Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Monday Softball Diary - July 4th Break

It’s 10:45 on Saturday night. I figure I’ll write about the Flames two victories this week and maybe that will put me into the right frame of mind for tomorrow’s two Bombers games versus the Titans.

The Red Sox just finished losing to the Texas Rangers. Back in the 8th inning, about 45 minutes ago, I had put on a kettle of water to make a pot of coffee. I promptly forgot about it. So, after I turned on the computer and waited for it to boot, I went out into the kitchen to get a drink. It was steamy enough in there to peel wallpaper.

The kettle had been boiling for about 40 minutes. Good thing I decided to write this, rather than just going to bed. Is it a portent of things to come? And, if so, is it a good omen or a bad omen? I mean, the kettle was almost boiled dry. That could be a metaphor for what little remains in my own tank. But I shut off the heat before the whole freakin’ house went up in smoke, so maybe I’ve got enough left to actually get through the rest of the season before I crash and burn.

(I’m really stretching this thin, huh? OK, let’s get on with it.)

FLAMES – 14 Robinson/Paige – 6
FLAMES – 11 Drive – 9

We’re back on the winning track, obviously. These two wins got us to .500 again and put us in sole possession of third place. Here are the standings:

                   W  L  GB  Flames vs.

Warriors 11 3 - 0-2
Hawks 11 3 - 0-3
FLAMES 7 7 4 -
Robinson-Paige 6 8 5 2-1
Drive 6 8 5 3-0
Ghost Riders 1 13 10 2-1


There are six games left in the regular season. One more win (or one more loss by the Ghost Riders) clinches a playoff spot for us.

I wish I could say that my own performance was instrumental in these victories, but I can’t. I was just a little bit short of pitiful. I reached base twice on walks, but other than that, I was one-for-six, striking out three times. I don’t think I had one good swing in all eight at-bats.

I’ve got to readjust my stance. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m so coiled up and scrunched down, looking to draw walks, that I can’t release my swing with any authority at all. If I’m not drawing the walk, I’m dead meat. So, I’m going to have to give the pitcher more target in exchange for my loosening up. What I’ve been doing is keeping my right elbow in, holding the bat level and back, while bending my right knee very low and leaning back in an exaggerated fashion. It’s worked to draw a lot of bases-on-balls, but I can’t afford to be in such a vulnerable position if a pitcher gets the ball over the plate, which is what happened the last two games. So, I’m going to get my right elbow away from my side, bring the bat up a bit, balance my stance and look to grab a little power by bending both knees and coming up on my swing. I should be able to get some arm extension on the follow-through and not leave myself vulnerable to the low outside corner as I’ve been doing. I’ll try it out on Sunday and we’ll see what happens.

Enough about my crappy play. There were some really swell performances by my teammates, so let’s talk about them.

Carl Hyman has been Mr. Consistent all year. He’s a heck of a fine all-around ballplayer, with a good arm, decent range in the outfield, and the ability to hit for average as well as power. He went 4-for-4 in the Robinson/Paige game, and followed it up with 2-for 2 (plus two walks) in the game against The Drive. A double, a triple and a home run were included in his overall 6-for-6. Carl generally bats #2, while I’ve been batting leadoff. If I had managed to get on base as much as I should have, he would have had more than just 3 RBI to add to his total.

Dave Vargas had a good one against R/P. He went 3-for-4 (including a triple and a home run) with 5 RBI. He’s got more speed than anyone else on the team. He covers so much ground in CF, that he basically took one out of Carl’s glove in left on one play. We gave him a lot of grief for that.

“Hey, Dave, what’s the matter? Don’t you trust Carl?”

“Hey, Carl, Dave is dissing you, man. He doesn’t think you can catch the ball. You shouldn’t have to take that crap from him. Next time you go out on the field, take a bat with you and whack him when he gets near you.”

“Hey, Dave, man, if this was football, you would have been flagged for encroachment.”

And this, from Pete, our manager (while Dave was standing right next to us):

“Sully, how do I score that play? I mean, a fly to left is F-7 and a fly to center is F-8, but the center fielder caught the ball in the left fielder’s territory. I guess I’ve got put it in the book as F-7-and-a-half."

