Monday, April 17, 2006

Of Beans and Drills and Four-Six-Fives, of Cabbages and Kings

Well, that certainly was a series, wasn’t it? Neither team scored, yet somehow the Giants won two of three. But that’s not the remarkable part. The remarkable part came in Sunday’s game: the routine 4-6-3 double play that wasn’t. Instead of throwing on to first, Omar Vizquel threw to Pedro Feliz at third, catching the runner rounding the bag.

Have you seen a more creative shortstop on a daily basis? I haven’t. Maybe Ozzie Smith was—I don’t know; I didn’t watch him every day (and I didn’t like him much anyway, for my own irrational reasons, which I at least acknowledge as irrational, Bonds-bashers! But I digress)—but we Giants fans now get to watch Vizquel throw from a full-on sitting position, or hacky-sack the ball toward first, or do the Three Stooges thing where you wobble your hand in front of the baserunner’s eyes and go “Woob woob woob woob woob!”

I cannot remember ever having seen a 4-6-5 double play, and yet, stunningly, Feliz seemed to have been expecting the throw, which tells me this is a play the Giants have worked on at some point. (Well, what really amazed me was that Feliz didn’t freak or brain-lock.) So does Vizquel practice throws to first while sitting in the dirt? The closest I could imagine would be throwing stuff at the TV from one’s living-room floor, but maybe Vizquel really does practice all those absurd (yet ultimately effective) moves.

The other remarkable bit in Sunday’s game started with Brad Hennessey (called up to make the start in the injured Noah Lowry’s stead, with Jeremy Accardo drawing the short straw bearing the legend “Fresno”) drilling Jeff Kent in the helmet with what Mike Krukow says was a sinker. First, it’s never pretty when a ballplayer gets hit in the head. No doubt many of you remember Goose Gossage banking a 97-mph fastball off Ron Cey’s helmet in the 1981 World Series: Cey went down like he’d been shot, and I seem to remember him not moving for a long time. I also remember a Salinas Packers (or maybe Angels) game in the mid-1970’s in which infielder Darrell Darrow took a fastball to his helmet and, like, never moved again. The impact was awfully loud and seemed to involve a weird sort of cracking noise. I’m guessing Darrow was never the same again; last thing I remember about his baseball career, he was trying to make it as a pitcher. And I’m not sure I blame him.

Dodger or not, I sure hope Kent doesn’t suffer a fate similar to that of Tony Conigliaro, Paul Blair, Dickie Thon, or the other players you could name whose careers were “negatively affected” by beanings. Something tells me Kent will make a full recovery, though, despite his worryingly long doze near the plate yesterday. He’s the kind of guy about whom you’d say, “Aw, he’ll be fine—it only hit him in the head.” In fact, he’d probably say it. But did Hennessey mean to hit him? I can’t see how. This was a 2-0 game, and it looked like the pitch just got away. If it weren’t Giants vs. Dodgers, I suspect everybody’d guess the same thing.

So if it weren’t Giants vs. Dodgers, would Dodger reliever Tim Hamulak have plunked Barry Bonds on the elbow armor? Debatable, depending on whether it was deliberate to begin with. Hamulak was ejected immediately, but I was surprised. Circumstances sure made it seem deliberate, but, again, it was a stupid time to drill somebody. However, it looked like a “You hit Our Guy, we hit Your Guy” situation. Hamulak didn’t seem too bummed about being ejected, suggesting deliberation on his part, but Bonds—according to Krukow—didn’t feel that Hamulak meant it. And Hamulak, you have to hope, is not stupid enough to say otherwise. Either way, anybody who wonders about Bonds’ elbow-protective equipment need wonder no more: We saw why it’s there.


  1. I'm guessing you've seen by now the reports that Vizquel actually planned the 4-6-5 in advance and gave Feliz the heads up to cover third. Which makes the whole thing even more amazing to me, and also explains why Feliz did the right thing.

  2. No, I haven't come across the reports, but I believe it. As you rightly point out, that makes it even more amazing. Inspired, too. What even led Vizquel to think about that play?

  3. I'm 53 years old, and I've been following baseball since 1960 (and I curse Bill Maz to this day). I have never seen that play. Ever. The idea that he warned Feliz in advance is beyond astonishing.

    It ranks up there with Jeter's toss to home against the A's (ok, that was more dramatic). The point is Jeter said they actually practiced that. Why would anyone even think to practice that? And how could Vizquel think to warn Feliz ahead of time.

    He's the best I've ever seen.

  4. Mike Krukow was touting him for the Hall of Fame recently. Or was it the A's announcers? Either way, just the thought is pretty amazing. Ozzie Smith is paving the way for defensive-specialist shortstops, which shouldn't be a bad thing. Granted, I'm not sure I believe Vizquel will be voted in.