Monday, June 08, 2009
Well, that’s enough of that. And that. And especially that. Back to serious stuff – softball and horse racing.
Three weeks ago, my softball team, the Bombers, faced their most serious test of the season. We played the Titans, overwhelming favorites to win the league title almost every year I’ve been in the league. In the Preakness Stakes, Mine That Bird faced Rachel Alexandra, with the filly the overwhelming favorite.
The Bombers and Mine That Bird came up short that weekend. The Titans won both softball games, while Rachel Alexandra won the Preakness.
Since that time, the Bombers have won a couple of games and now have another chance against top competition. Sitting in third place, with a record of 4 and 2, we will play the Reds, currently in second place with a record of 5 and 1. Mine That Bird, meanwhile, has regained jockey Calvin Borel on his back and Rachel Alexandra is not competing at the mile-and-a-half.
We are both well-placed and of a better frame of mind. Neither of us is facing competition as stiff as we faced at that time.
Three weeks ago, despite his defeat in the Preakness, I declared that Mine That Bird would definitely win The Belmont. I also said that the Bombers, despite their losses to the Titans, could most definitely play with that team, the greater meaning being that we could win the league.
Now we get to find out if I was right in either case.
Mine That Bird did NOT win The Belmont. At the sixteenth pole, Calvin Borel had him at the lead, and it appeared that he might be able to pull away. However, Calvin MAY have made his move to the lead just a tad too early – and he had to ride Mine That Bird on a bit more of an outside route than he would have liked, no doubt – and the 12-1 shot, the similarly-named and therefore somehow not aesthetically pleasing in a poetic sense, Summer Bird, came from behind to win. Mine That Bird finished third.
The good news is that I saved some money. I was going to lay a few bob on Mine That Bird’s nose, but that was when I expected Rachel Alexandra to be an entry and Mine That Bird to go off at 4-1 or so. With her out of the race, Mine That Bird went off as the 6-5 favorite, too low of a return for my taste. So, I didn’t bet and I didn’t lose (which is, for most folks, myself included, usually the best way to approach the pari-mutuel wars; imagine yourself making all sorts of wagers and treat yourself to a nice ice cream sundae when you realize how much money you’ve saved by not really betting.)
I’m hoping we have a better day versus the Reds than Mine That Bird had at the Belmont. Whatever happens, I’ll probably have an ice cream sundae. This is because I know how to live. It will be sweeter, of course, if we win.
BOMBERS – 14 Reds – 13
Reds – 11 BOMBERS – 9
Odd doubleheader. We got out to a huge lead in the first game and hung on. We trailed 11-6 into our final at-bats in the second game, scored three and had the bases loaded with one out, but came up short.
My first four times as a batter resulted in 2 hits and 2 walks, so I had a streak of 11 consecutive plate appearances without making an out. My final three at-bats, including one with the previously mentioned bases loaded, sucked. Soft liner that the pitcher knocked down and then threw me out at first, and two cans of corn to the center fielder.
The final at-bat is still sticking in my craw. As I say, we had climbed back to within two runs. Bases loaded, two outs, and the Reds were giving me a vast amount of right field to work with, and that’s my meat. All I have to do is drop the ball into right. A single will tie the game and something more will give us the win. On a 2-2 count, the pitcher gives me one on the outside. That’s what I’m looking for. I swing.
Easy high fly to center. Ball game.
I’m trying to figure if I was just so anxious for that pitch I got out in front of it, or if maybe it was high and I should have let it go. Or maybe both. In any case, I didn’t get the job done and it will bother me until next Sunday.
(That’s the problem with playing one doubleheader a week. When you have a poor game, you don’t get a chance to get out there again in a day or two and get the bad taste out of your mouth.)
My fielding in game two was also something out of Mine That Bird’s ass. Two errors, one absolutely unforgivable. The first was a somewhat hard grounder, so OK, nobody’s perfect. The second, though, was a routine throw from Jack Atton at third and I just plain dropped it. That gave the Reds an immediate run and a shot at two more, which they then proceeded to cash in on. So, in my mind, between the bad fielding plays and leaving three men on in my final at-bat, I’m responsible for us losing that second game.
(It’s a team sport. I know that. But if I’m not willing to take the blame, then I’m a shitty teammate. Is that understandable? It’s dead clear in MY mind. Sure, since I score twice in the first game and we win by one run, yada yada yada, I could take some credit for the win in that one. But it’s the circumstances that bug me and make me take more blame than credit. In the first game, my contributions were just part of the continuous flow of the game and were important only in retrospect. The second game situations were clear cut as they happened, called for specific actions, and I didn’t make them.)
To top off my bad attitude, my left knee is killing me. I jammed it a couple of times while running. On the good side, Jason Atton gave me two little teddy bears because of THIS. Well, it's kind of on the good side... I appreciated the funny gesture, but the rest of the guys looked at me kind of weird when Jason was handing me teddy bears on the bench.
Let me send out the kudos for some guys.
Buddy Carchide, our pitcher in game two, is really good. He’s been getting some kind of crappy defense behind him, though, including mine. There were a few bad throws, a missed catch (mine), and blown grounders (mine and one or two others.) Just hideous. He deserved much better than to be hung with a loss in that game.
On offense, Cam Zirpolo is a dandy young hitter. He went 6-for-7, including a home run. Ron Johnson, the oldest player on the team (he’ll love being singled out that way, but I just want it in print that he’s even more ancient than I am) had a swell day, 5-for-7. Pat Atton had a really nice game two, with three hits (he sat in game one.)
We added a couple of good players this week, Mark Bates and his buddy Tom. I played for three years with Mark on weekdays before I started limiting myself to just Sundays. He’s a great all-around player, especially smart. I don’t know as much about Tom, but what I’ve seen impresses me. In game one, they were the middle infield, turning two double plays that I was fortunate enough to be the tail end on. Defensively, those guys were big-time rally killers, and we don’t win game one without those nice plays. There’s some question about them being able to make enough games to qualify for the playoffs, though, as a player needs to appear in at least half of his team’s games to be eligible. They might not be able to make both ends of the doubleheaders, and they pretty much need to do so. I hope they can. Good guys, good players.
The Bombers are hitting hell out of the ball, getting good pitching, and have added a couple of superior defensive players. We’re sitting in a tie for third, I believe (don’t have all of the scores yet.) We have the tools to make a serious run at the championship. I want it so bad, and that’s why it bugs me when I have a chance to bring us a step closer and don’t get the job done.
Next week, Jim. Next week.
I’m going to a benefit for Pitching In For Kids tonight - gave you details about that HERE - and that should be fun. Maybe I’ll get a chance to talk to Jason Varitek, show him how crappy my knees are, and scare him about his future. Then, Tuesday night, I’m going to the Sox-Yanks game with my cousin, David. So, busy (but fun) times, and there will be little possibility for me to write up anything for a couple of days. I’ll tell you all about those events late in the week.
ADDENDUM: A protest concerning the first game was filed by the Reds. So far as I know, the result is now being held up. More as I get it.
ADDITIONAL ADDENDUM: The Commissioner upheld the Reds protest. Game one will be picked up from where it left off - Bombers leading, 14 - 13, top of seventh. This extra play will likely occur on the final day of the regular season, when we are likely to have another game versus the Reds scheduled.
(Final day is a round-robin for playoff seeding. I expect that both teams will be in the "A" group of 1 through 4 finishers, and thus playing each other that day.)
The protest concerned a time limit, for those interested. League rules state that no inning may begin after 10:20 for the first game, and after 11:50 for the second game. The sixth inning of game one was completed and then the Reds took the field for the seventh at a slight bit past 10:20. We contended the game was done. The Reds felt that they had taken the field prior to the time limit. The umpire was one who did not usually work our league, and this is a league rule, obviously, not an ASA rule. Thus, he was unaware of the impending time limit and somewhat flummoxed as to what to call when presented with both team's pleas. Whichever way he called it, the other team would have filed a protest. He ruled the game over. Reds protested and got a re-scheduling of the final inning.
Eh. I have no great problem with this. It - the original ending to the game - was just the slightest bit on the chickenshit side of things, for my taste. It was right on the time limit and I'm sure, if roles had been reversed, we would have tried to get that final inning in, too.