And he actually did, too.

Of course, knowing that you’ve got an outfielder who can basically cover the whole damn field is pretty comforting for our pitchers.

Speaking of pitchers, Jack Atton and Jay Atton both came through with pretty nice games for us. Jack threw the game against R/P, giving up 6 runs in the first inning and then giving them zilch after that. Jay started against The Drive, held them to two runs until tiring in the final inning, and then Jack came in and picked up the save.

Everybody – even my sorry old ass – contributed something to make these two wins happen. It’s a real nice feeling to go into the break on a winning streak, especially when playing for a team that’s having fun and a few laughs while doing so.

FLAMES Statistics

And now, it’s off to bed. Tomorrow, the Bombers play the Titans. We get to find out if we really have what it takes to compete for a championship this year and whether or not my new stance will be any help in doing so.

************************************************************

Titans – 33 BOMBERS – 7
Titans – 20 BOMBERS - 14

The new stance didn’t produce much. I went 0-for-4 with a walk.

The Bombers weren’t good, but we weren’t as bad as those scores look. The first game was out of hand quickly because of some (surprise!) errors. The second game was a one-run affair until the seventh inning. We could play with anybody in the world if we could catch the ball.

That sounds harsh, but I’m including myself in that today so I can say whatever I want. In the continuing quest to see just how many positions I can’t play anymore, I took a shot at left field in game two. I was just as shaky as everybody else we’ve put out there and I wrenched my knee as a bonus.

Prior to the game, I shagged a few flies and felt decent doing so. I mentioned to Jack that I wouldn’t mind going out there in an actual game if he wanted to try that. He took me up on it and there I was to start game two.

I had five balls hit to me. Only one was a possible catch, but I pulled up at the last minute. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t catchable with a dive, but not certain. I just haven’t been out there enough, having not played the outfield in about five years. I had one scoot by me, under my glove, thankfully backed up by Conrad Paquette in left center.

The fifth one was the one that put me out of the game.

It was a sharp hit to left center. I ran over and picked it up on the bounce, stopped, pivoted and threw back to the infield. On the throw, I tried to get a little extra on it and sort of did a jump throw. And my knee didn’t like it, no, not even a little tiny bit. I said a bad word, dropped like I was shot, grabbed my knee, and then generally felt like a fool. I stood up as Jack was getting out to me. I needed to reattach my leg with staples and masking tape, so I did and play continued.

No, just kidding. My leg was still attached, but when I tried to walk a bit, it was obvious I was done. I walked back to the bench, gingerly. As long as I was careful and didn’t make any sudden movements or put a lot of weight on that one leg, it didn’t hurt. After the inning, Jack was making changes to the line-up and inserting someone in my spot as a hitter.

I piped up and said, “I can still hit, Jack.”

(That was a huge lie, since I hadn’t had a hit all day to begin with.)

Jack said, “Yeah?”

The way he said it, I could tell he didn’t believe me. So, I got up off the bench to grab a bat and show him I could swing. As soon as I stood up, my knee buckled. I immediately sat down and said, “Uh, maybe not.”

It was the best thing I did for the team all day. Mike Minchoff, hitting in my spot, went 2-for-2 to finish the game. As previously mentioned, that was two more hits than I had been able to produce in five tries at it.

The ten-day break between games is the best thing that could have happened to me this year. Usually, I’m really pissed at not playing for such a long stretch every July. This year, I not only need the time for my knee to heal, I need the time to clear the stench of my last four games out of my head. I mean, sure, I’m retiring after this year, and I wouldn’t be doing that if I thought I could still play as well as I ever have in the past, but I’ve never had a four-game stretch that stunk this much. I’m truly embarrassed right now and if I hadn’t been producing at such a high rate previously this year, I’d never hit the field again. I’d be ashamed to show my face.

(That sounds way too melodramatic, but it’s true. It’s not just that I’m making outs; it’s the type of outs I’m making. Nothing but weak grounders, pop-ups and strikeouts. Over the last four games, I’m 1-for-10 with three walks. And the one hit was a questionable scoring decision. I really, really need this time off, just to get my head together.)

