That thing about March and lions.
It didn’t matter, but it was the Angels and there was Josh and we basically had Opening Day lineups and a weird TX-OU thing in the crowd and it was under the lights and on TV – both locally (with a pregame show) and nationally – and the Twitterverse was super-alive.
It didn’t matter, but a whole lot of us couldn’t turn it off, sucked in by those first two innings and rewarded for hanging in there until the end.
The end, when Ron Washington left Leonys Martin in even though Mike Scioscia had brought a lefthander into the game to try and close things out. Sure, it was a lefty (21-year-old Eswarlin Jimenez) who has yet to play an official game above Class A – while Martin has played all of four pro games below Class AA – but sometimes a Ben Rowen is called on to retire Peter Bourjos, Mike Trout, Erick Aybar, and Albert Pujols and goes four for four. These are all professionals, and it’s baseball, where pitchers succeed more often than hitters.
Martin, who has been one of the bright spots in camp, came into the game hitting .350/.413/.500.
He came into the ninth-inning spot hitting .364/.420/.500.
He ended the game hitting .378/.431/.533.
After Jimenez was summoned and Martin stepped in, with one out and the lead runner of three “meaningless,” the 25-year-old took pitch one, a called strike. He patiently watched the second pitch go by for ball one. He fouled off the next Jimenez offering, and evened the count at 2-2 when he let an inadequate pitch four sail by.
Pitch five was the cookie that Martin had worked the count to get, a fastball middle-middle, and he stayed in and squared up, shooting a double the opposite way – capping off a night full of oppo-licious goodness up and down the lineup – triggering the track meet that sent Julio Borbon home, and then Chih-Hsien Chiang, and then Jim Adduci, and then however many of the 9,000 in attendance had stuck it out.
It doesn’t matter that the Angels had a four-homer frame or that Bourjos and Trout allowed a fly ball to bounce on the warning track – care to bet which happens more often this year? – and ultimately it doesn’t matter than Martin went 3 for 5, hitting safely against a struggling Jerome Williams and non-roster hurlers Buddy Boshers and Eswarlin Jimenez.
But, still, that was a big leaguer and two lefthanders that Martin got the job done against, and that matters, even if just a little.
No memory of Texas 10, Los Angeles 9 should last all that long, but to some degree that game mattered to Martin, and to Rowen, and to Williams, and to Hank Conger and Derek Lowe.
The way Martin handled that final at-bat, I thought about this thing I wrote five months ago, especially the parts about Dave Magadan and Jacoby Ellsbury and the possibility that Leonys Martin becomes a chapter in that specific story.
The Rangers presumably could have traded Martin, and more, to the Mets this winter in a deal for R.A. Dickey. They could have.
Texas could have signed Michael Bourn. It would have cost something in the neighborhood of the four years and $48 million (with a fifth vesting year at another $12 million) that Cleveland gave the 30-year-old this winter. Plus a first-round draft pick.
But as Jon Daniels said after Bourn came to terms with the Indians: “If we’re not going to look at Leonys now, when are we?”
The club are into Martin for $15.5 million. It’s a significant investment in a player who had never played so much as a minor league game stateside when he agreed to terms.
The deal calls for $2.25 million this year, $2.75 million next year, and $3.75 million in 2015. After that, he’ll have three years of club control remaining, at least.
He’s showing signs that he’s ready to provide a return. Or at least deserving of a chance to hit at the bottom of the lineup and to add a dimension that makes the idea of Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus at the top even more appealing.
Thursday was a great sports day, even for those of us who didn’t catch a minute of Harvard-New Mexico or Marquette-Davidson. A meaningless Rangers-Angels game did it for me, followed by Stars 2, Kings 0 (in all its 40-40-40 glory).
It’s going to be a great weekend of baseball in Surprise and Goodyear, more baseball that doesn’t count but, in certain instances, absolutely matters.