Baseball Basics

Dan HoehneContributor ISeptember 2, 2008

OK, here's the situation, my parent's went away on a weeks vacation...

No, wait, that's the start of 'Parent's Just Don't Understand' by the Fresh Prince.

Actually, the situation is, the Cubs just lost in 11 innings, ensuring their first home, series loss since June.

And yet it was such a winnable game.

Some might blame Kerry Wood, for giving up the two-run homer to Geoff Blum in the 11th.

Some might even cast aspersions on the home-plate umpire, for giving Lance Berkman a VERY borderline ball four call just before Blum came plate-ward.

I, personally, take it back a few innings.

Now I know baseball like the back of my hand, and yet I don't profess to have ever coached, nor played anywhere near the major league level.

Which befuddles me all the more, that in certain situations, I seem to have a better grasp on what to do.

Cubs lead the game at one point, only to give up the lead and be down by four.

Miraculously, the bats come to life, the plate discipline becomes that much sharper.

They tie the game and have the perfect setup in the eighth to not only take the lead, but put an exclamation point on the win.

Astros reliever Doug Brocail walks three straight men with one out, loading the bases...remember, the game is tied.

And one Mr. Derrek Lee steps into the box.

Now, call me crazy, but facing a pitcher that has just walked three men in a row, I'm taking the first pitch.

That is, unless I'm zoned in on a first-ball, get-me-over, fastball that I just KNOW I can elevate and drive.

But no, the pitch is low, and Mr. Lee, correctly, takes the ball.

A) because it was, in fact, a ball from a pitcher who has thrown more than his share in the very recent past.

B) because it was not the sort of pitch to elevate and drive.

Because, as should be the mentality of a batter at that stage, the only pitch you should want to swing at is something you can elevate and drive.

A deep fly ball that goes for an out?

Worst case, the lead run comes across and a shutout top of the ninth wins the game.

But, if you aren't thinking along those lines and just swing at the first 'strike,' there is the one, dreaded, possibility...grounding into the inning-ending double play that takes the proverbial wind out of the sails of both team, fans, surrounding neighborhood, city, and stragglers like me watching from afar.

Second pitch, a fastball at the knees.

Perhaps a tad more in the strike zone than the first pitch, but definitely not something that is elevatable or driveable.

And yet, one Mr. Derrek Lee hacks away at it, ripping a shot toward third.

Perhaps he could have ripped a frozen rope past the third baseman, and even possibly score two.

But no, the ultimate fear, the one thing we didn't want to happen in that situation does.

The third baseman, a certain Mr. Blum, scoops it up and starts the 5-4-3 double play, that ends the inning, defuses the momentum and eventually leads to the Cubs loss.

Sure, plenty went on after that, there were other chances.

But none so golden as that one particular chance.

If only a major league player had a clue as to what he should be looking for in that situation.

I've been a fan of Derrek Lee, was enamored of him coming to the club and thought he was a god during his miraculous run in '05.

But, as I wrote in another article, or was it a comment to another article...I sometimes wonder now, how in the world he manages to keep his average above .290.

The stats say so, but watching that at bat tonight, I wonder if this is another case of numbers not being the full truth.