San Diego Padres starter Jake Peavy just didn't look like himself Tuesday in Game 1 of the playoffs against the St. Louis Cardinals.
The National League strikeout leader, last year's ERA champ, was cuffed around for eight runs on eight hits and three walks before being chased with one out in the fifth, the score 8-0.
The Cards went on to win 8-5, holding off a ninth-inning rally that saw the Padres score three times and bring the go-ahead run to the plate. In the other playoff openers, the Chicago White Sox unloaded on the Boston Red Sox 14-2 and the New York Yankees beat the Los Angeles Angels 4-2.
Turns out Peavy wasn't himself. He was himself with a broken rib. He was taken to a hospital after coming out of the game and an MRI revealed one rib definitely broken and another one that might be.
Peavy thought he'd been injured in the on-field celebration that followed the Padres' clinching the Western Division championship with a win over the San Francisco Giants Wednesday night, but he hadn't thought it was serious. "I thought I had bruised ribs," he said. "I never imagined it would be this."
He said he might have aggravated the problem in the third inning Tuesday when his spike caught while delivering what turned out to be a wild pitch. He stumbled awkwardly as he threw.
Peavy is -- was -- the Padres' best hope to compete in these playoffs. If they had any real chance of beating the Cardinals or, in that unlikely event, the Houston Astros or Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship Series, they pretty much had to win Peavey's starts and then hope for some luck on the other days.
It must be pretty hard for Padres fans to stomach that the man they'd pinned their shaky dreams on was hurt celebrating a title clinched in a game that brought their team's record up to .500. I'm guessing an e-mail I got from a Padres fan named Dave speaks for many. I've edited out most of the F-words, which means I've edited out most of the words. Here's what left:
"Huh? You were celebrating what? You were barely 500. A bowl of oatmeal and a cream soda would have been about right," Dave wrote about Peavy.
"Hearing this pisses me off to no end. Honestly, where was management? This group doesn't deserve sparkling pear cider, or Bud Light for that matter. Cele-fucking-brate?! Well the last time you won anything you got a new stadium from the taxpayers. Then you got your ass kicked in the World Series but you got to keep the digs. And now the city is broke, and your ribs hurt. Fuck You."
I've always been amazed that this sort of thing doesn't happen more often in those celebratory infield scrums.
Baseball has a long history of weird, non-baseball injuries: Lou Whitaker hurt while dancing with his wife, Jim Lonborg while skiing, Bobby Grich while moving furniture, Goose Goslin while throwing a shot put.
Cecil Upshaw ruined his career when he pretended to dunk a basketball on an overhead awning, catching a ring on his pitching hand and tearing up a finger. Roger Metzger lost two fingers on his throwing hand in a table saw accident. Bobby Tolan and Aaron Boone got hurt playing basketball. Vince Coleman was eaten by a tarp-rolling machine.
That's just off the top of my head. The list goes on and on, as long as the White Sox's futility.
So it's surprising those dog piles near the mound don't end up hurting players more often. Dave Dravecky re-broke his already broken arm celebrating the Giants' NLCS victory in 1989, but for the most part players come out of those things unscathed.
But given Peavy's injury, I wonder if teams are going to start thinking twice about those happy pileups. It would be kind of a shame to see them go the way of the spitball and the two-hour game, but player flesh is extremely expensive, and teams go to great lengths to protect it.
Player contracts contain clauses prohibiting such outlandish activities as table tennis, gardening and roller skating for fear of injury. It's not a stretch to think a team might ask its players to refrain from impromptu rugby matches to celebrate championships.
Teams might ask their players to follow the lead of the Yankees, who celebrate modestly for anything less than a World Series win. Handshakes, smiles, hugs, a few tears from the skipper and it's right back to the grind.
Or maybe baseball players should look to football, where the current fashion for end zone celebrations is for the player who's just scored to stop, face the crowd and pose in some way.
The biceps showoff is popular, but there are also such moves as the arms-crossed nod and the Liza Minnelli, arms out to absorb the love from the masses pose. Using the ball as a prop -- pretending it's a bottle of champagne, for example -- is also de rigueur.
But it's definitely passé to jump around, high-fiving madly or even, yes, dog piling with teammates. A fellow could get hurt that way.
Baseball teams will probably keep on piling on. It's a more or less spontaneous thing that would be hard to stop. But it'd be pretty funny to see a whole baseball team celebrating football-style, 25 guys voguing away, striking poses like a bunch of backup dancers.
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The games [PERMALINK]
It may have just been my vicious head cold that made watching nine hours of baseball a painful thing to do, but those were some painful games to watch Tuesday.
All three were blowouts, each in its own way.
The Yankees never led the Angels by more than four runs in the nightcap, but the Angels also never looked like they were really in the game until the ninth inning, when they scored a run on Mariano Rivera and brought the tying run to the plate.
The White Sox scored five runs in the first inning against the Red Sox, who couldn't solve Jose Contreras. I imagine this game was fun to watch for White Sox fans and Red Sox haters. Not being in either camp, I amused myself with nose-blowing and whimpering. With Contreras set to pitch Game 5, Boston would be well advised to win the next three.
The Padres made things interesting in the ninth against the Cardinals, but until then it was a long, one-sided slog, especially after Reggie Sanders' fifth-inning grand slam made it 8-0.
For most of the game there wasn't much to do except watch Tony La Russa make his silly micromanaging moves despite the lopsided score. Not so silly after all, it turned out, but that man sure can make a game fill up an afternoon.
La Russa did get off the day's best line, though. He'd argued briefly with first base umpire Bill Hohn after an obviously blown call had gone against St. Louis. ESPN's Joe Morgan, interviewing La Russa during an inning break, asked him what he'd said to Hohn.
"I asked him if the gamblers got to him," La Russa said.
Fox announcer Joe Buck got off the second best. He'd just been going over some stats covering Derek Jeter's career postseason accomplishments when he said to partner Tim McCarver, "It's stats like that and reciting them that leads Ben Affleck, the Boston Red Sox fan, to believe that you and I are in love with Derek Jeter."
Affleck is hardly the only one who believes that, but that wasn't the good line. A few minutes later, with Alex Rodriguez batting, Buck read a promo for Fox's NFL coverage, then he and McCarver chatted for a few minutes about Donovan McNabb.
"I obviously don't know Donovan McNabb," McCarver said, "but he appears to be a first-class individual in every way."
"You would love him," Buck said. Then, after a beat, "You wouldn't love him like you love Jeter ..."
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Hockey? Hockey! [PERMALINK]
For the first time in 16 months, NHL teams will play real games Wednesday night. Seems like longer, doesn't it? It just seems like years since the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Calgary Flames in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Every team is in action Wednesday night, the league's way of making a big splash of a return. Good luck with that, with the baseball playoffs going on, not to mention this being the early-middle of the college and pro football seasons.
I usually pretty much ignore the NHL until about February, if not April, when the playoffs start, partly because there's just too much else going on until then, but also because the large playoffs render the regular season mostly meaningless and because NHL hockey has gotten so deathly boring in the last decade.
But I'm going to try to at least have a look in the early stages of this season because I'm interested in whether the rules changes will do what they're supposed to do and improve the play. I've been an advocate of removing the two-line pass for years. I think that and the return to touch-up offsides have a decent chance of returning offensive flow to the NHL game.
I also have a feeling that my feelings about the overtime shootout are going to follow the pattern of my feelings about college football's overtime system: The purist in me hated the idea of it before I saw it, but once I did, the fan in me found it wildly exciting.
Previous column: Playoff preview
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