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The Mark of Cain: Matt Cain Pitches 22nd Perfect Game in MLB History

Celebration by the Bay (Photo: Jason O Watson/Getty Images)

I was just about to go to bed but had the MLB Channel on when I began to pay attention as Harold Reynolds began to say in the top of the 5th inning of the Giants-Astros game “to Call your friends because history is being made by Matt Cain.” On a night were Met’s pitcher R A Dickey pitched a one-hitter and in a season that had already seen 4 no-hitters including a Perfect Game by Phil Humber, this was more than amazing.

Matt Cain on firing Strikes:  (Photo: Jason O Watson/Getty Images)

The first Cain was not known for his pitching skills and ended up with a mark that remained with him the rest of his life, not mark any of us would want. Tonight another Cain, Matt Cain now has a mark, but not like the biblical Cain, Matt Cain pitched the 22nd Perfect Game in MLB history and the first in the 130 years of the Giants Baseball Club.

I have been a Giants fan since I was a kid. Back on August 24th 1975 my dad took my brother and me to Candlestick where we saw Ed Halicki no hit the New York Mets. In 1976 John “the Count of” Montefusco no-hit the Braves in Atlanta. It was almost 33 years before the Giants got another when on July 10th 2009 Jonathan Sanchez no-hit the Padres facing 28 batters, one more than a perfect game due to a fielding error.  Hall of Fame pitchers for the Giants to pitch no-hitters have included Christy Matthewson, Carl Hubble, Gaylord Perry and Juan Marichal.  But no Giants pitcher had ever pitched a perfect game.

Melky Cabrera’s Leaping Catch at the Wall  (Photo: Jason O Watson/Getty Images)

The perfect game is one of the most miraculous and magical moments in all of sports simply because anything, a bad pitch or an error or a bad call can end the bid, who can forget the call by Umpire Jim Joyce that kept Armando Galarraga from a perfect game in 2010. The novel The Perfect Game which became the Kevin Costner film For the Love of the Game does such a wonderful job of portraying the miracle. It seems that nights like this, the pressure, the miraculous and unbelievable catches made in the field and the ability of a pitcher to get out after out. Cain understands this, he has taken 5 no hitters into the 7th inning during his career and never got the no-hitter.

Gregor Blanco Making his Diving catch in the 7th  (Photo: Jason O Watson/Getty Images)

Cain is one of the best pitchers in the game. During the 2010 World Series Cain pitched 21 1/3 innings without giving up a run. This year he is 8-2 with a 7 game winning streak and a 2.18 ERA.  The performance was one of the best ever even in a perfect game. Cain dominated with 14 strike outs tying the Major League mark set by Sandy Koufax in 1965. Cain helped his cause by getting a hit and scoring a run. The first pitcher since Dennis Martinez to get a hit in a Perfect game since Dennis Martinez in 1992.  Cain threw 125 pitches, the most in a perfect game in MLB history.

Buster Posey celebrates with Matt Cain  (Photo: Jason O Watson/Getty Images)

Several great defensive plays helped bring on the magic. Melky Cabrera made a leaping catch at the left field wall in the 6th inning and Gregor Blanco who came out of nowhere to make a diving catch going toward the wall on the warning track on a hit that looked as if it would be the first hit and go for extra bases.

The Giants also set a record by scoring 10 runs in a Perfect Game.

Matt Cain left his mark on Baseball tonight and hopefully he will continue to give those that love the game more of these memories.

Now I need to try to calm down enough to get some sleep.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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8020 Games and Finally….a Miracle for the Mets: Johan Santana Pitches First No-No in Mets History

Johan Santana celebrates after striking out David Freese (Photo Ray Stubblebine/Reuters)

“A pitcher’s got to be good and he’s got to be lucky to get a no hit game.” Cy Young 

The New York Mets ended a 50 year drought as Johan Santana no-hit the St. Louis Cardinals tonight in New York. It was the longest that a team had gone in MLB history without a no-hitter and leaves the San Diego Padres as the only team in the Majors with 43 years without a no-hitter.

Santana threw 134 pitches as the Mets shut-out the Cardinals by a score of 8-0. After going down 3 balls and no strikes to David Freese Santana came back to strike out the Cardinal’s slugger to cinch to no-hitter.  Santana joined Phillip Humber of the White Sox and Jared Weaver of the Angels to pitch the 3rd no-hitter of this still young season. For Santana and the Mets it was a cause for celebration.  The Mets are not strangers to having good pitchers on their staff but despite this and having won two World Series titles but had never had one of their own pitchers whose ranks include David Cone, Greg Maddux and Tom Seaver ever pitch a no-hitter as a Met.

