There’s an actual term for what David Bote did Sunday night – the “ultimate grand slam.”
It’s a walk-off, bases-full jack that erases a three-run deficit. It should really come with a side of pancakes.
Bote became the 29th player in MLB history to hit one, joining the likes of Jason Giambi, Alan Trammell, Buddy Bell, Roberto Clemente, Bobby Thomson and Babe Ruth.
But wait, there’s more.
This was just the seventh “ultimate grand slam” from a pinch-hitter. And adding to the drama, it was the first to erase a 3-0 deficit since Sammy Byrd of the Reds in 1936. And Byrd’s came with nobody out, according to NBC Sports Chicago researcher Christopher Kamka.
There were two outs when Bote stepped to the plate. And two strikes. And this was at Wrigley Field. On ESPN. Against a Nationals team the Cubs wiped out in last year’s postseason.
“Magical,” Bote called it.
It was his first ever walk-off and just his third grand slam. The first came in high school at Faith Christian, in Colorado. The second, he said, was at Class-A Daytona during his six-year journey to the big leagues.
Bote saluted superfan Bill Murray on the field after the game Sunday.
Cinderella story, outta nowhere.
Bote had more promise than “Caddyshack” groundskeeper Carl Spackler, but the former 18th-round draft pick never was ranked among the organization’s top 10 prospects.
“He’s the kind of guy, I’m telling you because I was a scout, who gets overlooked based on his draft status,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He is not talked about much until he really does something spectacular. He’s one of those guys who had to show it for people to believe it. He has worked his way into this situation. Give him credit. His work ethic is spectacular. His skill level is high. And it will keep getting better before it gets worse.”
Bote said he flourished in part because of Maddon’s philosophy.
Typical baseball wisdom says that as a minor leaguer in spring training, you should keep your ears open and your mouth shut.
“The whole adage of speak when spoken to?” Bote said Sunday night. “That’s not it (here).
“One time a couple of months ago, (Kyle) Schwarber said: ‘What, you’re not going to say hi? Yeah, we’re buddies. Say, what’s up?’
“It’s little things. Guys pat you on your back when you have a tough at-bat. From the staff down, Joe creates an environment of no ego and everyone buys into it.”
Bote said he has fine-tuned his pinch-hitting approach with Tommy La Stella, who came through Sunday with his MLB-high 17th pinch hit this season.
“You have to have your approach,” Bote said, “and be disciplined in what you want to do. And then be even more concise because you have no feel for the game because you’re not in it.
“Tommy is the best in the game at it; he is so in control of his emotions of what he wants to do. You’ll see him take pitches and think: Why didn’t he swing at that? Because he has his approach and he’s sticking to it. I’m learning from him to be convicted. Convicted in your approach.”
Maddon said Bote has a “humbled confidence” that will not change after what transpired Sunday night. Sure, but it may be a challenge for Bote to keep a level head after his star turn on national TV.
The Cubs social media team didn’t hold back on the hyperbole, posting a picture of Bote and Murray with the caption “Legends.”
Bote said that a Cubs coach approached him after the game with this advice: Stay underwater.
“Don’t come up to the surface until the season’s over,” Bote said. “It’s a big game, sure, but it’s one game. Don’t let what’s happening outside affect what you’re trying to do. Keep grinding.”
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I usually write a lot about a little, but this week I’m changing course as I have a little to say about a lot as it relates to Boston sports. So without further ado…
Red Sox sweep of the Yankees: Before moving ahead I have to take a quick look back at the dynamic and muscle-flexing sweep of the Yankees. Sweeps like that are rare these parts. In four games we damn near saw everything a baseball fan could possibly experience, all at the expense the evil rival. Good times.
Last Thursday night’s 15-7 drubbing can best be compared to what the Globetrotters typically do to the Washington Generals in the fourth quarter. The Sox absolutely annihilated the Yankees. Moreover and more impressively, they toyed with them. It was akin to what the residents of Elm Street must’ve felt when Freddy Kruger was haunting their dreams. The only difference is that the Yankees were wide awake for their nightmare, one that saw the Red Sox run all over them like the 82′ Cardinals and dictate the script at every moment of an unforgettable eight-run fourth inning.
The eight runs were literally the least of the excitement, as the Red Sox made fools of a sloppy and resigned Yankees defense that looked like it would have happily forfeited if the umpire signaled for mercy. It was Mike Tyson vs. Peter McNeeley II or Cosmo Kramer in the karate class, whichever your reference of choice, it was an absolute ass-kicking and felt damn good.
