We talk often about quantifying what happens on the field. In order to better understand a player’s value, advanced baseball metrics have moved from the closed doors of teams’ Front Offices to the forefront of the Internet. While, as Alan Schwarz’s The Numbers Game showed, statistical evaluation in baseball is nearly as old as the game itself, only recently has it moved into the realm of everyday fandom.
Yet, for all the talk of numbers, sometimes things happen that aren’t explained by statistical contributions. Sometimes, the game unfolds in new and unexpected ways. That’s what happened last night.
Luis Castillo’s dropping the pop up last night was unexpected. It doesn’t really happen. In fact, the Yanks hadn’t walked off on an error in six seasons. Yet, the even more unexpected part was Mark Teixeira. On a lazy pop up that should have ended the game, Mark Teixeira scored all the way from first base.
After the game, his teammates praised him. “What stands out is Mark Teixeira’s hustle. That wins the game for us. That’s why he’s my MVP right now. He’s doing everything,” Alex Rodriguez said. A-Rod, of course, had it easy. All he had to do was stand on first base to avoid getting tagged out before Teixeira scored. He did.
Meanwhile, we laugh at overused baseball cliches of grit and hustle. A player can have as much grit and hustle as anyway, but a .320 on-base percentage is still a .320 on-base percentage. What Teixeira did last night though transcends that element of the game. Many players — from scrubs to superstars — would just trot around the bases waiting for the inevitable to happen. Teixeira ran all-out from first to home on a ball that barely made it into right field.
That’s a move that separates the cream of the crop from everyone else. Teixeira gets a run scored. The Yanks get a badly-need win. And I’ll just sit back and admire how Teixeira offers up a complete package, the likes of which the Yanks haven’t seen at first base in a long time. That is $180 million well invested, and you can bet that John Henry, idiotic comments aside, was thinking it just as I was as Teixeira slid home with the Yanks’ 9th run of the night.