Sunday, October 6, 2013

Oakland ties the ALDS, and Stephen Vogt Craps On The Great Man Theory of Baseball History

History, Meet Stephen Vogt
Tonight in Oakland, Detroit had the chance to take a 2-0 lead in their best of five series against the A's. They had Justin Verlander on the mound, and despite a year that clearly ranks as the worst in his career, he was utterly dominant against them, as if nothing had changed in the 12 months since he ended them in the 2012 ALCS. They had the reigning MVP in Miguel Cabrera, a top tier first baseman in Prince Fielder, household names in Torii Hunter and Victor Martinez, and Jim Leyland managing them all.

On the other side of the innings. the A's had... a guy making his 14th start, throwing to an old de facto rookie catcher, because, well, that's just the way the A's roll.

And maybe this is just the nature of baseball, where single games go in any kind of direction, but it still makes the non-narrative part of me smile.

Whenever my favorite baseball team fails in the playoffs, people more or less say that, well, of course. They may have some talent, at least until they get old enough to go sign somewhere else. That certainly describes rookie pitcher Sonny Gray, who basically looks like the second coming of Tom Gordon -- an undersized right hander with an unfair hook and extremely effective heat because of, well, that hook. But for the most part, they are a collection of useful but widely available parts like Brandon Moss, Seth Smith, Erik Sogard, Alberto Callaspo and the man who caught this game and provided the only run-scoring hit in a 1-0 walk-off win: catcher Stephen Vogt.

This is the kind of thing that generally gets forgotten about over time, despite the fact that you'd think a shocking outcome like this would get its own movie. A decade ago, A's catcher Ramon Hernandez won an ALDS game against Boston with an incredibly heady walk-off bunt. Since it was early in the series, no one really remembers it; they remember the Derek Lowe crotch grab, and maybe Manny Ramirez's moon shot to provide the margin of victory in Boston's 3-2 series gut punch. Lowe and Ramirez and Boston had big long careers and lots of playoff success, Hernandez and the Moneyball A's didn't.

But, well, game always trumps story, at least in the short run. Tonight, all that happened was that the rookie Gray outpitched the likely Hall of Famer Verlander (though neither man factored in the decision), and a catcher with 16 career RBIs got his 17th in the biggest moment of his career. And because of that, we've got a series, hope in Oakland, and another of those memories that tell us that anything in life is possible.

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