Let me say up front that this is going to be a little bit different than the first 4,394,537 stories in the series. Yes, of course, we’ll go over all the two-homer hitters — there were six of them — because this is my life and my haunted destiny.
But Saturday night our pal Mike Schur was color commentator with Jason Benetti for the Angels-White Sox game. This led to me watching nine innings of Angels and White Sox baseball. I do not believe I have watched nine innings of either team in at least five years.
So, yeah, for you Angels and White Sox fans I have some random thoughts. You deserve that! Who knows, I might make “random game of the day” a regular feature here.*
*Note to self: Stop volunteering for series. This isn’t the first I’ve told you.
And, obviously, we have to offer a review of Mike’s broadcasting.
Let’s quickly do the homers first. We are now at 34 straight games, and this is the fifth straight day that Baseball smashed the all-time record. On Friday night, it came down to the last game and the grandson of an icon … on Saturday, New York’s two-homer master Gleyber Torres ended all suspense about 12 minutes after the baseball day started. Before the day was done, five more players had two-homer games.
We’re now up to 102 players who have had two homer games during the streak.
I continue to feel ready to walk into the sea.
— Gleyber Torres’ two homers came in the Yankees’ 6-5 victory over Cleveland. It was Torres’ seventh two-homer game of the season, his ninth overall, and he’s not yet 23 years old. Also, you might remember, the Yankees got him by loaning Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs for a couple of months before signing him back. This must be said every single time Gleyber Torres’ name comes up.
Gleyber leads baseball now with those seven two-homer games. We might want to call the two-homer games “Gleybers” in the way we call three-homer games “Mookies.”
Most two-homer games in 2019:
Gleyber Torres, 7 games
Nelson Cruz, 6 games
Franmil Reyes, Hunter Renfroe, Josh Bell, Christian Yelich, 5 games
— In the zany Brewers-Nationals game — which went 14 innings and ended with the Brewers winning 15-14 — there were 11 home runs. Are you ready for today’s weird but freaky stat? There have been just 26 games in baseball history where each team hit at least four homers and combined for 10 or more home runs.
Six of those 26 games have happened this year, which is crazy but you already know that this is a crazy home run year.
But here’s the big one: We’ve had one of those games in EACH OF THE LAST THREE DAYS.
On Thursday, Houston and Oakland each hit five homers.
On Friday, San Francisco and Arizona each hit SIX homers, only the second time that’s ever happened.
On Saturday, the Brewers hit seven home runs and the Nationals hit four.
We’re running out of exclamation points for this season.
Anyway, the aforementioned Yelich and his teammate Ryan Braun each hit two homers for the Brewers.
Yelich is hitting .333/.422/.699 (leading the league in all three splits), he has 41 home runs and has an outside shot at the triple crown (he’s nine RBIs behind the lead). And, I do not believe he will win the MVP award. It will actually an interesting race because of the ways Baseball Reference and Fangraphs clash over WAR … but we’ll get to that in our next installment. We’ve got to get to the White Sox-Angels game.
Ryan Braun now has 340 career home runs. That number surprises me, but honestly I’m not sure if I expected more or less.
— Colorado’s Ryan McMahon hit two homers in the Rockies’ 11-4 victory over Miami. McMahon now has five home runs in his last five games.
— Yordan Álvarez. I mean … Yordan Álvarez. Ridiculous doesn’t even begin to cover this guy. He hit two homers in the Astros’ loss to Oakland, and it’s the second time in a week, and his numbers are so cartoonish that frankly there should be a thought bubble with “$^#&$&(#” over his head every minute of every day.
Instead of giving you his numbers over 52 games let me just tell you what they’d be when projected over 162 games (even though projecting stats drives our pal Tango crazy):
Yordan Álvarez: 162 games, 694 PAs, 598 ABs — .344/.426/.719 with 106 runs, 206 hits, 47 doubles, 59 homers, 171 RBIs.
— Texas’ Danny Santana hit two home runs in the Rangers’ loss to the Twins. Santana has bounced around the game — he was signed by the Twins, traded to the Braves and this year at age 28 he signed with the Rangers. Before this season, he hit .256/.292/.375 with 13 homers in 364 games. This year, he’s hitting .309/.338/.584 (!) with 21 homers.
Well, everyone is.
This is Santana’s second two-homer game of the streak.
