June 24, 2007

Eephus of the Year

The Mets are back, baby. For those of you who wonder what an eephus pitch is, look no farther than the sixth inning of tonight's game, when Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez deployed a true classic to end a long, tough at-bat by the A's Eric Chavez. It floated in at 53 mph, giving Chavez time to stare, twitch, blink repeatedly, take a huge swing, and miss by a mile. That is an eephus. Some people will try to convince you that El Duque throws the eephus all the time, but not really; that's just his 67 mph-ish slow, slow curve, which complements his 87 mph fastball and the seven or eight other pitches he throws at odd arm angles in between, including the ones he appears to just make up on the spot. You really do have to love El Duque. Chavez smiled and shook his head as he walked away, which is always the mark of a true eephus -- well, either that or blind rage.

This actually wasn't the Mets' most crisply played game; last night's dominant 9-1 win behind Tom Glavine, his 296th, was really the "they're back" moment. And not so much because of the score, but the attitude: they were having fun again. Reyes was twitching around, dancing and shadowboxing in the dugout; everyone and the ball boy made fun of Tom Glavine, who was thrown out at the plate trying to score from first (he had two hits and two RBIs in the game and is now hitting .333; at this point, the Yankees could really use him at DH). Tonight's game also featured a Paul Lo Duca meltdown of truly epic proportions, which was both highly entertaining and slightly alarming -- it took the assembled talents of the entire Mets coaching staff to coax him back to the dugout. You know, anyone can think to toss their helmet, bat, and gloves onto the field, but adding the shin guards and chest protector was a nice touch. As with most creative endeavors, it's all in the details.

The Yankees are also back, but unfortunately, in their case, this is not a good thing. More on them tomorrow. Oy.

Speaking of which, apparently this is Jewish Baseball Week and no one remembered to tell me: the Times has an article about the new Israel Baseball League. This is a nice idea and I hope it works out -- hell, the more baseball the better as far as I'm concerned, wherever, whenever. The league will feature a 51-year-old pitcher from Nyack; expect to see Ricky Henderson playing there by next year. (The article doesn't say: do you have to be Jewish to play in the league? Both ethically and for the sake of quality play, I certainly hope the answer is no).

Unfortunately their director of player development over there is Dan "it's 1996, and this seems like a good time to publicly declare that Roger Clemens is in the twilight of his career" Duquette. And they're all excited, because the demand for tickets is so high, they had to double the available seating at one field to accommodate the fans... from, uh, 1,000 to 2,000. Yay?

Oh well, I shouldn't make fun, they're just getting started. Watch out, Devil Rays! The Modi'in Miracle are coming for your attendance records!

3 comments:

martin_ja said...

Emma,
I love your blog. I love it b/c you make me laugh out loud. Most of the bloggers take themselves so seriously, which can be such a drag.
And I, too, love the Eephus and its active practitioner, El Duque. I missed the game, so I watched the highlight on mlb.com.
But I have a question: I thought the eephus had a more exaggerated arc. The pitch to Chavez looked slow but the arc looked kinda normal. When does the pitch count as an eephus and why don't more pitchers throw it?
Keep up the great work.
Jennifer

metswalkoffs said...

Somewhere in internet world, there must be footage from the all-star game when Rip Sewell threw one to Ted Williams (I've seen it) and Williams homered...

Emma said...

Thanks Jennifer! it's true (from what I've read) that the original eephus, usually credited to Sewell, had more of a "rainbow arc"; but I think what El Duque throws still qualifies. In my mind the main thing is how incredibly slow it is.

As for why more people don't throw it, I don't really know -- maybe it's a macho thing in part: most pitchers want to throw as hard as possible, not as soft. Or maybe it's how silly you risk looking if it gets clobbered.

And yeah -- I'd love to see video of that Williams HR. A-Rod actually hit one of El Duque's out of the park once, back when Hernandez was still with the Yankees:

http://tinyurl.com/2coh4f

"That loop pitch, or whatever you call it," is how Torre referred to it. The thing about the eephus is, you really don't want to throw it more than once a game to a really good hitter...