The talent was there, the weather was perfect, and the announcers were abysmal. MLB Network was on hand in Scottsdale, AZ to telecast the AFL championship game, with Victor Rojas & Tony Clark in the booth as the broadcasters. First up, Victor was assigned the duties of play by play, even though he’s only a fill in at that with the Rangers, color analysis is his supposed forte, if he indeed has one. One play illustrated Rojas’s (son of Cookie) complete ignorance of baseball rulings (if you don’t know, keep your trap shut). The bases were loaded with two out, the batter hit a groundball to short, on which the shortstop laid back, rather than charge, the runner at first beat the throw to second for an attempted force out. Here’s what Victor Rojas had to say, “Tony, they ruled that a basehit. We’re not here to judge. They didn’t even try to get the batter at 1st”. Common sense says, if you can’t force the runner on a short throw to 2nd, you certainly wouldn’t be able to retire the batter at first, the ruling of a basehit was correct.
Then there was former switch hitting, big man, big leaguer, Tony Clark, cliches were in abundance. Here are Big Tony’s favorite utterings rolled into one sentence, “Brother, No doubt about it, Mister Outstanding, I tip my hat”. Sheesh, if I didn’t want to hear what they had to say about the players from time to time, I’d have muted the game, rather than listen to their constant chatter, sometimes a little silence is a good thing.
Finally there were three guests brought up to the booth. Somebody from the charitable organization of Scottsdale Charros & then somebody representing the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation (the talking heads went on about the no-talent, egotistical, MLB Network’s own, Billy Ripken), but the worst was when Joe Garagiola, Sr. came up to visit. Joe started describing in detail his four major surgeries he’s undergone in the past year, sometimes it’s just better to wave to Uncle Joe from a distance.
Back to the game and the talented youngsters performing out on the field. In the 4th inning AFL MVP Phoenix Desert Dogs slugger Grant Desme, a 30 homer & 40 stolen base guy in A ball for the Oakland A’s showed off his power, nailing a home run inside the leftfield foul pole. Moments later Tampa Bay Rays catcher Nevin Ashley went “OPPO TACO”, poking one out to right, TC added, “Only growed up men hit balls like that”. It pains me today to recall their descritions of the game.
Here are some of the things I took away from watching this game. Little Matt Angle out of Ohio State University, representing the Baltimore Orioles, ripped a leadoff triple for Phoenix to start the game. Later Matt beat out a drag bunt past the pitcher for a single. Centerfielder Angle’s hustling play reminded me of another 5’10” centerfielder, Libertyville, IL’s Brett Butler. Rickie’s little brother, Jemile Weeks of the Oakland A’s, flashed some leather in the field at 2B, was 1-4 at the plate, doubling to right (was almost thrown out jogging to 2nd), and struckout three times.
Batting cleanup for Peoria was the White Sox Brent Morel, who lined singles in two of his four at bats, and looks like the real thing. Mariners Dustin Ackley, the 2nd player drafted behind Stephen Strasburg, looked good with the bat, 2-5, but very shaky in leftfield, maybe it was the sun. While White Sox centerfielder Jordan Danks was 0-4, drawing a walk, stranding 5 runners, he showed good baseball instincts, and looked solid in the field.
Pitchers that showed their stuff were Cuban righthander Reidier Gonzalez of the Blue Jays, pitching for Phoenix, with one quick perfect inning of work. Looking sharp for the Javelinas was lefty Andrew Oliver of the Detroit Tigers, 2 innings, 2 Ks. But the man on the bump for Peoria was the Tigers Robbie Weinhardt. Weinhardt is a Tigers 2008 10th round draft taken out of Oklahoma State University, where he epitomized what a power pitcher is, striking out 70 batters in 44 innings. Robbie brought his gun to town, working two innings for Peoria, striking out the side in the 8th (Corey Brown, Chris Marrero, Grant Desme) in the 8th, going 1-2-3 in the ninth, fanning Weeks swinging to end the game.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the BOMB OF THE GAME off the bat of White Sox secondbaseman C.J. Retherford. Retherford is a native of Arizona, attended ASU, was a Sun Devil, whom the White Sox signed as a free agent. With the Javelinas trailing by a run in the bottom of the 8th C.J. stepped in against former ASU hurler Josh Perrault of the Marlins, and absolutely CRUSHED one deep over the leftfield wall, it was a no-doubter, an absolute BOMB! It proved to be the game winner as the Peoria Javelinas thwarted the Peoria Desert Dogs in their hopes of winning their 6th straight AFL Title.