This was the summer of snakes.
And, not just the long black ones that prowl one’s property looking for mice. The harmless ones. Well, harmless to people anyway. Mice, not so much.
This was the summer of copperheads.
There was a point this summer that my Facebook page should have been brimming with pictures of homegrown red tomatoes and zucchinis as big as a strongman’s arm posted by Virginia friends with far more gardening skills than me.
But, it was a too-wet summer. And, a snaky one, too. There were copperheads hiding in gardens, amongst the tomatoes and the zucchini vines. (And, coiled up in flower beds, on front porches, and, for one of my friends, in her garage.)
It was unusually snaky.
Copperheads are not harmless. The Virginia Herpetological Society reports that the slang name for a copperhead is “dumb rattlesnake.” I would be a little pissed off about that if I were a copperhead. (Which I am not.)
Last month, the Wildlife Center of Virginia ended up – briefly – with a two-headed copperhead. (Coppershead? Copperheads? Copperheadhead?) It made national news although it wasn’t at the Center long.
(Two heads. Just one heart.)
I tell you all this not just to tell you about the two-headed copperheadhead. And, I certainly don’t want to annoy all the copperheads out there by suggesting that “dumb rattlesnake” is an appropriate thing to call them, even if it describes their soundless ways and not their IQs. I’m sure copperheads are very smart.
But, see, there’s this.
There was a time, 100 or more years ago, when a baseball diamond was sometimes called a garden. Not a field, not a park, but a garden. Not always. Not often.
But often enough that this summer of copperheads in my friends’ gardens makes me think of baseball.
(And, not just the Arizona Diamondbacks who are named for the diamondback rattlesnake, the largest venomous snake in North America. The team also would have been within their rights to name themselves the Sonoran Sidewinders, another native Arizona snake and, arguably, a way better name.)
(I’m told by the Googler that the D’Backs once had a minor league team named the Tucson Sidewinders who are, today, the Reno Aces. Nobody thinks the Aces is a good team name.)
But, baseball is sort of like a garden. And, unexpected snakes pop up from time to time. Weird things.
(It is here that I remind you that for 17 seasons Baltimore’s old Memorial Stadium included a tomato patch, tended by the groundskeeper and Orioles Manager Earl Weaver, in foul territory next to the left field line.)
Let’s just get on with some of the weirdness coiled up in this postseason.
1) Everyone’s an underdog. Seriously? Enough of that. I think the Dodgers are the only team in this postseason not to claim underdog status. Are you kidding me, Red Sox? You won 108 games and have the second-largest payroll in baseball. You are not underdogs. I am officially banning “underdog” from use in the postseason. If you made it this far … you are an overdog.
2) Where are the starting pitchers? Pitching has gotten so … weird. Superstar starters are having freakishly sucky postseason outings and relievers are now starting games, but aren’t called starters, they’re called “openers.” Why? Why can’t you just call them starters? Why do you have to make up a new term for a starter who is a reliever but is starting because the starters suck?
(Editor/Husband will vouch for the fact that several seasons ago I suggested the Orioles scrap their starters entirely and just put a new reliever out for every inning. I was years ahead of my time.)
3) Where is Jonathan Schoop? At this summer’s trade deadline, the Milwaukee Brewers traded for one of my favorite Baltimore Orioles, 2017 All-Star and Most Valuable Oriole (MVO) Jonathan Schoop. They traded for him and then they benched him. Brewers fans were perplexed at the trade anyway because the team didn’t really need a second baseman. So, now they trot him out every once in awhile, a complicated rhythm for a guy used to playing every day and then when he’s crummy (like last night’s 0-for-5 crummy) they grumble at him. Can we just have him back?
I am posting this Schoop at-bat, but it breaks my heart to do it.
4) Who’s Playing? Throughout the recent ALCS and NLCS games, the broadcasters have noted that several players haven’t played in awhile – “He hasn’t pitched since September 30,” “This is his first appearance since September 20.” This leads me to wonder a) how many players are on a team’s postseason roster? 100? And b) if no one has been playing lately, who’s been playing lately? (Not Jonathan Schoop. See above.)
5) Cheaters! The Cleveland Indians filed a complaint with MLB that the Houston Astros were cheating in the ALDS by having someone taking cell phone video of the Indians dugout in an attempt to steal signs. “The Astros reportedly try to train cameras on the opposing catcher, manager, and bench coach in an effort to steal signs and pick up tendencies,” according to Cleveland.com. This is not weird. What’s weird is that every team hasn’t filed some complaint about every other team stealing signs.
None of this is two-headed copperheadhead weird. But, still, a little weird.
I don’t have a team to root for this postseason, so I’m just rooting for Jonathan Schoop to get a hit for the Brewers. That’s all I ask.
The good thing about us Reds and Orioles fans is we can just enjoy the postseason, not putting much energy into rooting for who wins or loses. By the way, what’d you think of Machado’s kick of Alvarez?
Did you notice how I cleverly didn’t mention Machado at all in this post? And, how I didn’t suggest that his stupid first base kick thing last night, or his suspect slides into second, his at-bat whining, or his comment that he’s not “Johnny Hustle” were weird? Yup, that’s Manny. Great player. Kind of a jerk. I will miss seeing Manny’s great defensive plays (especially when he was at 3rd). But, I won’t miss Manny. (I will miss Jonathan Schoop.) What’s your take?
Well, you have to remember I’m writing a whole webpage about people like Pete Alexander, Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Cap Anson, and other criminals and racists, so Machado is pretty much a peach! I don’t know enough about Machado, but I think he’d learn more about playing the game if he actually got in trouble for some of these actions. Maybe Dave Roberts should have pulled him, but there’s no way the Dodgers manager is going to take the heat if they end up losing that game.