Santana a three time All-Star and two time AL Cy Young Award Winner has 136 career wins since entering the Majors with the Minnesota Twins in 2000.  Santana had missed the entire 2011 season after having surgery to repair a tear of the anterior capsule in his pitching shoulder. No pitcher had ever returned from that type of surgery and Santana entered the season just hoping to return to his pre-surgery form. After the game Santana said “Coming into this season, I was just hoping to come back and stay healthy and help this team….” Manager Terry Collins had planned on limiting Santana to 110 pitches but in the 8th inning Santana let his manager know that he “felt good.” Collins left his starter who had thrown a shut-out in his last outing against the Padres in the game. Santana recounted the conversation:

“He came right next to me and he just told me that I was his hero. At that point, I told him, ‘Listen, I’m just going to try to go out there and do my job and try to go as deep as I could in the game.’ And tonight, he was not going to take me out of the game — no chance.”

As in any no-hitter it seemed that the God of Baseball was with the pitcher. Sandy Koufax once said “You’ve got to be lucky, but if you have good stuff, it’s easier to be lucky” and such was the case with Santana this first day of June.  In the 7th inning Santana’s effort was saved when Mike Baxter made a dramatic catch of a Yadier Molina fly ball on the warning track in which he was injured and had to leave the game. He was also aided by a foul call of a ball hit by Carlos Beltran down the 3rd Base line which 3rd Base Umpire Adrian Johnson ruled foul but which the replay appeared to show as a fair ball when it crossed over the bag.

The no-hitter equals the number pitched in 2011.  It is possible that there could be a record number of no-hitters as pitching has again become dominant in the Major Leagues.  We will have to see how that works out but as a fan of great pitching and baseball drama I wouldn’t mind seeing a couple of more this season.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Perfect! Phillip Humber Joins Legends as He Pitches Perfect Game against Mariners

Phillip Humber doffs his Cap after his Perfect Game (Photo Steven Bissig US Presswire via USA Today)

Phillip Humber is not who you would have expected to be just the 21st pitcher in MLB history.  However, Humber who had the Tommy John Elbow surgery in 2005 and bounced between a number of teams became one of a select group of pitchers including such notables as Jim “Catfish” Hunter, David Cone, Sandy Koufax, Roy Halliday, Randy Johnson and Cy Young. Of course there are others including Dallas Braden who hails from my home town of Stockton California.

The perfect game is the most rare of baseball events. In over 390,000 games only 21 pitchers have pitched the perfect game which is about a perfect game every 18571 games or so, give or take a few since I am rounding the numbers here. As a comparison for hitters 286 players have hit for the cycle in a game.

It is rare enough that only one has been pitched in a World Series, that of Don Larsen who threw a perfect game in Game five of the 1956 World Series for the New York Yankees against the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Today Humber required just 97 pitches to dispose of the yet again hapless Seattle Mariners who cannot hit their way out of a wet paper bag. Humber struck out nine on the way to the win.  The final out was recorded when Brendan Ryan struck out on a checked swing which was ruled a strike but since the ball got away from Catcher A. J. Pierzynski the catcher had to retrieve it and make the throw out to first base to seal the win.

The South Texas born Humber seemed an unlikely candidate to pitch the first perfect game since 2010. He was a top prospect, the overall 3rd pick in the 2004 amateur draft, being picked by the Mets one pick after Detroit took Justin Verlander after playing college ball for Rice University. He had been struck in the face above his right eye with a line drive off the bat of Kosuke Fukodome on August 18th 2011. Before his career even really began he damaged his throwing elbow badly enough to have to have the Tommy John elbow ligament reconstruction surgery. He had been waived by teams twice and was pitching in only his 30th big league start. He had not thrown a MLB level shutout or for that matter a complete game.

The Kevin Costner film For the Love of the Game (1999) which is based on Michael Shaara’s The Perfect Game which was discovered after he died in 1988 and published in 1991is one of my favorite films and novels and I think captures how special this feat is for any pitcher. For the pitcher cannot allow a single base runner, not just giving up hits, but walks or runners that reach base due to defensive errors even those beyond control of the pitcher. A pitcher must pitch a complete game face 27 batters and get all of them out. It is a hard thing to do at any level and most difficult at the Major League level.

Humber was low key about his feat saying “This is awesome, I’m so thankful.’’ and “I don’t know that I dominated them, obviously the ball was hit at people. I’m thankful for that. It was a well-pitched game. Definitely something I’ll never forget.’’

Congratulations to Phil Humber and the White Sox. I hope for even more success for Humber who I consider a great example of sticking to something you love doing even when things are difficult.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Dominator 2011: Verlander voted AL MVP

2011 AL MVP Justin Verlander

For the first time in 25 years a starting pitcher was named the Most Valuable Player of the American League. Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers was named the American League MVP today in as convincing manner as he pitched during the season.

