The Mariners lost another heartbreaker Friday. In the aftermath, the thing a lot of people want to talk about is the latest case of the new transfer rule rearing its controversial, impossibly stupid head. I don’t know why — it was pretty obvious to me that Kyle Seager didn’t catch the throw from Yoervis Medina at all. Of course everybody was safe on the play; why would you expect anything otherwise?
Incidentally, I’m not sure what the Marlins were doing. If that play is called in a not-stupid way, the Marlins lose the lead baserunner. But if that play goes as intended, the Marlins move runners up to second and third with one out. That would bring up Giancarlo Stanton, who is the team’s good hitter, but then Stanton would just be walked intentionally to bring up Garrett Jones, who is not the team’s good hitter. By bunting in front of Stanton, the Marlins were effectively taking the bat out of the hands of both Stanton and Marcell Ozuna. But Stanton still got to swing away in the end, because the play didn’t go as intended for either party.
And so Giancarlo Stanton faced Yoervis Medina with nobody out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth of a tie game. Medina was up against it, through only partial fault of his own. He allowed a leadoff single, but then Justin Smoak messed up a sacrifice bunt, and then Kyle Seager
messed up didn’t mess up? technically messed up a sacrifice bunt. At that point the Mariners were a long shot, and the story was almost certain to be the reviewed play at third no matter what. But I do think something has to be said about just how terrible a decisive pitch Medina threw. The ninth inning featured controversy and misplays and heroics from a predictable source, but it also featured one of the Mariners’ worst pitches of the young season.
Medina got ahead. He got ahead, and he got to two strikes. Getting that far was kind of a miracle — at 1-and-1, Stanton swung right through an elevated breaking ball. He wasn’t tricked; he just swung under the ball, but he swung very comfortably. Stanton was on the pitch. If the pitch were to be thrown again, it would have to be thrown low and away, in an area where the worst-case scenario would be a called ball. Medina needed a strikeout, and strikeouts come from breaking balls out of the zone.
The problem is…well, let me tell you a little story. When I was young, in elementary school, we took a family trip to Europe and at one point we stayed with friends of a relative in a rural town in France. One afternoon my brother and I were out front in the yard, playing whatever we were playing, when a car pulled up and the passenger window rolled down. I walked over and, in French, I presume the driver asked for directions. I presume that because, after a brief pause, the driver subsequently asked in English for directions. Let me just make sure you’re getting this — I was a boy, and I obviously wasn’t in a familiar setting, because I was in a country that speaks a language I couldn’t speak. The driver requested my help anyway. I must have looked like a reliable child.
(1) I definitely didn’t know where the thing was that he wanted to get to.
(2) I definitely wasn’t going to not give him directions.
I thought for a moment and then very confidently instructed the man to go this way, then this way, then this other way, and then that way for a little bit before hanging a final turn. I didn’t want to seem like a know-nothing idiot, so I acted like a know-something idiot, and the driver thanked me, rolled up the window, and drove off. My brother and I resumed playing, and now that I think about it, I think we were playing with walkie-talkies and laser toy guns. I don’t know if the driver ever reached his destination. I don’t know where I led him to. For all I know he’s still there, driving around, lost, considerably older, and slightly less trusting of the area youth. I’m pretty sure I was too young to have the capacity to feel guilt. I just wanted to be a helpful boy.
To bring this back to the Mariners, Yoervis Medina is me, and the baseball is a lost driver in rural France, asking an American boy on vacation for directions. Medina knows he can’t direct the baseball properly, but he also knows he has to direct it somewhere, lest he look like a fool. No man wants to look a fool, and no developing man wants to look a fool, so a man gives directions, even if he doesn’t know quite where he is himself. The result is that Medina’s baseballs take a lot of turns, but it’s always a mystery where they end up. He just sends the baseballs on their way, and once the baseball is out of Medina’s hand, the baseball is…out of Medina’s hands. He has no command, and sometimes that means he throws terrible balls, and sometimes that means he throws terrible strikes, even with the count 1-and-2 against one of the best players in the league in a necessary strikeout situation. It’s a credit to Medina’s raw stuff he’s even a little effective. It’s no mystery why he isn’t more effective.
This is the first time Medina’s slider has been taken deep in the majors. It deserved it. Looking at Stanton’s player card, the slider was thrown to an area where Stanton’s slugged…oh, .856, all right. What Medina couldn’t have done was just stand there, on the mound, never throwing. What Medina ultimately did was the worst. Maybe the literal worst. So that’s something, that he accomplished.