I’m so fixed on Manny Machado’s incomprehensibly poor sportsmanship this week I cannot even function! Poor Schoop, I agree. We like him here in the 414, really, we do, but Shaw’s been such a keeper and Arcia is on fire at the plate right now. “Too many cooks” comes to mind, but in this case, I’m OK with the overabundance of talent. Sorry. We’ll keep him for awhile, at least until the end of the WS. Did I ever tell you about my boy’s comparison between himself and Jacob Barnes? (Who? Yeah, another guy whose name hasn’t been uttered in too long because post-season roster-ing IS WEIRD, you are so right.). Anyway, my kid says, “As a pitcher, I think I’m pretty good, but I’m like Jacob Barnes–don’t get the call often enough.” Roster-ing is weird, all right.
I thought benching former Oriole Jonathan Schoop was weird … but former Oriole Wade Miley’s four-pitch start last night for the Brewers has taken weird to a whole new level. Miley’s start is definitely two-headed copperheadhead weird.
Alas, this seems like a million years ago already. How I miss my Brew boys in blue already. Their season, the whole of it, was a little weird. 163 games?? 12-game streak?? Those brownies, Jackie? Otherworldly!
I think it was a million years ago. Although I wouldn’t say I’m missing the 115-game-losin’ Orioles. But, let me get a jump on the 2019 season: “Dear Milwaukee Brewers, Play Jonathan Schoop regularly or give him back.”
Thinking about starters and relievers, I wonder how many starters actually pitched the whole game this past season. Thanks for another great blog, Jackie.
It was 42 for both leagues or about four more than Pete Alexander had by himself in a normal season.
Let’s put that 42 complete game # into context. There were 2432 regular season games played in 2018 (that includes two division tie-breakers.) Starting pitchers went the distance 42 times. That represents less than 2 percent of all big league games. Part of that is the physical stress on today’s pitchers — no one was consistently throwing 95-100 mph 50 years ago like they are expected to now. A shoulder and elbow can only take so much. Because of that, strategy changes.
(And a manager’s strategy can just get weird … like last night’s decision by the Brewers to let their starting pitcher pitch to just one batter before removing him — after 4 pitches. We’ll see how that works out when the same pitcher starts again tonight.)
Maybe Verlander will salvage the reputation of starting pitchers tonight. Wouldn’t it be awesome to see him go 9?
In our house, one can never refer to him as just Verlander. He must be referred to by his proper title: “Justin Verlander, the pride of Goochland, Virginia.” I think he could have 9 in him, but would Hinch let him?
Great column! You were most definitely ahead of your time regarding relievers “opening” games and changing pitchers every inning. In fact, I read somewhere, probably about a year ago, that there’s a high school manager that uses that strategy. I guess he has a 12 pitcher staff and uses one pitcher per inning in a continuous rolling order. It sounds like a brilliant idea. However, there would need to be tweaks based on weird things like injuries, a guy just doesn’t have it that night and walks 4 guys in an inning, etc. Anyway, I’d love to try it.
Another thing, the playoff rosters are what, 30 guys? I think it’s funny when broadcasters say, “This guy Knebel (for example) hasn’t been used since Monday.” They say this on Wednesday. It’s like, “Oooooh, he didn’t get into the game yesterday!?! OMG! He must be in the dog house.” Makes me laugh.
Thanks for the awesome post!
Thanks, Reid. Yes, I didn’t even have space to talk about the starters who come in to relieve … like Kershaw who went out there last night like, “Yeh, I’m just the closer here, no big deal.”
Great post as usual , Jackie. Personally I have no problem in Machado telling us that he doesn’t hustle. So what, a lot of players don’t and it’s no big deal. I just remember every time he or Adam Jones would come up to bat against my Yankees, they rarely made an out. As for Verlander , can’t stand him and I was happy the Red Sox beat him. I am rooting for either the Sox or Dodgers to win because I lived in both cities for a total of 23 years. I think it’s funny all these starters are coming in relief to pitch, it’s like the managers don’t trust their closers. But after watching Craig Kimbrel elevate my heart rate and blood pressure , I understand why.
Wow! A Yankees fan who’s rooting for the Red Sox. I didn’t think that was possible! Well, if you’re rooting for the Sox or Dodgers, this World Series is going to be a breeze for you! :)
I lived in Boston for 13 years and still consider it home . I also lived in Los Angeles for 10 years , so I’ve got a dilemma on who to root for
My parents moved us from Richmond to Virginia Beach when I was 4. I applaud their judgment in this decision, based upon many factors, one of which was quite possibly that my mother was required to decapitate a copperhead with a garden hoe one afternoon as I played in the back yard. I probably am less proud than I should be that my birthplace is home to 3 out of 4 of the labeled “poisonous” U.S. snakes.
Back in happier times, we would seasonly attend Spring Training in Tucson, where the Diamondbacks and White Sox shared a delightful park known as Tucson Electric Park. During the regular season, it was indeed the home of the AAA Sidewinders. The Rockies were across town in the venerable Hi Corbett Field (used for a few shots in the movie “Major League “). Closest snakes to Hi Corbett might have been in the next door Reid Park Zoo. Of course now all the Cactus League teams are in Metro Phoenix- since the pampered players deemed the scenic 2 hour bus ride to be egregiously torturous.
As one whose 2 first rooting interests were the Giants and the Orioles, while I respect the feelings of the sportsdiva 😉 I cannot share her excitement given the dashing of small market Milwaukee’s hopes and the unfortunate end of Schoop’s season. I despise both finalists and won’t be a close observer of the Series.
Steve Earle has had lots of great songs but NOTHING beats Copperhead Road
Steve Earle is doing a 30th Anniversary tour for Copperhead Road … and we’ve got tickets! :)