ANAHEIM, Calif. – The baseball season has splintered for the Los Angeles Angels into a handful of curiosities, none of them being how the Angels might gather themselves in time to win their division, which by appearances will be settled again in other towns by other teams.
The routine of AL West titles in the previous decade has given over to the accident of one in seven years, an era of drudgery that includes this one, if you'll excuse the presumptiveness. They were 18 games back when they arrived for work Tuesday afternoon, hours after they'd surrendered a seventh-inning lead and a ninth-inning tie to the Houston Astros. Meanwhile, the Texas Rangers had been at Yankee Stadium, waiting out a three-hour, 35-minute rain delay in the ninth inning, waiting out a one-run deficit that dragged to something like 2:30 in the morning, at which point they put four runs on the Yankees' bullpen, which is, for the Angels, what turned 17 games out into 18 games out.
Those are the dark places where a season comes to life. Or, perhaps, where it fragments into a small pile of curiosities.
"I felt myself becoming one dimensional again with my changeup," he said.
The rankings (records through Wednesday):
1. Chicago Cubs (47-23; Previous: 1) – Towel set monogrammed Mr. November and Mrs. November.
2. Texas Rangers (47-26; Previous: 4) – Set of “Just Hitched” cowboy boot bottle openers.
3. San Francisco Giants (46-27; Previous: 5) – Could think of nothing, but will be very generous during dollar dance.
4. Washington Nationals (43-30; Previous: 2) – A few dead Presidents to be put toward the honeymoon.
5. Cleveland Indians (41-30; Previous: 8) – One large, slightly used bass drum.
6. Baltimore Orioles (41-30; Previous: 3) – Nesting bowls. Cuz they’re the Orioles.
7. Boston Red Sox (39-32; Previous: 6) – Barbecue apron inscribed “True Yankee.”
8. Los Angeles Dodgers (41-33; Previous: 12) – Something blue.
9. Toronto Blue Jays (40-34; Previous: 13) – Something to remember them by from his years in the AL East – a nice doormat.
10. Kansas City Royals (38-33; Previous: 15) – A coffee maker for those long nights editing Matt Harvey's copy.
11. New York Mets (38-32; Previous: 10) – Hmmm, Supermodel of the Month Club? No …
13. Miami Marlins (38-34; Previous: 17) – Miniature replica home run thingy. You know, for the wedding night.
From behind him, a voice: “One a yours in there?”
Jayson Werth turned and smiled.
“Like a museum in here,” he said.
He’d last been a Dodger 10 years ago, and had last been on the field in their uniform a year before that.
He continued on toward the visitors’ clubhouse, a series of underground lefts and rights and stairways. As he walked, he talked about his son, Jackson, who is 14 and becoming a ballplayer.
“Great hands on that kid,” Jayson said. “Musta skipped a generation.”
He always has been prone to a laugh. He always has enjoyed the game – playing it, talking about it, waiting it out through various injuries, winning at it, failing at it, seeing what came next. And now, you may have heard, he is 37 years old.
Time waddles on, and it can get uncomfortable, which would account for the black socks.
When it’s time, he said, “That’s going to be my decision.”
Amy was going to be a teacher.
By now, maybe, she’d be on her second generation of pupils, another lifetime of long division and Mr. Popper’s Penguins, of “’Scuse me Miss Amy!” and puppy love-struck 9-year-olds.
Oh, and Amy surely would have had a few at home, too, a passel of her own that would see better and love better and laugh harder, just like mom. She was that way, Amy was, and while nothing stopped the birthdays from the calendars, and nothing stopped the Father’s Days from passing, Amy Elizabeth Donnelly is forever the girl in the photographs — smiling, giving, spirited.
Her dad, Rich, carries one of those pictures with him. Every day he looks at it, and every day he is thankful to have had her for as long as he did, and every day he wonders who she would’ve been today. She’d been so special in the time she was here. Imagine the rest. Just imagine.
“Oh,” her dad said, “she woulda made a dandy mom,” his voice thinning at the end.
The picture was taken before Amy knew about the tumor. Before anyone did. Not that it would’ve mattered. She’d have smiled anyway.
“In a way,” Rich said, “she’ll always be 17 to me.”
* * *
“Amy,” Rich recalled, “was the only person who wasn’t angry.”
Neither did they.
Over three weeks, four grown men – three players and an umpire – were felled by baseballs traveling somewhere between 90 and 106 mph that struck them square in their groins.
As the good folks of San Diego’s Petco Park cried in unison when the epidemic began May 22 with a 91-mph fastball that grazed Joc Pederson’s bat and caromed neatly into umpire David Rackley’s lap, “Ohhhhh.”
There have been more, probably, as these collisions of speeding object and just-minding-its-own-business object generally don’t register beyond the sudden bile gurgle in the back of the victim’s throat. These, we know about:
Rackley, 34 and a full-time major league umpire since 2014, wobbled from the field and returned five nights later in Atlanta.
One more time: “ Finished the game .”
He went to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with a testicular contusion, at which point his manager, Terry Francona, justifiably observed, “I don’t think he’s probably having the best night of his life.”
Gomes was behind the plate again three nights later.
Be careful out there, boys.
A WEEK BEHIND:
COMPTON, Calif. – “Irving Norwood,” the 13-year-old boy said Saturday morning, holding out his hand.
His old-style navy stirrups stretched from his shoe tops to the bottom of his gray uniform pants, which he’d rolled to his knees. He wore a blue cap with a red bill and a blue pullover windbreaker, zipped to his neck.
Irving Norwood — technically Irving Norwood III, as Irving Norwood II hovered nearby in a Cleveland Indians cap and Ohio State hoodie – has been an Indians fan as long as he can remember, an oddity in Baldwin Hills, Calif. His father used to tell him, “If you’re going to be a ballplayer, be like Robbie Alomar,” so young Irving set out to play like Alomar. It meant playing second base. It meant being a switch-hitter. It meant watching a lot of Indians games, even though Alomar had long ago retired, and long before that had left the Indians. He’d still watch the Indians.
“It’s amazing,” Irving said.
“People like them,” Lindor said, pointing to coaches and administrators, “helped me. They still do. If you work for it and dedicate yourself to it, why not?
He held out his arms. He is maybe 5-foot-11. Maybe 190 pounds.
“If I did it … ,” he said.
They nodded their heads.
* * *
* * *
The rankings (records through Wednesday):
1. Chicago Cubs (41-17; Previous: 1) – Is this real life?
2. Washington Nationals (36-23; Previous: 4) – Does Trevor Gott exist?
3. Baltimore Orioles (35-23; Previous: 6) – Any chance Trumbo could make America great again?
4. Texas Rangers (36-23; Previous: 11) – Where have all the Cowboys gone?
5. San Francisco Giants (36-25; Previous: 3) – If Brandon Belt and Rick Schu were on the same team, would they have to match?
6. Boston Red Sox (34-25; Previous: 2) – Just curious, Steven Wright, what is the speed of dark?
7. Seattle Mariners (33-26; Previous: 5) – The guy who writes Robinson’s biography: A Cano penner?
8. Cleveland Indians (32-26; Previous: 10) – Yo, you limpin’ or Tomlin?
9. Pittsburgh Pirates (32-27; Previous: 8) – Why didn’t the Pirates ever feed Barry Bonds?
10. New York Mets (32-26; Previous: 7) – When young pitchers near free agency, do we find out what Wilpon’s Madoff?
11. St. Louis Cardinals (31-28; Previous: 12) – Is the Cardinal on the left that much heavier than the one on the right? Is it the toasted raviolis?
12. Los Angeles Dodgers (32-29; Previous: 18) – So, Howie, 2B or not 2B?
You know their performance in a game does not reflect your worth as a person, right?
You know they’re them and you’re you, right? No matter what the letters across your shoulders say. You borrowed those.
They’re them. You happen to live nearby.
They play a sport. You watch them play it. Some are good at their sport. Others grew old or slow or uncertain or just lazy, so now they’re not as good as they were. If it were predictable, you wouldn’t watch anyway.
It’s supposed to break your heart sometimes. What fun would it be otherwise? It’s supposed to sweep you away, take you somewhere else, make you laugh and cry and high-five some dude you met exactly two beers ago. You watch because you never know when that’s going to come, but it will. If you stay long enough and believe hard enough, it will. Probably.
Forget that you pay their salaries. That’s not part of this. Besides, generally speaking, you choose to do that. Ryan Howard does not come to your house and search your change jar for the quarters. You come to his and buy $12 Bud Light Limes (a whole 'nother conversation).
A WEEK BEHIND:
Since he went to Defcon 2, Harvey’s two starts: 14 innings, 6 hits, 1 run, 9 strikeouts, 1 walk.
LOS ANGELES – The phone rang and Snit was offered the job he’d not wanted until he was asked, until that Monday morning in the parking lot outside Papa Jack’s Country Kitchen in Flowery Branch, Ga., 40 miles outside of Atlanta.
“Can you talk?” Coppy asked.
Snit was having breakfast with his wife, Ronnie. She’d heard half of a million of these calls.
“Yeah, I can talk,” Snit said, eyes on Ronnie.
“No,” Coppy said. “I mean, can you go to a room or something? Somewhere private?”
Snit nodded to Ronnie, walked out of Papa Jack’s and into the parking lot, where he held the phone to his ear and walked circles.
Brian Snitker had been an Atlanta Brave since the day he tried out for a Tennessee rookie-ball team managed by Bob Didier, who’d found himself near opening day and with a short roster. Snitker was a catcher just out of college with nowhere to play, and a team can never have too many catchers. He made the club. It was 1977.
Until the phone rang. See, nobody ever offered before. Nobody ever asked.
“You’re darned right I want to do this,” Snit told Coppy. “I want to do this. I’m all in.”
The job of a lifetime came with an edge.
“I hated it for Fredi,” he said.
“Where are you going?” she asked.
When San Diego Padres owner Ron Fowler had wrapped up his mini-Steinbrenner – really, if you can't work "fat puss-y toad" into a rant, it's not a real rant – a nation looked up, narrowed its eyes and thought, "Oh, are the Padres crappy again?"
They are. So far, they are. Again. Now move along.
Last in the NL West and, at the time of Fowler's observations, 13 games under .500 and dabbing fresh blood from a 16-4 lip-shot in Seattle, the Padres had shuffled off to irrelevance, a familiar accommodation, and slammed the door.
He just doesn't often open the windows, letting the world in on his tantrums.
This is what excessive turnover in the front office looks like. This is what floating organizational philosophies look like. This is what years of iffy decisions look like. This is what a really angry septuagenarian sounds like.
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