Welcome to the fifteenth edition of Around the Horn, a recurring op-ed with a satirical slant that riffs on whatever’s recently noteworthy in baseball. Think of it as a stripped down Last Week Tonight or Daily Show in a column format with recurring segments about the good, bad, and ugly in the world of America’s pastime. Additionally, as often as possible, we’ll end with an interview as well.
There’s a lot to discuss, so let’s get right to our first segment:
Our Main Story
For most of the country, earthquakes are an unfamiliar experience. They are a spectacle fit for cinema, a hazard to endure only if you live on the West Coast. Nonetheless, they are real and extremely dangerous. We’re not going to go down the seismology rabbit hole here, but as this is a baseball column, it’s worth exploring what it would be like to experience an earthquake while attending a live game.
Imagine sitting in the upper deck and feeling the entire stadium tremble. Consider the unease that could fill you while sitting in the lower section as you watch the upper deck above you shake.
Fans attending the 1989 World Series know full well what this felt like. Skip to the 4:30 mark to see how the actual broadcast unfolded:
It’s a bit haunting watching that, listening to the audio cut out, the eerie silence, then people screaming. The fading mention of an earthquake. Tim McCarver finally shutting the hell up for a second. All of it entirely foreign and unfamiliar.
I was living in San Francisco as a child a the time. I remember racing home from school to watch the game and catch all the pregame coverage. Sitting on the floor in my room while Michaels and McCarver set the stage on the small television in the corner. Then the feed dropped. Next thing I knew, my entire house was shaking violently. My mother grabbed me and my siblings and dragged us into the doorway of my room. We were crouched down, covering our heads, waiting for the shaking to stop. It did, and then aftershocks ensued. The aftermath at Candlestick Park was equally unsettling:
The 6.9 magnitude quake caused 63 deaths and 3,757 injuries. It collapsed a portion of the Bay Bridge and the foundations of many homes, and it forced everyone to stop thinking about baseball during baseball’s biggest moment. I would later learn that the World Series was the reason rush-hour traffic wasn’t quite as heavy as usual, so there were likely fewer injuries (or worse) than would have been otherwise given the failures and collapse of many Bay Area transportation structures. In some form, at least indirectly, you could argue baseball saved lives that day.
Well, Southern California has been bracing itself for “The Big One” for years now. While that wait continues, a 6.4 earthquake on Thursday, followed by a 7.1 quake did hit Ridgecrest California in between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, swaying buildings and cracking foundations. They were followed by roughly 3,000 aftershocks.
The Dodgers and Padres play through an earthquake, a breakdown pic.twitter.com/282O8KC3t1
— Jomboy (@Jomboy_) July 7, 2019
Yeah, that’s right. Kiké Hernandez did what most normal people would do during an earthquake: stop and freeze, quickly processing what to do next. Except, he couldn’t process what to do next because Eric Lauer kept throwing pitches to force Hernández to return to the batter’s box and finish the at-bat. It makes you wonder what else Lauer does when he’s ignoring earthquakes. Perhaps he finishes a swim at the hotel pool and figures the sloshing of water around him gives him a great opportunity to pee in the water without interrupting his pregame workout, or maybe he enjoys trying the various kinds of olives at salad buffet and seizes the opportunity when the shaking starts to dump the pits in a nearby planter box. We’ll never know.
What we do know is that according to Pedro Moura, who wrote an article on the game for The Athletic with the help of Dennis Lin, Lauer claims he didn’t even know the earthquake was happening while he was pitching, something I find astounding given Hernandez’s inability to focus because of the fact there was an earthquake happening during the at-bat!
According to the report, some players couldn’t believe the game wasn’t stopped, while others feared the commotion in the stands could be due to an active shooter situation. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts wondered what the protocol is for an emergency like this, and Padres manager Andy Green whimsically enjoyed the schadenfreude thought of Hernandez drilling a pitch off his own starter down the left field line only for the earthquake to sway the foul pole in and the ball cuts just foul because of that.
Yeah, while thousands were fearing for their lives, Green was coming up with the most creative ways to take joy in the misfortune of others while Mother Nature screws with his pitcher. Hey, baseball is home to all kinds of minds, even the strangest ones.
However, the fact that MLB and teams based on the West Coast don’t seem to have a protocol for this, despite the fact that schools in the area regularly run earthquake preparedness drills, is baffling. Hey, you play baseball in California, a state rife with fault lines that are all getting a bit cranky these days. You might want to establish some protocol by now. After all, it’s not like baseball hasn’t been interrupted by an earthquake before.
Out of the Park
A Look Beyond the Boxscores for the Best in Baseball This Week
It was a tragic week in baseball this week with Tyler Skaggs‘ passing. Enough has been written about it already, including eloquently by our very own Ben Palmer, so I’d rather focus on the tremendous outpouring of support seen around baseball after the tragic news was discovered.
Catcher Dustin Garneau told the umpire and George Springer that Andrew Heaney planned to start off with a slow curve in honor of Skaggs. Springer was told he could swing but he replied to Garneau that he would take the pitch. Classy. Also, a strike. But still, very classy on both Springer and Heaney’s part.
