Sunday, March 19, 2006

Triple Or Homerun? I'll Take A Three-Bagger For Excitement

What is more exciting to you: a homerun, or a triple?

Actually, I'd cheat and say an inside-the-park homerun, but that's defeating the purpose of my question.

Just thought I'd ask, because I think a triple is one of the most exciting plays in sports. It's not quite up there with a penalty shot in hockey, but it does okay for the heart palpitations just the same.

Perhaps it's because triples are far rarer than homeruns. And you have to beat a throw. And the outfielders almost have to go into panic mode to chase the ball down and fire it back toward the cutoff man to prevent said triple.

I also like that slight uptick in the crowd noise when the runner makes the turn around second base and keeps going, full speed ahead, with the intention of trying to stretch it into a three-bagger. The announcers get excited, too; their voices go up an octave. It was that crowd noise that helped Louis Whitaker nail Kurt Bevacqua in the 1984 World Series.

It was Game 1, in San Diego*, and Bevacqua -- who had himself a pretty decent series -- hit a gapper to right-center. Whitaker, the cut-off man, had his back to the play, waiting for the throw from the outfield. He had no idea if Bevacqua was going to try for three -- until he heard the crowd pick it up a notch with their roar.

"I heard the crowd, so I just turned and threw it," Whitaker explained.

The throw from Whitaker was a perfect strike to Tommy Brookens, and Bevacqua was cut down at third base.

I suppose that's another reason I like the triple: the risk-taking. Just as a triple can be a great way to gain momentum and get the home crowd into the game, it's also a good way to kill an inning if you get thrown out at third. Because then, it's most likely just another out. But it comes with a healthy dose of "What if he had stopped at second?" -- read: the complexion of the inning changes.

And, to be honest, I've always liked the idea of players running around the bases like a carousel. Whenever you start running, you cause throws to be made. And whenever you cause throws to be made, you create an opportunity for your opponent to make a bad one. Get 'em to throw the ball around, I always say. Good things can happen.

Just don't get thrown out.

(BTW, you can vote in my WHYGJG poll -- to the right -- about triples and homers).

*It occurred to me that in every Tigers playoff series that I can remember, the team started on the road: The 1968 World Series; the 1972 ALCS; the 1984 ALCS; the 1984 World Series; and the 1987 ALCS. Their record in those series? 3-2.
Corner outfielders

10. Lou Piniella (Yankees). Sleeper pick, I know, but Piniella was a very underrated baseball player. He was a solid .300 hitter, and his fielding skills were superb. One of the worst tempers of all-time, however.
9. Paul O'Neill (Cincy/Yankees). O'Neill was silky smooth. One of the best swings of his time. Rifle arm and a good clutch hitter -- and fielder. And he was a winner: played on World Series championship teams with the Reds and the Yankees.
8. Harold Baines (White Sox). Baines was just a good, dependable ballplayer. He seemed to always come through in the clutch. Above-average with the glove.
7. George Bell (Toronto). While I disdain the fact that he won the 1987 AL MVP instead of Alan Trammell, Bell was still one of the best players of his time. He was explosive; he hit homers in bunches. Not a great outfielder, but better than average and not a bad arm for a leftfielder.
6. Jim Rice (Boston). A beast. Rice didn't just hit the ball -- he crushed it. Playing left field in Boston is no cakewalk, with the Green Monster and the fans, but Rice was equal to the task. Teamed with Fred Lynn in 1975 to give baseball one of its all-time greatest rookie duos.
5. Andre Dawson (Montreal/Cubs). The Hawk used those long legs to increase his range. At the plate, he was menacing with an ultra-quick bat. Playing on the artificial surface in Montreal damaged his legs, however -- robbing him of his earlier base-stealing speed.
4. Dwight Evans (Boston). Dewey Evans had one of baseball's all-time greatest arms. His was a cannon -- plain and simple. Not bad at the plate, either. I once saw him hit Jack Morris' first pitch of the 1986 season into the stands for a season-opening homerun, because the Tigers' game was the first one of the day that year.
3. Tony Gwynn (San Diego). One of the best hitters of all-time. Not dazzling in the outfield, but didn't hurt you, either. Great attitude and appreciation for the game. Not surprised that he became a college baseball coach.
2. Dave Winfield (Yankees). HATED seeing him at the plate in the late innings, as a Tigers fan. Great clutch hitter and marvelous range defensively. Frequently battled with George Steinbrenner, and that's a shame. Mostly, he was defending himself in New York under The Boss.
1. Reggie Jackson (Yankees/Oakland). Not a brilliant fielder, but a decent arm and his bat is legendary -- especially in the postseason. Mr. October, indeed. A Reggie Jackson at-bat was one you always stopped what you were doing to see. Almost Ruthian in his presence -- in his prime.

Tomorrow: Centerfielders


Blogger Ozz said...

About triples vs. HRs, where do inside the park HRs factor into the mix?

9:32 PM  
Blogger Greg Eno said...

Well, inside-the-park HR's trump them both, of course.

10:30 PM  

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