On a night when I attended the memorial service for Adam, a night where his brother Sam told us to say what we want because Adam was at the Cubs game anyway, it seems only appropriate that we could once again laugh about what was otherwise a very dismal Cubs game.
Despite not getting home until 9 pm that night, there was plenty of baseball left. It was the longest game in Cubs history at 6 hours and 27 minutes. Edwin Jackson got tagged for 3 runs early just to set the stage for what was to come. The Cubs eventually rallied to tie the game -- in the 4th inning. Then, save for what was a catch for the ages, a diving snare in the gap by Rockies CF Charlie Blackmon that would have ended the game in the bottom of the 10th, what ensued was 11 innings of dreary baseball and Lionel Richie infused Budweiser Lime-A-Rita commercials.
All Night Long.
But then John Baker came into pitch and it became must-see baseball again. Not that Baker could pitch. He couldn't. He threw his first fastball at 76 and then on the next one, really reached back for something extra, a max effort release that yielded.... a 79 mph fastball well off the plate. He didn't even have great control, especially with a pitch that looked like it was supposed to be a slider...or something. Who really knows?
But it turned to be what could have been the best player position performance in Cubs history and maybe the best all-around performance of all time.
When it comes to Cubs position player pitchers, you can't help but think of 5'8" outfielder Doug Dascenzo, who pitched 4 times in his MLB career and never allowed a run in 5 innings. His career line reads like a typical Dae-Eun Rhee outing: 5 IP, 3 H. 0 R, 2 BB, 2 Ks. If you were to go by best career Cubs position player pitcher, you'd probably have to go with Dascenzo. When it comes to players pitching, 5 innings is a pretty large sample size.
But... he never won a ballgame. He never pitched in anything but blowouts. And as Matthew Kory of Sports on Earth points out, pitcher wins by position players are rare. Only 139 position players have won games as pitchers while there have been 282 no-hitters. In my lifetime, (except for Rick Ankiel, whose career started on the mound) there have been only 4 position players win games on the mound: Brent Mayne, Wilson Valdez, Chris Davis, and now John Baker. In fact, those 4 are the only ones to win games for about the past 60 years. And, according to Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago, "Cubs historian says last true non pitcher to pick up a win for them was in 1885."
Kory makes the argument that Davis was the best position player pitcher of all time because of the win, the two-inning performance, and the fact that he didn't walk anyone and struck out one. Sure, if you are going to get all metricky about it, it probably is Davis.
Adam would certainly have made fun of me for breaking this game down that way. And rightfully so. This was not a game to be taken so seriously. If it was, he would have picked out a better music/beverage combo for us than Lionel Richie and Lime-A-Rita. Position players pitching in general can't be taken all that seriously. And when we talk about Chris Davis, we are leaving an important part out of the equation -- the position player part. Davis went 0 for 8 as the game's DH prior to his mound stint. If he would have done his normal job and hit HRs, he never would have had to pitch in the first place. And besides that, his win was over another position player, Darnell McDonald. John Baker defeated a real MLB pitcher for this win, a pretty good one actually in Tyler Matzek.
John Baker proudly represented both parts of the position player/pitcher label. Not only did he pitch a scoreless inning, he then completed the second half of the equation by leading off the next inning with a walk and eventually coming around to score the game winning run on Starlin Castro's bases loaded sac fly.
So I think the tale of the tape is pretty clear on this one...
Scoreless inning and a win? Karamu!
Getting on base and scoring the game winning run? Fiesta!
Best all-around player position/pitching performance of all time? Forever!
C'mon and sing along.
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