The Cleveland Indians hit a pair of triples on Thursday night in Baltimore. It's not a particularly rare event, two triples. Just since 2010 it's been done 634 times. The San Francisco Giants have done it an awful lot because of that silly brick wall.
But triples are fun. In this age of home run proliferation, having a mad scamper around the bases is refreshing. The two men who scampered for the Tribe, Austin Jackson and Jose Ramirez, are prime triple candidates, due to that scamperability. Jackson has hit 50 of them in his career. But of the two, which was better?
What makes a good triple? It's probably subjective. But there’s some attributes we have to look for. The defenders that have to manage them are typically prime athletes these days, and a triple usually has some kind of defensive miscue out there that makes a man look the buffoon. It adds levity. That, or some strange defying of physics by the ball to add to the whimsy of the game. A certain panic is always nice, as is some magic on the basepaths. That final sprint from second to third can be fraught with excitement if a close play looms. Unfortunately for us, neither triple had a close play, no cloud of dust or indecision. There was a bit of fun with one, but we'll get to that. But enough of trying to define "good".
Let's take a look. First, Jackson's triple.
Before we go further, I think we can all agree that the style of baseball television broadcasts is garbage when it comes to showing the true excitement of the play as it unfolds. Since there's only the one screen they can't show the runner and the ball and the other runners, so there's either frenetic cutting back and forth which is bothersome ore else a focus on something boring. Like a guy digging a ball out or something. The producers Thursday night at least were on the ball more than normal, as much as they could be anyway. Perhaps in the future some picture-in-picture will let viewers see everything simultaneously, but for now that's only dreams.
Now, what I liked about this triple is true with Ramirez's — it's blasted to the opposite field. I just find opposite field so hits satisfying. Especially a gapper like this one was. Off the bat you knew it was trouble. The second thing I liked about it was Carlos Santana’s excellent read on the ball. He was off like a rocket:
Look at that goddamn gazelle. There was no stopping that train. There’s a certain… rigid grace to Santana’s gait that is so compelling. Plus, the Indians scored to tie the game, which is always exciting. Now let’s have a look at the ball physics:
It’s an odd bounce to be sure, but handled well by the centerfielder Gentry and gotten back to the infield. Unfortunately though...
That little white smudge is the ball. Certainly not in time to do anything but feel terrible about yourself, your hopes of not giving up a run, and your choice of pitch. If you’re the pitcher, that is. The third baseman did give Jackson an appreciative pat on the butt though. That was kind.
Overall it was a pretty typical triple, probably not even in the top 25 of Jackson’s 50 in terms of excitement. It was a very nice slide at the end, pretty picture-perfect. On my arbitrary scale of triples though, I give it:
ONE OUT OF THREE BASES
Which probably makes sense. Right? Everything needs a rating system, and triples are three bases.
Now, let’s move on to the ninth inning, in which the Indians already held a 5-3 lead. Jose Ramirez, in the midst of an all-consuming inferno of a June, had yet to have a hit, and this was his last shot.
Luckily for him, he’s real good and hits the ball real hard. Let’s watch.
Now that’s a triple. Actually, in some parks that would be a home run. Heck, in some parks it would be an out. But at this specific moment, under the old foul pole from Memorial Stadium and against that tall right field wall, that was a triple. I have a couple favorite parts on this one. First, the play that Seth Smith made on the ball. I being generous in that description:
First, the way he tracks the ball as though... I don’t know what he was doing really. Either he expected it to go foul, or just didn’t give a damn, because that’s certainly a strange place to start positioning yourself fro a carom. Then that little half-pirouette when he leaps, it’s beautiful. It’s like in mid-leap he says “ehhh...” and takes a power nap. Then, right after that, he just watches the ball bounce away from him to be fielded by the second baseman. Granted, it was hot that night and so humid you could cut the air, maybe he was tired. It was just a nice bow to tie around a brilliantly unique defensive effort.
Then there’ the runner. First of all, how did Jose get all that power on such an up and in pitch? Incredible. But he was motoring as soon as he left the box too. The guy just doesn’t have any gear but “GO!”.
There was no real wild bustle at third. This was even more assured than Jackson’s. But this:
He’s just not stopping! He wanted the inside the parker! Screw a play at third, he was barreling along. Also that GIF is hypnotic. A home like that would have been incredible, and rendered this whole article nonexistent. But that’s what happens when your outfielder just says, “Ah, screw it” and watches the ball roll away from him. Another testament to Jose’s insanity that he even thought it was a possibility, and Mike Sarbaugh’s firm hand as a base coach. Recklessness is not a good quality in that role.
I loved this one, but it loses value because it almost COULD have been something more amazing if not for Johnathan Schoop’s hustle. I give it:
TWO OUT OF THREE BASES
This is a terrible rating system. What even would a three be? This judge is an idiot.
Anyway, two triples, one game. Not rare, but still very fun. The idea of “exciting” and “fun” is subjective, but if I had a player that hit like 35 triples a year, I’d give him a billion dollars. Hopefully I never own a team, because I’m a sucker for so much foolishness.