The last time a starting pitcher won this honor was in 1986 when a young up and coming Roger Clemens won it as a member of the Boston Red Sox.  The last time a pitcher won the ward was in 1992 when Dennis Eckersley won it as a closer for the Oakland Athletics.  It was the first time since 1984 that a pitcher won the MVP as well as the Cy Young award.  In winning both in the same season Verlander joined Brooklyn Dodgers’ great Don Newcombe who won them in 1956, Los Angeles Dodgers’ legend Sandy Koufax who did it in 1963, St. Louis Cardinals’ great Bob Gibson and Detroit’s Denny McLain who led pitchers in both leagues in 1968, Oakland’s Vida Blue in 1971, Rollie Fingers who won it as a relief pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers in 1981 and Detroit’s Willie Hernandez who did so in 1984.

It is unusual that a pitcher wins the MVP. Part of the equation is that starting pitchers are not every day players and even like relief pitchers who may appear several times a week.  Because of this a starting pitcher must be absolutely dominating in all aspects of his game and do so in such a way that their team’s success is in large part attributable to their play.  This was the case with Verlander who dominated pitching this year.

Verlander’s accomplishments speak for themselves.  He went 25-4 in 34 starts, had a ERA of 2.40, held opposing teams to a .192 team batting average, struck out 250 batters while walking just 57 men.  His Walks/Hits inning pitched WHIP was a tiny 0.92.  He led every competitive category for pitching in the American League and  for that matter led all pitchers in wins and strikeouts during the season.  To top things off Verlander also had a no-hitter against Toronto coming a walk from a perfect game and he won 12 consecutive games leading the Tigers to their first division title since 1987.

The was no player in baseball that was as valuable to their team or as dominant as Verlander this year.  That may be a hard sell for those that believe that pitchers should not be considered for the MVP since they are not every day players but the numbers support Verlander’s selection as the 2011 American League Most Valuable Player.  His competition among American League position players could make no such claim, while excellent ballplayers none was such a standout that they had any real chance of winning.

Congratulations on a job well done!

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Unbelievable Implosion of a Storied Baseball Franchise

At one time the Los Angeles Dodgers were one of the most desirable and bulletproof franchises in all of sports. They were one of Major League Baseball’s premier franchises. They had a reputation as pioneers they were the stuff of legends, Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Duke Snyder, Pee Wee Reese, Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Tommy Lasorda, Walter Austin, Kirk Gibson, Steve Garvey, Fernando Valenzuela, and the list can go on ad infinitum especially for a Dodgers hating San Francisco Giants fan like yours truly.

But today something that a couple of years back I could never have imagined. Today Dodgers’ owner and destroyer Frank “I love my MLB ATM” McCourt declared bankruptcy. For me it was like the Soviet Union going tango-uniform to end the Cold War back in 1989. It’s unseemly, it’s unsightly and it’s undignified. My goodness the man and his equally despotic ex-wife Jamie bought the team with none of their own money and took loans totally hundreds of millions of dollars from the team as well as turned the team into their own realm of nepotism. The hired their sons at over half a million dollars a year, they paid the former Mrs. McCourt a million a year, they set up multiple expensive residences and they hired a psychic for a pretty price to guide their decisions, well I guess if Nancy Reagan could why not them. Now that couldn’t have been a good experience after all have you ever heard of a “happy Medium?”

They even signed Manny Ramirez who by the way is now their number one creditor. I mean this is embarrassing; multiple pops for performance enhancing drugs, declining stats, injuries and all the Manny baggage.  The ridded themselves of Dodger Town in Vero Beach that storied spring training facility that had hosted the Dodgers for over half a century. They bankrupted the team and even took a 30 million dollar personal loan from Fox to meet the May payroll.

Why in the hell Major League Baseball gave them, I said gave them a franchise, especially one like the Dodgers I don’t know. After all what connection did McCourt have to baseball? Well none actually. He was a smooth as freshly laid asphalt parking lot mogul with a propensity toward pomposity. He could talk Hannibal Lector out of Lady Gaga’s drumstick, not that there’s much meat on it but still you get my drift.  And to think that baseball rejected Mark Cuban because they didn’t want a new young Steinbrennerish owner to upset the cart. However despite his antics Cuban is a committed owner who would have done baseball and the Dodgers better than the parking lot Putz. Ask the people in Dallas what they think of him, look what he did to revive a franchise. He used his money and put himself on the line to turn the Mavericks into a winner. He hired good basketball people and got out of the way. He was a face, spokesman and cheerleader and he would have been good for the Dodgers. Los Angeles is big and it loves the outlandish he would have been perfect and he would have used his money not others to do it.

