Weekly Hit Ground Ball: Fiery Thursday evening debates

WhgbHlSqThursday evenings have become a big event in recent weeks.  Putting a long day at work to one side, I sank into a sofa and readied myself for the much-anticipated spectacle to unfold.  The tension among the protagonists was palpable and it produced a highly-charged occasion, made memorable by fiery exchanges and disagreements.

Yes, deciding against watching all of the second General Election debate proved to be a very wise move.  A game between the New York Yankees and my Oakland A’s is too good to miss at any time, but Thursday’s encounter was even more exciting than usual. 

As a baseball fan in the UK, I sometimes feel like I live in a parallel universe.  Friday morning was a classic example of this.  Every newspaper, TV and radio breakfast show, not to mention most conversations, all focused on the latest Clegg-Brown-Cameron conflab and yet all I could think about was the A’s 4-2 win over the Yankees and the various incidents that had taken place during the game.  No one else seemed interested in Dallas Braden’s outburst, the Yankees’ triple play or Kurt Suzuki’s continued good form at the plate against CC Sabathia.  It was a familiar case of other people urging me to get my priorities in order, while I was certain that I already had them ordered just right, thank you very much.

I should point out that I do not detach myself completely from politics.  I value the importance of casting my vote and think that the new General Election debates are a good idea, a view enhanced by the first debate that proved to be more compelling than many, including myself, expected.

Britain's PM Brown, opposition Conservative Party leader Cameron and Liberal Democrat leader Clegg take part in the second of Britain's leadership election debates, in Bristol

I even watched bits of the second debate in between innings. MPs expenses, immigration, deployment of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, Trident: it didn’t cover much new ground.  Nick Clegg was on his high horse about MPs flipping houses (didn’t he talk about that last week?), Gordon Brown was smiling (he definitely did that last week and didn’t follow the avalanche of advice that suggested he really shouldn’t repeat the trick), while David Cameron was ever-so-slightly losing his temper about some Labour leaflets. The political commentators tried to whip everyone into a frenzy about the ‘heated exchanges’, claiming that the ‘gloves had come off’ amidst the anger.

Anger? Going a bit red in the face and raising your voice isn’t exactly what I would describe as anger.  Anger is when you completely blow your top, hurl a load of abuse at someone and start whacking anything within whacking distance.  If you wanted to witness someone getting angry, you should have been watching the Yankees-A’s game.

A’s pitcher Dallas Braden was incensed when the pampered prima donna Alex Rodriguez broke an unwritten rule by running across the pitching mound to get back to the Yankees’ dugout.  After giving A-Rod a piece of his mind, Braden was shepherded from the field and took his frustration out on some innocent paper cups and a Gatorade bucket before slamming his glove onto the bench.  If those leaflets had really riled Cameron, he could have at least given his podium a hefty kick and squared up to Brown (Clegg was quoted over the weekend as saying that Labour are now “irrelevant”, raising the delightful possibility that he might have stepped in and said “Leave him Dave, he’s not worth it”). 

It’s tempting to think that, unless they’re filling in expenses forms, these politicians just don’t put the effort in. In truth, Cameron’s instinct may well have been to confront Brown (or maybe just throw a glass of water at him) but that was never going to happen as the ‘PR’ switch planted in his brain was already flicked into ‘on’ mode.  Everyone in the public eye has to maintain a squeaky clean image.  It’s an unfortunate consequence of these media-obsessed times that afflicts top sportsmen as much as anyone. 

Oakland A's Dallas Braden throws against the New York Yankees in Oakland, California

Dallas Braden would not be considered a ‘top’ sportsman, a point that the class-less Rodriguez tried to use to dismiss his complaints.  Braden is not an ace and has never wowed scouts with his ability, but he knows how to pitch and gets the most out of his talent.  He’s a battler, the sort of person that a fan can relate with.  What’s more, he doesn’t feel a need to project any sort of false image.  He doesn’t take life too seriously and regularly has the A’s beat writers in stitches, whether holding court at Spring Training while telling tales of his offseason holiday in Amsterdam or laughing off a long home run by saying that it had probably landed on his coffee table in Stockton.

In short, Braden is the kind of player that is easy to root for.  Watching him get the better of CC Sabathia and the Yankees before putting A-Rod in his place made for a highly entertaining evening (being an A’s fan helped, I’m sure).  Nick Clegg and Gordon Brown both seem to be going for the outsider/underdog vote in this election so maybe they could gain political capital from events across the pond? 

It seems a long shot, but if either is seen wearing a “Dallas says: ‘Get off my mound’” T-shirt then the anti-A-Rod vote will be theirs for the taking.

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This week’s early MLB game schedule

After a barren start to the week, we’ve got twelve early games to look forward to over Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. 

Probable pitching match-ups can be affected by any number of factors (rain-outs, injuries etc), so let’s all cross our fingers in the hope that nothing affects the schedules of Hamels and Lincecum and that they do meet up in what would be a classic encounter on Wednesday.  The Jurrjens-Wainwright clash on Thursday is another good-looking game in prospect, while Friday games at Wrigley always make for a great way to start the weekend.  All times are in BST.

Monday 26 April

No early games

Tuesday 27 April

27/04 UPDATE: 21.10. LA Dodgers at NY Mets (Hiroki Kuroda – Johan Santana)

Wednesday 28 April

17.10. San Diego at Florida (Kevin Correia – Nate Robertson)
18.10. Pittsburgh at Milwaukee (Paul Maholm – Chris Narveson)
18.10. LA Dodgers at NY Mets (TBD – John Maine)
19.10. Seattle at Kansas City (Ryan Rowland-Smith – Gil Meche)
19.20. Washington at Chicago Cubs (Luis Atiliano – Ryan Dempster)
20.10. Arizona at Colorado (Kris Benson – Greg Smith)
20.45. Philadelphia at San Francisco (Cole Hamels – Tim Lincecum)

Thursday 29 April

18.05. Minnesota at Detroit (Carl Pavano – Dontrelle Willis)
18.40. Atlanta at St. Louis (Jair Jurrjens – Adam Wainwright)
19.05. Chicago White Sox at Texas (Gavin Floyd – Scott Feldman)
19.20. Arizona at Chicago Cubs (Ian Kennedy – Ted Lilly)

Friday 30 April

19.20. Arizona at Chicago Cubs (Rodrigo Lopez – Randy Wells)

All the above games can be followed via various resources on MLB.com (Gameday, At Bat with Gameday Audio and MLB.tv), while ESPN America’s MLB schedule can be found here. A complete schedule of MLB games can be found on MLB.com.

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9 Responses to Weekly Hit Ground Ball: Fiery Thursday evening debates

  1. Steve Keene April 26, 2010 at 10:25 am #

    Thanks for the early starts Matt – always really useful. I have Wednesday night pencilled in as SPORTS NIGHT in my household – a Johan Start, followed by Hamels vs Lincecum, with Barca/Inter in the background. Bliss!

  2. Colin McCallion April 26, 2010 at 10:58 am #

    Thanks for the entertaining post Matt. I hadn’t heard of the unwritten rule of mound disrespect before. Great that a pitcher can get so territorial over his piece of dirt.
    I’ve been looking to swing for the odd Gatorade bucket or two myself with The Cubs’ inconsistent start this year.

  3. Stephen Stafford April 26, 2010 at 4:37 pm #

    Matt

    Great write-up.
    Being an A’s fan (and one with a smile on his face for the first time in a few seasons!), I read all about the A-Rod incident and subsequent comments.
    My question is, did Braden have a point? Is there an unwritten etiquette about the mound during an inning? I haven’t heard it before but I can understand it.

  4. Matt Smith April 26, 2010 at 8:40 pm #

    I’ll be honest and say it’s not one that I had specifically heard of before, but then again I’ve never seen anyone try to run over the mound like that before either. That’s the difficulty with these unwritten rules!

    Colin – I’m sure Big Z will be happy to oblige with the Gatorade smashing if his new-found reliever role goes south.

    Steve – Wednesday should be a great night of sporting action. The Special One on one screen and the Freak on the other!

  5. Matt Smith April 27, 2010 at 7:10 am #

    27 April UPDATE

    After last night’s rain-out, the Dodgers and Mets will play an additional early game today as part of a double-header. Steve’s Wednesday plans suffer a bit of disruption as Johan Santana will pitch today instead, with John Maine likely to take over on Wednesday subject to him being fit to play. This is all subject to the New York weather, of course.

    I’ve updated some of the other pitching match-ups scheduled for Wednesday as well, but Hamels-Lincecum is still on course.

  6. Tim May 10, 2010 at 2:27 pm #

    The Braden/A-Rod spat seems a fuss about nothing – making a mountain out of a mole hill… or a pitcher’s mound…

    • Matt Smith May 10, 2010 at 8:18 pm #

      I think the identity of the guilty party and the team he plays for had something to do with the amount of coverage it got! Like most sane people, I found the whole thing very funny and the way many Yankee fans have got so worked up about it, particularly after Braden’s perfect game, is hilarious! All just a bit of fun really.

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