Saturday, July 09, 2005

Nate Robertson: Complete Game, 1-0 Loser; One Pitch, And The Tigers Win?

Nate Robertson could start today's game, too, if manager Alan Trammell would like. In fact, if this new trick keeps working, Robertson could start every game that's remaining, and the Tigers might win the AL Central, shocking the baseball world.

Robertson's last two starts: complete game and a pitch

Last night, Robertson, the Tigers' heretofore tough-luck lefty, threw one pitch. One. As in, one more than none and one less than two. And the Tigers won, beating the Devil Rays 7-3. Last time out, Nate threw about 100 more pitches than one, completing the game, and he took a 1-0 loss to the Yankees. Who says baseball doesn't have a warped sense of humor?

I'd love to know how many starting pitchers in the history of baseball have thrown one pitch without an injury somehow being involved. Without any research, I'd say Robertson has to be in some small company.

Here's what happened: Devil Rays starting pitcher Scott Kazmir hit Tigers' leadoff batter Placido Polanco with a pitch. The Tigers ended up scoring four runs in the first inning. Robertson then sails his first pitch in the bottom of the inning behind D-Rays leadoff batter Carl Crawford. And umpire Tim McClelland ejects Robertson for retaliation. Bye-bye, Nate. Hello, bullpen and a Tigers win. So maybe it's not Robertson who has the rotten luck. Maybe the Tigers just haven't figured out how to use him. A complete game didn't work, but one pitch did. At this rate, Nate could be "all-time starter", just like when we played pickup baseball as kids.

Yeah, yeah, I'm being facetious -- so what? When you write a daily blog and you wonder what your angle will be, it's lovely when material presents itself. And any right-minded blogger would be failing his or her audience if he or she were to ignore something this rich.

Baseball has been very unkind to some pitchers over the decades. There was the Pirates' Harvey Haddix, who pitched 12 perfect innings in 1959 before losing in the 13th due to some shoddy defense. There was the Orioles' Steve Barber pitching a no-hitter -- a no-hitter! -- and yet losing to the Tigers in 1967. And there was Mets pitcher Anthony Young, whose record after his first three years in the big leagues was 5-35 -- sort of an '84 Tigers in reverse -- despite an overall ERA of under 4.00. But Robertson is the anti-Haddix here. For one poetically just evening, Nate Robertson got his just desserts for having pitched so remarkably well yet with so little reward in 2005. Sure, he didn't qualify for the win -- starters must pitch five innings of a nine-inning game to be win-eligible -- but he actually started a game the Tigers won for a change, and that's been a rare thing, despite Nate's 3.35 ERA.

Can a pitcher ever throw just one pitch and get a victory? Of course -- relief pitchers can. But starters can't, although they can, theoretically, throw just one pitch and get tagged with a loss, and where's the justice in that? Nate Robertson's one-pitch effort is both amusing and troubling, by the way.

It's troubling because it appears to be another example of today's umpires showing less and less common sense and tolerance. They are quick to eject pitchers for so-called retaliation, even though they have a neat little tool called a "warning" in their belt, something they too often refuse to use. Why didn't McClelland, a veteran ump by the way, simply issue a stern warning to both dugouts? It was the first inning, for crying out loud! Sometimes these guys umpire as if they're back in Pony League. As far as I'm concerned, any umpire who pulls the trigger on a pitcher after one toss of the baseball in the first inning must not have enough confidence in his abilities to take control of the situation and the game. Robertson's ejection was a sign of insecurity on McClelland's part, if you ask me.

Regardless, the Tigers won -- their fourth straight victory. They are doing what teams who are pretending to be playoff contenders are supposed to do: beat up on the hapless Rays, losers of 10 straight. And Nate Robertson didn't have to ice his arm after the game. Heck, he probably could have gotten away with sticking it in the freezer for 30 seconds and calling it a night.

Joe Garagiola sure got it right -- "Baseball is a funny game."

1 comment:

Max Cao said...

Impressesed.