Boozer responded, "Oh, I didn't know the Nets played in Brooklyn," before dragging teammate Taj Gibson to a beer garden down in Williamsburg, claiming that he saw Lena Dunham, and telling Kirk Hinrich that he totally had a chance with her because "I've seen that show Girls, and man, you're so in. You are so in." Boozer then, after awkwardly realizing the woman he saw wasn't Lena Dunham at all, yelled out his signature catchphrase, "Can you smell the Booze stank in the room?!" before being admonished by interactive marketing brand account manager Terrence Wilson: "Booze stank," he said, "is a pretty gauche way to refer to the aroma of high-quality Trappist ales." Boozer was so put off by Wilson's attitude that he dropped a double-double on the Nets, despite being "surprisingly tipsy after only two beers."
On Wednesday, I covered 15 players with compelling backstories who've been invited to spring training with American League clubs. Per that article: "These are the NRIs, the non-roster invitees promised almost nothing — not a job, not a major league deal, nothing more than a chance to come to camp, overcome often astronomical odds, and somehow make the Opening Day roster."
The Philadelphia Phillies dealt young starting pitchers Vance Worley and Trevor May to the Minnesota Twins for center fielder Ben Revere, addressing Philly's biggest lineup hole and dramatically changing the market for available outfielders now that Michael Bourn's most likely path is blocked.
In Revere, the Phillies get one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball; only Josh Reddick, Jason Heyward, and Torii Hunter played a better right field last season than Revere per Defensive Runs Saved, and Revere should be an above-average fly-catcher in center, having moved off that position in Minnesota only because of Denard Span's presence. Revere's also blazingly fast, having stolen 74 bases in his first 254 major league games, with 160 swipes in 403 minor league games before that. On defense, baserunning, and base stealing alone, Revere could net two to three wins a year for the Phillies.
The Red Sox are rumored to be interested in Cody Ross, which makes no sense for a team that already has every outfield position and DH covered unless Jacoby Ellsbury's on the block. The problem with an Ellsbury trade, which has also been rumored, is finding a suitable trade partner. The 29-year-old center fielder should get a healthy raise in arbitration following an $8 million salary in 2012. Problem is, he's coming off an injury-wracked season in which he hit a measly .271/.313/.370 and played in just 74 games. He's also a free agent after next season. So you've got a player with a solid argument for 2011 MVP who tanked the next season, now stands to make eight figures, offers only one year of team control, and would likely require a quality pitcher in return. It's baseball, so we should never say never. But if Boston's going to add pitching during or after the Winter Meetings, it might very well be via a straight free-agent signing, rather than a trade.
News and notes as we roll into Day 2 of the Winter Meetings
• The Rangers signed former Royals closer Joakim Soria to a two-year, $8 million deal. This marks the second straight offseason in which Texas inked a closer rehabbing from Tommy John surgery to a multi-year deal, following the November 2011 signing of Joe Nathan. I hated that deal at the time, writing that Nathan had lost fastball velocity and seen his strikeout rate drop considerably after TJ, and that the Rangers were getting at best a diminished pitcher and, at worst, a pitcher who's about to get injured. I was, obviously, spectacularly wrong. But beyond dwelling on my incredibly poor judgment, the Nathan deal is a great example of information asymmetry. Simply put, teams often know things that we the public do not, even when deploying intelligent statistical analysis. This is doubly true for injured players, or players coming off injury. Doesn't mean we should blindly trust every general manager to make the right decision every time. Only that there might be more to a deal than the obvious circumstances might suggest, such as when a team signs a late-30s relief pitcher with major surgery in his recent past to a multi-year contract.
The Baltimore Orioles were a bad team in 2011. Terrible, really. They won 69 games, finished last in the AL East, and allowed 152 more runs than they scored. If anyone other than Dan Duquette and the players' moms figured the O's could storm back, win 90-odd games, and make a run at the AL East title and maybe even a World Series, those true believers certainly kept their opinions to themselves.
Last year's Baltimore team — along with fellow sub-.500 clubs turned 2012 playoff entrants Washington, Cincinnati, and Oakland — offer hope for those teams already eliminated from postseason contention this year. With that in mind, let's take a look at the 16 teams whose playoffs dreams had been dashed as of Monday (i.e. not these guys), and see if we can find a candidate or two to be next year's Orioles.