A stellar 24-hours of baseball began with a star-studded, Hollywood-esque birthday party for Fenway Park as the Red Sox (and Yankees) celebrated the historic landmark’s centennial. The festivities were all flash and no substance as New York handily beat Boston 6-2, the visitors leaving not as much as a party favor for the host team. As many of us watched pitcher Felix Dubront and the Red Sox seemingly redeeming themselves by ripping the Yankees a new one with a 9-0 lead in the fifth inning in the second game of the series, perhaps we assumed Boston had the game in hand, playing at home and using Fenway’s birthday blowout from the day before as some added motivation.
When Mark Teixeira hit a solo home run in the sixth inning putting the Yankees on the scoreboard 9-1, barely an eyelash was batted. Still a 9-1 ballgame in the seventh inning, before any of us had time to contemplate a New York comeback, Fox switched it’s live coverage over to the White Sox game in Seattle as a perfect game was in the making.
Those of us watching live were lucky enough to catch the last few outs as White Sox pitcher Phil Humbert threw a perfect game, only the 21st such feat in the history of major league baseball. The last perfect game was thrown by the Phillies’ Roy Halladay back in 2010.
The drama unfolding on the television was palpable at home on the couch as perfection seemed to be in jeopardy when Michael Saunders, leading off for the Mariners in the ninth, got ahead in the count 3-0. The 29-year-old righty remained composed, coming back from the deficit to eventually strike out Saunders en route to a masterful perfect game.
What ended as a joyous, historic occasion marked by the Mariners home crowd giving the visiting pitcher a raucous roar and standing ovation in Seattle morphed into a historic swing of a different kind across the country in Boston.
A mere 11 minutes after Fox completely switched its coverage, taking the White Sox-Mariners game full-screen, the network returned to Fenway Park where the game was still in the top of the seventh inning, yet the scoreboard looked noticeably different. In those 11 minutes, the Boston bullpen allowed New York to load the bases giving Nick Swisher ample opportunity to hit a grand slam, which is exactly what he did.
The comeback was officially on as Swisher’s slam put a dent in the lead (9-5), but no, the Yankees didn’t stop there. A three-run homer from Teixeira put the Yankees right back in the game as the visitors had clawed their way out of a 9-0 hole, scoring seven runs in the seventh inning, trailing only by one run, 9-8.
I’m sure you know where this is going.
Things only worsened for the home team in the eighth inning as the Yankees scored ANOTHER SEVEN RUNS to complete an epic comeback.
The dichotomy of Humber’s perfection in Seattle and the perfect storm resulting in Boston’s unfathomable collapse was an emotionally bipolar experience.
Contrary to popular East Coast-belief, the entire universe doesn’t care about your average Yankees-Red Sox series. If you don’t live out East, aren’t a fan of either team, or aren’t a baseball nut, a New York-Boston series a few weeks into the regular season isn’t that enticing. But a comeback from a 9-0 deficit is. And so is a perfect game, no matter the name or face of the pitcher.
On one hand, we saw nine strikeouts, five groundouts and 13 flyouts on 96 pitches, good for a 4-0 White Sox win and perfect game, dog pile and Gatorade bath included.
On the other hand, we watched the Yankees score a mind-boggling 15 runs in 23 at bats leaving the crowd ruthlessly booing the home team and its new manager Bobby Valentine.
After the layers of cheering teammates were peeled off from on top of him, Humber was quickly ushered to the dugout area and a headset draped atop his head as the world was ready to hear from the pitcher immediately following his dominating display. Shaking and unable to grasp what he had just accomplished, Humber, coming off of Tommy John surgery, told the television audience, “I’m just so happy. There are so many good things that are happening right now…I’ve got a little boy on the way, I just want to say hi to my wife back home, and you know I love you baby. That’s for you.”
Humber altered the record books, his performance the 18th no-hitter in White Sox franchise history and the third perfect game for Chicago.
A few thousand miles away, the scene at Fenway couldn’t have been more opposite as the heinous loss dropped the Red Sox to 4-10 on the season leaving those in the New England region frowning while those in Chicago, and even Seattle, smiled.
The Yankees 15-9 victory also required a re-write of the record book as it marked the fifth time in franchise history in which New York has overcame a 9-run deficit, the third time against Boston alone. The last time the Sox surrendered a nine-run lead to the Yanks came in June, 1987. Saturday’s game tied the biggest comeback in Yankees history as well. The pitching line for the Boston bullpen? 3 IP, 12 H, 14 R, 13 ER, 5 BB, 2 K. YIKES.