Now Bud Selig and the rest of the baseball establishment will have to figure out to do. If they don’t want Cuban they could pick someone like Steven Spielberg or Bill Gates who have oodles of money and love to spend it on charity cases, which by all counts the Dodgers now are.

I see this as a Giants fan would in light of the Cold War. When the Soviets went tits up the world went crazy. They were the Yang to our Yin. I certainly don’t want baseball to experience anything like the world has gone through since the end of the Cold War. Baseball is about stability not chaos and the McCourts have thrown the Dodgers into chaos which is not good for baseball or America.  They should be taken out and banished to outer Mongolia or some other place that is parking lot deprived.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Tides Fall to Pawtucket 5-4 on 2 out Walk-off Home Run

Adam Donachie had a 2 RBI double and scored a run

The Norfolk Tides travelled to Pawtucket for a four game series against the Pawtucket Red Sox.  As has been the case many times this season a strong starting pitching performance was negated by a bad 9th inning relief appearance.  Last night Chris George (1-1 3.96) pitched a strong six and two thirds innings allowing 2 runs on 4 hits with only 1 walk while striking out 3.  He was relieved by Ross Wolf (0-2 2.57) who pitched a scoreless one and a third innings allowing one hit.  With two out in the 9th Tides reliever Kam Mickolio (1-1 8.78) who has had a very rough season blew his second save when Dusty Brown hit a 3 run home run on a 2-1 count with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th.

Robert Andino also had a 2 RBI double

The Pawsox struck first in the bottom of the 6th inning when Bubba Bell doubled and scored on an Angel Sanchez single.  The Tides hitters more than made up for this in the top frame of the 7th inning. Rhyne Hughes, Brandon Snyder and Blake Davis singled and loaded the bases.  Catcher Adam Donachie doubled to score Hughes and Snyder.  Dustin Richardson came into the game for Pawtucket and struck out Danny Figueroa and got Joey Gathright to fly out.  With two outs Robert Andino doubled to score Davis and Donachie to make the score 4-1.  In the bottom frame of the 7th the Pawsox scored another run when Aaron Bates doubled and two batters later scored on a Dusty Brown double.

Chris George pitched a strong game but had a no decision in the loss

The score remained 4-2 until the bottom of the 9th. Kam Mickolio who as I said at the beginning of this article has had a very rough year came into the game in a save situation.  He got Daniel Nava to ground out to first before walking Lars Anderson and giving up a base hit to Aaron Bates.  With these two on Mickolio got Josh Reddick to line out to Blake Davis at second.  Mickolio then faced Dustin Brown who had already driven in a run for the Pawsox and on a 2-1 count gave up a home run to Brown over the left field wall for the game ending walk off.

For the Tides 4 runs on 9 hits and 1 error with 5 men left on base while Pawtucket had 5 runs on 7 hits with no errors and three men left on base.  The winning pitcher was Terry Large (1-0 5.27) and the losing pitcher Kam Mickolio (1-1 8.78).   Tonight Troy Patton (2-6 6.56) who looks to get back on the win side of the house for the Tides will face Pawtucket’s Felix Doubront (0-0 0.00) who was recently called up from AA Portland where he was 4-0 with a 2.51 ERA in 8 appearances where he allowed 13 runs on 39 hits striking out 38.

On the personnel side of the house the Tides brought Ross Wolf back from Aberdeen and reactivated Nolan Reimold following the birth of his child.  Talk of a fast move up the chain by Chris Tillman was squelched on Thursday who said that David Hernandez would remain in the starting rotation for the time being. This is good news for the Tides as Tillman and Jake Arietta are the potent one two punch at the top of the Tides rotation having 10 of the Tides 21 wins.  These two pitchers command respect and I expect that when they reach the majors that the two could be as potent as Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale were in the 1960s.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Tides Defeat Rochester 2-1 Split Series Arietta Wins 5th

Jake Arietta Notched his 5th win against Rochester

The Norfolk Tides recovered from the loss of the first two games to the Rochester Red Wings by taking games three and four of the series, each by a score of 2-1.  On Tuesday Afternoon the Tides evened the series with a win.  Once again it was pitching and defense that did the job for the Tides with just enough situational offense to win the game.  Unfortunately Padre Stevem had this little thing called work to do and could not attend in person but was able to catch parts of the broadcast on his computer in between group sessions and individual counseling sessions with patients at the Medical Center’s Substance Abuse Treatment Center.

