Remember when this happened a couple weeks ago?
For a variety of reasons, it was an incredible and super exciting way for a baseball game to end. So with New Hampshire and Hartford locked in a 2-2 tie Friday night and Vlady Jr. leading off the 11th inning, there was another opportunity to come up big in an important situation. Maybe hit his first home run in AA. Exciting!
Instead, on the first pitch, he laid down a bunt.
No, it wasn’t a shrewd move to beat some shift and get a free hit representing the go-ahead run on-base. It was a sac bunt to move the runner on second over to third. Now Vlady being Vlady, to his credit he did the job he was asked to do and got the bunt down successfully on the first try. But it’s a pretty big letdown seeing one of the best prospects in baseball reduced to sac bunting leading off in extras.
At this juncture you might be a tad confused, as I’ve twice alluded to Guerrero being the leadoff hitter and yet sac bunting, which requires a runner on base. For that we have to thank the new rule that baseball has implemented across the minor leagues, in which every extra innings begins with a runner on second base. The idea is to prevent games from going into a ton of extra innings, which can dangerously stretch pitching staffs and often result in position players pitching. Which turns the game into a farce anyway,
So the end is well-intentioned, but the means is an abject failure that turns what should be a the exciting denouement of a tight baseball game into a predictable sequence of trying to manufacture a run. Let’s review how Friday’s extra innings went:
Top 10th (NH): sac bunt, strikeout, strikeout
Bottom 10th (Hartford): failed sac bunt (strikeout), strikeout, strikeout
Top 11th: sac bunt by top prospect), double, triple (so the sac bunt didn’t even matter)
Bottom 11th: no leadoff sac bunt only because the lead runner didn’t matter down two runs
So extra innings in minor league games will now mostly be repetitions of bunting to move the runner to 3rd, and then conditional on that succeeding, aiming for a productive out to score him. How exciting for the fans!
Here’s a better idea: instead of this farce, if the goal is to prevent minor league marathons, just end the games after 11 or 12 innings. Granted, a tie isn’t the most satisfying outcome, but it is well understood that winning isn’t the primary objective in the minor leagues to begin with. Then at least the fans get a couple of innings of actual baseball rather than watching the guy who in a week or two will be the undisputed best hitting prospect in the minor leagues lay down a sac bunt.
Speaking of Vlady Jr. and home runs, yesterday afternoon he hit his first home run in AA. Over the first three games, he’s been hitting some solid fly balls, without anything to show for it. That’s no longer the case after he ambushed a first pitch fastball with two outs and no one on in the 8th inning for a no doubt bomb to left-centre. It doesn’t look like I can embed the clip, but you can watch it here.
In fact, it was a good day generally so the sons of Hall of Famers (or at least should-be in one case) hitting home runs, as Cavan Biggio went yard the inning before Guerrero (video link), and Kacy Clemens added his own later in the day for Lansing.
Finally, this will be covered more in-depth at some point, but Sean Reid-Foley made his season debut for New Hampshire yesterday, looking to turn the page on a rough 2017. And that he certainly did with 6 shutout, 1 hit innings, with 3 walks and 7 strikeouts. Though it looks like his velocity was topping out at around 94, still down a couple ticks from where he was topping out in 2016, it was still very good to see.