Home MLB'Weekly' Hit Ground Ball Week 3

Week 3

by Matt Smith

Weekly hit ground ball always tries to look at the funnier side of the game and this week there has been plenty of topics to choose from. Week three was the week of Pizza and the Phillies.

Science lesson of the week – The aerodynamics of a slice of pizza had never really caught my attention until the Pizza Patriot day game at Fenway. I’m no expert, but I think the pointy end enables it to cut through the air with remarkable ease. It certainly was a graceful arc and you have to credit the guy’s accuracy. It landed up “sauce first” for maximum effect, as the commentators on NESN explained (more on them in a moment). Continuing my physics lesson, I would surmise that this is because the sauce side is heavier and therefore it naturally spins and falls down that way, just like when you drop a bit of toast and it always lands on the buttered side. If anyone decides to test this theory (i.e. by chucking a pizza slice fifty times and recording how often it lands sauce side up) do let me know how you get on, but don’t send me the bill.

Commentators of the week – It has to be the guys at NESN. If you haven’t heard them, search for “red sox pizza” on Youtube and click the four minute clip. The helpless giggling when they come back from the advert break is probably the best bit, but they throw in a few good lines as well. Suggesting that the guy will be sentenced to “ten to life” was a particular favourite, especially as they then cut to the evidence sitting on the wall. However, I have to call one part of their analysis into question. They seemed to be at a loss as to why he threw the pizza at all, claiming it was an unprovoked attack. Not so. The Red Sox fan committed the cardinal error: he spilt his pint and he dropped the catch. Sacrificing your pint to make the catch is allowable. Letting the ball go to save your beer is probably the noble thing to do. But, as any cricket fan will tell you, spilling both the beer and the ball is completely unacceptable. A schoolboy error if I ever saw one. You can wipe the pizza stains off your jacket mate, but the stain of shame will never go away.

“Fight! Fight! Fight!” moment of the week
– Charlie Manuel is a man under pressure and as everyone knows (more science for you) unless the pressure is released slowly it will eventually build and build until it bursts out. After another defeat on Tuesday night, Manuel lost his temper with radio host Howard Eskin. Following a few verbals, Manuel decided to play “Challenge Charlie” and told Eskin to meet him at his office, stating: “I don’t like what you’ve been saying about me for three years and I’m gonna’ drop your ass right there”! Two coaches allegedly had to hold Manuel back.

“The Kevin Keegan” award – Charlie walks away with two awards this week. For the non-Brits, Kevin Keegan was a football (soccer) manager who publicly cracked under the pressure of a title race with Man Utd. Keegan, always a man who wore his heart on his sleeve, infamously was recorded on a radio interview gradually losing his composure until, on the verge of tears, he proclaimed: “I would love it if we beat them, LOVE IT!”. Manuel’s threats of violence were worthy of a laugh, but it was his reaction to Eskin’s statement that he just wanted was to see the Phillies winning that reminded me of Keegan. Manuel’s reply was to scream out loud “we’re going to win!”. There’s something about such desperation that somehow makes it funny.

When good closers turn bad – Mariano Rivera is undoubtedly a future Hall of Famer, but his start to 2007 will probably be left off his resume. In his first save opportunity of the season he gave up a walk-off three run homer to the A’s Marco Scutaro. On Friday he was sent in by Joe Torre for save opportunity number two, this time against the Red Sox. You know the rest: his second blown save and second loss of the season was the end result. Meanwhile, Rivera’s former set-up man, Tom Gordon, isn’t exactly making Yankees fans wish they had kept him when he left for the Phils (them again) before the 2006 season. On the same night as Mariano was blowing-up in Boston, Gordon was getting hammered by the Reds to also record his second blown save of the season. Charlie Manuel stated after the game that he would not be used again on Saturday, but fortunately he wasn’t needed …

Fantasy performance of the week – Cole Hamels has sneaked in at the last moment to grab this award with his performance last night against the Reds. Nine innings, fifteen strikeouts and a win gives you fifty-nine points in FBUK. And in the real world that one win counts for a lot considering the Phillies’ start to the season. All those Manuel fearing radio hosts should also say thanks to Hamels for cooling down Charlie for one night at least.

Play of the week – It’s the Phillies again. Cole Hamels was terrific, but even in a great outing you often need a little bit of luck to go your way. With two on and no one out in the fifth inning, the Phils turned a 5-4-3 triple play to shut the door on the Reds. “That’s a double play ball” said the commentator. Charlie may be after him for being so pessimistic.

Pet event of the week – Finally, away from the Phillies and Pizza stories, Friday was Dog day at Shea Stadium. Apparently they hold a twice yearly event to raise the profile of animal shelters (and to raise a bit of money as well). One bloke was a bit overenthusiastic, claiming that his Chihuahua would “like to challenge Jose Reyes to a race” and that “he’d like to teach Reyes something about speed.” Pushy parents are one thing, but pushy dog owners? He’ll be on Pup Idol next.

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