Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Today's High 5: Clutch hitting, NL MVP talk, N.C. political hypocrisy

5. It was a big Tuesday night for the Sons of Pitches softballers, proving even old men still have fire in their bellies and a few tricks up their sleeves.

Down 10-5 going into the top of the 7th (and last) inning, we rallied with 5 to tie. I had been 0-for-4 and looking quite awful up to that point, but I delivered a bases-loaded single during the rally. After holding our opponents scoreless in the bottom of the 7th, the game went into extra innings ... and we promptly plated 5 in the top of the 8th. (Yours truly drew a walk.) We retired them without any damage in the bottom of the 8th, sealing a very, very satisfying 15-10 victory.

We've lost a game or two like that, so it felt great to pull one out. Everybody contributed. Even the guys who had really rough times at the plate made plays in the field. And several of us who struggled for 4, 5, 6 innings came through in the clutch.

Let me tell you, after the game -- our third straight win after an 0-2 start to the fall season -- the beer was wetter and the wings were wingier!

Coincidentally (or not?), our tying rally started just as my wife walked up to the field. Robbie had worked OT, so she didn't get there in time to see the bad stuff. I mean, she actually thinks we're good!

Maybe we should make her our official team mascot.

4. MLB suspended Ryan Dempster 5 games for intentionally hitting A-Rod in the elbow with a pitch.

That's ridiculous.

Dempster should have been suspended 10 games for missing A-Rod's head.

3. While the AL MVP race is a two-man event -- I'm thinking Miguel Cabrera has a slight edge over Chris Davis right now, with Mike Trout having little chance because his team has been lousy from Day 1 -- the NL MVP race is most intriguing.

At midseason, I liked Yadier Molina, but he's been hurt and his Cardinals have been struggling. Andrew McCutchen is probably the deserving favorite right now because he does everything for the upstart Pirates, and Clayton Kershaw is getting a lot of attention for being the most dominant pitcher in baseball. BBWAA award voters have enough trouble giving the Cy Young to a guy without a lot of wins, however, so it's not going to be easy for Kershaw to sway MVP voters despite his microscopic ERA. Joey Votto and Paul Goldschmidt also are getting some mention.

In a year without an obvious frontrunner, here are two interesting candidates: Braves closer Craig Kimbrel and Dodgers rookie Yasiel Puig.

Kimbrel has converted 39 of 42 save attempts and could end up with 50+ saves. He has allowed 6 runs all season, and his WHIP and BAA are incredible. As important as closers have become in baseball, and given Atlanta's fantastic season despite lacking any oh-my-god! hitters or starting pitchers, it's hard to argue that many NL players have been more valuable to a playoff-bound team than Kimbrel.

Puig's stats have come down to earth some, and he actually was held out of the lineup after arriving late for pregame drills Tuesday, but it's impossible to deny the impact he has had on the Dodgers. After losing at Colorado on June 2, the Dodgers were 23-32 and in the NL West cellar, 8 1/2 games behind first-place Arizona. Puig made his debut with two hits on June 3, and since then, the Dodgers are 50-20. They now lead the division, 7 1/2 games ahead of Arizona. Puig is batting .352 with 12 HR, 28 RBI and 48 runs, and his energy has sparked the team while ushering Puig-Mania into L.A. Oh, and even in the game he was benched, he ended up delivering the winning HR in the 8th.

If ever there was a season to vote for a part-year player, this could be it.

2. The Cubs and White Sox are both in last place, a combined 42 1/2 games back.

It's nice to know that, three years after I left Chicago, so little has changed!

1. We can't find money in North Carolina to give our teachers raises, to keep teaching assistants employed or to avoid increasing class sizes. Nevertheless, our Republican governor, Pat McCrory, was able to locate tens of thousands of dollars to give two inexperienced bureaucrats 35+ percent raises -- lifting their salaries to $87,500 and $85,000.

What qualified those young men to work in McCrory's administration for the Department of Health and Human Services? Well, as members of his campaign staff, they helped him get elected.

I guess even 24-year-olds can benefit from the old boy's network.

And I guess it's only important for Republicans to keep government small when dealing with silly "liberal" issues ... such as education.

For the record, this registered Independent voted last November for the Libertarian gubernatorial candidate, Barbara Howe.

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