It is likely that Chris Tillman could soon be called up to Baltimore as a starter

Jake Arietta took the hill for the Tides facing a Rochester team that until Chris Tillman shut them down Monday had pulverized Tides pitchers.  Both Tillman and Arietta showed that they are not your typical run of the mill AAA pitchers but rather something special.  Both are power pitchers, both have become more confident and more patient, maturing immeasurably since the 2009 campaign.  The two could when they both get to Baltimore be something akin to Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale and when combined with a maturing Brian Matusz and Jeremy Guthrie could become one of the most feared pitching rotations in baseball.

On Tuesday Arietta pitched 7 innings allowing 1 ruin on 7 hits with 2 walks and 6 strikeouts lowering his ERA to 1.86, the best in the International League.  In fact of AAA level starters in the International and Pacific Coast Leagues with over 60 innings work only Luke French of the Seattle Mariners affiliate the Tacoma Rainiers has a better ERA.  The only Rochester run came in the top of the 5th when Jason Repko bunted his way aboard and then stole second. He was singled home by Matt Tolbert and that was all the scoring that the Red Wings mustered for the Day.   Arietta was followed by Kam Mickolio who again had a good outing after a rough start mowing down the Wings in order in the 8th. Denis Safate came in to get the save  striking out the first two batters that he faced, but then allowing a single to Dustin Martin who then went to second on a wild pitch and followed that with a walk to Brock Peterson before retiring Jason Repko on  a routine fly ball to left fielder Danny Figueroa.

Closer Frank Mata had His Contract Purchased by the Orioles

The Tides offense also came in the 5th inning when Anthony Swarzak walked Michel Hernandez and was pulled in favor of Jose Lugo. The first batter that Lugo faced was newly called up outfielder Danny Figueroa, twin brother of Tides second baseman Paco Figueroa.  Danny had been called up to replace the struggling Nolan Reimold who was placed on the temporary inactive list due to the birth of a baby.  Figueroa didn’t take long to figure out Lugo and promptly blasted the first pitch into the Straub Beer party deck in right field.  Tides reliever Jim Miller traded a couple of balls for the one Danny hit into the deck from fans so that Figueroa could have a memento of his first AAA level home run.

The Red Wings had 1 run on 8 hits and 1 error leaving 9 men on base, the Tides 2 runs on 4 hits with no errors and 5 men left on base.  Jake Arietta (5-2 1.81) got the win and Jose Lugo (0-3 6.54) the loss.  Denis Sarfate (0-0 S1 1.54) got the save.  The Tides have a travel day Wednesday and open a 4 game series in Pawtucket against the Pawsox on Thursday with Chris George (1-1 4.22) starting for the Tides and Boof Bonser (0-2 10.61) taking the hill for the Sox.

Justin Turner was signed by the New York Mets

There has been quite a bit of action in the personnel department for the Tides and Orioles even since last week.  Michael Aubrey was placed on the 7 Day DL on the 24th retroactive to the 23rd.  Ross Wolf was assigned to Aberdeen while Jim Miller was recalled from Aberdeen; Alberto Castillo returned to the Tides but was called back up the 25th along with closer Frank Mata whose contract was selected by the Orioles.  Danny Figueroa was promoted to the Tides from AA Bowie and Nolan Reimold placed on the temporary inactive list. Up in Baltimore David Hernandez was moved to the Bullpen a move that the Orioles say will be for the rest of the season which could open the way into the rotation for Chris Tillman.  On a further note infielder Justin Turner who was designated for assignment last week was signed by the New York Mets and assigned to AAA Buffalo.  I would expect that due to the Mets’ personnel; situation that Turner could be playing in New York by mid-summer.

Until the next time peace my friends,

Padre Steve+

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The World Series: Cliff Lee was Amazing and the Yankees come back, the Influenza Outbreak, a Visit Home, and Honors to the Fallen by the President

“The only thing that matters is what happens on the little hump out in the middle of the field.” Earl Weaver

large_2aj-burnett415A. J. Burnett dominated the Phillies in Game 2

Last night we were treated to one of the best pitching performances in the history of the World Series.  Phillies start Cliff Lee who has had an incredible playoff run.  In four games he has pitched 33.1 innings, winning 3 games, two of which were complete games.  In those games he pitched 30 strikeouts and on 3 walks and only given up 2 earned runs.  His ERA through game one of the World Series is a minuscule 0.54.  Last night was a fantastic demonstration of pitching as Lee controlled the game from start to finish defeating his former teammate C.C. Sabathia who was good but not good enough giving up 2 solo home runs to Chase Utley before being pulled after the 7th.  One can compare his performance against the best hitting team in the Majors to the greats Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson and Don Larson.  I remember seeing Gibson’s game back in 1968 on TV and I am forever amazed at his intensity as hit mowed down batter after batter.  On the other hand Lee was the epitome of the “just another day at work” that was so evidenced in his lackadaisical catch of a pop up to the pitcher’s mound and his quick behind the back grab of a pitch hit behind him.