Baseball aside, Mike Trout’s heartfelt summation once again reveals the character behind the game’s best player:
Forever in our hearts. pic.twitter.com/ic7FPPaQR2
The death of Skaggs was felt across the league, as evidenced by the responses of many players.
Giancarlo Stanton posted this tribute to Tyler Skaggs and the Angels on Instagram a little while ago. Speaking from experience, he details how the pain is going to hit & how the Angels can work through it. Stanton was with the Marlins, when José Fernández passed away. pic.twitter.com/zlKPTD5HLF
— Gary Phillips (@GaryHPhillips) July 2, 2019
— Leah Kessel (@leahflame) July 4, 2019
— SportsTime Ohio (@SportsTimeOhio) July 3, 2019
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) July 3, 2019
RIP, Tyler Skaggs. His loss is a sobering reminder of not only how precious life is but also how the players we cheer and jeer are people with lives just as fragile as our own. If nothing else, this will hopefully help frame how everyone should approach news like this:
— Steve Weakley (@tvsteve) July 8, 2019
Get well soon, Carlos Carrasco. You are bigger than the game.
On a lighter note, we did also get the gun show this week:
Reds busting out the 1956 sleeveless throwbacks today 💪💪 pic.twitter.com/9vuFupllju
— Cincinnati 💔 (@CincyProblems) July 7, 2019
Have you ever seen a group of players happier to suit up? It’s become very clear now why the Reds signed Yasiel Puig this offseason, almost as clear as why he chose to sign with them. For all the grumblers out there…
I love the throwback uniforms the @Reds are wearing today. I even love the guys going sleeveless. For you “get off my lawn” baseball people out there saying the players of yesterday would never go sleeveless when wearing a vest jersey…here is the great Ted Kluszewski circa 1960 pic.twitter.com/SdPmaGQj83
— Art Senato (@coachsenato29) July 7, 2019
Where Baseball Got Caught Looking
Only in baseball could you have a week that somehow managed to combine anxiety, joy, tragedy, and absolute ridiculousness. On that last note, I give you the New York Mets.
— New York Post (@nypost) July 7, 2019
It turns out that Van Wagenen, the Mets GM and a fervent student of the Mel Gibson School for Behavior, believed he had reason to act like a petulant child and throw furniture around the room to make his point about a bullpen implosion involving Edwin Diaz, a player he traded a highly-regarded prospect to acquire.
When you get through a meeting with Brodie Van Wagenen without getting hit by a chair pic.twitter.com/LTuQDDwlhh
— Richard Staff (@Staff7998) July 7, 2019
As for the chair, if you’re wondering what happened to it and are genuinely concerned for its well-being as an innocent victim in this whole affair, you’ll be disappointed to learn it was smashed over the fence like everything else the Mets are throwing these days.
And if you’re looking for a way to help Van Wagenen get his act together, perhaps consider responding with love. In fact, here’s a gift you can send over to help him come to terms with what he has created:
New York Mess 2019 #LGM
— RotoWear (@RotoWear) July 7, 2019
As if Van Wagenen wasn’t aggro enough, we still have Jake Arrieta to contend with next.
— Baseball Bros (@BaseballBros) July 7, 2019
Yeah, he just invited Todd Frazier to come find him so he could “put a dent in his skull.” All of this vitriol stems from this incident right here:
Tension rising in New York.
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) July 7, 2019
Apparently, Arrieta seems to think #LetTheKidsPlay is another way of saying #LetTheKidsGoAtIt. It was a changeup on an 0-1 count and it was to the torso, not the head. It’s the second night in a row for a beaning, so I get why Frazier was upset, but you’d think if Arrieta wanted to drill him, it’d be a fastball not an offspeed pitch. It’s like getting into a bar fight and hitting the other guy with… your jacket?
Mike Trout, when not grieving, does things like this:
— Tommy Lorenzo (@sportsbooktom) July 7, 2019
And finally, since safety first has been a theme of this column, take a look at this and explain to me how this is not a clear example of an “egregious” collision with a runner who “ran out of a direct line to the plate.”
A very normal, direct, and unaltered path to home plate pic.twitter.com/jIvmgBqHXN
— HRD Insider Dinger (@atf13atf) July 7, 2019
Gotta believe Jake Marisnick get suspended for railroading Jonathan Lucroy there. That’s about as direct listening to Democrats and Republicans talk about how they’re going to fix actual problems, which is to say, not direct at all. As for Lucroy, once again, we’re wishing another player well this today.
Lastly, I hope it was a safe and stellar Fourth of July for everyone!
In 2012, a computer glitch caused all the fireworks in San Diego’s Fourth of July Celebration to go off at the same time.
The firework show was supposed to be 18 minutes long. (Warning: this video is loud)pic.twitter.com/tdPUxc26YX
— UberFacts (@UberFacts) July 5, 2019
That’s the ballgame for this week! We’ll be back after the break.
(Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire)