My Daily WHY WE LOVE BASEBALL Moment
LOS ANGELES — OK, so what I’m going to do this week is try to come up, every day (best I can), with a moment from the night before that gets at the heart of WHY WE LOVE BASEBALL. Monday night’s moment is easy, because I happened to be at the remarkable Padres-Dodgers game with Molly Knight, Mike Schur, Nick Offerman and the rest.*
*Do you remember when the ‘Gilligan’s Island” song went “With Gilligan, the Skipper too, the millionaire and his wife, the movie star … and the rest are here on Gilligan’s Isle”? I mean, what a slap at the Professor and Mary Ann, I mean, it’s a seven-character show and you’re just cutting two of them out of the song because of, what, time considerations?
There were so many magical moments in this one that I have to go through a few of them before I get to our WWLB moment. For starters … there was a rainbow.
I mean, that’s a nice way to welcome me to L.A. for my book tour; I mean Hollywood does have some amazing special effects people.
Before the game, we asked this question: How many future Hall of Famers were there? We counted four pretty sure ones …
Clayton Kershaw (who was supposed to start, but they held him back)
… plus a 24-year-old player well on his way …
… plus another 24-year-old with breathtaking talent who could put himself back on the HOF track …
Fernando Tatis Jr.
… plus a 30-year-old shortstop who has almost 40 WAR already and can’t be ruled out …
… plus a manager with the highest winning percentage in non-Negro leagues major league history …
Add in a bunch of really, really good players like Will Smith and Just Dingers Martinez and Cy Young candidate Blake Snell and defensive wizard Ha Seong Kim and a slugger who might deposit 40 homers this year in exactly the same spot down the rightfield line, Max Muncy, and the strikeout stylings of Josh Hader, I mean, there was a LOT of star power at this one.
And the star power was very much on display. Muncy did, indeed, deposit another home run to that same spot down the rightfield line — he has now hit 18 of his 35 homers at Dodger Stadium, and I would guess every one of them has hit that same seat.*
*I could actually look up where his 18 home runs have landed, but I’m not gonna.
Machado blasted two home runs through the boos at Dodger Stadium. He’s had a down year by his standards, no question, in part because he has been hampered by a nasty elbow injury that prevents him from throwing the ball and will probably require offseason surgery. And yet, even assuming they shut him down, he will still end up hitting 28 homers, and driving in 84 runs, and putting up 3 or so WAR, even though his defense was limited. People have many different opinions about Machado, but you can set a watch by him.
Juan Soto had the big home run. It came in the ninth inning, when the Dodgers’ defense fell apart — collision and dropped ball in the outfield, completely botched defensive play on a Fernando Tatis Jr. bouncer back to the pitcher* — and up stepped Soto, who since the end of April is hitting .278/.413/.519 and is looking more and more like the star so many of us believe him to be. With a good finish, he will walk more than he strikes out for the fourth consecutive season.
He blasted a 104-mph homer to rightfield.
*I know this has been written about elsewhere, but … official scorers really don’t give out many errors anymore, do they? We’re on pace for the fewest errors per game in the history of baseball, and sure, a lot of that is because there are fewer balls hit in play, and maybe it’s true that fielders are more consistent than they used to be (though I’m skeptical). But, anecdotally, it feels like you have to REALLY mess up a play to get an error. The Tatis bounceback to the mound seemed about as clear an error as it gets — it was an easy one-hopper to the mound, Dodgers pitcher Evan Phillips did not put himself in the best position, but still gloved it and then, somehow, let the ball bounce away. Calling that a hit? I do wonder if at some point baseball simply does away with errors.
Then, even with the Padres up by four runs going into the ninth, there was some fun left to be had. San Diego sent out their closer, Josh Hader, because, I assume, he had not pitched for more than a week. He SEEMED to be throwing his usual devil stuff but (1) he couldn’t throw the ball by anybody; (2) he couldn’t throw the ball over the plate.
Mookie Betts launched a ferocious line drive that held up just a bit too long and was caught in right.
Freddie Freeman worked an eight-pitch at-bat where he fouled several pitches back to the screen and then launch a line-drive single.
Will Smith worked a TWELVE-pitch at-bat where he fouled off a whole bunch of pitches and earned a walk.
After Max Muncy struck out swinging, J.D. Martinez singled to score a run.
Kike Hernandez walked on five pitches, none of the balls particularly close, as Hader seemed to be fading.
The Padres left Hader out there (I mean, why not?) and his first fastball to Chris Taylor was a middle-middle cookie (well as much as a 96-mph sinker can be a cookie — I guess it was a cookie full of arsenic*) and Taylor swung through it. That was his pitch, he eventually succumbed (on Hader’s 42nd pitch!) and floated a little liner to short to end the game.
*For movie buffs!
BUT the moment of the night, the WHY WE LOVE BASEBALL moment for Sept. 11, 2023, came
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial