A couple days ago, the Washington Nationals designated pinch-hitter/tear-jerker Matthew Lecroy for assignment. This administrative procedure no doubt constituted a difficult decision for the team's management, as opinion seems uniform that Lecroy is a heck of a guy, a fine teammate, and probably the most intelligent person ever to attend Clemson University. Some sort of dedication or tribute was obviously in order. But it's possible to take such things too far, and of all things to emulate literally, did the Nats have to pick Lecroy's defensive ability? Because, you know, I'm fairly certain that a team of Matt Lecroys could make "a bunt turn into something of an inside-the-park homer," but a team of actual big league defenders? Had to be by design.
To see the play, go to the MLB.com main site, then click on "Daily Rewind, July 18," then click on "Abercrombie's odd run." But I think it needs a little breaking down:
Florida's Reggie Abercrombie lays down a very good bunt, positioned toward that familiar no man's land short of third base and to the third base side of the mound. Despite possessing the advantage of a being lefty hurler who would normally fall into position to pursue in such a scenario, Mike O'Connor is completely helpless. His flight plan toward the ball resembles directions Mapquest once gave me to travel less than a mile from the Tampa airport to a hotel; the directions literally led me toward the Fed-Ex runway. So it was going to be a tough play, but make no mistake: O'Connor's out of the game.
Ryan Zimmerman charges hard and makes what appears to be an ill-advised decision. In retrospect, it's a very bad decision. With the benefit of hindsight, it's a disasterous decision, because it triggers an entire daffy chain of events.
Instead of eating the ball, Zimmerman sizzles his desperate throw past a helpless Nick Johnson. Only Manute Bol or perhaps Superman are capable of stopping the ball's momentum. Maybe Boba Fet, since he's got the jet pack and assorted galactic bounty hunter accoutrements. Suffice it to say, a mere mortal like Johnson stands no chance. Meanwhile, Abercrombie keeps running.
Enter Marlon Anderson. He's the second baseman in Jose Vidro's absence, and he's going to make the most of his keystone opportunity. He dashes in the direction of the baseball's forward progress---to borrow a phrase from Bill James, instinctively calculating the ball's astrophysics like a championship tennis player. Oh, that part is fine. It's what happens when Anderson gets to the ball.
Back in middle school, I had a good friend named Tim. I don't know what's become of Tim, but I do remember his signature basketball shot was the "Kareemie." Maybe your friends developed a similar technique. Essentially, a Kareemie is a wild-assed sky hook from beyond the three-point arc. Chances of success: approximately zero point three percent.
Now, keep in mind that when Tim did the Kareemie, he was a thirteen year-old fooling around, not a professional athlete being paid about a million dollars for a season's performance. Additionally, to my knowledge Tim never executed the Kareemie from his knees---which is precisely what Marlon Anderson does, while not yet at a full stop from his slide on the outfield grass. Under the circumstances, Anderson does well just to get the throw within thirty feet of his target.
Anderson doesn't do well enough, though, and Felipe Lopez would be damned before he'd do anything of substance to stop that wayward baseball. Lopez, the shortstop whose defense is apparently just short of Margot Kidder-class erratic, becomes the passive link in his chain---well, at least until we get to the next guy. Lopez doesn't really o-lay the ball. Instead, it's more like the electric slide. More like an old white-man's-overbite guy doing the electric slide at a wedding reception. More like a distracted bride's father disinterestly doing the electric slide as he contemplates how he's going to pay for the wedding reception.
The ball bounds into left field, and still, Abercrombie continues.
So the ball is now out of the infield, into left field, and the Nats are essentially playing without a man there, because Alfonso Soriano is nowhere to be found. Abercrombie's progress to third base is now almost certainly successful, and that's humiliating enough, but where the hell is Soriano? Who really knows---the video evidence establishes that he's somewhere near the vicinty of where the ball ultimately will reach its terminus, but that doesn't mesh with my image of one of those Nintendo-era baseball games where something would go horrifically wrong and suddenly you couldn't control your defender closest to the ball, all the while your friend's baserunner keeps rounding the bases, and you finally give up and pound the controller into the carpet. That happened to you too, right? Right?
Abercrombie completes his journey around the basepaths, never actually stopping once during the entire circuit. Keep in mind that all he was doing was bunting for a base hit! Imagine his surprise.
Honestly, the only thing that would have enhanced the entertainment value of this play would be if Abercrombie, in his astonishment at still progressing on his initial bunt attempt, suddenly fell fifteen feet from home, Jack Cust-style. I'm imaging Soriano realizing this, suddenly racing to the ball, and throwing a strike home. Abercrombie tries to get up, stumbles, and literally crawls the remainder of the distance. The throw beats Abercrombie by an eyelash, but . . . Robert Fick, so far not a part of the play . . . drops it!
That would've been awesome. More awesome. Keep in mind that the Nats won this game---thankfully.
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What kind of zany antics will these nutty Nats think of next? Toon in this afternoon for a matinee of madness! One-oh-five from Dolphins (Dolphins? Is that it? Yes, Dolphins) Stadium. Ramon Ortiz against some guy named Isabel. I mean, Anibal.