The Baseball Desert

Monday, August 18, 2003

If you read the Baseball Desert regularly, then you'll know that as well as following Major League baseball from 4,000 miles away, I also play the game (for a team in the Paris suburbs), which has helped me realise that it ain't quite as easy as these guys make it look.

It was with some pleasure, then, that I checked out the report and the video highlights of Saturday's Yankees / Orioles game in Baltimore. The game started off with a management error: Yankee manager Joe Torre - who has been involved in big-league baseball for 43 years - failed to notice that the Orioles sent their batters up in the wrong order in the first inning. The Orioles went up to bat in the order shown on the scoreboard - which was incorrect - and had Torre noticed it and appealed immediately, the run the Orioles scored in that inning would have been taken away from them.

A game which began with such an elementary error could only really end one way, and it did - the Orioles ruined the chance to score the tying run in the bottom of the twelfth with a little bit of Keystone Cops baseball. This is what happened: Yankee reliever Jeff Nelson walked Jack Cust, and then Larry Bigbie doubled to right center-field. Cust made the turn around third base and was heading home when the Orioles' third-base coach changed his mind and gave him the stop sign. As Alfonso Soriano relayed the throw to 3rd baseman Aaron Boone, Cust slipped and fell on the basepath. Knowing he couldn't make it back to third, he headed for home (again). Boone threw to Jorge Posada at the plate, Cust changed direction, and Posada threw the ball back to Boone to catch Cust in a rundown. Unfortunately, no-one was backing Posada up at home plate, so Boone had nobody to throw the ball to, thus giving Cust a clear run home.

Of course, given the mess of a play that had started, that would have been too easy. Cust managed to stumble as he raced home, fell flat on his face and was tagged out by Boone about six or seven yards from home plate - ballgame over, the Yankees win, "theeeeeeee Yankees win!!!". It's reassuring to see that even the big guys can make a mess of a simple play like that. It isn't breathtaking baseball, but it's guaranteed to bring a smile to your face (unless you're an Orioles fan...).