Thursday, May 03, 2007

Tornado Warning

I don't know if I've mentioned the BP mailing list jinx here--I discussed it in a Game of the Week piece I did last year, when Anibal Sanchez threw a no-hitter. Basically, at any one time that Major League Baseball has games going on, the guys at BP are cumulatively watching about 85-90% of the games on the schedule. It's not by design or anything, it's just what happens when you get a large group of baseball fans all around the country, many of whom are armed with or Extra Innings subscriptions. If something happens in the majors, someone on list is probably watching, and will drop everyone else a line.

The jinx comes in when someone, anywhere in the majors, is throwing a no-hitter. Someone on the BP list will pick up on this sometime after the fifth inning, and alert everyone else--at which point, the no-no is almost always broken up immediately thereafter. It started as a joke, then got creepy with the long drought of no-hitters in the majors. Lately, we've seen folks on-list enlisting the jinx's help to break up a no-hitter against their favorite team, or being thrown by a pitcher or team they don't like.

So around the fourth inning of Tuesday's game, it got into my head that the Rangers weren't going to get a hit off of Phil Hughes. In high contrast to his first start last Thursday, the rookie was dominant against a Texas lineup that admittedly doesn't include any one hitter who's as good as Frank Thomas (or Vernon Wells). They weren't making good contact, they didn't seem to have any idea what was coming, and Hughes kept changing their eye level and mixing up his pitches. The radar gun didn't have Hughes throwing that hard (90-93 MPH, IIRC) but he was throwing the four-seamer past the Rangers hitters. It was beautiful.

Naturally, when I thought there would be a no-hitter, my thoughts turned to the jinx. I thought about sending out a message to the group "Anyone who says anything about this before it's over gets broken kneecaps," but I reconsidered. I joke a lot, so no one would have taken me seriously. It probably would have invited comments like "What the heck is he talking about?" followed by replies of "Oh, Phil Hughes' no-hitter," leading to a long thread discussing this, and me using up all my frequent flier miles to travel around the country to harm people I genuinely like. That, and I was halfway thinking that the threat email, itself, might activate the jinx.

We get through the sixth and I'm abuzz. The biggest obstacle I see is Hughes' pitch count, which is in the 80's. How far is Torre going to allow the organization's crown jewel to go?

By now everyone knows what happened in the seventh. Hughes retired his first batter, got ahead of the next batter, then he over-strode on a pitch, hyperextending the knee on his landing leg. Right away, you could tell something was wrong--Hughes hopped up and grabbed his thigh--and it looked like maybe he'd strained a groin muscle. Then he was limping around the mound, and Ron Guidry came out to talk to him. And that was it for Hughes, not only for the night, but for the immediate future.

What most of you don't know is that right before this happened, an email came through BP's list. The subject line? "Jinx." After calming myself down, I wrote an email to the group, asking that someone take away my access to BP's author address book, because I didn't want to know [BP author who shall remain anonymous]'s home address. Everyone laughed. But I was only half-joking. The other half of me was compiling a list of states between here and the Pacific Northwest which have weak gun control laws.

A broken-up no-hitter I can take. Crippling the Phranchise I take personally.

Hughes' injury turned out to be a type II hamstring strain, a level of seriousness beyond the strains that kept Chien Ming Wang out a month and have kept Mike Mussina out for three weeks. He goes to the DL, and the conservative estimate is that he's out 4-6 weeks. It's only May, and that's the kind of season it has been.

Yesterday I was inundated with work, and Arlington was inundated with rain and high-speed winds. There was a tornado warning, which could just be a manifestation of Yankee fans' moods right now. The head that rolled--so far--isn't Torre's or Cashman's, it belongs to the Yanks' Director of Performance Enhancement, Marty Miller. I've already talked about Miller, and his mouthful of a title, to which we can now add "/Scapegoat."

More after today's doubleheader.


Anonymous said...

This is the first step in wrecking a prospects chances of contributing in the future success of his team and maybe even someday end up becoming a Hall of Fame pitcher. Because of the Yankees selfishness of always having to be in 1st place. This young gun will never ammount to anything. If they had a clue. They would leave him alone in AAA or AA this year, where he belongs, and let him develop. Face it now Yankee fans. This year is a wash! No pitching equals no chamionship ring (again!)

The old broken down men in the lineup can't slug themselves to a WS title! BUT keep paying them all, they're all worth it!

DJ said...

Let me guess...anonymous Red Sox fan, or anonymous Mets fan? :)

Unless this hamstring pull is more than the Yankees are letting on, I'm not worried about Phil Hughes' career. That "will never ammount (sic) to anything" rant sounds like wishful thinking on your part.

Being in the majors had nothing to do with Hughes' injury--he could just as easily have strained his hamstring in Scranton. If you saw his start up until the injury, you'd be hard-pressed to claim that Hughes needs more time at AAA, much less AA.

If wanting to be in first place every year is "selfishness", then I know 29 other teams who are just as selfish...