Reports out of Boston claim a closed-door meeting with Valentine, GM Ben Cherington and team owner John Henry took place after the game.
The knockout combo of a perfect game and epic failure couldn’t be more perfect for the game of baseball at this moment as the start of the season had yet to deliver substantial drama. Ironically, the Red Sox were the first team to provide any real regular season intrigue as Valentine got the pot to a slow boil after publicly criticizing Kevin Youkilis, but that was small potatoes compared to Saturday’s stunner.
The fire and ice we experienced Saturday left fans wanting more, which is exactly the kickstart baseball needed in April.
Sad news coming from the Netherlands Monday morning as Seattle Mariners outfielder Greg Halman has been killed, reportedly stabbed to death by his brother.
According to the Associated Press, “Rotterdam Police spokeswoman Patricia Wessels said police were called to a home in the port city in the early hours of the morning and found the 24-year-old Dutch player bleeding from a stab wound. The officers and ambulance paramedics were unable to resuscitate Halman.”
Wessels said Halman’s 22-year-old brother was arrested but did not release his name, in accordance with Dutch privacy laws. Although publicly stating the brother of the victim is the suspect pretty much narrows it down.
Halman’s death comes on the same day that Mariners-great Ken Griffey Jr. turned 42 years old.
As a rookie in 2011 Halman played all three outfield positions and hit .230 in 35 games with the Mariners before being optioned to Triple-A Tacoma and, “returning home to the Netherlands to prepare for a shot at earning a full-time job in Seattle’s outfield,” according to the Mariners website.
The AP reports that Halman was in Europe participating in the European Big League Tour where players held baseball clinics for kids. The tour was organized by Baltimore Orioles pitcher Rick Van den Hurk who is also dutch.
Here are some tweets from the baseball community:
(Mariners Outfielder Casper Wells) @UpstateBaller: Good men must die, but death cannot kill their names ~proverb. I won’t forget you brother. Rest in peace Greg.
(Mariners First Baseman Mike Carp) @CarpusMaximus20: Hard to process such a tragedy. Thoughts and prayers are with the Halman and Mariners Family Right now. You’ll be missed Brother Love You
(Mariners Pitcher David Aardsma) @TheDA53: Greg everyday would try to teach me something new in dutch. It was fun everyday trying to figure out what he was saying.
(Diamondbacks pitcher Jarrod Parker) @JarrodBParker: R.I.P. Greg Halman speechless after hearing about this… Condolences to family and friends
(Mariners Third Baseman Matt Mangini) @Mangini_Matt: RT @ashleymroth: There was a rainbow this morning beyond Left Field at Cheney Stadium. RIP Greg Halman. http://t.co/kUU93ul
(Fox Sports writer and broadcaster Jon Morosi) @jonmorosi: Stunned today by the death of Greg Halman at age 24. Such tragic news. He was a great ambassador for baseball in Europe. #Mariners
Click here for the Seattle Mariners official press release on the death of Greg Halman: http://seattle.mariners.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20111121&content_id=26015348&vkey=news_sea&c_id=sea
Click here for an interesting look at how Halman played a crucial role in the emergence of Dutch baseball: http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20111121&content_id=26017014&vkey=news_sea&c_id=sea&partnerId=rss_sea&utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter
Updated 2:27pm EST: From the LA Times,
"A Venezuelan police Twitter feed says: “State law enforcement officials confirm ballplayer Ramos alive," according to the Washington Post.
Venezuelan officials said Thursday that they found the vehicle Ramos’ kidnappers used to abduct him. The Ramos family, which had not been contacted by the kidnappers, urged the public to stay calm.”
Between Joe Paterno’s firing and the NBA lockout, a major news story has slipped through the cracks. Washington Nationals starting catcher Wilson Ramos was kidnapped in Valencia, Venezuela on Wednesday.
The 24-year-old Venezuela native was abducted from his mother’s home in the Santa Ines sector of Valencia by four gunmen, according to El Nacional newspaper, and while the police were notified, the family was still awaiting word from the kidnappers as of Wednesday night.
Many Major League Baseball players are Venezuela natives and participate in Winter League play there. Valencia is the hometown of both Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez and Yankees catcher Francisco Cerevelli
Ramos’ Winter League team, Tigres de Aragua confirmed the kidnapping on their twitter page. Ramos had yet to play for the Venezuelan team.
