October is binge-on-baseball month, a practice long ago perfected in this corner of PressBox, usually a time of anticipation of a fast approaching World Series, but in this case also a time for reflection.
There were more than a few memories, and a touch of irony, when we learned that former Orioles catcher, and later coach, Andy Etchebarren passed away Oct. 5, within a few days of the anniversaries of the two most special days of his career.
It was on Sept. 26, 1962, five days before the end of the season, that Etchebarren and left-hander Dave McNally, both 19 years old, made their major-league debuts, battery mates in the big leagues for the first time, in a 3-0 win against the Kansas City Athletics.
Four years later, on Oct. 10, 1966, those two teamed up for another shutout, this one in the fourth game of the World Series, a 1-0 win against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The picture of McNally and Etchebarren about to embrace, with Brooks Robinson leaping in the background, remains one of the most iconic pictures in Baltimore sports history.
That win, which completed the O’s four-game sweep for their first World Series championship, was a crowning moment in Etchebarren’s career. That his death, at the age of 76, came 10 days after the 57th anniversary of his MLB debut and five days before the 53rd anniversary of that classic game, will not be lost on those who remember.
RIP Etch, one of the O’s original heroes.
The toughest thing about binge watching baseball games in October, at least the early weeks, is that the first game of the day is the only one you can watch from start to finish. The consolation is that channel surfing enables one to escape the rare early blowout.
This is also the time of the year when, understandably, you hear the most complaints about length of games, and more specifically about late starting times. Somewhat forgotten in this equation is another pertinent fact — the entire baseball watching audience does not reside in the Eastern time zone or even east of the Mississippi River, for that matter.
Players themselves more often complain that twilight starting times, scheduled to get games as close to prime time as possible, are a bigger distraction and can have a negative effect on the quality of play, especially during the fall season.
I hope Milwaukee’s Josh Hader has a good agent because he’s going to need one. The left-handed reliever the Orioles traded for Bud Norris and Houston traded for Carlos Gomez (not everything worked for the Astros) has been a workhorse for the Brewers for the last three years, often used as a multi-inning closer.
Some of the wear and tear showed up late in the season and in the Brewers’ wild-card loss to the Nationals. With less than three full years of service, Hader is still a year away from arbitration eligibility and the worry is he’ll be worn out before he ever gets there. A multi-year deal covering at least part of his arbitration eligibility would seem to be in his best interest.
Many of those who have been around the New York-Scranton-Wilkes Barre Yankees all year say that DJ LeMahieu is the team’s Most Valuable Player, but it’s probably no better than even money the Ben Zobrist clone makes the top 10 in voting for the AL’s MVP.
I’m not sure about LeMahieu’s credentials because, for me, Brett Gardner is the most indispensible Yankee. Although for the life of me, I can’t imagine manager Aaron Boone picturing the pesky center fielder as his No. 3 hitter, as Gardner has been through the early portion of baseball’s post-season tournament — even if he did hit 28 home runs this year.
The only think I’m sure of — well, relatively sure of — when it comes to the AL MVP this year is that Mike Trout will finish in the top five (he’s been first or second six times in seven years, fourth the other) — but he won’t win it.
Even during overlapping fall ball viewing, there is time for an occasional “live look-in,” as they say around the studios. One that I happened upon was this gem from one of those four-hour college football games: a team (don’t ask me which one) lined up and punted on fourth-and-goal, from inside the 50 yard line — on its side of the field, mind you. You have to believe that I couldn’t make this stuff up.
I stopped at five (if it was more, help me) while counting ex-Orioles relief pitchers in postseason play — Darren O’Day, Andrew Miller and Zack Britton were the headliners. If you got Oliver Drake and Chaz Roe, you go to the head of the trivia class.
In case you missed it, Drake, who spent a good part of this year with Tampa Bay’s Triple-A team in Durham, set a major-league record a year ago when he pitched for five different teams in the same season.
I don’t care which Beltway team you root for, if Ryan Zimmerman’s three-run homer in Game 4 of the NLDS between the Nationals and Dodgers didn’t give you chills, you were missing when they handed out goose bumps.
Would somebody please explain the necessity for those on field cameras we see being carted down the third base line after a home run or into the end zone after a touchdown? Those cameras probably cost more to replace than the people carrying them.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts didn’t have to test his memory when asked when was the last time he’d seen a team use starting pitchers in post-season relief roles, as the Nationals have done.
“Last year,” said Roberts, reminding his questioner about the Red Sox winning strategy against the Dodgers in the 2018 World Series, when they used David Price and Chris Sale twice as starters and once in relief, and Eduardo Rodriguez twice in relief and once as a starter.
The Yankees and Dodgers have met 11 times in the World Series, the last time in 1981. Think Fox is rooting hard for a 12th meeting, which would be the dream matchup for TV?
Jim Henneman can be reached at JimH@pressboxonline.com
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles