The Completely Anticipated Anti-Climactic MLB Debut of Ginny Baker

Ginny Baker had an anti-climactic Major League debut. (screenshot from Episode 1)
Ginny Baker had an anti-climactic Major League debut. (screenshot from Episode 1)

Ginny Baker was not a phenom who appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a sixteen-year-old. She was not advertised as “Baseball’s Chosen One,” nor was she drafted first overall in the MLB Draft.

Washington Nationals fans, who comprise the greatest amount of my readers, have been fortunate to see many of the team’s first round draft picks breeze through the minor leagues and have seen them have an almost immediate impact in “The Show.”

Prodigies like Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, who were drafted first overall in their respective MLB Drafts in 2009 and 2010, are not typical. Most players don’t even make the majors.

The chance of making the Major Leagues after being drafted after the 21st round of the 40 round draft is only about 7 percent, according to an article on Bleacher Report. The chances of making the Major Leagues for a player getting drafted out of high school, like Baker, is even slimmer.

Baker, the audience learns during a tense moment with catcher Mike Lawson, took much longer to develop before her Major League debut. She pitched in the minor leagues for five years and even played two years of winter ball.

The audience learns that Baker pitched in the minor leagues for five years during a tense moment with catcher Mike Lawson. (screenshot from Episode 1)
The audience learns that Baker pitched in the minor leagues for five years during a tense moment with catcher Mike Lawson. (screenshot from Episode 1)

In addition to not having “Strasburg-like” talent to breeze through the minors, Baker also had to cope with the expectations of having to perform well to meet the expectations of women and girls who followed her career.

Katie Nolan, the host of FS1’s Garbage Time, weighed in on Baker’s anticipated debut in a cameo. Nolan takes a defensive position as she weighs in on Baker’s talent and the iconic nature of her debut.

Nolan can be heard saying, “If you want to say she’s only getting her shot because she is a woman go ahead…bitch and moan all you want gentleman, but tonight a girl is going to be the lead sports story in the world and if that upsets you, maybe you’re just getting your period, go get him Ginny.”

Other national sport media personalities including Colin Cowherd, Matt Vasgersian and Joe Buck also all weighed in on Baker’s debut. It was also clear from their comments that they too were more focused on the social implications of her start than her talent.

Instead of living up to the anticipation the way Strasburg did when he struck out 14 batters without allowing a walk, Baker crumbled.

It was painful to watch her struggle to throw a single strike and then “surrender” when she begs to be taken out of the game by her manager.

As I watched, Baker struggle I began thinking about the major league debut of another pitcher. Julio Urias who made his debut with the Los Angeles Dodgers this season when he was just 19-years-old.

Urias’ start was anticipated by the national sport media. Most pundits were able to speak knowledgeably about his discovery by the Dodgers as a 16-year-old in Mexico. Expectations were high for Urias. The LA Times panned him as a “phenom” who was making a start for the team who despite having the highest payroll in the division was floundering.

Julio Urias' anticipated Major League debut was also anti-climactic. He lasted just 2 2/3 innings.
Julio Urias’ anticipated Major League debut was also anti-climactic. He lasted just 2 2/3 innings. (photo from Newsday)

Urias struggled mightily in the national spotlight. I cringed as the New York Mets had their way with him. He threw 36 pitches in the first inning and gave up three runs and four hits.

Urias exited the game after throwing just 81 pitches in 2 ⅔ innings in a Dodgers walk-off loss to the New York Mets.

He looked a lot like Baker on the mound. Urias was under a tremendous amount of pressure in a very similar way that Baker was under pressure.

Baker’s anti-climactic debut was a dramatic viewing experience that was well captured by the show’s writers. An immediate “Bakermas” performance tantamount to “Strasmas” would be too unrealistic.

It will be exciting to see how quickly the writer’s have Baker’s performance improve and whether she will in fact be demoted the same way Urias was after his spot start.

Pitch: Thoughts From The Gallery

Nats Gallery Blog is adding a blog post series about Pitch--a new FOX drama about the first woman to play in the majors.
Nats Gallery Blog is adding a blog post series about Pitch–a new FOX drama about the first woman to play in the majors.

The George Washington University has a mandatory “University Writing” requirement for all undergraduates where students learn to refine their writing skills while exploring a topic of their interest. The University offered classes about Jackie Robinson, Asian American culture, video games and a whole lot more. 

I, desperately, did not want to take a class with required readings that along the likes of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. I, instead, enrolled in Dr. Caroline Smith’s Mad Men class. The assignments, readings and discussions were all based on the themes from Mad Men–the Emmy Award winning TV show on AMC.  The class was terrific and it made me a more active TV viewer. It also provided me with experience as a blogger. 

Fox premiered a new TV drama on September 22, 2016 called Pitch which follows the life of Ginny Baker–a fictional rookie pitcher who is navigating the pressure of pitching in the majors as the first woman player. 

The show caught my interest with its ads that played all summer long and I am excited to have something to write about after the Washington Nationals finish their long playoff run.

These posts will not summarize the shows. Instead, they will focus on one or two of the prevailing themes of the episodes which I will analyze from the perspective as a baseball fan (not an academic).

Enjoy the series and leave your comments at the end of each post!

TOPPS NOW: Daniel Murphy Drives in Four Runs for the Washington Nationals

Daniel Murphy drove in 4 RBIs and had three hits in NLDS Game 4. Murphy drove in 2 RBIs in at bats against Clayton Kershaw.
Daniel Murphy drove in 4 RBIs and had three hits in NLDS Game 4. Murphy drove in 2 RBIs in at bats against Clayton Kershaw.

The Los Angeles Dodgers were clinging to their postseason lives entering Game 4 of the NLDS at Dodger Stadium in Chavez Ravine. Manager Dave Roberts made the decision to throw, three time Cy Young Award winner and 2014 NL MVP, Clayton Kershaw on just three days rest.

Daniel Murphy, the 2015 NLCS MVP and 2016 NL runner-up for the batting title, continued his hot hitting this postseason against Kershaw.

Murphy, who hit a monster home run against Kershaw in the 2015 NLDS, put the Washington Nationals on the board in the first inning when he slapped a 1-1 curveball with runners on first and second base into right field to score Trea Turner.

The Nationals countered Kershaw with Joe Ross, who was making his MLB postseason debut. The Dodgers took a 2-1 lead the next half inning after Adrian Gonzalez hit a two-run home run. Ross was on a short leash and was pulled in the third inning after surrendering another run.

Murphy drove in his second RBI of the game in the third inning when he hit a deep sacrifice fly off of Kershaw into center field which plated Turner and evened the game at 2-2.

Kershaw recorded 11 strikeouts in his outing and exited after loading the bases in the seventh inning.

The Nationals were able to pounce on the Dodgers bullpen just as they did Monday night. Werth did not have to swing the bat to make it a 5-3 game when he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.

Murphy’s turn was next and he made Kershaw bury his face in his hands when he slapped a single to left center field off of Luis Avilan to score Turner and Bryce Harper. The game was tied 5-5 and Murphy had 4 RBIs on the night.

Daniel Murphy had his fingerprints all over the game. Topps released a limited edition Topps Now card celebrating Murphy’s performance even though the game slipped away in the eighth inning. The card will be available until 4:30pm on Thursday.

The Moment:

Daniel continued to do in Game 4 exactly what he’s done all season for Washington–come up with timely hits and drive runners in. Murphy went 2-3 with four RBI against starter Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers, inflating his average this Postseason to .462 (6-for-13). Manager Dusty Baker on Murphy’s performance, “he knows how to hit…he comes through in the clutch.”

TOPPS NOW: NLDS Game 2 Daniel Murphy and Jose Lobaton Cards

Jose Lobaton crushed a 3-run home run in Game 2 of the NLDS which gave the Washingon Nationals a lead they never relinquished.
Jose Lobaton crushed a 3-run home run in Game 2 of the NLDS giving the Washingon Nationals a lead they never relinquished.

The Washington Nationals desperately needed a win Sunday afternoon to avoid having to fight for their postseason lives in Chavez Ravine just to force a decisive Game 5 in Washington.

Things did not get off to a strong start for the Nationals. Chase Utley got the Dodgers off to a 1-0 lead in the first inning after he slapped a line drive for a home run to right center field off Tanner Roark.

The Nationals offense came out flat against Rich Hill, a midseason acquisition from the Oakland Athletics, as he managed to strike out Trea Turner, Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth.

Jose Lobaton was having an especially rough day. The Nationals back-up catcher, who played in just 39 regular season games during the regular season, squandered a bases loaded rally in the second inning  when he into an inning ending 1-2-3 double play on the first pitch he saw from Hill.

To make matters worse, Lobaton also mishandled a strong throw from Bryce Harper during a close play at the plate in the third inning. Lobaton could not handle the ball and reached across the plate to tag Justin Turner without the ball. The Dodgers now had a 2-0 lead which they held until the fourth inning.

The bad vibes surrounding Lobaton evaporated when he crushed a three-run home run into the visitor’s bullpen. It gave the Nationals a lead they would not relinquish.

Dave Jagler, a Washington Nationals play-by play announcer, enthusiastically described the scene at the ballpark after the home run.

“Delirium here at Nationals Park,” he said.

The moment brought everybody to their feet and kept the team fired up.

Daniel Murphy scored a run and drove in two runs as he went 3-for-3 with a walk in Game 2 of the NLDS.
Daniel Murphy scored a run and drove in two runs as he went 3-for-3 with a walk in Game 2 of the NLDS.

Daniel Murphy was one of the runners to score on the home run after reaching base on a walk. Murphy also had three hits in Game 2 including an RBI single in the 5th inning which chased Hill from the game and gave the Nationals a 4-2 lead. Murphy’s final hit of the game was another RBI single which scored Jayson Werth and gave the Nationals a 5-2 lead.

Topps Now released two limited edition baseball cards on Monday afternoon which celebrate the stellar Game 2 performances by Lobaton and Murphy. These baseball cards will be available until 4:30pm.

 

Moments:

(#558) The Washington Nationals trailed the Los Angeles Dodgers 2-0, in the bottom of the fourth inning, as they held a 1-0 deficit in the NLDS. With runners on first and second and two outs, Jose Lobaton delivered a clutch, three-run shot that put the Washington Nationals out in front for good, as they came away with an eventual, series-tying, 5-2 victory.
(#559) Daniel Murphy continues to rake in Postseason play. Murphy went 3-for-3 in Game 2 of the NLDS, accounting for two RBI and a run scored for the Washington Nationals. Murphy’s offensive efforts helped lead the Washington Nationals to a series tying, 5-2 win.

TOPPS NOW: Daniel Murphy Hits in All 19 Games vs. Mets in 2016 Season

Daniel Murphy tortured the New York Mets this season and the latest Topps Now card celebrates his 19-game hitting streak against his former team.
Daniel Murphy tortured the New York Mets this season and the latest Topps Now card celebrates his 19-game hit streak against his former team.

News broke on Christmas Eve that the Washington Nationals had finally come to a deal with a free agent. They had already missed out on big deals with Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward who signed with the Chicago Cubs, despite receiving more lucrative offers from the Nationals. This time, however, the Nationals got the man they wanted–Daniel Murphy–and they signed him to three-year $37.5 million contract.

Murphy rejected a one-year $15.8 million qualifying offer from the New York Mets after a miraculous postseason where he hit seven home runs in nine games and was named NLCS MVP. He hit just 14 home runs during the 2014 regular season and there were critics of the deal who thought the Nationals were paying for his hot postseason numbers.

Murphy began the season on a tear and entered the first game of a 19-game season series against the Mets on May 17 with a .400 AVG and 5 home runs. Fans gave him a warm ovation before the start of the game when a one-minute long video played on the videoboard. He was also cheered when he came up to bat in the second inning. 

The Nationals would explode on the Mets over the next two games. Boos replaced cheers almost immediately. Murphy drove in two runs on a single and a sacrifice fly in a 7-1 victory. Mets fans were even more critical the following night when Murphy hit a two-run home off, Mets “ace,” Matt Harvey and the Nationals bounced him from the game and the rotation with a 9-1 victory.

I was fortunate to witness this ownage at five of the 19 games this season including two games in New York. Perhaps my favorite exhibition of Murphy’s damage to the Mets came when the teams met in late June. Murphy had a monster solo home run into the second deck of Nationals Park above their bullpen to open the scoring for the day. Murphy made it a multi-home run affair in the eighth inning when he took Sean Gilmartin deep and drove in Bryce Harper to make it a 4-0 game.