In 113 games for the Nationals this year, Ramos batted .267, with 15 home runs and 52 RBI.
According to the Washington Post, “The Caracas newspaper, El Universal, reported in its online edition that the kidnappers had driven past the Ramos home twice before finally stopping and forcing Ramos into the vehicle. The catcher and his family had been just outside the house, enjoying the early evening, when the gunmen arrived.”
Officials have since found the SUV in which Ramos was taken, abandoned in a nearby town. Police are reportedly processing evidence from the vehicle.
While kidnappings of athletes and their family members is nothing new in Venezuela, the outcomes of such cases have varied.
In 2009, the 11-year-old son of then-Rockies catcher Yorvit Torrealba, along with two of the boy’s uncles, were kidnapped in Venezuela and returned safely after Torrealba paid a ransom.
The ending wasn’t a happy one for Diamondbacks catcher Henry Blanco, playing for the Cubs in 2008 when his brother Carlos was kidnapped and murdered in Venezuela. Carlos was shot to death, despite the fact that Henry negotiated with the kidnappers who were seeking ransom.
According to David Brown of Yahoo Sports, ” Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus has some thoughts on this, including this note: Venezuela has the highest kidnapping rate in the world.”
Regarding the fans at baseball games in Venezuela, Ramos told the Washington Examiner’s Brian McNally, “The fans in the stands, there are a lot of good ones. A lot of them understand that it’s a sport. But during the game when they drink and they get drunk they forget everything — they boo you if you’re not hitting, or make errors. Everybody wants to kill you.”
According to the Washington Post article by Adam Kilgore and Juan Forero, “Many of the kidnappings that take place in the country are so-called “express” kidnappings, in which armed men drive a victim around and take money from him before releasing him. The Department of State crime and safety report stated that “groups that specialize in these types of crimes operate with impunity or fear of incarceration.”
As of 3:55am EST, I have yet to see any further updates on Ramos’ whereabouts or whether or not his family has heard from the kidnappers. Hopefully this incident is indeed an “express” kidnapping and Ramos will be returned to his family soon and safely.
For more on the Ramos kidnapping and the history of kidnapping in Venezuela, here’s the link to the Washington Post article cited in the above blog post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/washington-nationals-catcher-wilson-ramos-kidnapped-in-venezuela/2011/11/09/gIQAS8tz6M_story.html
After eight seasons and a World Series championship, Ozzie Guillen is the Chicago White Sox manager no more. According to ESPN.com, Guillen, whose contract was set to expire after the 2012 season, had said he did not want to stay with the White Sox unless the team offered him an extension. Apparently the team wasn’t willing to give Guillen what he wanted, so they cut him loose, allowing him to fill the vacancy in Miami as the Marlins skipper.
While the headline reads “White Sox Grant Ozzie Guillen Release,” it’s a bit more complicated than that. Guillen’s contract stipulates that if he takes another managing gig before the expiration of his current contract (in 2012), Chicago has the right to compensation. Therefor, the Marlins are sending two minor league players to the Windy City.
If you ask me, we have ourselves a good old fashioned trade. I did a double take when I read “Guillen Traded” on twitter. But then I thought back to various sports documentaries and specials on certain teams, history, etc. that I’ve watched over the years, and I remembered that this wasn’t the first time my dog ears went up for this reason. Coaches and managers did in fact get traded for players, money, etc., back in the old days.
But the last example of this wasn’t so long ago. Remember when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers plucked Jon Gruden from the Raiders sideline back in 2002? Oakland let go of Gruden in exchange for several draft picks over the next few years. We all know what happened next… In a strange twist of fate, Gruden’s new Bucs beat his old Raiders in the Super Bowl.
Gruden wasn’t the only trade that went down in Tampa in 2002. The Mariners sent Lou Pinella packing to the then-Devil Rays for outfielder Randy Winn. Seattle got the better of that deal as the Mariners had a few subsequent winning seasons.
Oakland Athletics’ manager Chuck Tanner was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates for catcher Manny Sanguillen and some cold hard cash in 1977. Tanner’s Pirates won the World Series in 1979.
In the first mano a mano Manager trade in MLB history, the Detroit Tigers swapped Joe Gordon for Cleveland Indians skipper Jimmy Dykes.
Interesting coincidence that while trades involving managers are extremely rare, it has happened multiple times, and in different sports, in both Oakland and Tampa. Not to mention the fact that two men involved in manager trades basically share a name in Guillen/Sanguillen.