One more thing on Thursday’s night’s chicanery — if you have any friends or relatives that are of the heavier and rounder variety and have spent any time with them on a stinking hot day then you know what happened to CC Sabathia that night. It was hot as blazes and he was simply too fat to pitch. Hot fat and good pitch location are not synonymous, they are mutually exclusive.
Brasier & Workman: Now with a winning percentage over .700 and standing a whopping 47 games over .500, the Red Sox have enough cushion to take some calculated risks. I’d like to see more of Ryan Brasier and Brandon Workman in late and close situations. I know who Joe Kelly is. I know who Matt Barnes is and I know who Heath Hembree is. They are all pretty good, not great. When he’s on, Barnes can be near lights out, but he’s not always on (see Tuesday night in Toronto). However with Brasier and Workman, I’m still left to wonder if they can do more. I like their stuff and my sense is that at least one of them may be able to handle it. Let’s find out.
David Price: If you’re not feeling better about the Red Sox’ chances in October after Price’s outing Sunday night, then you should. Like I mentioned last week, Price has changed his approach and is pitching with the objective of keeping hitters off-balance. For six innings, that’s what he did and in October, performances like that from him could be enough. As a known Price dissenter, I’m optimistic he’s turned a corner. Sunday night was big.
The Cardinal: Outside of hard to find streaming radio in a galaxy far, far away, the “Imus in the Morning Show” has long since been put out to pasture, but I was reminded of it Tuesday night watching Drew Pomeranz. If you listened to that show back in its heyday, you may remember cast member Bernard McGuirk’s classic bit “Which doesn’t belong and why?!” With a 9 1/2-game lead on the Yankees, a record of 81-34 and endless smiles from every end of the dugout night after night, I’d like to submit the picture atop this story as evidence of someone who certainly does not belong and why.
Need I explain why? Perhaps a trip to Pawtucket could cheer this chap up a bit and offer him some much needed success. The cracked and steaming cement of northern Rhode Island is beautiful this time of year. I think a trip to Pawtucket is in order for Pomeranz.
Derek Rivers and Harvey Langi: Thursday night signifies Patriots preseason game one, which around these parts is typically an annual non-event. However, this year there are a couple of things I’ll be looking for.
Plenty of fans left the 2018 NFL Draft feeling a little empty. Linebacker and the edge rush have been big offseason concerns post Super Bowl LII and outside of the acquisition of former Atlanta Falcons defensive end Adrian Clayborn, not much has been done to address it.
Well, Thursday night offers a first look at two hopefuls from the 2017 draft class, defensive end Derek Rivers and linebacker Harvey Langi. I’m hopeful to see these guys get some extended run this preseason to see if they can contribute. Both came in last season offering glimpses of hope to inject youth and talent at their respective positions. A healthy and productive camp from either or both could go a long way in helping the defense work through these gaps.
Completions if Brady plays: Brady may not play, but if he does, no matter the types of throws, I’ll be looking for completions. Short, mid-range, outside the numbers or down field, it matters not; I just want to see evidence that the pass catchers are getting to the right spot. When balls are rolling downfield after falling incomplete, it’s less about Brady and more about people not being in the right spot. It’ll be interesting to see where they all are week one.
Mike Gillislee and Jeremy Hill: Not the sexiest battle in camp, but it’s an interesting one. With Dion Lewis in Tennessee and Sony Michel nursing an injured knee, the role of the between-the-tackles ball carrier looks to be a more prominent feature of the offense at least at the outset of the season. With a new and depleted receiving core, you can bet that Rex Burkhead and James White will be heavily featured in the passing game, so a reliable, inside runner could be a feature of this offense just as LeGarrette Blount was a couple of years ago. During the often vanilla flavored games of the preseason, this is something worth watching.
Danny Etling: Outside of some brief LSU highlights, I don’t know much, hence I’m fascinated to see if there is something of value here. Belichick drafted him for a reason. Maybe it was spite, maybe it was a dart throw or maybe he sees something, I’m interested to know.
The wide receivers: With Edelman suspended for four games, Jordan Matthews out of town, Kenny Britt hurt and unproven in the offense, it’s a light group. However, remember that the Patriots thrive on positional versatility. Meaning, it’s more about ‘pass catchers’ than wide receivers, per se. With Rob Gronkowski, Chris Hogan, James White and Rex Burkhead, you have four players right there who can line up in multiple formations and positions.
