Last night, color man Larry Andersen said picking up a baseball and pitching after a long break felt like throwing a shot put. I know what he means.
I took a two-day break from Beerleaguer and now it feels like I’m writing a dissertation. I had grand plans of recapping the top 20 stories of the season over the break, ranging from Charlie Manuel starting Placido Polanco opening day to the emergence of John Marzano as an alternative voice of the Phils. It never happened.
After I penned my poorly-received team MVP piece, I scrapped those plans. I had been on a roll, but like a wide-eyed Gavin Floyd, my confidence is shot after Studes of Hardball Times called me out in my NL East pick, and an anonymous comment buried me for chosing Chase Utley over Bobby Abreu.
So back to something simple: game coverage.
The Phils were matched against my least favorite team in baseball, the Marlins, with retched filth like shortstop Alex Gonzalez, height-challenged catcher Paul Lo Duca and baby-faced wonder Miguel Cabrera, a 22-year-old stud who makes every team in baseball jealous. This one saw five homers after three innings and seven total in a soupy, soupy night.
When the long ball gets out of hand, I tend to lose interest, especially Paul LoDuca starts tagging them over the flower bed. After that, the most intriguing part of the game was L.A.’s discussion about the pitcher’s mound, how ruts, mud and height differences can make life hell for pitchers, especially coming in cold from the pen.
I love that stuff. I’ve been thinking about the differences between hockey and baseball since the NHL owners and players reached an agreement Wednesday.
The reason why you see more baseball writing, both professionally and among hobbyists, is the game lends itself better to observation. Both sports have excellent qualities. Hockey is fast paced. Baseball is calculating and ponderous. There’s enough time between pitches and innings to observe the dirt, just like last night.
L.A. is like a living metaphor for baseball. It's not the pacing I adore. It's the subtlety.
Before the season, I adopted the issue of the Marlins pitching staff not having the dexterity to last the season. That point was validated yesterday when the Marlins released veteran Al Leiter.
As for last night’s starter A.J. Burnett, the trend of low-inning starts continues, as his name keeps bubbling over the hot stove. In addition to Burnett, Josh Beckett is seeing time once again on the DL. I still believe the Phils will finish ahead of Florida in the standings.
The George S. Factor
The best reader comment of the year still belongs to George S. and his stats about David Bell and Mike Lieberthal hitting back-to-back in the lineup. Generally, George S. proved when Bell and Lieby are back-to-back, the offense is horrid (three or less runs a game, I believe), and with any other combination, they’re excellent.
Last night, Bell was out with back problems, Tomas Perez was in. 13-7 ballgame.
Another lineup decision saw Chase Utley batting third and Bobby Abreu hitting fourth. All I can say to that is 13-7 ballgame.
I didn’t do first-half LVPs, but my pick would have been Lieberthal over Jim Thome since Thome has an injury excuse.
Lieberthal shocked everyone last night with a two-homer game, and the effort could be the result of adopting Bobby Abreu’s swing.
"I was trying to act like Bobby at the plate," Lieberthal told Mike Olshin of the Times. "Just a visualization of how he approaches things from pitch to pitch. He's special to watch. My problem is that I've really been jumping to the ball and pulling off. So if that's my problem, then Bobby is a great player to learn from. He's the opposite, really. He rarely pulls off or jumps at the ball."