Again, there are better things to talk about than my shitty game. For one thing, we almost had an on-field brawl with the Titans.

There were a lot of calls going against us in game two. Some were missed big-time by the umpire. Now, I'm willing to cut any umpire some slack in our league because he's just one guy trying to cover the whole field. He's going to miss one every now and then. But after three or four go against you, you start getting frustrated.

There was jabbering back and forth between the Titans bench and our guys. We basically told them to shut up because we were arguing with the ump, not them. Our pitcher in game two, Sandy, started getting into it with Kenny Bean from the Titans. Sandy is not the most complacent guy in the world, so as the exchange continued, he got more and more agitated. Finally, he reared back and threw a fastball at their bench.

(I should note that there's a fence in front of each bench, and Sandy's pitch hit the fence. Nobody was hurt.)

Kenny Bean came off the bench and started towards the mound, while Sandy started towards Kenny Bean. Just about everybody else started towards the two of them, to grab them and keep this thing from getting out of hand. I came off the bench and yelled, "Everybody calm the fuck down!" I wasn't the only one, as this is a very friendly league and the only two who probably wanted a fight were Sandy and Kenny Bean, and maybe even they didn't really want to go at it.

Order was restored and the game went on. The most amazing thing is that the umpire didn't run Sandy. I assumed, as soon as the ball left his hand, that he was gone.

Individual glories:

Conrad Paquette had three more home runs. That gives him eight on the season and ties him for the team single-season record. We have at least six more games to play, so I’m expecting he’ll break that mark with ease. He’s already got 33 RBI, which is just 7 shy of breaking that team record, too. The man can hit.

Mike Minchoff, who replaced me in the second game, had a perfect doubleheader. He went 4-for-4 with a walk. Ron Johnson (the only guy aside from myself to be on this team since it’s start in this league) reached base 5 times in 7 tries. My good buddy, Fred Goodman, went 3-for-3 in the second game – but was out trying to stretch a double into a triple.

(He didn’t slide. He was wearing shorts and his legs were sunburned. You got to slide anyway, Fred. That’s how the game is played. Besides, when you give up the body, the chicks dig it...)

The other half of the Mazel Tov Connection, Eric Rubin, had three solid hits, including a triple he didn’t have to slide for.

(Before anybody gets all PC on me, I’ve called Fred a New York Jew Boy for years and he’s called me a Boston Mick for the same length of time. We love each other. Those are terms of affection for us. And if I’m any judge of Eric’s character, he’s fine with a little ethnicity, too. If he isn’t, I suppose I’ll get a bat upside the head next game. And deserve it, too.)

Last kudos go to Pat Atton, who also had three hits, as well as a walk.

This team hits better, overall, than any Bombers team I’ve been a part of over the 13 seasons we’ve existed. Sad to say, we field about as bad as any team I’ve been a part of, too. Can we start making enough plays in the field to win 3 or 4 more? That’s all we need to make the playoffs. And once we’re in, with our bats, we’ll make a few teams sweat facing us.

(When I say “our bats,” I’m including myself. I’ve got to believe I’ll come back strong after the break. If not, the next thing I’ll be writing here might be a suicide note.)

Titans        10-0
Dot Rats* 6-2
GangGreen* 5-3
Renegades 5-5
Rockies 5-7
Moe Howard* 4-6
BOMBERS 3-7
Bacon* 3-7
Reds 3-7
* = yesterday’s late games not included


My combined stats, at the break, for the season:

G   AB   H   2B  3B  HR  RBI  AVG  BB  K  OB%  SLG%  OPS   R
24 58 25 2 0 0 10 .431 20 6 .577 .466 1.043 35

If you had told me before the season that these would be my stats at the break, I wouldn’t have broken down crying. I wouldn’t have rejoiced, either. All in all, I’m OK with them.

BOMBERS Stats

No games until a week from Tuesday, so no diary next Monday.

Soon, with more better stuff.

2 comments:

Anali said...

Enjoy the break! I hope you heal quickly and do what you have to do when you start up again! ; ) I hope you had a good 4th!

Suldog said...

Thanks, Anali. I hope your 4th was lovely!