Honestly I was surprised but not disappointed.  I do not have a dog in the fight so to speak since the Giants, Orioles, A’s or Angels are not in the series.  However I appreciate a great performance even when it cuts down my well thought out statistic based prediction. Lee was until last night a career 4-4 against the Yankees but had, again until last night a whopping 5.02 against them.  I predicted that it would be a close game but that I thought it would be Lee who gave up the key hits or have mistakes committed behind him which would in turn bring on the bullpen which the Yankees would demolish.  Instead it was 180 degrees out as Sabathia gave up the key hits and the Yankee bullpen melted down.  To top it off the Yankees were completely baffled and shut down by Lee almost being shut out save a Jimmy Rollins throw into the bullpen which allowed Derek Jeter to score the Yankees only run of the game with one out in the bottom of the 9th. I’m watching another pitcher’s duel tonight, at least through 7 innings between Pedro “I’m the most influential player to play in Yankee Stadium” and A.J. Burnett. Burnett dominated the Phillies big guns and Pedro has like Sabathia last night given up 2 solo home runs to Mark Teixeira and Hideki Matsui and was pulled with 2 on and no out in the bottom of the 7th.  Mariano Rivera came on to get a six out save and the Yankees won 3-1.  The amazing thing to me is the dominance of pitching so far.  The fact that Ryan Howard stuck out 4 times tonight and Alex Rodriguez 3 times last night shows just how dominant the pitchers have been. Both were having an amazing playoff run and at least the first two games have had their fires extinguished.

mariano-riveraMariano Rivera got a 6 out Save

The first two games give me some hope. I would prefer a 7 game series that is a well played drama filled classic for the ages.  That is my hope anyway as they are the best teams in baseball and it would be fitting for the series to live up to that status.

I just got over a bout with a stomach bug yesterday, on Monday I was doubled over in pain and the stuff lingered a couple of days.  Turns out that this is going around and a lot of folks are going down with it as well as Influenza A, B and H1N1, the Swine Flu.  I personally know several people who have been hammered by the Swine flu and am seeing a lot more influenza related cases in our ICU including a number of young people on ventilators.  A cursory look around the news shows a lot of kids getting sick and so far at least 100 schools being closed due to influenza outbreaks and it is only October.  Look for a long and difficult flu season. This may not be as bad as 1918 but anyone is a fool to make light of it or efforts to keep people from getting it.  I think such people are damned fools who jeopardize their lives as well as the lives of their families, friends and co-workers, from what I see in my little corner of the world this will not be fun.

Speaking of not fun I am going home to go assist my mom and brother with some of my dad’s affairs. He remains in the nursing home and continues his slow downward trend defying the doctors who said that he would be dead months ago.  The emotional cost on my mom, brother and to a lesser extent I because I don’t have to deal with this up close every day has been exacting. It is painful.  I received a e-mail from an old friend this week who described what his family went through as his dad wasted away in mind and body before their eyes.  I will be glad to see everyone and will spend as much time with dad as I can, hopefully I will have him with me for at least a few minutes.  I am not looking forward to having to go through belongings or some of the administrative or banking tasks that will need to be done.

APTOPIX Obama Fallen SoldiersPresident Obama Honoring the Fallen at Dover

Late last night President Obama did something that earned my admiration.  I know some will see his action as cynical or opportunistic but as a career officer and Iraq Veteran who has served under five Presidents I saw it differently.  I think it is the first time that a President has greeted and rendered honors to the fallen at Dover in my career.  I could be wrong but I don’t think that any of the President’s that I have served under have ever met an aircraft bearing 18 fallen Americans.  He didn’t have to do it, but it is my opinion that any wartime leader who has not experienced the enormity of the loss of Americans that he has sent into combat has not fully assumed the mantle of leadership.  Part of that mantle is to be there in the times of suffering. One source close to the President told ABC News reporter Jake Tapper that  meeting with the families at Dover and seeing the return of the fallen was was “one of the most profound experiences of Mr. Obama’s young presidency.”

It was a sobering reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices that our young men and women in uniform are engaging in every single day, not only our troops but their families as well,” Obama said later Thursday, hours after his return to the White House. “The burden that both our troops and their families bear in any wartime situation is going to bear on how I see these conflicts, and it is something that I think about each and every day.”

I do appreciate all that President Bush did in visiting the wounded and caring for the families of the fallen, there is no disrespect intended by me toward the former President as he had to make many tough and often unpopular decisions during his presidency including the surge in Iraq that along with the Anbar Awakening that helped turn the course of events in that unfortunate land.  He took heavy criticism from the Left and parts of the Right for that decision as well as scaling back efforts in Afghanistan. I do hope and pray that the President’s decision, whatever it ends up being will bear success and help the security of the region and peace to Afghanistan and I certainly do not want him to be like Lyndon Johnson in Vietnam and commit us deeper into to a war without counting the cost ahead of time.  That is a tall order, but for the sake of our troops is something that we should be able to pray will happen.  To quote one commentator: “No matter what your political views are or your position on the wars, we should never forget those making the ultimate sacrifice.”  Thank you Mr. President for remembering these men,  Ten men were lost in the crash of an MH-47, 7 Army Soldiers and 3 DEA agents and 8 soldiers killed when an IED destroyed their Stryker Light Armored Vehicle.  I close with their names:

Killed:

1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Washington

Staff Sgt. Luis M. Gonzalez, 27, of South Ozone Park, N.Y.

Sgt. Fernando Delarosa, 24, of Alamo, Texas.

Sgt. Dale R. Griffin, 29, of Terre Haute, Ind.

Sgt. Issac B. Jackson, 27, of Plattsburg, Mo.

Sgt. Patrick O. Williamson, 24, of Broussard, La.

Spc. Jared D. Stanker, 22, of Evergreen Park, Ill.

Pfc. Christopher I. Walz, 25, of Vancouver, Wash.

From the 3rd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Regiment (Airborne), Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia

Chief Warrant Officer Michael P. Montgomery, 36, of Savannah, Ga.

Chief Warrant Officer Niall Lyons, 40, of Spokane, Wash.

Staff Sgt. Shawn H. McNabb, 24, of Terrell, Texas.

Sgt. Josue E. Hernandez Chavez, 23, of Reno, Nev.

Sgt. Nikolas A. Mueller, 26, of Little Chute, Wisc.

From the 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Bragg, North Carolina

Sgt. 1st Class David E. Metzger, of San Diego Ca

Staff Sgt. Keith R. Bishop, 28, of Medford, N.Y.

From the Drug Enforcement Agency

Special Agent Forrest N. Leamon, Woodbridge Va.

Special Agent Chad L. Michael, Quantico Va

Special Agent Michael E. Weston, Washington DC

Rest eternal grant to them, O Lord; and let light perpetual shine upon them

May their souls, and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.  Amen

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Everybody has a Pitch Count…Good Managers Know When You’ve Reached It

Everybody has a pitch count, be they a baseball pitcher or a military, police or critical care health provider.  At some point one can push themselves so hard that they can injure themselves or if not that start making mental mistakes that cost games for a pitcher or lives to people in military, public safety or critical care medicine.  In baseball managers have to make sure that their pitchers don’t wear themselves down.  It is very easy for a pitcher, especially a hard thrower to wear out early from overuse causing injury.  At times hard throwers, or for that matter any pitcher can over pitch.  They can try to do too much.  At first this may not be noticeable, maybe they lose a little bit off of their fastball or their curve ball may not be as sharp.  The pitcher may shake it off and tell his coaches and trainers that nothing is wrong.  They do this for a couple of reasons.  First, they are competitors; they want to do the job that they have to do.  Second, they don’t want to admit that something is wrong with them be it a possible physical injury or maybe even a mental issue which is keeping them from getting good control of their pitches.  Of course the physical wear and tear on pitcher is brutal.  The physical punishment of throwing a baseball 80-100 mph on the arm, especially the elbow and shoulder is brutal.   The amount of torque applied to these joints is severe.  If a pitcher is using incorrect technique or has thrown too many pitches the effects can be devastating to his career.

While I am not a pitcher, when I played I was a utility infielder and catcher, I do think that everyone has something to learn about life and work from managers, pitchers and knowing when a pitcher is suffering from overuse injuries or has lost his physical or mental edge.  The manager has to know when the pitcher has reached his pitch count and when it is time to pull him even if the pitcher wants to stay in the game.  The same is true with anyone who serves in military, police or intensive medical professions such as EMS, Emergency Rooms and Intensive Care units. This became apparent to me over the past year and a quarter since I returned from Iraq.  I am now 49 years old. I stay in pretty good shape and physically can still outperform many younger people in such things as push-ups, sit-ups and running.  I pretty much know my physical limitations especially coming back from Iraq with some physical and emotional scars.  I work in ICUs and if my life as a chaplain was limited to simply doing that work on the floor I could do it forever.  I thrive in the environment and actually am more at ease on an ICU or in an ER than I am on general patient floors or doing administrative tasks.  However, those are also part of my life.  So I have to achieve a balance.  I am usually pretty good at knowing when it is time to tell my manager, in this case our director of pastoral care that I am not doing well.  Yet, sometimes even when I know I’m not doing well I won’t stop.  I will push myself to the point of physical and emotional collapse.  I hit this point last week following a month of family illness, end of life planning for my dad, a medical emergency with Judy and several very demanding weeks at work where I put in a huge amount of hours because the job had to get done.  I hate to leave something undone or have to leave something for someone else to do.  I don’t like to be taken out of a game.  My first Navy tour after 17 ½ years in the Army I was my Division Chaplain’s relief pitcher.  I ended up taking several battalions because their chaplains either got in trouble or were pulled for another assignment.  Likewise I was given the task of working with young guys who had run into some kind of trouble to see if they could be salvaged.

