Posted by Tom Tango
According to MLB.com, Ichiro Suzuki is 5 foot 11, 170 pounds, while CC is listed at 6 foot 7 and 290 pounds. In every other sport, at every level, there are certain rules created to ensure that matchups are fair. Players are pigeon-holed into certain roles to minimize the effect of the size difference. Or at the very least, such a confrontation is highlighted to show the disparity in size.
Not in baseball. Ichiro has faced Sabathia 42 times, and has come away with a .429 OBP and a .780 slugging percentage. Other than a few fans, no one notices this. It doesn't matter whether it's Joe Morgan, Ozzie Smith, or Ichiro. It doesn't matter whether it's Major League Baseball or a high school game, people only care if you can throw, catch, run, and hit.
When it comes to other sports, the bleeding ends when the other team scores. The other team can be driving down 98 yards, or they can make the defense exasperated on a five-on-three, but once they score, the other team gets its chance. Not in baseball. The batting team keeps batting, and the only thing the defense can do is put in a new pitcher. Mark Prior makes way for Kyle Farnsworth who makes way for Mike Remlinger, all on the hope that someone can end the nightmare.
3. The Game Within the Game. Best represented by Dennis Eckersley vs. Kirk Gibson in 1988.
In other sports, the one-on-one matchup either produces something immediately, or produces nothing. In baseball, it builds, pitch by pitch. Gibson hobbles to the plate, already creating a mini-story. He works the count full. Both players are all-in. And then Gibson homers to end it.
4. All That Once Was Good Could Be Again. Best represented by Tim Raines on May 2, 1987.
Between the end of 1986 and the start of 1987, the owners and players were fighting. Raines, one of the game's most respected players, was a free agent. While the Expos made a public declaration of how much they were offering him, other teams were under-bidding them. Raines decided that he would sign with the Expos after all, even after seeing his best friend, Andre Dawson, a great player in his own right, sign with Chicago. The free agency rules forced Raines to sit out the first month of the season and miss spring training.
Raines, on May 2, 1987 against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium, on the "Game of the Week" that I watched from Montreal, went 4-for-5, with 3 runs, 4 RBI, and the game-winning home run in extra innings. With that game, Raines reminded me of the impact one person can have on a generation of fans, and able to erase all past sins of all involved.
5. Baseball Springs Eternal. Best represented by Opening Day.
Hope springs eternal in the human breast: Man never is, but always to be, blest. The soul, uneasy and confin'd from home, Rests and expatiates in a life to come.
-- Alexander Pope
Your wedding day or birth of your child probably qualify as the most important days of your life. Those anniversary dates however sometimes sneak up on you. "Oh, you mean the day I committed myself to you for eternity was nine years ago tomorrow?"
But when the baseball schedule is released, you circle Opening Day, and anticipation builds with each day. It is a day unlike all others and I've got five reasons why.
Tom Tango is co-author of "The Book".