OK, the fantastic White Sox play-by-play announcer, Jason Benetti, is trying an experiment this weekend where he is having special guest color commentators for each game in the series against the Angels. On Friday, he had Bill Walton and it was every bit as trippy and Woodstocky as you might have expected. Walton talked about Studs Terkel. I think that’s about all you need to know.
Saturday, it was PosCast co-host (and I guess he’s done some stuff in television) Mike Schur in the booth. Because of this, I watched the White Sox-Angels game from beginning to end which would NEVER have happened; maybe the way for Baseball to draw more people is to put all of our our personal friends in the booth every night.
So here are are a whole bunch of thoughts about the Angels and White Sox and Mike in the booth.
— My favorite Mike line of the night was when he said that the Angels’ Kole Calhoun is the player who looks the most like his name. This is utterly brilliant. If you saw this photo, you absolutely would say to yourself: “That guy looks like a Kole Calhoun.”
— Chicago shortstop Tim Anderson is a joy to watch play baseball. There’s a wonderful smoothness about everything he does. He’s having a good year — he’s hitting .329 and slugging .490 and he has stolen 16 bases, and so on. And we all know about his early season bat flip that exploded the heads of baseball traditionalists everywhere. He’s also one of this year’s many PosCast Players as he attempts to become the first player in a good while to walk 11 or fewer times in a full season. He has walked 10 times this year, so it will take a Tito Fuentesian effort to keep his season total under 11, but he has a shot.
But the thing I realized watching Anderson on Saturday is that he’s a fun defender to watch. I don’t know that he’s a terrific defender — Dewan has him four defensive runs saved below average, he was average last year — but he moves so gracefully, and he throws with a casual flick of the wrist that seems like a magic trick. There are just some players who have that baseball charisma. I’d watch Anderson night after night.
— Mike and Jason had a most excellent discussion about the difference between a batter LINING a ball the opposite way and SERVING a ball the opposite way. Mike thinks it comes down to launch angle and exit velocity (with a serve being higher and slower) while Jason argues that the type of swing also matters (with a serve being a more controlled swing).
They are both somewhat right. But the glossary, as every knows, is this:
A batter LINES a ball the other way by hitting it so hard that speed is its defining factor (it is possible to line a ball right at a defender for an out).
A batter SERVES a ball the other way by hitting a single (a “serve” is always a single) that drops well behind the infielder and well in front of the outfielder. In a proper serve, neither the infielder or outfielder has a chance to make the play.
A batter BLOOPS a ball the other way by hitting a single or double (A “bloop” is always a hit) JUST over the infielder’s head. A proper bloop will have the infielder and pitcher hitting their gloves in disgust.
A batter FIGHTS OFF a ball the other way by hitting a ball that the outfielder dives for; sometimes the outfielder catches it and sometimes not.
— I want to say again (I have said this many times before but it must be repeated) that it is utterly heartbreaking to watch this version of Albert Pujols play baseball. He’s helpless out there. I think he was minus-2.4 WAR in Saturday’s game alone. It was awful.
In the bottom of the first inning, he came up with the bases loaded and poked the feeblest imaginable grounder back to the pitcher for a double play (Pujols was thrown out by roughly 68 feet).
In the second inning, Eloy Jiminez dribbled a ground ball by Pujols for a single.
In the sixth, Pujols hit a ground ball to shortstop and Anderson waited like 15 minutes before throwing him out at first.
In the seventh, Pujols could not chase down a foul pop-up that, as Mike said, any other first baseman in baseball probably would have caught.
In the bottom of the inning, the White Sox intentionally walked the appropriately named “Kole Calhoun,” just to get to Pujols, and the player once known as The Machine struck out with the bases loaded on a slider that started a foot outside the strike zone and ended up two feet outside.
It was like watching Willie Mays fall down in the outfield over and over and over again. Pujols is one of the greatest players in baseball history. We are going to get our Baseball 100 series started again this week — the two homer series has been crushing me — and I can tell you that Pujols is incredibly high on the list. He’s one of the five greatest players I’ve seen in my lifetime. So this is painful for me to watch. That doesn’t matter, of course. I just hope he still loves being out there.
— Eloy Jimenez hits baseballs very hard.
— Have you seen Los Angeles’ David Fletcher play? It’s incredible: This guy IS David Eckstein. If I have one beef with Mike and Jason’s call on Saturday it is that neither one of them mentioned it. Fletcher is a 5-foot-9 scrapper who plays every position, hits lots of singles and doubles and throws as if the baseball weighs 7.260 kilograms. That’s Eck! It’s uncanny. Eckstein’s name came up a couple of times during the game because of the famous Parks and Recreation law firm: “Fwar, Dips, Winshares, Gritt, Babip, Pecota, Vorp & Eckstein.”
How could they miss a reincarnation of Eckstein right there in front of them?
— I was entirely unaware of how much fun it is to watch Angels’ closer Hansel Robles pitch. There’s a whole ceremony thing with him that, again, I was entirely unaware of because I never make it to the end of an Angels game. Best I can tell, he comes out of the bullpen to the music used by The Undertaker. The people who brought you the Rally Monkey decided to combine this music with some sort of horse theme for reasons that are not immediately apparent, but this leads to someone dressed up as the Undertaker Horse glaring out at everyone.
I remind myself: Not everything needs to make sense.
BUT, Robles himself — what fun. The guy has three pitches:
A bullet 98-mph fastball that, best I can tell, is as straight as Highway 46 in North Dakota.
A wild change-up that fluctuates between unhittable and hospitable.
A slider that that bends when and how it wants to bend.
Robles himself seems to be simultaneously in love and in dispute with each of these pitches, and he adds to the fun by changing his windup on each pitch. Now he’s quick pitching. Now he’s holding his leg in the air for 5 seconds on a hesitation pitch. Every at-bat is like an Indiana Jones movie.
On Saturday, he had a delightful nine-pitch battle with Leury Garcia which he ended by sneaking that super-straight 98-mph fastball over the outside corner for strike three looking. Then he had another delightful seven-pitch battle with Tim Anderson which ended with a quick pitch and a ground ball to short on super-close play at first base. The play was reviewed and Anderson was called out, but I’m not 100 percent sure he was out.
In either case, do yourself a favor and catch some Hansel Robles. He’s like an amusement park ride.
— There were several references to Mike’s haunting and heartbreaking portrayal of the tormented character Mose on the gritty police drama “The Office.” This included repeated showings of Mose throwing manure patties.
There was also lots of talk about beards because of Mose’s neckbeard and that did lead to them showing this person in the stands:
Mike and Jason rightly made the point that this guy could be used as a weapon.
A bit later, Mike heartily repeated his now famous absurdity that fruit pies are disgusting, and it was good for all those White Sox fans who were up past midnight watching this game to fully appreciate just how insane he is.
— On Friday night, Bill Walton compared White Sox catcher Welington Castillo to Usain Bolt, despite the fact that Castillo is a plodding 5-foot-10, 220 pound catcher with one career triple. Mike and Jason picked this up on Saturday but failed to mention my favorite Castillo fact: He has stolen five bases in his career without being caught.
— The whole broadcast was a blast. Mike already has like 10 regrets and complaints about his own broadcasting, which is obvious for one of the co-founders of Fire Joe Morgan.
But I thought it was mostly great. Sure, it went off-track now and again and they didn’t spend nearly enough time talking about the wonderful Angels logo with the halo sort of resting on top of the A like it was part of a ring toss game.
I love that so much. But I love the 1971 logo even more.
But, to our point, the broadcast, the random discussions, the odd interludes, the talk about how wonderful a game baseball is, all of it reminded me of something that baseball too often forgets: This is supposed to be fun. One of the great wonders of baseball is that every game DOES NOT matter. Yes, we hear people complain about the length of the season, but that’s also baseball’s great strength — the games keep coming, one after another, and every team wins 50 games and every team loses 50 games, and there’s always tomorrow. You don’t have to live and die with each play like in football. You can relax. You can enjoy.
Jason gets this. I made the joke above about how baseball can reach new fans by simply having their good friend call games … but there’s SOMETHING to this. No, maybe you can’t have a brilliant comedy writer in the booth every night. But you can loosen up. Have a conversation. Argue about silly baseball things like the difference between a serve and line drive or and more serious baseball things like whether or not the home run explosion will help or hurt baseball in the long run. Be quirky because baseball is a quirky game. Tell stories.
And mostly: Don’t be afraid to say how awesome it all is. Mike talked a lot on Saturday about HOW MUCH FUN it is to watch Mike Trout play baseball. That seems so obvious and yet you don’t hear people on broadcasts say it much. Obviously, they talk about how good he is, but that’s not exactly the same thing.
Mike was overjoyed to be in the booth, overjoyed to watch baseball players do these incredible things, overjoyed just to be hanging out and talking ball.
More of that, please.