Each has proven pass catching chops. Gronk is the best in the business. Add Phillip Dorsett or Eric Decker to the mix as a contributor and they’ll have more than enough pass catching prowess and positional versatility to make it work. Is it perfect? No, but they can make it work until Edelman returns and the newbies start to get it.
One more thing, don’t forget Cordarrelle Patterson. Talk about versatility! Much was made of him coming as a special teams force, which he is. However, Belichick knows what this guy can do and I’m anticipating them finding ways to get this guy the ball in space. If you’re not familiar with what that looks like take a look at this college highlight film and enjoy. It’s tantalizing.
Lastly, I hope you’ll join Pete Davidson and me this Sunday at 8 a.m. for the 2018 return of the WEEI Fantasy Football Hour kicking off our live football content on-air. Check Pete out on Twitter and keep up to date with his rankings and insights here. The man knows his stuff.
What pitcher has had the greatest success against the Twins this season? The answer may surprise you: It’s Danny Duffy.
The Royals’ lefthander has started three games against Minnesota, pitched a total of 19 innings, and has allowed just two runs. That’s an 0.95 ERA, and it gives Paul Molitor an idea about today’s fourth meeting with Duffy:
“I’d say, whatever we’ve tried the last two times, we should try something different,” the Twins’ manager said.
Duffy’s secret is just basic pitching: He throws hard enough to make hitters fear the fastball, but he’s got a changeup that get you out. “We get so worried about the velocity, sometimes we get sped up and become vulnerable to those off-speed pitches,” Molitor said. “He’s got the ability to throw strikes with both.”
Duffy will be opposed by Ervin Santana, who is still trying to recapture his old form. The 2017 All-Star has a 6.10 ERA in two starts, but “I still see the same demeanor as far as confidence,” Molitor said. “He’s learning to trust where he’s at with his stuff.”
If Santana can make progress, and if the Twins catch Duffy on an off day, they could record their fourth sweep of the season. The timing is good, considering they spend the next four days in Cleveland, playing a team that remains stubbornly unable to put the Twins away for good.
Joe Mauer gets the afternoon off, and Miguel Sano returns to the cleanup spot for the first time since June 13. Here are the lineups to Sunday’s game:
No American professional sport has more games than baseball, with six weeks of spring training and 162 regular- season chances — plus the postseason — to build interest.
So, with all the built-in exposure, why aren’t big-leaguers more well-known compared to their peers in professional sports?
An ESPN Sports Poll by Luker on Trends this year found that no active baseball player cracked the top 40 of Americans’ favorite professional athletes, and not one baseball player was ranked in this year’s edition of the network’s World Fame 100.
Meanwhile, the low rankings of star baseball players by other popularity metrics — such as Q Scores, a measurement of the familiarity and appeal of an individual’s brand, and Sports Pro Media’s Most Marketable List — cement the issue. Major League Baseball has an array of bright, young stars, but those players aren’t breaking through as household names.
The biggest of those names is the major leagues’ widely acknowledged best player, Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout, who ranked 64th in the ESPN Sports Poll. Commissioner Rob Manfred recently told USA Today that one reason Trout hasn’t become a household name is because he doesn’t market himself enough.
Manfred’s comment set off a firestorm of criticism by big-league players. They offered an opposing take on why baseball is becoming increasingly faceless.
“I don’t think MLB should leave it to the players to market themselves through other avenues,” Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander said . “(Manfred’s) saying that Mike Trout doesn’t do a good enough job marketing — but it’s not on Mike Trout. It’s on Major League Baseball.
“If Mike Trout wants to spend his offseason in Jersey, hunting and hanging out with his buddies and his family, instead of spending every day doing something for Gatorade, or Powerade, or whatever said company would push his image, he has the right to do that.”
Rockies reliever Adam Ottavino echoed Verlander’s sentiments, noting “the league should realize the value of a player more” and that the extreme length of the season, though good for overall exposure, often limits players’ time to market themselves.
“The commissioner thinks the teams are the attraction — the uniforms and the parks — more so than the players,” Ottavino said. “That’s a little off base. Players are the ones who drive the game, so we should be doing everything we can to market our players.”
Compounding the issue of visibility is an aging and regional-centric TV audience, blackouts on locally streamed games, the era of Three True Outcomes (strikeout, walk, home run) as well as a dwindling interest among youth in favor of the more star-driven NBA and NFL.
