With what's happening in MLB today, it underscores the point that baseball truly is an odd game, so much more peculiar, unpredictable, and quirky than most other sports.
Rays veteran leader Johnny Damon, just a few minutes ago on ESPN Radio with Mike Lupica, talked about how it's such a hard game to figure out and therefore so intriguing and fascinating and great. He spoke about how the Rays, for some reason, play the Red Sox tough. The Sox play the Yanks tough. The Yanks play the Rays well. He said there is no real obvious why. You can't figure it out. It's just the way it is. It's baseball at its core.
The more I've watched major league, college, and youth baseball in recent years, the more I have come to appreciate what Damon's talking about. One day a team will get blown out by 10 runs. In the next game the team will blow out some other team by 10 runs. I've even my son's team get blown out by 10 ten runs by a team and then, an hour later in the second of a double-header, blow out that same team by more than 10 runs. Doesn't make a lot of sense. The better team should usually win both games.
So much of it depends on who is pitching, of course. But often even that doesn't tell the story. Sometimes the ace gets rocked and no one can really explain why. Just ask Jon Lester of the Red Sox. It just happens.
One of the most striking and stunning of baseball truisms is how often when one guys gets a base hit, his teammates start getting base hits. This happens after hitters in unison go several innings and sometimes games without getting base hits. Hits come in bunches so often in baseball that it's almost creepy. A guy can hit a ground ball hard--and be all evaluators as well--straight at a fielder and be out. Another guy then does not hit it well, say a blooper, and reaches base. Statistically, the second guy did batter with the bloop but he's not viewed as a better hitter for it. This is a contradictory, almost counter-intuitive situation reality. It makes you think about whether the game is really fair and why it's so indirect and subtle. In football if the quarterback throws an accurate pass--the equivalent of hitting a baseball hard--the ball doesn't get intercepted. In basketball if a guy shoots the ball with good form it has a good chance of going in; his shot doesn't cause a turnover.
Some guys hit some pitchers well and others not well. Often these hitters rock good pitchers but, for some "baseball strange reason," they can't hit a lick against bum pitchers.
The great Greg Maddux owned just about every hitter he ever faced--with one exception, great Tony Gwynn. The eight-time batting champ rocked him all the time. No one hit Maddux as hard nor as well as Gwynn. Granted, Gwynn hit many pitchers well. But how did he do it against one of the greatest pitchers of all time? And why did so many other great hitters get riddled constantly by Maddux? Maddux served up 39 base hits to Gwynn, the most by an pitcher. How could it be the lesser pitchers didn't give up more hits to Gwynn? It would seem that they would have.
The answer is simple but still elusive: This is one of countless examples of the vagaries of baseball.
So tonight, when all this beautiful baseball mayhem unfolds involving the Rays, Red Rox, Yankees, Orioles, Cardinals, Astros and Braves, we can be sure of one thing: We can't be sure what will happen. Baseball is inherently that way. The best teams don't win as they do in so many other sports. The cream usually rises to the top more often in other sports. But in baseball the cream often sours.
And that is what so sweet about this gorgeous game, along with so many other things.