Bullpen By Committee: First-Half Favorites

Here at Bullpen By Committee, we like baseball a lot. We like some things that happen in baseball even more than other things, and we call those things we like more our “favorites.” So put on your R.A. Dickey face and join us as we wax poetic about some of our favorite people, events, storylines, delectable food items, and other such baseball-related wonders from the first half of the season.

A first half worthy of R.A. Dickey Face.

Favorite Story: The incredible journey of R.A. Dickey. Not only did he overcome an abusive childhood and early-career injuries to improbably dominate as few pitchers (and no knuckleballers) ever have, he also fulfilled a lifelong dream of mine by scaling Mount Kilimanjaro this offseason (and writing about it for the New York Times). I look forward to the 2015 Disney movie in which a struggling, down-on-his-luck pitcher climbs a treacherous peak to learn the secrets of the knuckleball from a mystical mountain-dwelling monkey who vaguely resembles Orel Hershiser. – Andrew

Lightning Strikes in Texas:

Like, literally. I’m not just talking about Josh Hamilton’s hitting or something. A massive lightning strike near the stadium during a Twins-Rangers contest provided one of my favorite sports bloopers ever. There are so many funny things I’m not sure where to begin. I love how Mike Napoli does NOT fuck around. I love how Josh Willingham executes a perfect duck and cover. I love the Rangers infield hanging around and making fun of Roy Oswalt. I love picking random fans and watching them react. It’s great, just all so great. – Dan

‘Give Us Replay’ Moment of the First Half:

Not in frame: Mr. Magoo calling this runner out.

This video should be required viewing for any opposition to instant replay or robot umps. I’m not sure what umpire Tim Welke’s explanation could have been to an actively livid Don Mattingly, but I assure you the answer wasn’t “I missed it”. A call that blatantly bad right in front of his eyes? Surely it would have taken an umpire no more than 10 seconds in a replay booth to realize his horrifying mistake. Regardless, Welke did not even go as far as confer with the other umpires who could have made the correct call from the top of Mount Elbert. We are even treated to a small ump show at which Mattingly dances around and is ejected during the commercial break. Lucky us for not having the use of replay in baseball! -Colin

Mondays: For any baseball fan Monday is the best day of the week, even though we only get a half-slate of games. This season two tremendous baseball writers have started their own Monday traditions and if you’re not reading along, then you are sorely missing out. Grantland’s Jonah Keri puts together “The 30,” simple-enough power rankings that are chock full of great stats, hilarious anecdotes, quality links and more gifs than you can shake a stick at. At SB Nation, Jeff Sullivan compiles “The Week in Worst,” a hilarious rundown of the worst pitches, swings, and defensive plays of the week. It’s so perfect that I can’t imagine how people lived before this feature, before the internet, or before baseball. – Dan

Best Performance:

More shocking: Josh Hamilton hitting four home runs in a game, or the Moby Dick reference in this post NOT coming from Dan?

Has to be a perfect game, right? Not according to the laws of supply and demand. Stellar pitching performances are all too common in this age, whereas baseball hadn’t seen a four home run game since Carlos Delgado in 2003 (hey look, a Mike Bordick sighting!). Nine years later, Josh Hamilton entered the record books with his four-bomb, 5-5 night. He launched three balls to centerfield and one to left as the Oriole faithful at Camden Yards cheered him on during his final trip around the bases. Hamilton never got a crack at a possible fifth homer, perhaps baseball’s whitest whale. Someday. – Colin

Favorite Ballpark Food Item: Crab Mac N’ Cheese Hot Dog from Stuggy’s at Camden Yards. If there’s one thing Baltimore loves more than purple camo, it’s heroin. But if there are two things Baltimore loves more than purple camo, the other thing besides heroin is combining crab meat and/or crab flavoring with any food imaginable. This is one of the most delightful combinations attempted yet. Much better than crab juice. (Yes, I’m aware that clip is in Spanish. Linking to Simpsons clips in foreign languages slays me for some reason.) – Andrew

Bryce Harper in Toronto:

U Mad?