“You look at a sport like the NBA where it’s all player-driven type of marketing, and the popularity of the NBA in the youth culture is probably at an all-time high right now,” Ottavino said. “That’s the biggest thing — you need kids that connect with individual players and who have idols.”
Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez discussed that idolatry in his native Venezuela, where the images of him and other baseball stars hailing from the Land of Grace — Houston’s Jose Altuve, Seattle’s Felix Hernandez and Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera — are plastered all over the country. That foursome also has a sponsorship deal there with Empresas Polar, Venezuela’s largest distributor of beer as well as other products. But Gonzalez said that stardom doesn’t translate to America. “Our faces should be more recognizable,” he said, and for that he said MLB could do a better job.
“When we go to Venezuela, they treat us like heroes. I get recognized here too, but not like in Venezuela. Everyone knows me in Venezuela,” CarGo said.
Altuve said he has seen the stock of his personal brand rise in recent seasons, which is largely a credit to Houston being the defending World Series champion. Meanwhile, Trout — playing for a Los Angeles team that has made it to the playoffs only once in his seven full seasons — likely will be at home again come October, hurting his chances to get more crossover appeal by not being able to play on baseball’s biggest stage.
While team success remains a key variable in a baseball player’s individual brand, Verlander said the onus has to be on MLB to figure out better ways to market its stars during the season.
“High tide raises all ships, right? If everybody’s being marketed better, we’ll have more kids playing the game at younger levels, and it’s a win for everybody,” Verlander said. “I think it’s a pretty shortsighted opinion if you’re going to save a dollar today to not market some of your best players to the country and the world, and say they need to do that themselves.”
To the shock of literally no humans, the Giants and Athletics did nothing at the trade deadline, and for differing but equally valuable reasons.
For the A’s, they’d done their team-improving deal already by picking up New York Mets closer Jeurys Familia for a few beats (as opposed to a full song). There are still players that can be collected in August, but for the most part the A’s will be what they are now.
The Giants, though, had nothing to do that would help them in their present predicament, and little to offer that would help others. They’d been pestered about relievers Tony Watson and Will Smith, but that would represent full surrender, and they’d been asked gently about outfielder Andrew McCutchen, who wouldn’t fetch the return he would have two months ago, let along two years.
In other words, the A’s shopped and got something they liked, The Giants browsed and went home no better or worse than they are.
The problem for San Francisco, of course, is that being no better of worse still leaves them 10th in a five-team race – or if you prefer, third in a two-team race.
Neither position is enviable, and the team’s collective resume and disabled list provides even less reason to hope. Since the trade deadline is all about hope – either the adherence to or abandonment of – the Giants were not going to be players.
Nobody should be surprised by this, of course, not even the true believers who think they are only a week out of a playoff spot. The Giants’ best selling point this year is that it isn’t last year, but at a time when every other team above them in the National League standings made a move for a useful major leaguer, the Giants were vaporlocked.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers, who already had dealt for shortstop Manny Machado, doubled down with second baseman Brian Dozier from Minnesota and then grabbed reliever John Axford from Toronto. Arizona grabbed third baseman Eduardo Escobar from Minnesota and relievers Brad Ziegler from Miami and Jake Diekman from Texas. Colorado took reliever Seung-Hwan Oh from Toronto, a-a-a-a-and . . .
The Cubs got pitcher Cole Hamels from Texas as a rental. The Brewers dealt for third baseman Mike Moustakas from Kansas City and second baseman Jonathan Schoop from Baltimore. Pittsburgh got Tampa starter Chris Archer and Texas reliever Keone Kela. St. Louis got reliever Chasen Shreve from the Yankees (but dealt outfielder Tommy Pham to Tampa for prospects, so figure that one out) . . . a-a-a-a-and . . .
Philadelphia got catcher Wilson Ramos from Tampa and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera from the Mets. Atlanta starter Kevin Gausman from Baltimore, relievers Brad Brach from Baltimore and Jonny Venters from Tampa and outfielder Adam Duvall from Cincinnati. Even Washington, whose only bold move was to announce that they would not be trading outfielder/franchise-face Bryce Harper, had gotten Kansas City closer Kelvin Herrera earlier in the month.
In short, the Giants are in stasis. If this ruins your day, well, your day didn’t stand much of a chance to begin with, and you need a pop to take the edge off. And the A’s bolstered their bullpen for a run at the one remaining American League playoff spot, which is more than they usually do, by a lot. If that makes your day appreciably better, maybe you need a pop too.