Monday, August 19, 2013

Will's Walk Off

Let's just start out by saying it was a tough night to hate A-Rod.

Last night's Yankees-Red Sox game ran 4:12, of which TigerBlog probably saw half. What he saw was more entertainment than an average baseball game could ever hope to provide.

The fun started when Boston starter Ryan Dempster threw behind A-Rod on his first trip to the plate, in the second inning. It continued three pitches later, when Dempster hit A-Rod under his shoulder.

Yankee manager Joe Girardi came flying out of the dugout, incensed that both benches were warned but that Dempster wasn't tossed. For his troubles, Girardi was given the rest of night off, largely because the umpire knew Girardi was 100% right.

Unable to retaliate, C.C. Sabathia went back to being what he has become, which is someone who is getting old, is too overweight, can't go deep in games, has become very hittable - and is owed $71 million for the next three years.

The highlight of the game came during the in-game interview with Red Sox manager John Farrell said with a straight face that Dempster hadn't been throwing at A-Rod, that he'd just been trying to establish the inside part of the plate and it got away. In the history of baseball, there's never been a more obvious example of a pitcher who was throwing at a hitter. Oh well. What was Farrell supposed to say, right?

Just when it looked like it was going to be an easy win for the Red Sox, though, here came A-Rod in the sixth, launching one into the centerfield stands, sparking a four-run rally that became a 9-6 Yankees win. Should New York come all the way back to make the playoffs, it'll be because of last night.

After the game, A-Rod called it "the ultimate payback." Actually, no, the ultimate payback would be if he paid back all the money he's made through the years as an obvious cheater, but that's another story.

TB has hated A-Rod for so long that he can't remember if he ever liked him, but he assumes he did, at least back when he was a young player with the Mariners, especially when he played against the Yankees.

Now? He has to be the most hated player in sports, especially by his own teammates. And team management, which other than Girardi (who is in an impossible spot, since he has no chance of getting to the postseason minus Rodriguez) takes great pleasure in publicly ripping into the third baseman.

Still, TB has to tip his hat to A-Rod for coming back from being plunked to launch one the way he did, at Fenway Park no less.

It was a weird series, too, as the four games were on four different TV stations in New York (Channel 9, YES, Fox, ESPN). TB didn't watch the first three, but the one last night was sort of a three-man panel discussion about the A-Rod situation with a few baseball plays mixed in, something that TB assumes was repeated in the other three broadcasts as well.

Meanwhile, across the country, the other New York baseball team was doing something way below the Red Sox-Yankees interest level. Still, if you're a Princeton fan and you missed, well, it's worth checking out.

The Mets were in San Diego, where a certain sizzlingly hot Princeton alum won the game with a home run in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Will Venable has been on the best run of his career with a 15-game hitting streak, the longest current one in Major League Baseball. That, and a .370 average since the all-star break, has raised his average to .266.

His home run leading off the bottom of the ninth yesterday was the 17th of the season, a career best and team high. He also has driven in 42 runs.

One of the most amazing parts of the recap of the Padres-Mets game was the part where it mentioned that Venable is 30.

TigerBlog remembers him from Day 1 as a Princeton basketball player, back when he was way better at that sport and wasn't even playing baseball at Princeton.

Venable was explosive on the basketball court, with great speed, defensive tenacity and, best of all, an obvious toughness that allowed him raise his game when it mattered most, such as in the NCAA tournament or in a regular-season game at Duke or with an Ivy title on the line.

He didn't play baseball as a Princeton freshman, but he did so after that. He finished his career as a 1,000-point scorer in hoops and as someone who had enough power to hit one off Princeton Stadium beyond the rightfield fence at Clarke Field and onto the highway past Penn's field (a shot TB didn't see but heard about from enough people).

He's spent his entire five-year career with San Diego, who picked him in the seventh round in 2005. Venable has career numbers of a .252 average, 62 home runs and 230 RBIs, and he's also a great defensive outfielder and base stealer.

If he was looking for national attention on the night of his big walk-off winner, well, he picked the wrong day for that.

Nope, last night, all attention was reserved for Alex Rodriguez.

He may be a despised cheater, but you have to give him credit for what he did against the Red Sox.

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