River Cats Trump Aces
There are a lot of little things that I love about baseball: the crack of the bat, ballpark dogs with extra onion and sauerkraut, the sound of the ball smacking leather, nerding out on statistics, big swooping 12-to-6 curve balls that fall off the table, monster jacks, infield hits, bleacher bums, diving catches, when infielders barehand the ball (or even better, when outfielders do it).
The list goes on and on, but there may be nothing about baseball that I enjoy more than a good manager ejection.
The "manager ejection" is unique to baseball. I mean, you see basketball coaches get tossed from time to time, and sometimes they throw a little tantrum, but it’s not the same.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a football coach get tossed.
Hockey, I can’t recall any good manager ejections, but I don’t really follow it that closely, so I don’t really know what I’m talking aboot. Eh?
In baseball, when a manager gets tossed, it’s go time. There is no telling what could happen. Each ejection is like a work of art, or a snowflake.
Screaming? Of course. Dirt kicking? Standard. Hat throwing? Probably. Angry mimicking and wild gesticulating? Now we’re cooking with gas!
Some of our more skilled "artists" incorporate props. You got your base throwers, bat chuckers, home plate coverers, and on one spectacular occasion, a rosin bag grenade heaver. Youtube "rosin bag hand grenade". You won’t regret it. It’s the "Mona Lisa" of post-ejection manager conniptions.
Monday night at Raley Field I saw two things in person for the very first time: a River Cats victory (they beat the Reno Aces 5-3 behind ace Clay Mortenson), and (be still my beating heart) a manager ejection. It was everything I had hoped it would be, and more.
But first, the ball game. The River Cats had been 0-4 in games I attended. They lost in every fashion imaginable. Jumping out to an early lead and coughing it up late. Giving up a bunch of runs early and clawing back into it only to come up just short. They have lost 1-0, they have lost 9-8. The one constant had been the losing. Oftentimes snatching defeat from the hands of victory.
Through four and a half innings, nothing happened. Well, not nothing, but pretty darn close. The teams combined for three hits and an error between them. From the bottom of the second through the bottom of the fourth there were five straight "three up, three down" innings.
The only runner to make it past first base was the Aces John Hester, who led off the fifth with a triple. Mortenson, who leads the PCL in wins with nine, showed real poise and pitched his way out of the jam, coaxing Pedro Ciriaco into a ground out to third, then striking out the next two Reno hitters to end the threat.
The Aces took out their starting pitcher, Zach Kroenke, after four innings of one hit ball and only 47 pitches. This was a move they would soon regret. The River Cats teed off on reliever Saul Rivera, welcoming him into the game with four straight base hits to lead off the inning. Throw in Corey Wimberly’s RBI double, and the Cats finished the inning with a four-run lead.
After the inning, I made mention of the Cats less-than-stellar record in games I had attended. "I think tonight’s the night they get off the shnide," I mentioned hopefully. Naturally, the first two Reno players singled and then Doug Deeds hit a moonshot over the 403 sign in dead center to close the gap to 4-3. Oh balls, not again.
Mortenson steadied himself and got out of the inning nursing the one-run lead. The inning ended with a called third strike on Aces catcher John Hester. Hester took umbrage to the call and let the home plate ump know about it. The ump took umbrage to Hester’s umbrage, and tossed him out of the game. Then the fun began.
The Aces manager is former Giant and Dodgers outfielder Brett Butler. A career .290 hitter and one-time all star, he was a scrappy fan favorite everywhere he went. He was also known as a bit of a red-ass. I can attest to the fact that he has not mellowed with age.
After his catcher got tossed, the former MLB’er went ballistic. He threw a helmet in the dugout, bellowed "It’s all about you," and stormed onto the field to confront the ump. For about two minutes he raged on, working himself into a lather as he gyrated and gesticulated in the face of the umpire.
For a time, he was just inches from the umpire, his arms flailing on either side of the blue’s head. He then stumbled around like a crazy person. "Throw the whole ^@#%*%& team, out why don’t you?!"
Once he felt that he had adequately made his point, he followed his catcher on the walk of shame out through the gate in centerfield. It was, if not on Oscar-worthy performance, certainly worthy of an Emmy. Or maybe a Tony. Bravo, Brett Butler! Encore! Encore!
The River Cats tacked on another run in the bottom of the sixth to cap the scoring. The Aces threatened in the bottom of the eighth inning, loading the bases with two outs. Fireballer Henry Rodriguez, who had spent the last week with the big club, came in and slammed the door on the Aces, striking out Carlos Corporan to end the inning.
He finished the four-out save with a 1-2-3 ninth, and for the first time all season I left Raley Field with the home crowd savoring a victory instead of mourning a defeat. But the evening belonged to Brett Butler, who did not go gently into that good night. They* are already calling it the feel-good conniption fit of the summer.