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Score Book

Scoring a baseball game requires paper, something to write with, following the action on the field, and knowing what to write on the score sheet. We enjoy everything related to baseball, not just watching and playing. We indulge in baseball books, poems, music, and films. In reviewing them we cannot use a normal 1 to 10 ratings system. Even this we must make about baseball. 

Here is our ratings system to understand our opinions about our previous reviews and moving forward.

  1. Golden Sombrero
  2. Strikeout
  3. Walk
  4. Hit By Pitch
  5. Single
  6. Double
  7. Triple
  8. Home Run
  9. Grand Slam
  10. Walk-Off Grand Slam
Scorecard
The is no wrong way to score a baseball game, so long as you can read and understand what happened in the game. (The Winning Run/ BL)

Here are our past reviews and ratings. 

Books

Film

Music

  • My Oh My by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (Single)

Poetry

Moving forward we will use this ratings system in our reviews. We do not always agree, but the scoring is the opinion of the reviewer. Everyone wants to hit a Walk-Off Grand Slam, but not everyone will. Hopefully we find our own versions of Bill Mazeroski off the diamond. 

DJ

Opening Day Where Are You?

Happy Opening Day! Wait…there are no games today?

This is the first time since 1995 with no games on what should be Opening Day. The reasons for no games in 1995 and 2020 are quite different. The Player’s Strike delayed the start of the 1995 season, while a global pandemic is delaying this season. 

It is a sad day without baseball. However, there are more pressing issues at the moment. People are getting sick, some are dying, and our healthcare system could be overrun if we continued with business as usual. Baseball is far down the list of critical activities at the moment. No baseball on Opening Day is a strange feeling, but I completely understand why there are no games. 

Josh Harrison showing everyone how to stop the spread of the Covid-19. (MLB)

Eventually Covid-19 will fade and the world will move on. We are not there yet. Listen to medical experts. Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands. Practice social distancing. This is a team effort. Pretend you are the winning run, but are caught in a run down. If they tag you we all lose. It is a great time to impersonate Josh Harrison.

DJ

Let’s Go To The Tape

Umpires never want to draw attention to themselves. If players and fans are talking about an umpire it is rarely a good thing. Any umpire worth their weight wants to get the call right, even if it means changing their call. The intent of replay in baseball is getting the call right. No one wants a mistake by an umpire to alter the outcome of a game.

After many close calls players will signal the dugout to challenge the call. The manager has seconds to decide whether to challenge the call. In 2019, there were 2,429 games played and 1,171 challenges, roughly once every two games. 558 calls were overturned, 47.7%. Managers were successful  525 times in 1,053 challenges, 49.9%. Umpires overturned their own calls 33 times out of 118, 28%. Major League umpires make the right call more often than players and fans realize. The players on the diamond are not the only elites at the ballpark. 

Replay today is quicker and teams better understand what they can challenge than in the beginning. Each team averaged 35 challenges in 2019, successfully overturned 17.5 calls. The Padres under Andy Green were the most aggressive, challenging 54 times. San Diego successfully overturned 25 calls, 46%. Conversely, the Yankees and Aaron Boone made the fewest challenges, 22, yet were successful 15 times, 68%. Brandon Hyde and the Orioles challenged just 30 times. Like the Yankees, Baltimore was selective with their challenges. Unlike New York, the Orioles overturned only 11 calls, 36%, the fewest in baseball. The American League loved going to replay in 2019. The Rangers had the most calls overturned. Texas and manager Chris Woodward were successful on 29 of 46 challenges, 63%. Rocco Baldelli and the Twins hated replay. Minnesota had the lowest success rate, 30%, winning just 12 of 39 challenges. Ned Yost and his Royals used their challenges well. Kansas City was successful with 82% of their challenges, 23 of 28. While teams can benefit from challenges, they can also create frustration when replay is unsuccessful. 

Review
Talking to the replay umpire in New York to get the call right. A brief delay to ensure the players decide the outcome of a game and not the umpires. (Steven Ryan/ News Day)

Replay allows the umpire in New York to overturn, up hold, or let stand the call in question. Clear and convincing evidence is necessary to overturn any call. Unfortunately without infinite camera angles some calls stand due to a lack of clear and convincing evidence. Replay is not perfect, but it aids in getting more calls right than ever before. 

When a player asks the dugout to challenge and the team waives him in, umpires unofficially confirm another call. It is only calls that were clearly missed or are extremely close that are reviewed. Managers have only one challenge guaranteed per game. If they are successful with their first challenge, they receive one more. Managers are careful to use their challenges only when they believe a call will be overturned. Umpires usually get the call right and no challenge occurs. They see the play once, at full speed. Their training helps, but they are also elite at their craft. 

Replay puts more eyes on umpires. Suddenly every fan is an expert after watching the play multiple times at slow speed. Everyone has their opinion. However, fans should understand the arbiters of the game make the right call almost every time, thus allowing the players to decide the outcome of each game. 

DJ

Bouncing Back

Spending a summer on the diamond takes a toll on an umpire, mentally and physically. Improving as an umpire requires studying the rule book and working on your mechanics so you are in position to make the call. Umpires must prepare and maintain their mental and physical fitness for their entire season. This becomes a grind, but if you love umpiring it creates more good days than bad.

Each November I take a break to recover from the long season. My legs are tired and need time to heal from the squatting, running, twisting, turning, stopping, and starting I subject them to from mid-March through Halloween. Once December rolls around I begin working out again. Sit ups, pushups, squats, stretching, and hiking. I ease back into shape, allowing my body to fully heal while strengthening any problematic area from the previous season.

This off-season was different. Instead of relaxing and recovering in November, my body revolted. I spent five days in the hospital with pneumonia. I was admitted with a 103 degree fever and a resting heart rate in the 140’s (mid-50’s is my normal). I was in bad shape. Simply watching TV was exhausting. However, thanks to modern medicine, I recovered. It was two weeks after returning home before I could climb the stairs without needing a break. I was forcibly glued to the couch, so I watched all of Ken Burns’ Baseball. Making the best of a bad situation.

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I may have felt terrible, but you can still smile through the tough times. (The Winning Run/ DJ)

My recovery was slow, but steady. As my physical strength returned my voice failed. All of the coughing from the pneumonia brought stomach acid into my throat, causing blisters on the muscles surrounding my vocal cords. I could barely speak or eat. Through it all my wonderful wife navigated life as a single mom with two kids, a 6 month old and a 33 year old. 

Nothing prepares you for the inability to hold your daughter. The fear of dropping her because you are so weak is both terrifying and infuriating. Lots of sleep, healthy eating, slowly increasing my physical activity, the appropriate medication, and two cameras stuck down my throat my body and voice recovered.

The beginning of 2020 saw me feeling normal again. I could go through my normal daily routine. As the calendar turned to February, it was past time to begin preparing for the upcoming season. I was more than a few months behind in my offseason routine. The pneumonia took a severe toll on my physical strength and endurance. Low repetitions of push ups, sit-ups, squats, and short walks were difficult. I was 10 steps behind square one. Slowly my strength has returned. I will rely heavily on my mental preparations this season. I am not an umpiring veteran, but entering my fifth season I know how to prepare myself for the grind.

Umpiring is a privilege and this off season has shown how easily it can slip away. The experience I have will help me navigate the season. Baseball is an amazing game, but it is not life and death. I am excited to get back on the diamond. This season I have a new appreciation for the time and energy it takes to umpire at my best. Time will tell when Covid-19 allows my season to begin, but I will be ready.

DJ

Baseball Marks The Time

8 years ago we began writing The Winning Run because of our love of baseball. Since then we have chronicled events in and around the game, the statistics the game produces, games we have watched, stadiums we have visited, books we have read, and films we have watched. Baseball has relatively stayed the same since 2012. It remains as exciting as ever. 

We each love the game differently, yet the thrill of baseball draws us back each season for the same reason. Baseball has wrapped itself into our lives. A text about an injury or trade, discussions about why the Mets are their own worst enemy, trips to minor league parks, spur of the moment trips to our local MLB teams. Baseball is never far away.

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Jesse, John, and Derek at the last Rangers game at Globe Life Park. (The Winning Run/ DJ)

Our local teams have changed in 8 years. Derek, Bernie, and Kevin were living near New York City with the Yankees and Mets, while Jesse and John lived in Atlanta with the Braves. Derek and Jesse love the Braves. Bernie and Kevin love their Yankees. John loves both teams. As we have moved, our rooting interest expanded as our local teams are now the Braves, Reds, Nationals, Angels, and Dodgers. Local teams are great, but we never turn down an opportunity to visit a new stadium.

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Derek, Kevin, and Bernie enjoying a Rockies game at Coors Field. (The Winning Run/ BL)

It is difficult to explain to someone what baseball means to you, if they too are not wrapped up in the game. Perhaps Terence Mann (James Earl Jones) put it best in ­Field of Dreams,

“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time.”

Time and baseball roll on. Our lives change, yet, like baseball, they stay the same. Happy 8th Birthday to The Winning Run. Here’s to many more.

DJ

Duel in the Sun

Doug Eddings settled in behind home plate to call balls and strikes. Entering the game on April 22, 2018, Eddings had worked more than 2,400 games in the Majors, including more than 600 behind the plate. He had seen plenty through his mask. The Giants were visiting the Angels in an early season Interleague game. This game felt no different than any other game. As often happens in baseball, nothing suggested history was just moments away.

Jaime Barria took the mound for the Angels. 11 days earlier in Texas, Barria had given up one hit, a Ryan Rua Home Run, over five innings in his Major League debut to collect the win against the Rangers. Barria looked to build on his successful debut at home. The first San Francisco batter, Second Baseman Joe Panik, singled to Right on the seventh pitch of the game. Not an ideal start, but a lead off single does not signal impending doom.

Brandon Belt strolled to the plate. The Giants’ First Baseman entered the contest hitting .259 on the young season. Belt dug in against Barria. History awaited. 

Here is the pitch-by-pitch breakdown of the longest at bat in Major League history: 

New ball. Martin Maldonado throws the ball to Barria.

1). (0-1)- Foul, 92 MPH, Fastball, thigh high, outer half

New ball. Eddings throws the ball to Barria.

2). (1-1)- Ball, 92 MPH, Fastball, up and in, Maldonado fakes to First

3). (1-2)- Swinging Strike, 80 MPH, Slider, down and in

4). (1-2)- Foul, 91 MPH, Fastball, belly button high, outside corner

New ball. Eddings to Barria.

5). (1-2)- Foul, 81 MPH, Slider, middle, bottom of zone

New ball, Maldonado to Barria

6). (2-2)- Ball, 83 MPH, Changeup, down and away

7). (2-2)- Foul, 81 MPH, Slider, middle middle

New ball, ?

8). (2-2)- Foul, 92 MPH, Fastball, belly button, inside corner

New ball, Eddings to Barria

9). (3-2)- Ball, 92 MPH, Fastball, high, outside corner

10). (3-2)- Throw to First, Safe, Foul, 92 MPH, Fastball, middle middle

New ball, Eddings to Barria

11). (3-2)- Throw to First, Safe, Foul, 82 MPH, Slider, belt high, inside corner

New ball, Eddings to Barria

12). (3-2)- Foul, 83 MPH, Changeup, down and away

New ball, Eddings to Barria

13). (3-2)- Panik running, Foul, 83 MPH, Changeup, thigh high, outer third of the plate

New ball, Maldonado to Barria

14). (3-2)- Foul, 92 MPH, Fastball, thigh high, outer third of the plate

New ball, Maldonado to Barria

15). (3-2)- Foul, 82 MPH, Curveball, belt high, inside

New ball, Eddings to Barria

16). (3-2)- Throw to First, Safe, Foul, 82 MPH, Changeup, middle, bottom of zone

New ball, Eddings to Barria

17). (3-2)- Foul, 92 MPH, Fastball, belt high, outside third of the plate

New ball, Eddings to Barria

18). (3-2)- Foul, 93 MPH, Fastball, Thigh high, inside

New ball, ?

19). (3-2)- Throw to First, Safe, Foul, 82 MPH, Slider, Thigh high, inner third

New ball, Eddings to Barria

20). (3-2)- Foul, 92 MPH, Fastball, belt high, outside corner

New ball, Eddings to Barria

21). (3-2)- Line out to RF Kole Calhoun running straight in, 92 MPH, Fastball, belt high, inside corner

Barria and Belt battled for 13 minutes and 21 pitches before Belt flew out to Kole Calhoun. Angels Pitching Coach Charles Nagy paid Barria a visit to give him a breather after winning the fight. Two batters in, Barria was at 28 pitches. Jaime Barria and Brandon Belt’s battle surpassed Bartolo Colon and Ricky Guiterrez’s previous record of a 20 pitch at bat. Welcome to the record book. Barria got a breather while Belt was applauded in the dugout.

17 different baseballs were used during the at bat. The Ball Boy resupplied Eddings with new baseballs at least twice. Eddings threw 11 of the new baseballs to Barria, while Maldonado threw four back. There are two new baseballs unaccounted for as the video does not show the ball returning to Barria. Belt fouled off 12 of 21 pitches. Barria’s 21 pitches were 11 fastballs, 5 sliders, 4 changeups, and 1 curveball. Panik scurried back to First on 4 pickoff attempts.

Barria won the battle, but Belt and the Giants won the game 4-2. Barria lasted just 2 Innings, allowed 5 Hits, 2 Runs, 2 Earned Runs, 1 Walk, and 1 Strikeout against 12 Batters Faced. He threw 77 Pitches, 57 Strikes. San Francisco Batters made contact on 41 of Barria’s pitches, 16 by Belt. After the longest at bat of all time, Belt went 3 for 5 with a Home Run, 2 Runs Scored, and 1 RBI against 40 pitches, 33 for Strikes. 

Something unusual can happen everyday at the ballpark. Jaime Barria and Brandon Belt did not expect to face off in a 21 pitch marathon at bat. Both were trying to help their team win, and neither was willing to surrender. Baseball is a strange game and from time to time it gives glimpses of the absurd possibilities within the game.

DJ

Back to Baseball

After an off season of scandal, on again off again blockbuster trades, gigantic free agent signings, possible Minor League Baseball contraction, and the Mets being the Mets it is time to return to the diamond. Pitchers and Catchers report to Spring Training, the journey to October begins. 

Expectations are high in the Bronx after signing Gerrit Cole. Houston is out to prove they can win without stealing signs, while the rest of baseball is out for revenge. The on again off again trade of Mookie Betts to the Dodgers showed how far Boston has fallen while searching for financial flexibility. The Red Sox continue searching for a permanent manager to replace Alex Cora after he was swept up in the fallout from Houston. Major League Baseball proposed eliminating 42 minor league teams, which immediately angered the communities potentially impacted, baseball fans, and even Congress.

The Mets once again managed to stay in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Yoenis Cespedes reworked his contract after the revelation that his injury was the result of a run in with a wild boar. The Amazin’s General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen, Cespedes’ former agent, now had to alter the contract he negotiated, but from the other side of the table. Carlos Beltran never made it to his first workout of Spring Training as Mets Manager. His involvement in the Astros scandal followed him to Queens. The Wilpons were unable to sell the Mets because they wanted to continue making team decisions once they no longer wrote the checks. 

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The Cincinnati Reds are poised to climb out of the cellar and into contention after an active Winter. (Kareem Elgazzar)

Anthony Rendon got paid by leaving Washington, Stephen Strasburg got paid to stay with the Nationals. Zack Wheeler left Queens for Philadelphia for a chance to win and a large paycheck. Madison Bumgarner left the Bay for the desert, while Hyun-Jin Ryu left sunny Southern California and moved north of the border. Josh Donaldson added his name to the slugging Twins lineup, a new age Murderers’ Row. The White Sox and Reds loaded up on free agents, vaulting themselves into contention. Hundreds of other moves happened. Time will tell which moves helped teams, and which teams will come to regret. 

Baseball lost the legendary writer Roger Kahn. Few, if any, possess his ability to write about the game. He was baseball’s writer. His ability to put the passion and beauty of the game into print will be missed.

It was an odd and harrowing off season, but now Pitchers and Catchers are reporting to Spring Training. The world is a little more perfect because we are getting back to baseball. 

DJ