The Nationals defeated the Mets 4-2 on June 29 thanks to a multi-homer game from Daniel Murphy.
The Nationals defeated the Mets 4-2 on June 29 thanks to a multi-homer game from Daniel Murphy.

Murphy has been the best player for the Nationals this season. He leads the major leagues with a .348 AVG. He is second to only Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz in other offensive metrics including .598 SLG and .991 OPS. Murphy also leads the National League in doubles (45)  is second to only Ortiz in the majors with 46.

Murphy, somehow, was able to save some of his best hitting for the matchups against the Mets. The Nationals won 12 of the games and Murphy made Mets fans regret their decision to let him walk by walking all over the Mets.

The latest Topps Now card commemorates Murphy’s success against the Mets. His historic 19-game hit streak is rivaled by only Lou Brock. Fans can purchase this limited edition card, that may as well be called the “Thanks for Murphy Card,” until 1pm on Friday.

The Moment:

With a first-inning single vs. the New York Mets on September 14th, Daniel Murphy capped off the first season of play vs. his former club by hitting in all 19 games played. The 19-game hit streak marks the longest single-season streak against any one team in the divisional era (1969), and also goes down as the longest streak by a player vs. his former club since Lou Brock’s 17-game streak in 1965 vs. the Chicago Cubs. All told, Murphy’s 2016 stats vs. the Mets round out to .413/.444/.567 with 7 HR and 21 RBIs.

Giveaway Review: Michael A. Taylor Fan Choice Bobblehead (Grade: B)

Friday night was the final bobblehead giveaway of the season. The first 25,000 fans received Michael A. Taylor fan choice bobbleheads.
Friday night was the final bobblehead giveaway of the season. The first 25,000 fans received Michael A. Taylor fan choice bobbleheads.

Friday night’s game between the Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies was the final bobblehead giveaway of the season. The first 25,000 fans at Nationals Park received a Michael A. Taylor fan choice bobblehead presented by MASN.

When the promotional schedule was announced, it was revealed that fans would have the opportunity to vote on which Nationals player would be featured as the September 9 bobblehead. The voting period went from Thursday, March 10 at 10 a.m. to Friday, March 11 at 10:00 a.m. and it was conducted on the Nationals website.

The ballot was long and allowed fans to choose from 31 players on the Nationals roster. Players who have been featured for a bobblehead or figurine giveaway were left off the ballot.

The fan choice bobblehead ballot listed 31 players with varying degrees of experience with the Nationals. (Washington Post)
The fan choice bobblehead ballot listed 31 players with varying degrees of experience with the Nationals. (Washington Post)

Some of the choices then seemed questionable. Were Phillies fans going to stuff the ballot box with votes for Jonathan Papelbon who, at the time, had an icy relationship with Nationals fans after choking Bryce Harper?

Should people vote for veterans Daniel Murphy or Oliver Perez even if they had not played a game for the Nationals?

It looked like Trea Turner would spend the season in the minor leagues. Was it worth voting for him?

Ultimately, it was revealed during an April 4 Opening Day TV broadcast that Taylor won the vote. Some fans were skeptical about the counting, but his victory may have had something to do with his hot spring training stats.

The Nationals (or Syracuse Chiefs) outfielder is portrayed in a home white uniform with a red cap running down a fly ball. This bobblehead, like the other bobbleheads this season, is extremely detailed. Fans can see the logos painted onto his black cleats and even see the black shoe laces.

The bobblehead designers also gets credit for including the single red arm sleeve that Taylor wears on his right arm. Fans will also notice that the cap is much more detailed than the caps from either of the Max Scherzer bobbleheads. The panels of the cap and button are both pronounced this bobblehead. The corrugated polyester texture is also visible on the cap.

The Washington Nationals had a sponsorship activation at the main team store which generated some enthusiasm for the promotion. Taylor, who did not play on Friday night but dressed for the game, signed autographs for about thirty minutes near the store’s entrance.

Many fans posted photos of their bobbleheads on social media. Our favorite is this post game video taken by a fan during the Trea Turner walk-off home run.

The prevailing buzz surrounding the bobblehead, despite its craftsmanship, was Taylor’s forgettable season where his low batting average (.218) and high strikeout number (73) in just 68 games left him out of a job.

Grade: B