A good manager has to recognize when his pitcher is having problems before he gets in trouble.  Until the advent of relief pitchers that were primarily relief pitchers and not washed up former starters, they generally pitched deep into a game.  As such many racked up huge numbers of wins, strike outs and complete games.  In fact most of the top ten are guys that pitched when it was almost unheard of to bring in a reliever.  Thus there are men like Cy Young who won 511 games, Walter Johnson with 473 wins and Grover Cleveland Alexander and Christy Matthewson who won 373 each.  Young played 22 years and had a record of 511 wins and 316 losses.  He pitched 7356 innings. He played in 906 games, started 815 games and had 749 complete games.  No wonder the award for best pitcher is named after him.  Cardinals Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson started 482 games and completed 255 of them. In 1969 he won 20 games, 13 of which were shut outs. Gibson once reportedly said:  “I used to get tired in the seventh inning too. And the manager would come to the mound and ask me if I wanted to come out. Then I would look over at the bullpen and see who was warming up. Then I would say, ‘No, I’m going to stay in.”

As baseball moved forward teams began to have more depth on their pitching staffs. Rotations were developed where pitchers pitched every 4th game, and frequently in our era every 5th game.  Additionally since the 1970s the specialist relief pitcher has become a key part of the game.  While there were relievers prior to that, the relief pitcher as a specialist did not really get off the ground until Rollie Fingers of the Oakland A’s won salary arbitration against A’s owner Charlie Finely. At that point pitchers who could come into a game on no notice in certain situations became more and more a trend.  Now it is standard for a team to have long, middle and short relief specialist as well as “Closers.”

In a sense while some people may not like it, it is not a bad thing for the game.  One only has to look at how many pitchers had abbreviated careers o of overuse injuries including Sandy Koufax and Dizzy Dean who are both in the Hall of Fame.  If you look you can find others. This was especially true before the advent of “Tommy John surgery” when pitchers with a torn rotator cuff faced the end of their careers. As such teams became much more aware of how many pitches a starting pitcher and even relievers should throw in a game.  The pitch count was developed.  For a healthy starting pitcher in the middle of a season this is usually around 100 pitches.  Relief pitcher counts will vary.  While pitch counts are not necessarily the Gospel, there is a point in every pitcher’s career where he hits his own pitch count limit, be it in a game or a career. As Whitey Ford said:  “Sooner or later the arm goes bad. It has to…Sooner or later you have to start pitching in pain.”

So you may be asking what does something arcane like the mechanics, kinetics and injuries have to do with life.  As you know the Deity Herself speaks to me through baseball.   This has application to those in high stress jobs where they are called on to put their lives on the line for others or deal with danger, death or tragedy in an environment where just one mistake can be fatal or where a word, gesture or throw away comment can harm someone else.  The managers, supervisors or commanders of people who do such work have to be cognizant of the effects of this on their people.

I am luck, the Deity Herself has surrounded me with a number of people who can look at me and tell me to sit down even when I want to continue to keep pushing.  Last Friday was one of those days.  It was the culminating point of a nearly a month of personal and professional stress, lack of sleep and the lingering effects of my PTSD and chronic pain which flare up when I have exceeded my personal pitch count.  My boss was away last week.  However we remained in communication.  I was scheduled for weekend duty, which for me I remain in house because I am not able for the most part to meet the response time for a emergency call.  When my boss came back he must have checked in with several folks who k now me to see how they thought I was doing.  Friday afternoon after I got home I got a call from the acting department head who told me to stay at home that my boss was going to pull my duty for me.  I really needed this.  However, I told him that I still could come in if needed and was told to stay home and take care of myself.

With a manager like that I will be able to keep playing my game longer.  I may have occasional rough outings but I will do fine.  The lesson is that everybody has their own personal “pitch count” even if they do not throw a baseball.  Like my favorite theologian Harry Callahan says: “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

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Filed under Baseball, ER's and Trauma, healthcare, Loose thoughts and musings, philosophy, PTSD