The Washington Nationals headed to Toronto in the middle of the toughest stretch of their season — 32 consecutive games against AL & NL East teams — and were about to take another step toward competitive legitimacy. The team had just swept the Red Sox in Fenway, the hitters were starting to get healthy, and the pitching was still dominant. Bryce Harper was proving himself a capable major leaguer, but his actual production always seemed to take a backseat to other things: the haircut, the kids mooning the camera, the baserunning adventures, the unquenchable hustle, the “first Major League [event] for Bryce Harper!” This series gave us the ultimate Harper-as-sideshow moment — don’t ask if you don’t remember, that’s a clown question, bro — but also reminded us that, oh yeah, this kid is really good at baseball. Harper went 7-for-13 in a three-game Nats sweep with a home run that registered as an 80 on the 20-80 holy shit scale. – Dan

The Real Ryan Braun Reality Bus Tour: Imagine boos hailing down upon you every moment you step up to the plate at a visiting ballpark. No, I’m not describing Robinson Cano’s fruitless effort in this year’s Home Run Derby, rather Ryan Braun’s entire 2012 season to date. Unlike Cano, Braun has waded through the noise to emerge as a legitimate candidate to win back to back NL MVP awards. The boo birds are an apparent expression of disdain for his alleged steroid use; however, Braun is proving once and for all that steroids have not been a factor in his stellar career. The Hammer has clubbed an NL leading 24 dingers and is on pace to shatter his career mark in that category. It’s been a redemption tour of sorts for the Brewers’ left fielder, though do not expect a miniature bite size Three Musketeers with your ticket. – Colin

Favorite Game:

Fairly typical line score.

 Orioles 9, Red Sox 6, 17 innings, May 6. I’m not going to write anything better than this about this game. If you don’t remember the game, go read it. If you do remember the game, read it anyway and relive its epic glory. I will add, though, that as a long-suffering Os fan it was pretty awesome to see Facebook, Twitter, and the online baseball community in general blowing up over a random May Os game. This must be how it feels to be relevant, something the Orioles haven’t been since Billy Beane invented the internet and ruined baseball. If this season is the beginning of an upswing in the Os’ fortunes, this game is the moment I’ll look back on as the point things started to turn around. – Andrew

Game of the year:

Screenshots of line scores make for white-hot internet multimedia presentation!

While you were sleeping on April 18th, Matt Cain and Cliff Lee combined to throw 19 shutout innings in just around two hours. And they could have kept going had it not been for blurry standards regarding early season pitch counts. Lee was lifted in the 11th inning for a pinch hitter after 102 pitches, as was Cain in the 9th after just 91. Both sides of the sheet remained clean until Antonio Bastardo failed to record more than one out of scoreless relief for Lee, allowing the game’s only run. It’s a tough pill to swallow when you lose a game in which your starter offers up ten zeros. So is the life of a Phillies fan in 2012. -Colin

Favorite Social Media Moment: Matt Cain’s perfect game. I was in bed when most of it happened (East Coast Bias, what what), so as I read my Twitter feed over breakfast the following morning and saw the escalating excitement as he got closer and closer, I was able to experience the hours of dramatic tension provided by one of the rarest feats in this beautiful game reduced to 140-character text blurbs in a matter of seconds. Hooray modernity! – Andrew

(Editor’s note: I saved the tearjerker, and the one with the best use of alliteration, for last.)

Kerry Wood’s Retirement:

I teared up a little just searching for this photo, and I’m about as close to an emotionless robot as one can get and still be considered human.

Kerry Wood was always an extremely likeable pitcher. He seemed like one of those kids that stepped out of his crib and started throwing 80 mph, the kid who was snapping off curves when you were still playing Little League ball in sneakers. He did not retire as the best pitcher ever, but there were nights when it was hard to imagine anyone was ever better. His career is about as bittersweet as it gets: perhaps the single best game pitched ever, playoff heroics, and some black ink on his baseball-reference.com page, but also a string of injuries and bad luck made him a poster boy for the fragility of hotshot young pitchers. It’s what made his final moment as a baseball player so perfectly fitting. The heat, then the hammer and the heartbreak, then the hugs. Wood’s retirement reminded us that it’s always bitter to see potential only half-filled, and to see one of our favorites walk away. But he left with one last bit of dazzle, a great ovation, and a touching, honest moment with his son — and how sweet is that? – Dan

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4 Responses to Bullpen By Committee: First-Half Favorites

  1. Anonymous says:

    This sucks

  2. fhyrew says:

    First of all, sincere thanks for your page view. It is greatly appreciated. Second of all, you suck!

  3. Best moment: you know, I really enjoyed the Cano booing in K.C. It was real, and the fact it happened in essentially an artificial setting made it more so.

    Worst moment: any game in which Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched.

    I enjoy the Sullivan feature on SB Nation too.

  4. Anonymous says:

    HAS ANYBODY SEEN SULLY

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